How to Restore a Damaged Painting


How to Restore a Damaged Painting

Detail of Pablo Picasso’s “Le Marin,” 1943, oil on canvas. ILLUSTRATION: COURTESY OF CHRISTIE’S

Collectors who learned through news reports that a painting owned by Steve Wynn was damaged before it was to be auctioned at Christie’s evening sale of impressionist and modern art on Tuesday likely took in a collective gasp.

The painting, Pablo Picasso’s 1943 self-portrait, Le Marin (The Sailor), was examined after the accident by outside conservators who “have made recommendations for the successful restoration of the painting,” Christie’s said in a May 13 statement. Wynn withdrew Le Marin as well as Picasso’s 1964 painting, Femme au chat assise dans un fauteuil, from the sale.

The two paintings, as well as a third, were intended as a “kickoff sale” for Sierra Fine Art LLC, an art business Wynn created after stepping down from Wynn Resorts in February in the wake of allegations of sexual misconduct.

But just how do you restore a masterpiece? And what does “successful restoration” mean? Can a work ever be restored to its original value?

Christie’s statement was optimistic on the outcome, but the answers will depend on how badly the work was damaged, where it was damaged, the quality of the restoration and, of course, the dynamics of the art market, experts say.

“Of course damage is damage, there’s a certain amount of loss of value,” says Larry Shar, president of Julius Lowy Frame and Restoring Co. in New York.

Steve Wynn reportedly sold Picasso’s Le Reve for US$155 million in 2013, seven years after he had damaged the painting with his elbow. The price he received was about US$16 million more than he had expected to sell it at for before the accident.

Whether Wynn can achieve a similar result with Le Marin isn’t clear. The accident happened at Christie’s Rockefeller Plaza galleries on Friday, May 11, when an extension pole used for painting with a roller slid from a wall where it was leaning and fell, according to Michael Kosnitzky, a partner in the private wealth practice at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman in New York, and an outside counsel for Wynn and his family. The pole was leaning against a wall in a “viewing area,” Kosnitzky says.

The attorney argues the accident was a “flagrant act of gross negligence,” arguing that a workman’s painting pole should not have been in an area where “multi-million dollar” paintings were unprotected. In the May 13 statement, Christie’s said Le Marin “was accidentally damaged Friday (May 11) during the final stages of preparation for Christie’s May 12-15 exhibition.” The auction house did not comment on Kosnitzky’s description of “gross negligence.”

Le Marin was to be a featured work of Christie’s evening sale of impressionist and modern art, carrying an “estimate on request” of US$70 million, according to the auction house. Christie’s estimated Picasso’s Femme au chat to sell between US$25 million and US$35 million.

Kosnitzky says the US$70 million estimate was a “floor, not a ceiling” on the work’s market value. “We believe it could have sold in excess of US$100 million,” he says, citing the fact  Picasso’s Rose Period Fillette a corbeille fleurie, 1905, sold during Peggy and David Rockefeller sale of 19th and 20th-century art at Christie’s on May 8 for US$115 million, with fees.

How to restore a painting

Collectors consigning their works to auction should take comfort from the fact that conservators like Lowy see very few accidents like the one Wynn just experienced, according to Shar.

“It happens on occasion, but only on occasion,” he says. “More often than not if you entrust a work to an auction house, particularly a work with a high value, it gets handled pretty carefully.”

Conservator Rustin Levinson, president of ArtCare Conservation, agrees, saying such incidents at auction houses are rare, but, she says, “accidents do happen.”

One factor in the potential repair of Le Marin could be the condition of the canvas, given the work was painted in 1943, Levinson says. Canvases become brittle and can tear more easily as they age. “The threads stretch and unravel,” Levinson says. If something went through it, she adds, the tear could be significant.

But if it’s a neat tear, “you can join it right up,” Levinson says.

How easily that’s done will depend on whether the canvas was “lined”—meaning a second canvas had been added to the back—or not. If a lining does exist, it will have to be removed before the painting can be repaired, a process that begins by stabilizing the paint with a “facing” that protects the paint, she says.

To replace or reweave a lining, though, is a major undertaking that could result in a “large loss of value,” Skar says.

Also important will be the success of “in-painting” or retouching the surface to restore color and detail. A plain surface can be more difficult to restore because the pigment has to be “right on the money,” he says. But, Skar adds, “if done very well and a buyer is not that particular, and not that much of a purist, (the painting) may be worth more” than it was before.

It’s unclear how much damage Le Marin suffered, what the loss of potential value in the work might be, and what would be involved in a repair. “All I can say is the adjuster is working on that,” Kosnitzky says.

Of course, a collector is unlikely to take a painting to a restorer unless it’s covered by insurance.

Auction houses often insure works “while in their care, custody, and control,” coverage that precludes a consignor’s own art insurance policy, says Sarah Johnson Court, managing director at VF GLobal Insurance Brokerage.

Christie’s consignment contracts have insurance provisions to cover damage and other contingencies.

