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  • April 15, 2021 3:05 PM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from Artnet News

    Dutch authorities have linked a suspect to two major art thefts that took place during the early days of lockdown last spring.

    The police announced on Tuesday morning that they had arrested a 58-year-old man on suspicion of stealing both Vincent Van Gogh’s The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring (1884) and Frans Hals’s Two Laughing Boys with a Mug of Beer from two museums in the Netherlands.

    The suspect, who has not been named by police, was arrested at his home in the town of Baarn, near Hilversum in the Netherlands. Neither painting has been recovered.

    The first crime was committed around 3:15 a.m. on the morning of March 30, when a theft arrived at the Singer Laren Museum, smashed through reinforced glass doors with a sledgehammer, grabbed the Van Gogh canvas, and fled into the night on a motorcycle. The robbery was captured on security videos, released via a Dutch crime show in late April.

    A few months later, in June, art detective Arthur Brand caught wind of a “proof of life” photograph circulating in the criminal underworld. It showed the front page of the New York Times, the back of the Van Gogh painting, and a biography of infamous art thief Octave Durham, titled Meesterdief (Masterthief). 

    Durham went to prison for stealing two other paintings by Van Gogh, and the inclusion of his biography in the hostage-like photograph bolstered law enforcement’s belief that the Singer Laren thief was a copycat.

    The Van Gogh painting was on loan to the Singer Laren Museum from the Groninger Museum for a temporary exhibition, and was the only Van Gogh in the Groninger’s collection.

    “Compliments to the police for their detective work. No robbery should go unpunished,” said Evert van Os, the managing director of the Singer Laren museum, in a statement. Although the painting itself remains missing, “everyday we hope to receive good news,” van Os says, “so that visitors to the Groninger Museum are able to enjoy this fabulous artwork again.”

    The second robbery, of a Frans Hals painting valued at $17 million, stolen from the small Hofje van Aerden museum near Utrecht, was another nighttime theft. Thieves made off with the painting on August 27, 2020, at around 3:30 a.m. after forcing open a back door.

    The jovial picture is a popular target for thieves: it had been stolen once in 1988 and again in 2011. Police are hoping it will be recovered for a third time.

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  • April 08, 2021 3:13 PM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from WFAA

    At Fair Park, the Hall of State remains closed due to damage it sustained during Texas's historic winter storm in February. Yet, on Wednesday, Dallas city council members took the first step to getting the symbolic museum back open. 

    On Feb. 17, when the storm was grappling much of Texas, the Hall of State lost power. Unable to heat pipes inside, administrators were called early in the morning about sprinkler system pipes bursting. 

    Documentary filmmaker Mark Birnbaum compiled multiple videos of the pipes gushing water into the East Texas Room

    The Hall of State houses and features several collections of recognizable Texas art and artifacts. It also honors some of the state's heroes like Sam Houston and Davy Crockett. 

    In one area of the museum, you'll find Tom Landry's Super Bowl rings that he won with the Dallas Cowboys. Another? Davy Crockett's pistol and Santa Anna's spurs. 

    In the East Texas Room, water damaged the gum-paneled walls, orotone photographs taken by Polly Smith showing scenes throughout Texas in the early 1920s and 1930s, and murals depicting the region before and after oil was discovered. 

    Dallas City Council members passed a resolution Wednesday that would allocate $376,092 to restore and refurbish any damaged pieces.  

    However, roughly $3 million is still going to be needed to repair infrastructure to the building. 

    Karl Chiao, the executive director for the Dallas Historical Society, said the whole ordeal was a nightmare. The two things a museum tries to avoid most are fire and water damage.  

    The Dallas Historical Society has managed the building since 1938. 

    "You know, this happened around 4 a.m., and by 10 a.m., we had 25 to 30 people here helping," Chiao said. "We've got over three million items in our collection, and this is one of the three most historic buildings in Texas behind the Alamo and the State Capitol." 

    Roughly 1 to 4 inches of water had to be swept out of the building erected for Texas's Centennial Exposition in 1936. Fans are still drying it to this day. 

    Birnbaum captured volunteers in February, moving artifacts into the Great Hall, some of them needing to be dried out. 

    One of the soaked items was Quanah Parker's doeskin pipe bag. Parker was a war leader of the Kwahadi band of the Comanche Nation.

    Interior damage was also done to the East Texas Room ceiling and other ceiling areas around the museum. The walls in the East Texas Room will likely have to be repaired, and the sprinkler system will also have to be fixed. 

    That is where the $3 million derives from.  

    Council members will likely approve the needed cash, because the City already spent $14.4 million on restoration to the building that was finished in December. 

    The funds were secured by voters in 2017, when a majority approved a bond sale for financing the renovation.  

    Chiao is looking forward to when repairs actually begin. He hopes the building can reopen in the coming months.  

    "It feels a little bit like Groundhog Day," Chiao said. "We just got done doing this renovation, and now here we are again. It's a little frustrating, but the good thing is we've done it before." 

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  • April 08, 2021 3:10 PM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from Government Executive

    Smithsonian Institution facilities remain closed to the public indefinitely, but the agency’s union is worried about employee safety when operations resume, based on problems encountered by staff who have been required to report to worksites over the past year and those involved in limited reopenings in the summer and fall. 

    On March 14, 2020, the Smithsonian closed all of its locations (the majority of which are in Washington, D.C.) as the lockdowns for the novel coronavirus pandemic began. Between July and September, the National Zoo and seven museums reopened with restrictions, but then all were closed again in late November due to a spike in coronavirus cases in the Washington region. Despite being closed to the public, many employees, such as security officers and facilities workers, still have to be on site, which has been an ongoing problem, according to American Federation of Government Employees Local 2463, which represents Smithsonian employees. 

