Posts Tagged ‘fbi’

There can be unexpected ramifications to keeping cats, as art forgers described in Science magazine discovered to their regret.

In an article on how experts check the authenticity of a putative Velázquez or a painting found along with mummies, Lizzie Wade writes, Investigations into the artist responsible for more modern works often have a specific goal: To figure out if the work in question is a forgery.

“Bonnie Magness-Gardine manages the Art Theft Program at the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Washington, D.C. For many years, she and other investigators had seen innumerable forgeries of the work of Clementine Hunter, a self-taught and incredibly prolific African-American painter from Louisiana.

“Many people tried to copy her distinctive folk-art style, but only two regularly succeeded: William Toye and his wife Beryl Ann Toye, a couple from New Orleans. They were so good at imitating Hunter’s style that ‘they got away with this for years,’ Magness-Gardine says.

“In 2009, the Federal Bureau of Investigation finally gathered enough evidence to confiscate the Toyes’ supposed Hunter collection, and during the raid they noticed that ‘they lived in a very modest house with approximately 30 cats,’ Magness-Gardine says.

“When forensic investigators analyzed the seized works, they found cat hair embedded in the paint — a characteristic not shared by Hunter’s authentic work. ‘That’s essentially what brought them down,’ Magness-Gardine says. William Toye pled guilty to art fraud in 2011.”

More here.

Art: Clementine Hunter/ Bridgeman Images
Picking Cotton, 1950s (oil on board), Minneapolis Institute of Art, The Ethel Morrison Van Derlip Fund. Hunter is a favorite of would-be forgers.

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Photo from FBI site: An empty frame in the Dutch Room of the Gardner Museum, where Rembrandt’s The Storm on the Sea of Galilee and A Lady and Gentleman in Black once hung.

The agent overseeing the FBI investigation into the 1990 Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist spoke at my workplace today (a real perk of my job).

I learned a lot. Did you know, for example, that because Mrs. Gardner’s will specified that no art was to be moved, sold, or replaced, the paintings had no insurance? They were not be replaced. The agent said that the usual scenario is that stolen art is held for ransom from the insurance company. The thieves probably didn’t dream that there was no insurance on Rembrandts and Vermeers.

Our speaker was quite entertaining (for example, showing a slide from the Simpsons cartoon in which Vermeer’s The Concert is found in Montgomery Burns’s mansion ). He answered many questions and punted others as the investigation is ongoing.

As you may have seen recently, the FBI announced that they knew who had stolen the art and at least two of the places it had been seen. They have not announced the names of the thieves but may do so once they work through all the leads the latest announcement has brought. The statute of limitations ran out on the theft after five years (Mass. Senator Ted Kennedy subsequently pushed through a federal law extending the limit to 20 years), but possession of stolen art is a crime not subject to time limits.

I learned that the museum had good security. As most locals know, the guards let the thieves in believing they were cops. When you have a Trojan Horse inside, security doesn’t help, the agent said. Nowadays guards in different museums call each other every 20 minutes just to check.

Extensive research has shown there has never been a museum theft like this, where the thieves stole so much of value and also so much of little value and took a leisurely 81 minutes to do so.

And perhaps there has never been a crime at a major museum where the paintings were not insured.

The agent believes the art will be recovered one day. Read the FBI dedicated site, here.

Photo: Simpsons

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