While Kosnitzky can’t speak to how Le Marin was insured, he noted that Wynn, “having gone through this before in terms of damage, in terms of insurance issues and repairs, is a sophisticated business person and he made sure he was properly protected when he entered into his contract with Christie’s.”





BETH HOLZER FOR WIRED – Lisa Park’s piece, titled “Blooming,” uses the capacitive properties of human bodies as they touch to cause a 3-D rendering of a tree to sprout flowers.
Park, a multimedia artist known for turning brainwaves and heartbeats into performance art, gripped the woman’s hand, and in tandem, they glanced up at the screen where a 3-D rendering of a leafless cherry blossom tree glowed in the dark. “It’s supposed to bloom,” Park said with a hint of frustration. The two women held each other tighter and waited. Nothing happened.

BETH HOLZER FOR WIRED – Lisa Park, one of the artists in residence at Nokia Bell Labs.

“You have to take off your shoes,” a voice called from the back of the room.

“Oh, right,” Park said with a laugh.

Bell Labs has teamed up with a group of resident artists to explore the emotional and social elements of machine-human interactions.

Park and her intern let go of each other and removed their boots. Barefooted, they stepped back onto the plates and wrapped each other in a stilted embrace. Within seconds, the computers in the back of the room registered the slight uptick in electrical conductivity between the two women, and light pink flowers began to fill the barren tree branches before falling off and tumbling through the digital air to the ground.

A few months before the demo, Park was sitting in her studio at Nokia Bell Labs, the famed New Jersey research park, showing off a small prototype of the tree on her laptop screen. Pinned to the wall were pictures of people holding hands and spooning. Her work table was filled with gel patch sensors and wires. Park describes her piece, called “Blooming,” as a meditation on the future of inter-human connection. “The idea is that the cherry blossom will bloom based on your emotional connection with another person,” she said, clicking through slides on her computer. “Conductivity, capacitance, resistance— they’re all proxies for intimacy.”

BETH HOLZER FOR WIRED – Artist Sougwen Chung collaborates with machines in her work, “Omnia per Omnia,” by creating an abstract landscape alongside a collection of painting robots.
BETH HOLZER FOR WIRED – Painting robots await instruction in Sougwen Chung’s piece, “Omnia per Omnia.”


For the last year, Park, along with the artist Sougwen Chung and dancers Jason Oremus and Garrett Coleman of the dance collective Hammerstep, have been working out of Bell Labs as part of a residency called Experiments in Art and Technology. The year-long residency, a collaboration between Bell Labs and the New Museum’s incubator, New Inc, culminated in “Only Human,” a recently-opened exhibition at Mana where the artists’ pieces will be on display through the end of May.

BETH HOLZER FOR WIRED- The “Only Human” exhibition is now showing at Mana Contemporary in Jersey City, New Jersey.

Only Human” is a homecoming of sorts for Bell Labs, which has a rich history of collaborating with artists that date back to the 1960s. It was then that the first iteration of E.A.T. was started by Bell Labs engineers Billy Kluver and Fred Waldhauer and the artists Robert Rauschenberg and Robert Whitman. The E.A.T. of the ‘60s was famous for a performance called “9 Evenings,” in which the artists and Bell Labs engineers crafted a series of techno-artistic experiments that defined interactive artwork for decades to come. At the time, E.A.T. was a foreign concept—artists, for the most part, didn’t use technology. And technologists certainly didn’t make a habit of sharing their work with artists.


Fifty years later, E.A.T. signifies something different for the artists and the researchers involved. Technology is no longer a novelty—it’s a given. And artists, who might have in the past approached technological advancement with a hint of idealistic curiosity, now question the impact it’s had on the way humans interact with one another.

‘Conductivity, capacitance, resistance— they’re all proxies for intimacy.’


This tension is ripe territory for artists, who are often more interested in creating provocations around technology than they are in building practical applications. The rebirth of E.A.T. is a chance for them to explore big questions (How can we make technology more human? Should we make technology more human?) alongside Bell Labs engineers—the very people who are building the networks, cameras, and cables the artists use in their works, says Julia Kaganskiy, director of New Inc. “My hope is that we don’t fetishize the technology,” Kaganskiy said during a recent visit to Bell Labs. “We’re really trying to understand how it’s shaping culture and shaping our understanding of ourselves and our relationships to other people.”


Understanding that question—how do we, as humans, best communicate with one another?—is what Bell Labs refers to as a “BHAG”: a big, hairy, audacious goal. Over the years, Bell Labs has approached the challenge with the scientific rigor one might expect from a company comprised of 1,000 specialized engineers with PhDs. Foundational research is key to Bell Labs’ identity and business, and its engineers have tackled plenty of nerdy, technical research problems in pursuit of improving communication technology.

Around a year-and-a-half ago, though, Bell Labs’ corporate perspective began to subtly shift. Tensions around the 2016 election uncovered deep communication chasms between groups of people that had been there all along. It became clear that while reducing network latency and improving camera resolution might make it easier for people to talk to each other, it did very little to help them understand what the other was actually thinking.