    “We have had since Day 1 numerous problems beginning with trying to be on the [Smithsonian’s] committee, on the COVID team, so that bargaining unit employees could have a representative,” said David Hendrick, president of AFGE Local 2463. “They refused my numerous requests to allow the union person on the committee.”

    There are over 6,300 employees at the Smithsonian, of which 3,215 are bargaining unit employees. Many union members have been working on site during the pandemic, and “the majority are minorities and a large part of that is African American,” according to Hendrick. Those are communities that have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic. 

    On-site employees have been working “side by side with outside contractors who repeatedly fail to wear masks,” Hendrick said. “On numerous occasions they do not have adequate [personal protective equipment] supplies. Cleaning procedures after someone is found to be infected are below standards or not [happening] at all.” Also, “on some occasions when they come down with COVID the Smithsonian claims they caught the COVID virus at home and refuses to pay them while they recuperate at home.” 

    WUSA9 first reported in April 2020 that contractors were working at the Museum of American History, which prompted employees’ concerns for increased risk of exposure. 

    As of this March 1, there had been 242 COVID-19 cases among Smithsonian staff, of which 97 were teleworkers. At least 145 of the staff infected were bargaining unit employees, Hendrick was informed by the Smithsonian (a Smithsonian spokesperson told Government Executive the agency would not disclose the numbers). 

    Union members are “concerned with what's going to happen to them once the public comes in because of the lack of Smithsonian following the COVID recommendations, providing adequate supplies and ensuring that the employees are safe,” said Hendrick. “They’re scared not only for their health” but also their families’ well-being.  

    Union representatives also expressed concern that the Smithsonian won’t follow the Labor Department’s “presumption of workplace causation” for federal workers who contract COVID. Employees have an easier time claiming benefits if it is assumed they caught COVID at work. The presumption of workplace causation was first enacted last May and then updated in the recent coronavirus stimulus package.

    The problems during the pandemic are part of the Smithsonian’s overall goal of saving money and an ongoing “class war” with bargaining unit employees being viewed as the “lower class,” Hendrick said. 

    A year later, “I’m concerned still,” said Jarvis Waller, an officer in the Zoological Park Police and shop steward for AFGE Local 2463, who experienced many of the challenges that Hendrick mentioned. “Yes, we have a new president that has basically done a 360 compared to the last president and everyone’s getting tested and everyone’s getting vaccinated, but I’m concerned about my agency.” 

    The availability of personal protective gear and clearing supplies has been an ongoing concern at the zoo, in particular. 

    Also, “they didn’t put out the information that you get up to 15 weeks if you come up COVID-19 positive,” which was a provision in President Biden’s $1.9 trillion “American Rescue Plan” enacted on March 11, according to Waller.

    Reggie Booth, executive vice president of the union local, said in some situations management took pre-existing conditions into consideration for those who had to work on site, but not for all. Also, “the employees aren’t receiving ample notification when someone tests positive” and they are worried when the public is allowed back in, “are they going to be kept safe?” 

    Alise Fisher, a Smithsonian spokesperson, told Government Executive that the agency has an established process for reporting and investigating coronavirus cases. She said that about 90% of staff has been working from home and gave the following statement on what they’ve been doing to protect those who can’t: 

    “To protect themselves and each other, our employees conduct a daily self-check of their health before coming to work, follow our ‘stay home if sick’ policy, wear appropriate face coverings in the workplace, practice safe social distancing, and wash and sanitize hands regularly. Among other safety measures, we have installed directional guidance and signage where needed to accommodate safe social distancing; reduced occupancy throughout staff areas, such as break rooms; installed protective safety shields; and used a risk assessment and mitigation process before conducting work activities involving more than one staff member. Where needed, we provide additional personal protection equipment to further reduce risks. If employees self-identify as having a medical condition that makes them vulnerable to COVID-19, they are currently asked to stay home and paid their normal salary.”

    The Smithsonian has not received a direct allocation of vaccines yet, but is providing staff with information on how to get shots in their respective areas. Also, “we did not have any documented cases of visitor-to-staff transmission or vice versa while our museums were reopened” for a period of time last year, Fisher said.

    Government Executive provided the Smithsonian with a list of some of the union’s concerns––regarding personal protective equipment availability, contractors coming into facilities, a union representative allegedly not being allowed on the Smithsonian’s coronavirus committee, employee testing and tensions between the union and agency. In response, Fisher told Government Executive

    “The Smithsonian’s first priority is to protect the health and safety of our staff and visitors, which includes ensuring the availability of sufficient [personal protective equipment] for our staff. Our COVID-19 response team leaders meet with the union regularly to discuss plans and solicit feedback. We recognize that the union is an integral part of the reopening process and will continue to seek their input, abide by all obligations, and strive to strengthen our partnership.” 

    The Smithsonian inspector general said this fiscal year it plans to review the agency’s implementation of the emergency management program in response to the pandemic as well as its use of $7.5 million in funds from the CARES Act. 

    Starting January 22, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser allowed museums to reopen with no more than 250 people per floor and without guided tours. Then she announced on Monday that starting May 1, museums, galleries and exhibits could operate indoors and outdoors at 50% capacity. 

    Several for-profit museums in the D.C. area have reopened between January and March, The Washington Post reported. Fisher didn’t have a target reopening date for the Smithsonian to share, but said they are “actively planning” for when it is safe to do so.

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  • April 08, 2021 3:07 PM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from ABC News

    An art piece by an American graffiti artist showcased in South Korea was damaged by a couple in their 20s who thought the sets of paint and brushes laid in front of the artwork was for spectators' use.

    Staff at the gallery exhibition noticed new brush strokes on the wall -- small swipes of dark green to the right of center -- last Sunday. After checking the security camera, two suspects were taken by the police for investigation.

    The agency that organized the exhibition told ABC News that it is currently negotiating with the artist to take appropriate steps.

