Archive for the ‘Police’ Category

I just arrived home from a mind-blowing trip to Europe where i attended my first major international art fair (ArtBasel), my second Documenta and my first international art conference as a professional (rather than an organiser!)

View over Umbria at sunset

I found ARCA – the Association for Research into Crimes Against Art – during a random hunt for an overseas postgraduate degree. ARCA run a Postgraduate Certificate in Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection in the European summer. As amazing as it sounded, the cost and the length of the program (three months), prohibited me from pursuing it further.

Instead i had to settle for the annual conference, which was being held for the fourth time during the postgraduate program, to allow the students the opportunity to network with, and learn from, the gathered art crime experts from around the world. The festivities took place 23-24 June, in Amelia, Umbria in Italy, a small medieval town about 40 mins from Roma.  

Jason Felch’s Chasing Aphrodite

On the day of the conference, the Italian transport system failed me on route, and i found myself stranded at Orte station, a good 20 min drive Amelia. Luckily the conference organisers were on the ball and rather than have to figure our the Italian taxi system, a car was dispatched for my rescue.

After chatting to other stranded international attendee in the car, i realised it may not have been my esteemed presence that warranted the car, but my fellow passenger, who i learned was Jason Felch, an LA Time reporter.

Mr. Felch was the brains behind the revelations that the Getty was willing buying looted objects for its collection. This made him somewhat of a celebrity amongst the archaeologists in the audience. His book on the topic, Chasing Aphrodite, co-authored with Ralph Frammolino, details the case and he was in Amelia to receive a prize for his work on the Getty.

The program over the three days covered art forgery, archeology and looting. You can check out the program here.

I found the majority of the presentations exciting and interesting, having never studied looting or art theft in detail. I took copious notes and have already ordered Jason’s book, as well as number of others on the topic!

On the Sunday, the session i was waiting for on art forgery came around. Australia was represented by two criminologists, Saskia Hufnagel & Duncan Chappell. They gave an overview of a number of high-profile art forgery cases, both in Australia and overseas. I had been hoping for more presentations on art forgery, as the conference had a strong bias toward archaeology, rather than forgery. This is now serving as my motivation to present at the next one!

Attendees at the Conference

Being a baby researcher in the area, i was in awe of the experts in the field, but i can already see some holes in the current academia  For a start, Saskia and Duncan are coming at the problem from the perspective of criminologists. Whilst this theoretical framework is integral to the bigger picture solution, engaging art curators and art historians’ knowledge and experience with dealers, artists and buyers, is also needed. In fact, the whole conference consisted mostly of lawyers, criminologists, archaeologists, police and academics. I was one of the only art curators or art professionals in the room. This is a long-term problem for this conversation, and i did note a subtle hostility toward the rank of museum director/curator. Those misgivings aside, the attendees were passionate and pro-active about their respective causes.

Overall I found the conference far too short and i am already hankering for the next one. I made some great contacts with the younger attendees and i am looking forward to seeing them next year.


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It seems like an obvious thing but if you’re going to do something stupid, don’t use the most easily transferred and recorded medium to do it. It amazes me the stupid things people post online in ignorance of the power of the instant functions of copy, paste and forward! Following on from my recent post about politicians being ignorant to the power of Web 2.0, i thought i would take a look at a few examples that have popped up in the last week.

Facebook has been in the news this week for its lack of action over an alleged porn ring operating on its site. It has come under fire for shutting down the offending pages but not contacting the police. Whilst this issue goes to the heart of Facebook privacy issues ie. should it be Facebook’s responsibility to police its users and report any potential criminal activity, to me this case is a typical example of stupid behaviour on the web. Whilst sites like Facebook seem like an easy way to quickly and easy share illegal photos and videos, did the 11 arrested really think they would get away with using a website known for changing privacy settings and making you opt out, rather than opt in to increased public exposure?

Source: abc.net.au

A second case of stupidity this week has been the sackings of senior Victorian police who were caught sending emails “containing highly offensive material including sexual, violent, homophobic and racist content”. Up to 25 officers have been identified as having sent material, with 4 already sacked. It is disturbing that those who are meant to serve and protect the community have felt the desire to send such material, but again, how stupid can you get, sending things using your work email? The naivety is astounding.

Some cases of email, Twitter or Facebook fail aren’t intentional cases of willingly abusing the internet for criminal matters, some are just plain embarrassing mistakes made by the flick of a finger and sending something to wrong recipient or from the wrong account.

Source: ayoungertheatre.com

The National Theatre in the UK was a victim of such a discrepancy this week. An employee of the theatre company was clearly unaware that they were logged into the work account and not a personal Twitter account when they tweeted: “Well, Steve Norris is clearly a giant cunt“. According to A Younger Theatre blog, the offending tweet was removed 50 minutes and an apology issued to the company’s followers stating:

“Sincere apologies. The NT believes its account has been hacked. Earlier tweet in response to Standard article did not come from the NT.”

Whilst i think that is perhaps a clever way to deflect any potential fallout away from the company, to me the whole thing reads like a small mistake by not logging out of the work Twitter account before firing off an angry Tweet.  Synonyms for Churlish, a theatre student’s blog agrees, posting an open letter to the National Theatre, thanking them for the “passionate tweet about relevant issues”.

The final example i’ll leave you this week is not about stupidity when using the internet but a warning about modern technology. If you’re going to do something silly like put a neighbour’s cat in a wheely bin, make sure you’re not caught on CCTV when doing so.

Not only will you get caught by cat lovers distributing the video online to identify you, but you’ll be parodied forever on YouTube.

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