Video and emoji help round out the emotional contours of our digital conversations, but even those modes of communication have done little to convey what the person on the other end of the line is really feeling.

For Bell Labs’ president, Marcus Weldon, this realization was a turning point in the way he thought about the company’s research. Bell Labs would continue to do the foundational research that pays the bills, but there were also bigger, more pressing issues to think about beyond improving fiber optic cables. Weldon decided that Bell Labs’ next BHAG would focus on developing something called “empathic communication,” a phrase he uses to describe an aspirational state of communication where people can connect on a deeper, more meaningful level. For Weldon, and therefore for the rest of Bell Labs, that means moving past basic audio, video, and text into the realm of technology that captures—and transfers—feeling.

BETH HOLZER FOR WIRED – Marcus Weldon, president of Bell Labs.

“We’re very interested in the idea of, what’s the right coding of humans that allows us to transfer it over a distance?” Weldon asked one-day last fall while pacing in front of a wall-sized screen at Bell Labs’ headquarters. Behind him were projected images of Star Trek’s Replicator, Holodeck, and Transporter. Weldon views Star Trek as an apt, if obvious, analogy to today’s state of technology. “Conceptually, they got most of these futuristic things roughly right,” he said.

Weldon explained that technologists have already solved for two of these three Star Trek technologies. The Holodeck is more or less augmented and virtual reality and the Replicator is basically an advanced 3-D printer. The Transporter, a teleportation machine that dematerializes a human into an energy pattern and rematerializes them in a new location, is still an elusive concept for scientists. “It’s foolish to think you can actually dissolve a human and recreate that human without any entropic error,” he said, mulling over the Transporter’s scientific veracity. “It’s not the right way to solve the problem.”

Easier, he figured, is transferring an impression of a person—an emotion or the essence of what a human is thinking and feeling, but not the person itself. “What we’re trying to do is capture the subtle stuff you can pick up on when you really know a person,” he said. “Things like mood.”

Humans have, of course, done exactly this for thousands of years. First through voice and then through the written word. Today, video and emoji help round out the emotional contours of our digital conversations, but Weldon argues even those modes of communication have done little to convey what the person on the other end of the line is really feeling.

This lack of true emotional connection, he believes, is at the core of our current political climate. It’s the root of misunderstandings, disagreements, lost love and fractured friendships. “We’ve become isolated in little silos of existence; we have no understanding of what it’s like to be other people,” he said. “What’s lacking is state transfer between individuals so you can actually feel how they feel.”

BETH HOLZER FOR WIRED – Domhnaill Hernon, Bell Labs’s head of Experiments in Arts and Technology.

There’s one problem, though: State transfer is incredibly complicated, and not just for technological reasons. Telling someone you’re sorry for their loss or that you’re in love with them is relatively easy. Making them feel your heart sink or your pulse quicken requires more than a battery of smart sensors—it requires a way to meaningfully translate that biometric data into something that another person can intuit. “The big question is, how do you accurately measure the body? asked Domhnaill Hernon, head of Bell Labs’ new Experiments in Arts and Technology research lab. “And how do you express that in a really compelling way?”

Bell Labs is good at the former, but not so much at the latter. That’s where the artists come in.

Divergent Thinking

Earlier this spring, Hernon was leading a group of artists and engineers through a maze of hallways at Bell Labs’ campus, as he explained the importance of E.A.T. “Trained scientists have a very different approach in their thinking,” he said. “We’re reductionist in our thinking—artists are divergent. Bringing together those two modes can be very powerful.”

BETH HOLZER FOR WIRED – From left to right, Bell Labs engineers, Michael Baldwin, Jacquilene Jacob, Paul Wilford, Larry O’Gorman, Gang Huang, and Prasanth Ananth.

For Bell Labs, the cliched left brain-right brain gap is at the center of the company’s investment in resuscitating E.A.T. Hernon believes that pairing artists with engineers can help Bell Labs’ engineers, who’ve traditionally taken a hard-nosed academic approach to their research, start to think about their work with a hint of creativity. “You say to us, ‘I want to think about the ways fiber optic cables can enable us to better communicate, and we’ll tell you I’ll give you a world record speed in zeros and ones,” he said. “We can’t answer the right questions in isolation.”

At the beginning of the E.A.T. residency, the artists participated in a form of scientific speed dating, where they met with a handful of Bell Labs researchers to figure out what technologies they might want to use in their projects. The idea was to create mutually-beneficial partnerships—engineers would lend their technical expertise; artists would lend their unconventional ideation process.

BETH HOLZER FOR WIRED – Garrett Coleman, founder of the dance collective Hammerstep. His project is called “INDIGO GREY: The Micah Grey Experiment.”

BETH HOLZER FOR WIRED – Jason Oremus, founder of the dance collective Hammerstep. His project is called “INDIGO GREY: The Micah Grey Experiment.”