    "We called the police immediately and talked to the insurance company for the damaged artwork," Kang Wook, the CEO of Contents Creator of Culture, co-organizer of the exhibition, told ABC News. "But as the agency in charge, we will do best to minimize the harm to the couple who unintentionally vandalized the work."

    According to Kang, the graffiti was not framed due to its large size. The vandalized art was 22.9 feet by 7.8 feet, and was the only piece in the exhibition without frames.

    “Given the circumstances, the young couple does not seem to have done it intentionally.” John Andrew Perello, who goes by the name JonOne, told ABC News. “I hope the piece gets restored to meet the Korean audience like before.”

    The damaged art piece by JonOne is worth around $440,000, according to its agency. The graffiti "Untitled," which attracted even more public attention in South Korea after it was painted on, will hang until June 13, at the Street Noise exhibition at the Seoul-based Lotte World Mall.

    The decision to display performance equipment in front of JonOne's work goes back to 2016. JonOne completed the artwork in question during a graffiti museum show, "The Great Graffiti,'' in Seoul Arts Center at the time. When the piece was complete, it was displayed along with the props used by the artist, in the same way the display is on now.

    "The paint and brushes used by the artist comprise a complete set with the graffiti canvas work," said Kang. He explained that the props were part of the exhibition to help highlight the history of the artist's work.

    Since the accidental painting, the agency in charge of the exhibition has provided additional guidelines for spectators and increased the surveillance around the work to prevent such misunderstandings from taking place again.

    "Due to the characteristics of contemporary art, there will be many happenings like these going forward. Exhibit organizers must take extra care in physically protecting the artwork, as the audience may mistake the art like that of JonOne's to something they can scribble on," Ha Jae-geun, a Korean pop culture expert, told ABC News.

    JonOne, who now lives in Paris, received France's Legion of Honor in the culture and communications category in 2015. France's premier award goes to those recognized for their service to the country.

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  • April 08, 2021 3:02 PM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from The Guardian

    The Victoria & Albert Museum is a strange place to be on this late-February morning. The staircases and deserted hallways echo to my footsteps. A top-floor gallery looks naked, with gaps on the walls and improvised labels where works of art should be. Next to the doors leading to the courtyard, the plaster casts are swaddled in bubblewrap, as if sheltering from the chill.

    It isn’t just London’s museumland, of course. Galleries and museums up and down the UK are stuck in suspended animation. Closed along with nearly every public building a year ago, they were permitted to open again in the summer, before having to bolt their doors again a few months later. Places in lower-risk areas stuck it out into December, before succumbing to the latest national lockdowns. According to the latest plans, it will be mid-May at the earliest before we’re able to step inside again.

    But what actually happens when museums pull up the drawbridge and pull down the shutters? Do staff just flick off the lights , turn on the burglar alarms and head home? The V&A possesses more than 2.3 million books and artefacts stored across multiple locations. Who’s been looking after them?

    The V&A’s deputy director, Tim Reeve, in a corridor somewhere between Fashion and Buddhism, is eager to point out that there’s more going on in the empty building than one might think. Spry in a suit and a William Morris-print mask, he points out the work they’ve been doing while the place is closed: repainted gallery spaces, roof repairs, the former foyer repurposed as a socially distanced cafe.

    Reeve halts next to a gleaming new mosaic floor with the pride of a man showing off some lockdown DIY. “We’ve been meaning to do this for years,” he explains. “But it would have meant four months of disruption. There are very, very few silver linings with Covid, but this is one.”

    When staff shut the doors on 17 March last year, a week before the UK officially went into lockdown, the assumption was they’d be back in a few weeks, says Vernon Rapley, the museum’s head of security. “We just closed everything up as normal. A bit like Christmas Day.” Rapley, a former Met policeman, actually had a pandemic crisis plan ready to go. Problem was, it wasn’t the right one. “We’d never considered the scenario where government turned round and said, ‘Oh, you’ve got to close.’”

    All of a sudden, security were pretty much the only people allowed on site. Among myriad mundane but crucial tasks, guards did everything from assisting the exhibition team to lay out signage, to replacing pest traps and batteries on humidity monitors.

    A museum’s primary duty is to care for the objects in its collection; “condition-checking” artefacts is especially important. The security team added this to their skillset, too. “Is that object ‘sweating’, does everything look the same?” Rapley says. “We became mini-technicians. Some of my guys, they hadn’t really had time to look at the objects before.” One day, he came across a guard staring into a case. “He looked really nervous and said, ‘Oh, I’m sorry, I was just looking.’ I said, ‘Absolutely perfect!’”

    Security of a more obvious kind was also on their minds. Last March, thieves broke into the coronavirus-closed Singer Laren museum in the Netherlands with a sledgehammer and made off with a Van Gogh. Anxious that the V&A shouldn’t suffer the same fate, Rapley started posting plentiful photos to Twitter, making it clear he and his team were very much in the building. “It’s always good to remind people,” he says.

    As soon as it closed, Glenn Benson, the V&A’s senior safety adviser, was feverishly finding ways they could reopen. Making the museum Covid-secure was a gargantuan task. The main V&A building in Kensington covers 12 acres and has seven miles of gallery space, plus more miles of gloomy Edwardian corridors and backstairs rooms. Benson and his colleagues had to account for every inchassessing ventilation and where hand-sanitiser points and Perspex screens should go, if headsets on displays were safe, what could be cleaned and what couldn’t. 

    Working from floor plans, Benson’s team calculated how many visitors could be let in, allowing for a two-metre bubble around each and factoring in what they christened the “clutter factor” – what the rest of us refer to as art works. It became clear that only a fifth of normal visitor numbers could safely come in each day – alarming for a museum that derives much income from footfall.

    Even trickier was making the V&A’s notoriously cramped backstage areas Covid-safe. “The V&A is a village,” Benson says, explaining that nearly 1,000 people currently work there (even the British Museum doesn’t have so many). “We have workshops, we have cinemas, we have shops, we have cafes, close-contact activities, everything.”

