2.28.2008

Art Thieves, cont.

Alison and i have real experience dealing with Anonymous' here on this blog, and i gotta tell ya, they grow some good ones up there in the Research Triangle. Simultaneously annoying, persistent and wrong-headed, the Anonymous from the Art Thieves post below takes the cake. I'd like to take this opportunity to take 'em to task. Let's start here:

After 4, or maybe 5 separate comments Anony-pie had this to say:

Not obsessed with your goofy statements, Walter, just mildly compelled to set the record straight lest some unsuspecting soul take your thoughts too seriously regarding art theft.
Well, i gotta disagree at least a little bit about the "not obsessed" stuff. As an obsessive person i feel i have a license to call the kettle black. 4 or 5 comments in half as many days, while possibly not obsessive, is, you've gotta admit, a bit extreme. I also want to call Anonyhole's well-intended effort to save "unsuspecting souls" from what is called my "ill-founded diatribe" and "outlandish and groundless accusations" into question. I mean, after all, my education is in the arts--and particularly in the area that wants to disrupt the party line of the arts in question. I probably have at least as much credibility as Anonimo to say these things. At least, i guess that's true. How would i know? After all, Anoninosy is hiding behind anonymity (and then has the gall to suggest i'm the coward?). Hell, Anononamecaller could be just about anybody. They could be Hitler for all we know. Why you gonna trust them?

Anyway, let's look at Anonorexic's claims:

1) "There is a strong underground market for stolen art."
2) "One of the major issues is that museums are often gifted items forever that have demand in the private market. Many items are held in private offices, vacation homes, etc."
3) "There is a LOT of money also by third world regimes who need palaces and homes decorated."
4) [concerning the eventual return of two of the works, Anonirotten has this to say] "Half of the Swiss heist was recovered undamaged. All evidence points away from the scenario you described in your illfounded diatribe."

#1: the "strong underground market." From the February 12th's New York Times we find the author of an article mentioning that the "looming question for the police and the public, is not only who committed the crimes but, given the near impossibility of selling the paintings, why?" Says Karl-Hienz Kind (an Interpol oficer in charge of art theft) "The fact that there are no buyers lined up helps account for the recovery of famous works like the Munch paintings, which were recovered in 2006. 'The thieves have difficulty finding someone to take them,' he said."

#2: re: These donated works are "held in private offices, vacation homes, etc." I'm not even sure what is the point of this claim, so i'll just stick to this: Listen, Anonomosity, if you were the curator of say MoMA in New York, and i were a Guggenheim and i found out that the Cezanne i gave you last year is down at your house on Kiawah (instead of on the museum wall or in deep storage), then i'm reporting you as a thief. And it'd be an "inside job" just like i'm claiming.

#3: re: work needed to decorate palaces. You've got to be kidding right? This is the part where i figured you were just joking with me. First, please site a source for this claim, and second, i'm under the impression that it's the west that always steals it's culture and objects from the third world, not the other way around. (picasso's "primitive work," slaves, diamonds, underpaid work force, jazz, etc.) Yes, there are stories of how "Balkan organized crime rings" are stealing art and trading it for guns (Boston Globe 2/16), but this has only been theorized by the Art Loss Register, a private organization that represents buyers and probably only profits by perpetuating stories like this. Additionally, "A suspect in the December theft of two paintings in Brazil told the authorities that the works were to be delivered to a collector in Saudi Arabia. (NYT 2/08)" Both in your case, anononono, and the the other two, i'd like to point out that the culprits are probably a little browner than Western Europeans and Americans. Those pesky brown people! Always stealin' Whitey's shit!

#4: re" the claim that "All evidence points away from the scenario you described in your illfounded diatribe." I enthusiastically differ! The NYTimes mentions that, like my claim, "Most art theft experts say that the idea of such an evil connoisseurs’ black market is largely a myth, and that many art thefts are committed with insurance company shakedowns in mind." I'm simply claiming that it's the owners, museums and art world that's doing the shaking. After all, everything actually points in that direction. I've given you evidence that art theft is not profitable for the thief. Additionally, i want to point out that insurance has been indeed collected for the damage of the paintings, while two of them have been returned to the museum. Insurance will pay for the loss of the other two, which, if history and almost all of my research has found, will be recovered undamaged twenty years from now. In other words, those paintings will show up, after the statute of limitations has run out, undamaged in a cardboard tube like "a drawing by Picasso [taken] from the Paris home of Diana Widmaier-Picasso." Or perhaps like the Goya painting found in 1965 by police in a railway baggage office in London. (Telegraph UK 11/02).

Now, let me introduce you to the real thieves:

"Emil Georg B├╝hrle sold arms to the Nazis during the Second World War, and remained a controversial figure for his unrepentant admiration of the far right." (Scotsman UK 2/08). Buhrle, whose museum the paintings were in, bought those paintings with blood money.
Several paintings in his museum were in Jewish homes until Emil's supplier of millions of dollars, The Nazis, stole them and sold them or offered them in exchange for weapons.

The people in power that create what i claim is a "false market" for this work. One of my favorite scholars (whose name i won't sully by including it in this ridiculous post) calls the "art world" an “integrated, trans-national economy of auction houses, dealers, collectors, international biennials, and trade publications, that, together with curators, artists and critics reproduce the market, as well as the discourse that influences the appreciation and demand for highly valuable artworks.”

A friend of mine used to work for arguably one of the most famous artists living today. My friend G. used to paint his paintings for him. When G. was finished, J. would come in, sign his name to the bottom and sell the painting for $600,000. Of course, we don't consider this theft as the artworld has always worked that way. After all, all of Alexander Dumas' novels were written by his creative writing students. Much of Rodin's work was conceived and executed by his lover Camille, but no one wants to hear about that. And let's not forget the artists or their patrons who illegally run up the price of their own work at auctions so as to artificially inflate the value of the rest of their ouvre.

Or how about Charles Sachii who single-handedly funded, through the use of his own millions, the rise of YBA's like Damien Hurst and then cashed in on his own sensation. I mean, come on! Tracy Emin is cool and everything, but do really think My Bed was really worth £150,000?

I've said it before on here: If people'll cheat you for a nickel, you know when there's a billion dollars at stake some serious hanky panky is going down.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Ah, Walter. I've missed your posts. Your carefully supported rebuttal aside, I enjoyed your take and retake on anons. I don't even think I saw a repetition. (anonorexic not my favorite, though)

-little dj

Biffle said...

yeah, the 'rexic one kind of concerned me a little bit.

Biffle said...

listen: i'm thinking that until you get the courage to comment under your own name (or be more clever than calling a short, 40 year old, balding, mostly unemployed, washed-up musician "a trophy husband") you should be banished henceforth from the kingdom.