Each project required something different from Bell Labs’ technology. For the “Blooming” piece, Park wanted to build an artistic representation of biometric data pulled from an array of sensors that read the nuances of motion, heart rate, and capacitance. Sougwen Chung, whose performance art piece “Omnia per Omnia” uses motion vectors from New York City surveillance footage to control a small army of painting robots, was interested in using Bell Labs’ Motion Engine to program the bots’ brush strokes. And Hammerstep’s project, an interactive dance performance called “Indigo Grey: The Micah Grey Experiment,” required motion-tracking technology that would allow people to wirelessly control drones through simple gestures. “It was important that the engineers [we work with] be open-minded,” said Jason Oremus of Hammerstep. “That there was a leniency with the technology they were developing.”

All three projects are wildly different in their final form, though they’re similar in the way they transform hard data into something more poetic. For Chung, uncovering the nuances between human and robot interaction is at the crux of the residency. “I thought it would be really interesting to extract this data and turn it into painterly gestures that robots would articulate,” she said while standing with her fellow artists and a handful of engineers in a hallway at Building Two, a ‘70s-era office complex where most of Bell Labs’ video analytics research happens.

On the wall, cheap cameras sat atop a monitor like a row of ducks, measuring the environment through motion, frequencies, and depth, and displaying the data in real time on the screen. Larry O’Gorman, a research fellow at Bell Labs who developed the Motion Engine technology Chung and Hammerstep use in their pieces, pointed to a camera and explained how, at that very moment, software was looking at the small group of people as a faceless whole, analyzing macro gestures like dwell, density, and direction and translating that data into the squiggly lines displayed on screen.

This was the same basic algorithm Chung would use to power her robots and that Hammerstep would use to track audience members during their performance. “Sougwen came to me and told me what she wanted to do, and I wrote an equation on the board,” he explained.

R(t) = A(t) * P(t) * E(x,t)

“The way that we wrote the equation was to say: Sougwen, the artist at time T, is convolved with the audience at time T, and then the environment. That put her work into mathematical terms that I can understand.”

“It’s been a real process of translation,” Chung said.

Sensorless Sensing

Later that morning, as the artists and engineers walked through Building Two’s corridor on the way to Bell Labs’ Emerging Materials, Components, and Devices lab, they passed a small room outfitted like a drab family den with a monitor, lamp and chair. “There are sensors in here that can tell you whether you had a donut for breakfast or not,” said Paul Wilford, a research director at Bell Labs in charge of the video analytics group. Wilford was half-joking; today, Bell Labs’ wireless technology can’t tell exactly what you had for breakfast, but through analyzing data from multiple sources, it can tell that you ate something and that you’re happy (or sad) about it.

“We just got this working yesterday.” He pointed to a small, cheap camera attached to the wall. “We can measure [your heart rate] through slight color changes in two parts of your cheek and one in your forehead,” he explained. “Based on that lousy little camera—and lots of algorithms and lots of filtering and lots of network stuff.”

Bell Labs believes the ability to “sensorlessly sense” a human through network technology is key to its goal of empathic communication. Once technology is disaggregated from our phone; once it’s subtly pervasive–everywhere but nowhere—we’ll have the infrastructure to really understand what’s happening both in the environment and with ourselves.

This vision is becoming a little more clear inside the Emerging Materials lab. The bright room is filled with colorful wires and optical cameras that can peer into the skin at micro-resolution. The day the artists visit, the team was in the middle of developing a prototype of something called The Sleeve, a stretchy piece of fabric embedded with sensors, wires, and haptic motors that can be slipped onto the forearm like an arm warmer.

Hernon led the group of artists into the lab where Sanjay Patel, the VP of research in the Emerging Materials lab, was standing next to a pedestal covered with a piece of blue fabric. With a flourish, Patel pulled off the fabric and revealed an early prototype of The Sleeve. The tangle of wires, sensors, and screen adhered to a blue 3-D printed arm, making it look half-human, half-robot

“I think we’re on the verge of a revolution in terms of new devices,” Patel said, gesturing to the arm. In the future, he explained, people will no longer rely on their phones for everything. Instead, we’ll interact with the environment and other people through a series of discrete devices, some worn, some embedded in the world around us. “How do I control my world today?” Patel asked. “I pull out my phone, look at an app, and push some buttons on my screen. What we’d like to do going forward as we instrument the world, is allow us to have a sixth sense about our surroundings.”

The Sleeve, which is far from production ready, is able to read biomarkers like heart rate, blood sugar, and stress levels through an optical tomography sensor that peers into the skin. Though Patel and his group view The Sleeve as more a provocation than anything, they also believe it’s a step in the right direction towards a future where we’re untethered from our little bricks of glass and metal. It’s a future where people will control their environments through gestures and communicate with loved ones through haptic messages that are bolstered by the equivalent of emotional temperature readings.