    As spring became summer, some of the first to come off furlough were the conservators, who clean, research and restore objects – tasks that, for obvious reasons, can’t be done from home. Senior textile conservator Frances Hartog spent her final hours in the museum last March shrouding delicate silk kimonos in protective coverings and installing pest traps, not knowing when she’d return. When she came back to the studios in July, it was to a world transformed. To minimise contact, her team has been divided into two separate bubbles, working split shifts; she’s also been taking weekly lateral flow tests. “Of course everyone’s anxious, but we all need to take the rules seriously,” Hartog says.

    A sculpture conservator, Sarah Healey-Dilkes, adds that, to reduce the number of people on site, everything possible is being done virtually. Instead of objects that have been borrowed from other museums arriving guarded by a “courier”(usually a conservator or other specialist), which was standard practice pre-pandemic, now V&A staff are holding up iPhones as they open crates, so their counterparts can observe remotely.

    Others in the V&A team did the same in reverse, surveying the de-installation of a Balenciaga couture loan show at the China National Silk Museum in Hangzhou entirely online. Meanwhile, the exhibition crew have been on endless early-morning video calls with curators in the Middle East, arranging for objects to travel for what the museum hopes will be a grand curtain-raiser when it reopens, a new exhibition called Epic Iran.

    “We’re used to finding solutions,” says senior exhibitions manager Claire Everitt cheerfully. “When you’re installing a big, complex show, things are changing all the time. You get good at improvising.”

    Hanging over everything, of course, are immense storm clouds. While hundreds of institutions were bailed out by the government’s £1.57bn culture recovery fund, the V&A and other directly funded museums such as Tate and the British Museum were not permitted to apply to the main scheme. Instead, they’ve been waiting on the Department of Digital, Culture, Media & Sport for handouts of up to 25% of their normal grants – a figure that, in many cases, won’t cover the shortfall, even with a top-up recently announced in the budget. 

    The V&A is in a deep hole, says Reeve. “We depend heavily for our livelihood on visitors, whether it’s joining as a member, buying a ticket, shopping in the shop, signing up for an online course. And we’ve gone from 4 million people a year to 15% of that.” Income is down by something like 70%, he adds. “It’s kind of catastrophic.”

    Last September, the V&A announced that it would shed more than 100 jobs, mainly retail and visitor-facing roles, 10% of the overall workforce. A few weeks back, the Guardian reported that some departments were facing cuts of up to 20%. The museum has confirmed that a major curatorial shake-up is under way, redesigning how departments work; the number of jobs that hang in the balance is now 140. Altogether the museum says that it needs to find “sustainable savings” of £10m each and every year, going forward.

    “We’ll have to be a smaller organisation,” says Reeve. “There are lots of things we can do to reduce expenditure. But if we’re looking at 500,000 visitors this year, maybe 1 millon next year, it’s not the same as 4 million people.”

    Some have raised eyebrows that the museum is still pushing ahead with a grandiose new project, V&A East, a vast “creative campus” and open-storage facility in the Olympic Park in east London. The V&A’s Museum of Childhood is also undergoing a £13m revamp. Other institutions have put expansion plans on ice; in September, America’s Smithsonian Institution cancelled plans to rent part of the same space, blaming the pandemic.

    While there are doubts about whether the original opening date of 2023 will be met, Reeve insists that V&A East will not be cancelled. “It’s a commitment we’ve made,” he says, pointing out that much of the funding comes from elsewhere, and they in any case need to vacate their current storage facilities in west London, which the government wants to sell off.

    More, though, it’s philosophically important they plough ahead. “It’s about audience,” Reeve says. “It’s the right project in the right place at the right time. I believed that pre-Covid; I think Covid has made that even more the case.”

    Others aren’t so sure about the changes. Angered by what they saw as a lack of consultation, one staff member described a “hollowing out [of] the expertise of the museum”, with the loss of conservators and period specialists. 

    A survey last November reported that six in 10 UK museums were worried about their future; at least 4,000 people are known to have lost their jobs in the museum sector already.

    In Britain, the final straw for many has been the government’s decision to pause museum reopening until 17 May – five weeks after non-essential shops (including commercial galleries and libraries). Reeve, ever-buoyant, says having a clear date is “helpful”, but admits it’s “frustrating”.

    Crucial as all the behind-the-scenes work they’ve been doing is, the whole point of a museum is that it’s open to the public. “When you work in exhibitions,” says Everitt, “you’re always thinking about the finishing line. We want people again.”

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  • April 08, 2021 2:59 PM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from The Daily Beast

    On March 18, 1990, two men posing as Boston Police Department officers gained entry into the city’s famed Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and, after 81 minutes, walked out with 13 works of art—including Rembrandt’s The Storm on the Sea of Galilee and Vermeer’s The Concert—valued by the FBI at approximately $500 million. In the 31 years since that St. Patrick’s Day heist, none of the pieces has been recovered, and none of the individuals responsible for the theft has been definitively identified, or brought to justice. It was one of the crimes of the century, and it continues to confound authorities and journalists to this day.

    Yet as suggested by This is a Robbery: The World’s Biggest Art Heist, perhaps the greatest mystery of all isn’t that the crooks initially got away with their loot, but that no one has since squealed—this despite the fact that the museum continues to offer a $10 million reward for information leading to the art’s recovery.

    Director Colin Barnicle’s four-part Netflix docuseries (premiering April 7) takes a jaunty look at this infamous heist, which began in the wee hours of March 18, when museum security guard Rick Abath allowed two uniformed strangers into the facility. There, the faux-cops bound Abath and his colleague with duct tape in the basement, and then took their sweet time snatching a strange collection of works from various rooms, as well as grabbing the building’s VHS security camera tapes. There was no apparent rhyme or reason behind the items they targeted, but the patient thoroughness of their activity, as well as their familiarity with the museum—including the location of a secret room’s door—indicated that they may have benefited from inside knowledge or assistance.

