16 November 2005

Art Crime

I have put off writing about art crime for a while, mostly because I'm no expert. It has been in the news a lot lately--domestic and internationl news, so nobody is off the hook this time. I have read with rapt interest about the Getty Museum's troubles. Frankly, it reminded me of all the great movies about stolen art. The list keeps growing the longer I think about it. And it also reminded me of some real life stolen art.

I've been looking into what can be done when art is stolen, lost, illegally seized, etc. First, there is Interpol, which has a art unit, and a sub-unit devoted t recovering Iraq's looted art. There is also a private organization called the Art Loss Register that keeps a database of lost or stolen art. It seems to me that they are more geared toward private property losses than the museum's worth of loss sustained in Iraq. They also emphasize their services for art lost during the Holocaust. And then there is the US government's Art Crime Team, a division of the FBI. NPR recently interviewed their chief, and you can listen to that here.

Looking at all this information impressed me on two counts. First, these agencies do a lot to recover lost and stolen art. Second, there is an awful lot of unrecovered loot out there. Where’s Indiana Jones when you need him?

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