Emotional Rescue

Patel’s remarks about a “sixth sense” feel familiar when a few weeks later the artists find themselves back at Mana preparing for the opening of “Only Human,” the culmination of the E.A.T. residency. Traces of Bell Labs technologies were evident at the gallery, though they were masked by the gloss and abstraction of art.

While artist-types wandered around the gallery, mingling with engineers and curiously taking in the works, the questions the artists started out with still loomed: What happens when humans communicate through touch instead of words? Can you imbue robotics with a humanistic sense of collaboration? Is it possible to transfer empathy through music, rhythm, and technology? These are 10-year questions—the artistic equivalent of a BHAG—and they weren’t going to be answered in a single afternoon or even through a year-long residency.

At one point during the opening, a group of people gathered around the patch of fake grass in front of Park’s glowing tree. An older couple removed their shoes and stepped onto the plates. “Let’s see what 37 years of marriage looks like,” the man said, gripping his wife’s hand tightly. A second passed, then another. The tree sprouted its pinkish white flowers and then they tumbled to the ground.

It’s been two years since Roger Maris artifacts were stolen from West Acres


It’s been two years since Roger Maris artifacts were stolen from West Acres

FARGO—The search is still on for two artifacts taken from the Roger Maris Museum nearly two years ago.

The items are valued at more than $100,000, but many consider them priceless.

More than half a century ago at Yankee Stadium, a crack was heard around the world.

It’s October 1st, 1961, a time before steroids and enhancement drugs, the North Dakotan would become major league baseball’s first to truly break Babe Ruth’s home run record.

This accomplishment brought the elusive S. Rae Hickok belt to the hands of Roger Maris.

“At that time, it was probably the biggest award given in professional sports,” said Chris Heaton, Museum Manager.

He didn’t want to keep the glory to himself.

This free museum opened in June 1984 at West Acres Mall nearly two years before Roger passed away.

Trophies, artifacts, and memorabilia donated line its shelves.

Decades later on July 26th, 2016 the Hickok belt vanished.

A thief dressed as a security guard broke through these exterior doors smashing a glass panel and taking the jewel-encrusted Hickok belt and his 1960 MVP plate.

The alarm was instantly activated and mall security got here in less than 20 seconds, but they didn’t get here in time to even get a glimpse of the thief.

“It was very upsetting, very disturbing,” said Heaton.

A premeditated planned out heist, police believe the thief was out of state by sunrise.

They teamed up with the FBI to find the suspect thinking this case could be linked to similar heists in 2012.

A New York Times article describes a man dressed as a ninja stealing a different Hickok belt and several gold trophies in the New Jersey area.

To this day no major leads turned up for this major league crime.

“There was a search warrant that was conducted down out of state where we thought maybe an individual might have been connected to it, because of stolen property, however it did not yield any sort of information,” said Jessica Schindeldecker, Fargo Police Department.

They can’t tell us when or where that search took place.

Craig Lisher a Minnesota FBI spokesperson says they’re no longer a part of the case.

Because of the FBI’s absence, Fargo investigators think the thefts on the east coast are not linked.

Since February of 2017, the case is listed as “inactive.”

It left family members scratching their heads later that summer.

Chris Heaton, the museum’s manager didn’t want to leave these spaces empty.

“We had to make a decision on what to do,” said Heaton.

Placeholders for the two awards now sit behind the glass booth next to a description of what happened.

“This theft is now a part of the history of these items,” said Heaton.

Heaton says they’ve amped up their defenses ensuring this doesn’t happen again.

“We have made some changes in security, not just to the museum, but to the shopping center itself,” said Heaton.

He obviously won’t tell us what those changes are.

He can say the memoirs of Maris remain free to the public, hoping the property of Fargo’s favorite son will someday come home.

Kevin Maris says they haven’t heard of any major leads on the investigation.

He says the family hopes the artifacts will be returned someday.

Lost Art: Homer’s Troy and Priam’s Treasure

The Art Newspaper

Lost Art: Homer’s Troy and Priam’s Treasure

NOAH CHARNEY – May 6, 2018


The great city of Troy, made famous by the ancient Greek poet Homer, was assumed to have been a real place much as Biblical stories have long been taken to be true. That the Bible was written in a poetic prose and that The Iliad and The Odyssey were both epic poems—all forms of literature, distinct in style from historical writing—did not dampen the belief that these were grand retellings of real events.

Questioning such “historical facts” due to a lack of empirical evidence began during the Enlightenment in the 17th and 18th centuries, but truly gained momentum with the rise of “critical history” in the early 19th century, when ancient texts were studied and compared to highlight contradictions and inconsistencies. The likes of Pliny and Strabo recorded stories that they had heard, or about which they had read, not all of which they had personally experienced—and many of which we now know to have been inaccurate or wholly invented. The Hanging Gardens, for example, appear likely to have existed, but not in Babylon, as Josephus and others wrote, but in Nineveh.