    Suspicion first fell on Abath, who had previously opened the museum door leading to the street just minutes before the disguised thieves arrived. This is a Robbery spends considerable energy looking into Abath, a stoner-rock slacker by day who didn’t really like his job or his bosses, and who had let someone into the museum—a clear violation of security protocols—the night before the heist. Abath doesn’t participate in the series, but Barnicle does include snippets of a CNN interview with him, as well as an audio recording of his chat with former Boston Globe investigative journalist (and Spotlight team member) Stephen Kurkjian, during which he denies any involvement in the crime.

    This is a Robbery has a propulsive momentum that doesn’t interfere with its comprehensive examination of its story’s numerous angles. Utilizing an array of graphical timelines and maps, photographs, and archival news and crime scene videos, it lucidly details the multiple threads that comprise its tale. Interviews with investigators and local journalists help convey the atmosphere of this particular Boston era, while a sense of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum comes courtesy of long nocturnal trips through its inviting, ornately decorated hallways. There’s nothing groundbreaking about Barnicle’s chosen form, and his dramatic recreations (shot melodramatically, with actors’ faces always obscured) are a superfluous annoyance. However, thanks to sharp cutting by a team of four editors, the series moves smoothly back and forth in time, and between locales and personalities, to provide a coherent account of the complicated saga.

    Though Abath was a promising initial suspect, attention soon turned to Myles Connor, an infamous New England art thief who was as brash as he was talented. The only problem was that Connor had an airtight alibi: he was behind bars for a prior offense when the robbery took place. Nonetheless, thanks to present-day interviews with Connor and others, This is a Robbery surmises that Connor may have had a hand in the burglary via his association with Bobby Donati, an Italian mafioso with whom he’d previously partnered on an art-snatching job. Donati thus had experience with such plots, and moreover, he had a motive—namely, to get his underworld pal Vincent Ferrara out of prison.

    It’s there that This is a Robbery dives headfirst into a tangle of Italian mob connections and conspiracies, resulting in a persuasive theory that Donati and his close confidant Bobby Guarente concocted the plan, which was then carried out by a group of gangsters—led by Carmello Merlino, and including Charlie Pappas, David Turner, George Reissfelder, and Leonard Dimuzio—that operated out of Merlino’s TRC Auto Electric shop in Dorchester. Through analysis of these characters’ whereabouts and history, as well as anecdotes from their relatives, Barnicle’s docuseries comes up with a reasonable hypothesis about who pulled off the heist. It additionally deduces that in the aftermath of the crime, the art may have been transferred by Guarente to Hartford, CT gangster Robert Gentile, whose house eventually became the subject of a raid that, alas, turned up no hard evidence.

    This is a Robbery is most illuminating when exploring the motivations of thieves who pilfer priceless one-of-a-kind artworks. While sales on the black market are an option, the series reveals that such paintings and sculptures can also be used as collateral for drug deals, thereby functioning as illicit pseudo-currency for big transactions. More stunning still, they’re often sought as leverage against future incarceration. In other words, a thief could theoretically trade a Rembrandt in their possession for a lighter sentence regarding an unrelated case—a “get out of jail free card” situation that Connor himself pioneered. That Guarente, Merlino and company didn’t cough up a painting in order to free their arrested cohorts, then, might mean that they didn’t actually have anything to do with the heist in the first place.

    Hovering over these proceedings is the bigger question of why no one has decided to sing and, in doing so, collect the $10 million reward. The answer may simply be that it’s because most of the possible culprits are now dead (due to natural causes, murder or shady circumstances). Or it could be that a bombshell is forthcoming, now that David Turner has been released from prison. This is a Robbery doesn’t offer a definitive answer, instead tantalizing by suggesting that the truth is still out there.

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  • March 30, 2021 1:43 PM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from The New York Times

    Should museums tell the public about missing art?

    Two pieces of gold and silver-encrusted Italian Renaissance armor, which had been stolen from the Louvre in 1983 and found this year in a family’s private collection in France, were discovered the way stolen art often is: An expert crosschecked the items against an online database of lost and stolen art.

    But museums have at times withheld information about thefts, fearing that revealing security weaknesses could make other institutions less likely to loan them art or that it could encourage other thefts, according to current and former museum officials. Art security experts say the failure to report thefts, particularly involving items stolen from storage, has prevented museums from recovering items.

    Philippe Malgouyres, the curator of heritage art at the Louvre, said that when he started working in museums decades ago, he heard stories of thefts and disappearances that had not been reported.

    “Our purpose is to preserve objects for the future and for the public,” Mr. Malgouyres said. “When we fail to do that somehow, when something is stolen, it’s a very painful experience, which led some museums in the past, especially, not even to go to the police sometimes, because they were feeling so embarrassed about it.”

    He said that while the armor that was recently recovered was not as well known as many other pieces in the Louvre’s collection, he had thought it would eventually be found because it had been cataloged in a database of art thefts in France.

    Now, public museums and galleries act in a more transparent way, said Sandy Nairne, the former director of the National Portrait Gallery in London and the former director of programs at the Tate Gallery.

    “In the past, there was a kind of instant reaction of institutions that wanted to protect their sense of integrity that made them very cautious about talking about it,” said Mr. Nairne, who led a team at the Tate that recovered two J.M.W. Turner paintings in 2002, eight years after they had been stolen while on loan to a museum in Germany.

    On Sunday, the newspaper El País reported that the National Library of Spain had discovered in 2014 that one of its holdings, a 17th-century book by Galileo, had been replaced by a copy but did not report it to the police until four years later, when researchers had requested the work.

