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Wednesday, 05 December 2012 17:11

Items Stolen From Indian Temples Seized by Authorities

Subhash Kapoor, a once-established antiquities dealer in New York, has been the source of much controversy over the past few months. In July, authorities asked American museums to search their collections for any works obtained from Kapoor after it was revealed that he was in possession of looted antiquities. Allegedly, Kapoor has trafficked more than $100 million worth of stolen Indian artifacts and on December 5, authorities added to his list of thefts after a raid at the Port of Newark.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents with Homeland Security Investigations teamed up with Indian authorities and the Manhattan District Attorney’s office and seized more than $5 million worth of artifacts including a 14th century statue of the Hindu deity, Parvati, and four bronze figures from India’s Tamil Nadu region. It is believed that all of the works were stolen from Indian temples. The The Parvati statue has been in the possession of six different dealers and is marred by a litany of false provenances despite being listed on an Interpol database of stolen artworks.

Kapoor ran the Art of the Past Gallery on Madison Avenue from 1974 until his arrest last July. He has donated and sold antiquities to many distinguished institutions including the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Kapoor is currently facing criminal charges in India.

Published in News
Monday, 12 November 2012 14:27

A $2 Million Art Heist in South Africa

A sharp upswing in the value of South Africa’s best-known art has led to the country’s biggest art heist. Posing as paying visitors at the Pretoria Art Museum, three men proceeded to hold the museum staff at gunpoint and walk away with works by local masters Irma Stern, Gerard Sekoto, JH Pierneef, Maggie Laubser, and Hugo Naude.

Images of the criminals were not recorded because the museum’s camera surveillance system broke down on November 8, three days before the heist. Officials did alert Interpol. The three criminals left behind the most expensive piece in the museum’s collection, Two Malay Musicians by Irma Stern, due to lack of space in their getaway car. Works by other well-known South African artists such as William Kentridge, Walter Battiss, and Robert Hodgins were left untouched.

The five stolen artworks were owned by the City of Tshwane and were insured.

Published in News
Friday, 02 November 2012 18:00

Pair Pleads Guilty to Selling Stolen Matisse

Pedro Antonio Marcuello Guzman of Miami and Maria Martha Elisa Ornelas Lazo of Mexico City have pled guilty to selling a stolen Henri Matisse painting on Miami’s black market. The duo admitted to FBI agents that they knew the $3 million painting, Odalisque in Red Pants (1925), had been stolen before making a deal to sell it to an undercover officer who was part of a sting operation. The pair was arrested after the sale was made.

The painting has been missing from Venezuela’s Sofia Imber Contemporary Art Museum since approximately 2002 when it was swapped for a fake. Some speculate the switch went unnoticed for years. Even though Interpol, the FBI, and police in France and Spain have investigated the case, the details of the theft remain a mystery. However, Guzman and Lazo said in court that they were told museum employees hung the forgery in place of the original.

Although the painting has been recovered, it has not been returned to Venezuela. Guzman faces 10 years in prison for conspiracy to transport and sell stolen property, while Lazo faces five years. The pair is scheduled to be sentenced in January.

Published in News
Wednesday, 19 September 2012 17:53

Stolen Renoir Joins FBI’s Top Ten Unsolved Art Crimes

As of yesterday, a Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841–1919) painting that was stolen during an armed robbery at a Houston home last September has been named one of the FBI’s top ten unsolved art crimes. A private insurance company has offered a $50,000 reward for any helpful information leading to the work’s recovery.

The painting, Madeleine Leaning on Her Hair, was completed by the pioneering Impressionist in 1918 and has an estimated value of $1 million. The painting has also been added to the Art Loss Registry, the National Stolen Art File, and Interpol’s Works of Art System. Interpol, an international police organization, encourages cooperation between law enforcement agencies in different countries. By taking these measures, the thief will most likely be unsuccessful if he/she attempts to take the painting to a knowledgeable dealer or gallery or tries to sell it at auction as most members of the art world regularly check these databases.

The other top unsolved art crimes on the FBI’s list include the notorious Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist in which four Rembrandts, five Degas drawings, and one Vermeer (among other works) were stolen. Also on the list is the theft of two Gloria Vanderbilt Whitney commissioned Maxfield Parrish paintings from a Hollywood gallery, the 2002 van Gogh Museum robbery in which two paintings valued at $3 million, and the 1969 theft of a $20 million Caravaggio from Italy’s Oratory of San Lorenzo.

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