The same thing seems to have happened with the city of Troy and the Trojan War. What ancient thinkers assumed to have been a real place, Enlightenment thinkers assumed to be legendary, like the Greek myths. Some early modern writers attempted to assign a known ruin to Troy, with candidates including Alexandria Troas and Pinarbaşi, both in modern-day Turkey—which turned out to be fairly good guesses, as the former is 20 km and the latter only 5m from what would turn out to be the real location. In 1822, the Scottish journalist and geologist Charles Maclaren identified the correct site, called Hisarlik, on the country’s northwest coast in today’s Biga peninsula, which was published in academic journals after surveys were made in 1866 by the English consul and amateur archaeologist Frank Calvert.

Ruins in the Unesco recognised archaeological site of Troy in Turkey

Ruins in the Unesco recognized archaeological site of Troy in Turkey Photo: Umut Özdemir/Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Turkey

The German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann was convinced by Calvert that this was the right spot, and he received permission to excavate the site from the Turkish government and started in 1878. The find was extraordinary but complicated. There was not one lost city there but several, successive cities, dating from the Bronze age through the Roman period. One of the layers of the ancient city was dubbed by Schliemann as Troy, and the rich findings, many in gold, were dubbed “Priam’s Treasure”, after the king of Troy at the time of the Homeric Greek siege. It seemed like a major coup, and it raised Troy from the realm of mythical history into the empirical zone of history proper. What was once believed to be true, then dismissed as legend, had now yo-yoed back to truth, this time backed by hard evidence.

But that is not the end of the story.

Schliemann’s methods in excavating the various strata of cities have been condemned by modern scholars as having caused irreparable damage to the site, destroying as much or more than it unburied. The Classical scholar Kenneth Harl has even joked that Schliemann did to Troy what the Greeks had failed to do during their siege: level the city walls. It also became unclear which of the many ancient cities found on the site was the Troy. Later archaeologists, with a subtler hand than Schliemann’s, announced that at least nine cities were evident on the site, in a complex layer cake of excavations, which included some 46 sublevels.

Which layer, if any, was Homer’s Troy (if that Troy ever existed?) Archaeological evidence of a battle dating to around 1250BC was found, as well as a defensive ditch that may have surrounded the external walls of the city. This dating could fit with the general consensus on when the siege took place, though this is merely a guess. Scholars don’t even know when Homer lived and wrote his epic works, with theories ranging from the 12th through the 8th centuries BC.

Moreover, the layer of the city referred to as Troy VI (the one destroyed around 1250BC), was most likely destroyed by an earthquake, not a Greek army. Throughout all the excavations, only a single arrowhead was found, and no skeletal remains, making it highly unlikely that a high-body-count war took place there. The likelier candidate is called Troy VIIa, which was the site of a battle, with evidence of extensive fire, on both the stones and skeletons found there, dated to around 1184BC. Made a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1998, this is as close as one can get to seeing the Troy of legend.

The yo-yo continues, however, with the gold horde known as “Priam’s Treasure”. This included a pair of gold diadems (referred to as the “Jewels of Helen”), 8,750 gold rings and scores of objects in gold, silver, copper, and electrum (a gold, silver and copper mixture). Schliemann smuggled these out of Turkey in his personal effects and—in a move that was considered less-than-professional even then—had his wife photographed wearing much of the jewelry, which is how Ottoman officials learned that the treasures had been carried off. Most of this collection eventually went to the Royal Museums of Berlin, but Schliemann returned some of the items to the Ottomans in exchange for permission to return to Troy to dig further (he had been banned from the site for running off with his findings).

priams_treasure (1)

Schliemann identified a hoard of gold objects he found at the site as “Priam’s Treasure”, including a pair of gold diadems, referred to as the “Jewels of Helen”. He smuggled them out of Turkey and, in an ill-judged publicity stunt, had his wife photographed wearing much of the jewelry. The works were looted again by the Red Army during the Second World War, and are now in the Pushkin Museum in Moscow

Later archaeologists believe that this haul dates to Troy II, and therefore predates by a millennium the layer of the city that was most likely ruled by Priam. Thus the treasure remains great, but it can no longer be assigned to the era of Homeric Troy.

In 1945, during the Second World War, Priam’s Treasure was hidden by German officials underneath the Berlin Zoo, but that did not stop the Red Army from finding it. While the Soviet Union denied having the horde for decades, they were finally identified as part of the collection of Moscow’s Pushkin Museum in September 1993. A protracted plan to return the treasure to Germany—which, it could be argued, should not have had it in the first place, since Schliemann smuggled the objects away from the Ottomans—has been blocked by Russian officials, who consider the looted art as compensation for the vast damage, in goods and lives, wrought by the Nazis.

So, while the hoard can no longer be considered technically lost, Priam’s Treasure remains so, for while this is an impressive find, it was made a good thousand years before Priam walked Troy’s walls. If Priam ever existed. And if Homer’s poem was ever meant to be considered a historical record.