    Although it is obvious when artwork that is on display is stolen, museums can sometimes take years to realize that pieces in storage have been taken, said Tim Carpenter, a special agent with the F.B.I.’s art crime team.

    “It might be 10 or 15 years before they do an inventory and say, ‘Hey, where is this piece?’” he said. “You can imagine how difficult it is trying to play catch-up on a 15-year-old crime. It makes things infinitely more difficult for us.”

    A comprehensive inventory of a museum like the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which has hundreds of thousands of objects, is time-consuming and expensive, but poor record-keeping can hamper an investigation of theft.

    In one case that Mr. Carpenter worked on, a major museum discovered the disappearance of artifacts 15 to 20 years after the theft. The authorities knew where the artifacts were but could not recover them because the museum was unable to establish that the items had belonged to it; the museum’s most accurate inventory was from the 1920s, he said.

    The advantages of reporting thefts are clear: Members of the public can help identify stolen art, and it’s more difficult for thieves to sell. In 2011, after a drawing attributed to Rembrandt was stolen from an exhibition at a hotel in Los Angeles, the authorities released an image of the piece. Days later, it was left at a church.

    However, there are also instances when keeping thefts out of the public eye is advantageous for investigative purposes, said Lynda Albertson, the chief executive of the Association for Research Into Crimes Against Art, an organization that researches art crime.

    In 2013, when thieves stole 27 pieces from the National Etruscan Museum of Villa Giulia in Rome, the police kept quiet about the theft and, as a result, recovered most of the pieces, she said.

    “Sometimes they’re very quiet, not so talkative or splashy,” Ms. Albertson said of the division of Italian police that focuses on art crime. “That discretion has been quite helpful.”

    See Original Post

  • March 30, 2021 1:40 PM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from AAM

    We are a profession of some of the most brilliant thinkers, scholars, educators, artists, scientists, and revolutionaries from almost every background and way of life. Most of us working in and with museums approach the work with passion, acquired skill sets, and determination to change our communities through the history and culture of humankind.

    Rarely, however, do we think about theories. And on the occasions that we do, we usually consider them the luxuries of academia. Yet, theories can offer solutions for informing our best practices. Theories are developed from a set of principles based on observation and research. They explicate and predict conditions and phenomena and help us 1) augment our knowledge and 2) achieve a base unit of understanding.

    I began writing about and using theory in 2010 as a mechanism for interrogating legacies of exclusion in museums. I wanted to challenge the statements that were accepted as truths about why Black people and people of color did or did not visit museums. I wanted to challenge assumptions accepted as truth about leisure-time activities and museum-going in correlation to what I understood about race and racism. Specifically, I have employed critical race theory as a method of inquiry to interrogate the role and function of race in museums.

    Why Theories Matter for Museums

    When I started investigating race within the museum context, I found that all of the research on visitors recognized that Black people and people of color were overwhelmingly not attending museums at the same rates as their white counterparts. However, no studies accounted for or articulated race, racism, or historical oppression in their research. It was as if there was no existing knowledge of race or racism.

    How could we not account for institutional and systemic racism when we know for a fact that there were museums that would not allow Black visitors? How could we not account for the pseudo-science of eugenics in our natural history museums and its impact on collections and taxonomies of knowledge? How could we continue to argue that implicit bias was not a factor when white artists are glaringly over-represented in the permanent collections of our most beloved art museums?

    As an activist-scholar, I was acutely aware that existing knowledge was being egregiously bypassed, and the existing museum-going data was missing vital information. How could our internal and external behaviors be labeled best practices, codes of conduct, or standards when the field was overwhelmingly white and did not account for Black and Indigenous ways of knowing? What have our standards been based on? What theories prove that the ways in which we are working in museums are the best ways for the times that we live in?

    I began to search for a theory that could offer reasonable and inquiry-based answers to these questions. While many scoff at theory as merely an intellectual exercise or academic jargon, I recognized that theory informs praxis and vice versa. Theory and application are gradients of the same hue. Praxis is literally defined as shape-making and world-changing. That is, praxis is informed, committed engagement toward problem-solving a situation as intentional thinking and acting.

    Theory provides meaning to what we see in our daily application and work practices. It is a framework for taking what we know and applying principles for relevance, fine-tuning, new applications, and installing new modes of conduct. We can use theory to make predictions, develop best practices, and guide new territories of exploration from research and observation. The systematic set of interrelated concepts, definitions, and explorations help us uncover how and why things work as they do.

    Theories are used across disciplines to advance conversations, illuminate cross-disciplinary dialogue, and provide a conceptual framework for resolving a conundrum through shared language. In the museum field, we tend to focus purely on accepted codes of conduct created through professionalization, established best practices, and hit-or-miss risk-taking.

    “The core credo of CRT is that racism is pervasive, and even with legal preventions in place racism will never be fully eradicated because of the ubiquity of Whiteness.”

    What are the advantages of applying theory to assist us in solving some of our most complex and challenging issues in museums? How can we apply theory as an informative framework to address issues such as social injustice and systemic and institutional racism? How can theories help us think about the ways in which code words, such as “community,” “diversity,” and “invitation,” signal exclusion to our visitors even as our intended outcome is participation and welcome? These were the key questions that I used to approach the topics of diversity and inclusion in our field.

    What Is Critical Race Theory?

    Critical race theory (CRT) was developed in the 1970s from the writings of legal scholar Derrick Bell to respond to legal reversals of key legislation passed during the Civil Rights Movement. CRT was a way to trace the roots of racist legislation going back to the harsh Black Codes that restricted Black Americans’ freedom after the Civil War while providing a legal and political framework for challenging racial inequality within the law. Other scholars, such as Alan Freeman and Richard Delgado, augmented CRT by implementing cross-disciplinary theories with fields such as cultural studies, critical legal studies, postmodernism, and feminism.

