Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Colorado Man Pleads Guilty in Four Corners Case

In March, Loot! reported on the suicide of Ted Gardiner, a 52 year-old former grocery store CEO and artifacts dealer who was one of 26 individuals from three states charged with illegal trading of antiquities.

The Salt Lake City Tribune reports that 0ne individual charged in the case pleaded guilty on Tuesday to two misdemeanors. Robert B. Knowlton admitted to illegally selling a Native American pipe. The buyer was an undercover operative for the Bureau of Land Management. Court reports indicate that the pipe was excavated from Bureau land.

The misdemeanors each carry with them a year of prison and and a $10,000 fine. Sentencing will be on November 19.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Raid Leads to Discovery of Ancient Underground Tomb

A raid of the home of individuals suspected of illegally digging for antiquities in Turkey led to the discovery of two tunnels from the house to an ancient tomb.

The AP reports that Turkey's Culture Minister described the discovery in western Turkey as an "important archaeological find" and called for legal archaeological digs in the area. 5 individuals were arrested in connection to this discovery and the ministry suspects they looted and sold antiquities from the tomb on the black market.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Appeal Rejected in Case of Tibetan Environmentalist

The Washington Post reports today that a Chinese court has rejected an appeal from Tibetan environmentalist and philanthropist Karma Samdrup, who was sentenced on June 24 to 15 years in prison for robbing and dealing with looted antiquities. The charges against Samdrup date back to 1998, when he is said to have aquired looted artifacts, but were not pursued until this year.

Samdrup's attorney maintains that his client acquired the objects in good faith. The environmentalist's supporters have argued that the charges were brought against Samdrup after he pubically expressed support for his two brothers, who were detained after they accused Tibetan officials of poaching endangered species in Tibet. The supporters see the charges as punishment for Samdrup's decision to speak against Tibetan authoriies.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Hungary Sued!

The New York Times' Carol Vogel reports today that a lawsuit has been filed by the heirs of Hungarian banker and art collector Baron Mor Lipot Herzog, calling for the return of a collection of artwork valued at more than $100 million. The lawsuit is against the Hungarian government, along with several museums administered by the government.

The lawsuit follows two decades of failed attempts by the heirs to convince the government to repatriate the collection, which includes works by Velázquez, Monet, El Greco, and Zurbarán. The Herzog collection was dispersed during World War II; some pieces were left in museums for protection, while others were stolen by the Nazis and later recovered and returned to Hungary. In 2008, a Hungarian court decided that the government did not need to return the artwork to the Herzog family.

The lawsuit calls for the return of 40 known works in Hungarian museums and asks for an inventory by the Hungarian government of all artwork from the Herzog collection in its possession.

The New York Times quotes the Herzog family's attorney described Hungary as “one of the countries that has been the most recalcitrant” when it comes to returning looted and stolen artwork. The family has engaged in legal claims with Poland, Russia, and Germany over the return of artwork. In the case of Russia, there is a 1999 lawsuit that is still pending.

According to Vogel, experts describe the Herzog case as "the world’s largest unresolved Holocaust art claim."

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Christie's Called on to Return Three Objects

The Wall Street Journal reports today that Italy and archaeologists are calling on Christie's International to return three objects that are slated to be sold at a June 10 auction. The antiquities are believed to have been illegally excavated in Italy.

The disputed objects include a Roman marble torso from 2nd century CE, an Apulian cup from the 4th century BCE, and a Greek figure of a goddess from the 3rd century BCE. Those advocating the objects' return to Italy argue that the artifacts have murky provenances and appear in thousands of Polaroids from Giacomo Medici's collection of stolen antiquities. They have cited the 1970 UNESCO Convention when calling for repatriation.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Christie's plans to continue with the June 10 auction. A New York City spokesperson stated,

With respect to these particular lots, Christie's has not been notified of a title claim by any government authority, nor are these lots identified as problematic by the Art Loss Register or Interpol," she said. "As an added measure, Christie's has undertaken its own research into this matter and has found no evidence to support the need to withdraw these lots. Unless and until Christie's receives a title claim, we plan to proceed with the sale of these lots.
It will be interesting to see if the sale is halted before June 10. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Diamond Duel

UK's Telegraph reports that India is calling for the return of the Koh i Noor diamond, a jewel that has been in British possession since 1849 when the East India Company defeated the Maharaja of Punjab. The jewel was turned over as tribute to Queen Victoria following the Indian defeat.

India argues that the jewel was illegally obtained by the British and was worn by Mughal emperors and Maharajas for centuries before the British seizure. The British government has rejected the call for relinquisment, arguing that the diamond was "legitimately acquired."

In light of this, we may expect more Indian efforts that seek the return of artifacts obtained by Britain during colonial rule.

Update: Paris Museum Theft

The ever informative New York Times reports that Paris's Museum of Modern Art will reopen on June 10, in the aftermath of the theft on May 19-20. According to the NYT, "the thief was able to take advantage of a flaw in the museum’s alarm system, which had been malfunctioning for several weeks, leading to speculation that the thief may have had inside assistance."

Please see Loot!'s May 23 post about the Paris theft.