The Greek hero Odysseus slits the throat of a Thracian warrior outside the walls of Troy in this Chalcidian Black-Figure Neck Amphora J. Paul Getty Museum
• Noah Charney is an author and art history professor at the ARCA Postgraduate Program in Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection. His new book is Museum of Lost Art, published by Phaidon

Settlement reached in case with insurer, Connect Art International over allegedly damaged art

Northern California Record



SAN FRANCISCO – A settlement has been reached in a lawsuit centered on damage to high-end art that was kept in a San Francisco storage facility.

Judge Joseph C. Spero of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California dismissed the case March 21, “the court having been advised that the parties have agreed to a settlement of this case.”

The settlement amount was not disclosed in the order of dismissal.

Plaintiffs AXA Insurance Co. and AXA Art Americas Corp. and its subrogor Anthony Meier Fine Arts filed a lawsuit against Connect Art International LLC, which owns a storage facility in San Francisco, in November 2017 alleging negligence and breach of contract.

According to the complaint, the plaintiffs were seeking a settlement of $467,500 relating to “damages that resulted from the discarding of certain artwork in Meier’s possession” at the storage facility.

“On or about Feb. 22, 2016, the plaintiff’s subrogor sustained damages as the result of the careless loss and/or discarding of artwork at the subject premises, which resulted in property damage to plaintiff’s subrogor, Meier,” the complaint stated.

Plaintiff’s art allegedly was damaged due to “improperly installed, maintained, repaired, and/or secured subject premises,” the complaint states, and the defendants allegedly were aware of “the defective and hazardous condition” at the time the incident occurred and did nothing about it.

“The accident herein and the damages resulting therefrom were due solely and wholly to the negligence and grossly reckless conduct of the defendant Connect Art its agents, servants and/or employees and without any fault or want of care on the part of the plaintiff’s subrogor contributing thereto,” according to the complaint.

The plaintiffs also alleged that Connect Art did not comply with its duties outlined in the agreed contract.

“Plaintiff demands judgment against defendant Connect Art International LLC on its first and second causes of action in an amount to be determined at trial believed to be $467,500., with interest thereon from Feb. 22, 2016, altogether with the costs and disbursements of this action,” the complaint stated.

A short history of heists


The independent student newspaper for the University of Cambridge

A short history of heists

Olga Kacprzak – March 25, 2018

Olga Kacprzak looks into infamous cases of art theft over the years

Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona LisaWIKIPEDIA

1. A noble thief

One of the most notorious art theft cases dates back to 1911 when Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa was stolen by Vincenzo Peruggia, an Italian worker hired by the Louvre. Peruggia was hired to install protective glass cases for some of the works in the museum, including the Mona Lisa. Peruggia was later arrested when he tried to sell the painting in Italy. He claimed it was an act of patriotism and his actions were motivated by the desire to return the artwork to its homeland. Hailed a hero in Italy, Perugia, while found guilty, served only a few months in jail.

2. The woman in gold

Klimt’s Woman in GoldWIKIPEDIA

Many of the recent art theft cases concern heirs who claim restitution of works looted or misappropriated during the Nazi period. In one of such cases, Maria Altmann sought to recover paintings by Gustav Klimt looted from her family by the Nazis in Austria. The paintings she sought to get back included a portrait of her aunt Adele Bloch-Bauer, often called The Woman in Gold. The portrait was taken by the Nazis when Altmann’s family fled their estate during World War II. The eventual heir of the artwork, Maria Altmann, fought a decade-long legal battle with the Austrian government to reclaim it. Finally, in 2006, the Austrian government was ordered to return the artwork to Altmann. The painting is now displayed at the Neue Galerie in New York.

3. No happy endings

Picasso’s The Actor

While the courts are generally sympathetic towards the families whose artworks were misappropriated by the Nazis, not all cases end with their success. In a recent ruling, a US court dismissed a lawsuit seeking to order the Metropolitan Museum of Art to return The Actor by Pablo Picasso, which a German Jewish businessman was allegedly forced to sell at a low price to fund his escape from the fascist regime of Benito Mussolini, an ally of Hitler. The heir of the businessman claimed that her family has never lost the title to the artwork because the sale was forced. Still, the court ruled that the claimant could not show that the painting was sold under “duress”, which would justify its return.

4. A scream piercing the art world


One of the most shocking and emotive art crimes of the last decades is the heist at the Munch Museum in Oslo. In 2004, masked gunmen entered the museum during opening hours and stole the most valuable paintings in its collection – The Scream and Madonna by Edvard Munch. The gunmen threatened security guards before taking the paintings and escaping into an awaiting getaway vehicle. The paintings, recovered after two years, were damaged by the negligent robbers, which raised questions as to the underlying motive behind the heist. According to one theory, the paintings were snatched simply to divert police resources from another crime that happened earlier that year, namely an armed robbery which left a police officer dead.