    The core credo of CRT is that racism is pervasive, and even with legal preventions in place, racism will never be fully eradicated because of the ubiquity of Whiteness. Originating in the 17th century, Whiteness was created by white Christian and English settlers to distinguish colonists from African and Indigenous peoples. Whiteness became a recognized legal term that also distinguished class. Within the context of the United States, Whiteness was specifically designed to establish legal and social hierarchy and to utilize skin color as a legalized privilege.

    In our contemporary times, critical race scholars have identified additional tenets of the theory to better define Whiteness and how it functions in today’s society. Whiteness includes the proximity to the rights, values, beliefs, and experiences of Whiteness in relation to the impact of racism that elevates and distinguishes white people over people of color. Whiteness, like race, is a social construct.

    CRT—now used in disciplines such as education, women and gender studies, American studies, queer studies, critical white studies, and more—critically examines constructs of race, specifically, as it relates to eradicating racism and restoring justice. CRT is a set of inquiry-based principles designed to:

    • illuminate inequality,
    • name the inequality,
    • establish new protocols for creating/restoring justice, and
    • eradicate engineered privileges experienced as racism.

    Advocates of CRT utilize it to practice activism and scholarship. CRT activist-scholars, such as Kimberlé Crenshaw, who coined the term “intersectionality,” employ CRT as a mechanism for addressing systemic inequality and advocating for justice. In addition to the notion that racism is pervasive and unable to be fully eradicated, CRT encompasses the following three key tenets:

    1. Counternarrative or storytelling—using the narratives of people of color to illuminate racialized experience to counter a dominant narrative of white norms. Storytelling is viewed as an accepted and legitimate way of knowing.
    2. Interest convergence—that white people will eschew racism only until their interests no longer converge with those of people of color.
    3. Critique of liberalism—that social transformation is only possible when “Band-Aid approaches,” such as affirmative action, color blindness, and merit principles such as respectability, are rejected. Liberalism as an ideology destabilizes conscious effort and language that centers on race and race-consciousness.

    It is important to note that CRT is not:

    • a political agenda;
    • a scheme to make white people feel guilt or shame;
    • a mechanism for revising history such that one race is pitted against another or demonized; or
    • something that can be “taken down,” needs to be “fought,” creates harm, or disturbs the fabric of society.

    Combating Racism and Anti-Blackness in Museums

    Museums are rooted in colonialism and imperialism. As such, CRT is a necessary tool for evaluating the ways in which white supremacy culture exists in our cultural heritage institutions. In our field, Stephen Weil notably shifted our attention from the object-centered museum to the human-centered museum when he wrote “museums should be about people, not objects.” Yet, which people? Whose culture? Whose cultural heritage objects?

    In museums, our attention has been focused on “diversity’’ and “diversity initiatives” as a means to hegemonically continue our “best practices” and status quo allegiance to Whiteness as opposed to practicing inclusion and intentionally destabilizing and de-centering Whiteness. CRT allows us to focus on structures of power and privilege, thereby transforming our communities in new ways. It is a tool for identifying the impacts of our collective implicit bias that is rendered as professionalization.

    The Executive Order on Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping—issued on September 22, 2020, to end so-called “divisive concepts” covered in federal workplace trainings—is a key example of the ways in which Whiteness is allowed to determine what is harmful, and whether or not one is able to claim that harm and demand reparations for being harmed. It is a deepening of the white master narrative that there is a single American history.

    Our American history is complex, riddled with heroic feats, savage instances of oppression, social and cultural behaviors that demand sameness and not diversity, and more. It is reductive to think that individuals with the most power and the least ability to experience harm are the same entities that can emphatically declare that implicit bias does not exist, racism is imagined, and white privilege is false.

    “CRT allows us to focus on structures of power and privilege, thereby transforming our communities in new ways.”

    CRT is a liberatory framework for providing the language tools, theoretical frameworks, history, and legal contexts to organize our thinking so that we can address access, diversity, inclusion, and equity in museums. In addition, it augments our commitment to sharing the full depth and breadth of information that material culture affords us. Furthermore, it allows us to use research, rubrics, toolkits, and other tools to eradicate systemic racism in our practices as we continue to adhere to standards of excellence, thereby redefining and transforming our field by committing to anti-racism and combating anti-blackness.

    Museums are the most trusted institutions in our nation. If we adhere to standards set upon us by those who do not invest in scientific and academic rigor, reason, and standards, we forfeit that trust.

    The practical — making judgments       

    People begin with a situation or question which they consider in relation to what they think makes for human flourishing. (the good)

    They are guided by a moral disposition to act truly and rightly.  (Phronesis)

    This enables them to engage with the situation as committed thinkers
    and actors.  (praxis)

    The outcome is a process. (interaction)

    Source: Mark Smith, Local Education: Community, Conversation, Action, 1994

    Do I Need to Incorporate CRT into My Museum Work?

    Whether you are in a structural leadership position, a board member, a volunteer, or a casual/part-time worker, racial equity is part of everyone’s work. Below are some actions you can take today.

    1. Do you understand the basic language tools for racial equity? (Do you have mechanisms in place to ensure that this language is not being co-opted by the values being employed?)
    2. Do you apply trauma-informed and healing-informed care to your daily museum work?
    3. Do you know your museum’s racial history?
    4. Is your board still predominately white?
    5. Are your collections still predominately lacking complex, multilayered narratives/representation?
    6. Is your social media still only speaking to your “base/core”?
    7. Is your development department still only targeting Black, Indigenous, and other people of color as beneficiaries of donations instead of donors/philanthropists themselves?
    8. Do you understand what anti-blackness is and what it looks like in your decision-making approach?
    9. Do you believe that race and/or racism has nothing to do with museums or museum-going and doesn’t impact the work that you do?
    10. Has your museum created spaces, opportunities, advisory capacities, and more to elevate the presence, power, and voices of historically marginalized communities in your institution in a tangible, visible way that shares authority and ways of knowing?