5. A real-life Ocean’s 12


Last year, a burglar known as Spiderman has been convicted after one of the most audacious art heists to date. Vjeran Tomic gained his nickname by climbing into Parisian apartments and museums to steal valuable objects and artworks. Still, it appeared that the modern day Arsène Lupin did not need any of his skills to steal five paintings worth collectively over €100m from the Musée d’Art Moderne in Paris. Tomic broke into the museum with apparent ease, taking advantage of failures in the security system. He initially intended to steal only a Fernand Léger painting titled Still Life with Candlestick but decided to take four more works, including a piece by Picasso and another one by Matisse, as he was able to wander around the museum unnoticed

Lunar module replica theft still under investigation

masthead / logo

Lunar module replica theft still under investigation


WAPAKONETA — In July a solid gold replica of the 1969 Lunar Excursion Module was stolen from the Neil Armstrong Air and Space Museum.

The replica is 5 inches high and around 4.5 inches square and was presented to Neil Armstrong in Paris after his walk on the moon in 1969. There are only three in existence.

Wapakoneta Police Department Detective James Cox said the evidence gathered by the department has been sent to the FBI at Quantico for investigation.

Young man with an interest in art has pleaded guilty to 46 criminal damage.

The Standard

Andrew Thomson – MARCH 16 2018

A YOUNG man with an interest in art has pleaded guilty to 46 criminal damage charges after a graffiti spree across Warrnambool. Brayden Williams placed on corrections order after graffiti spree


Graffiti has been an ongoing problem in Warrnambool.

 Graffiti has been an ongoing problem in Warrnambool.

Brayden Williams, 20, of Botanic Road, Warrnambool, appeared in the Warrnambool Magistrates Court and was ordered to pay $3608 compensation. He was not convicted, placed on a 12-month community corrections order with conditions he does 120 hours of community work as well as assessment, treatment, rehabilitation, and programs as requested.

Magistrate Cynthia Toose said graffiti was the same as breaking windows.

“People are proud of Warrnambool. It’s a beautiful city. You’ve imposed your graffiti on everyone else,” she said. Williams said he committed the offenses without thinking, but he now regretted it and wished the offending hadn’t happened. Ms. Toose said she wasn’t sure why anyone would be involved in graffiti, which just cost the rest of the community money to clean up.

She said that money could be far better used for sporting facilities or the provision of other public services and facilities. “This sort of offending needs to be publicised. One day someone will be jailed for this. Let this be a very big learning curve for you,” she said. Police executed a search warrant at a Botanic Road home in Warrnambool and found material linked to graffiti tags.

The tags covered power boxes, walls, fences, doors, bus shelters, signs, drains, mailboxes and a bridge between Warrnambool and Dennington. The total damage bill is estimated at being more than $5000 as other tags were not reported to police but have been seen around the city. Since Williams’ arrest, there have been no new similar tags.

Defense counsel Belinda Northey said Williams’ partner had an interest in art that led to his involvement. She described his offending as being a flurry of activity over a confined period. “He thought it was a victimless crime, targeting businesses, and council property,” she said, explaining that Williams now knew better.

Ms. Northey said Williams wanted to pursue his interest in art.

Idol thief moved around Tamil Nadu, Kerala for 22 years

Representative image

Idol thief moved around Tamil Nadu, Kerala for 22 years

 Mar 11, 2018
Idol smuggler Sanjeevi Ashokan, 55, who was arrested by the idol wing police on Thursday in connection with the theft of two idols from Moonreeswarar temple in Andhalanallur in Tirunelveli district, had been moving around Tamil Nadu and Kerala ever since he had been declared untraceable in 1995.
A native of Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala, and on the run for the last two years after failing to appear in court in connection with the theft of idols from a temple in Ariyalur, he was apprehended in rural Kumbakonam on a tip-off received by the idol wing police.

The arrest was over his involvement in the theft of two stone idols of Dhwara Balagar in 1994. The Veeravanallur police in Tirunelveli had registered a case and closed the case as untraceable in 1995.

Ashokan and his family members were running art galleries in Puducherry, Mannadi, and Neelankarai. The role of Ashokan was vital right from stealing the idols from temples to smuggling them to Australia.

The first breakthrough in the 23-year-old case came with the arrests of R Nachu alias Lakshmi Narasimhan, 53, from Mahabalipuram, his accomplices R Oomaithurai, 68, from Mylapore and his brother R Annathurai, 59, on November 5, 2017, which was followed by the arrest of Vallaba Prakash, 89, and his son Aditya Prakash, 48, from Mumbai the next day. Running an Indo-Nepal Art Centre in Mumbai since 1959, Vallaba and Adithya were tasked with ascertaining the antique value and artwork of the idols. Based on their directions, the three had executed the plan.

Jailed idol smuggler P Subhash Chandra Kapoor was also one of the accused in the case. He was the mastermind behind smuggling the idols to Australia and selling them to the national art gallery in Canberra in Australia for Rs 4.98 crore.  Sanjeevi Ashokan was the seventh accused arrested in the case.

Sources said that the wing remained in constant touch with the Australia government to bring back the idols from the gallery. It is expected that a team of officers from the idol wing in Tamil Nadu will soon visit the gallery