    See Original Post

  • March 30, 2021 1:37 PM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from The Art Newspaper

    Museums across Poland and in parts of Germany have been forced to close again as a third wave of the pandemic engulfing much of Europe prompted authorities to tighten lockdown restrictions. 

    In Poland, where museums reopened on 1 February, the government ordered them to close again until at least 9 April, as daily numbers of new cases reached levels not seen since November. In Germany, Hamburg’s Kunsthalle and Museum of Applied Arts were forced to close just days after reopening because of an increasing number of new cases in the city.

    The German government had allowed museums to reopen from 8 March after four months of forced closure. But the plan approved by the federal government and states also included a so-called emergency brake for the event that new infections begin to rise more steeply. In Hamburg, the rate of infections reached that level last week. The Kunsthalle had reopened on 9 March with an exhibition featuring Giorgio de Chirico that is only scheduled to run until 25 Apr. The Museum of Applied Arts had reopened on 12 March.

    German Health Minister Jens Spahn warned on Friday of “challenging weeks ahead” and the possibility of a stricter lockdown instead of the looser measures the government had hoped to announce this week. “There are not enough vaccines in Europe to stop the third wave of the pandemic with vaccinations alone,” he said. “We need to be patient.”

    In Germany, museum openings are tied to the rate at which the disease is spreading in individual regions. In regions where the average number of new coronavirus cases per day over the past seven days is below 100 per 100,000 residents, museums can open. However, if a region’s seven-day average for new cases rises over 100 per 100,000 inhabitants for three straight days, then it must revert to a stricter lockdown, including museum closures, two days after that. 

    With a number of German regions now above that limit, it is likely more museums across the country will be compelled to close in the coming days. Some have not even reopened after the four-month lockdown in force until 8 March.

    A similar system linked to regional rates of contagion is in operation in Italy, where the Uffizi in Florence has been closed since 15 February. Last week, Italy declared 11 regions, including Rome and Milan, as red zones, in which all museums and other non-essential shops must shutter. 

    The French authorities also tightened lockdown rules in many regions including Paris, where museums have been closed since last October. The French public health authority said on 20 March that the number of new cases had risen by more than 35,000 in the previous 24 hours and that pressure on hospitals was “critical in some regions.”

    See Original Post

  • March 30, 2021 1:34 PM | Office IFCPP (Administrator)

    Reposted from Security Management Magazine

    The decisions you make today will have significant impact on your operations for quite a while. With that in mind, taking measures today to mitigate the potential spread of the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) is necessary to ensure not only the continuation of effective operations today but resiliency for years to come.

    Like many natural disasters, infectious diseases such as COVID-19, Ebola, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), and the reemergence of tuberculosis can have harsh impacts to safety and security operations—and the global economy.

    For these reasons, it’s time to integrate communicable and infectious diseases into business continuity strategies as an emerging natural hazard. Aggressive measures to ensure a safe, sanitary, and secure working environment are necessary to create a foundation for health, safety, and protective service professionals.

    COVID-19 is the most recent in a round of threats from emerging highly infectious disease, and it highlights the need to continually plan for and exercise strategies to assure readiness to respond and maintain resiliency. Having a plan is essential to ensure the health and safety of employees and stakeholders of any organization.

    Build and Exercise Your Plan

    If you have not already done so, now is the time to pull out your pandemic preparedness plans and business continuity strategy. Be sure to review the policies and procedures to confirm that they are still current for your organization.

    Managing the response to any threat requires understanding the threat characteristics and profile. Mitigating the threat of emerging infectious diseases requires planning and resources to assure that systems are in place for operations, as well as for decision making.

    Everyone, from organizations to the local government to public safety professionals to the community, must be part of managing the threat. If there is a state or federal declaration of an emergency or major disaster, security professionals must examine the emergency orders to ensure compliance.

    Many federal and municipal governments across the world are implementing social distancing mandates to manage the threat of spreading COVID-19. In response, some companies and organizations are requiring—or encouraging—employees work from home. Some, however, might not have the technology infrastructure in place to support this kind of work style. For example, employees may not have high speed Internet for video conferencing and meetings.

    To prepare for this organizational change, conduct a workshop or tabletop exercise with leadership so everyone understands the expectations and responsibilities of their function—even while working remotely. Workshops are an opportunity for everyone to walk through a discussion on the policies and procedures that are no longer valid or may have changed in the organizational dynamic since the plan was last updated.

    Updating Your Plan

    Many agencies consider communicable illnesses public health incidents instead of slow onset disasters that require activation of crisis management systems. Similar to natural hazards, a pandemic will threaten organizational normalcy by disrupting day-to-day business operations and community activities. For this reason, private sector business continuity and public sector emergency planners need to consider emerging infectious diseases as part of their Threat and Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment (THIRA) and Business Impact Analysis process.

    Community mitigation strategies for pandemics may include social distancing and isolation of exposed individuals, along with quarantine of those who are infected or ill. These strategies require activation of jurisdictions’ emergency operations plans to cancel public gatherings and events, and to create points for monitoring residents.

    Traditionally, preparedness for pandemics has included the need for discussions on how to be prepared for up to 40 percent of your organization unable to report to work. This may be because of social distancing requirements, infection, or the need to provide care to someone who is infected. Organizations need to think through how they will handle employees who cannot report to work while continuing to effectively operate.

    To help make these decisions on staff, organizations should review World Health Organization (WHO) and national health sites—like the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—for best practices. They should also be familiar with, and routinely monitor, recommendations and guidelines from state and local health authorities.

    In areas with high exposure risk or isolation orders, organizations should limit facility access to only essential personnel necessary for operations. Organizations should also consider creating a safety parameter for monitoring entry. For instance, the White House has begun conducting temperature checks before allowing reporters into the press briefing room.

    Additionally, all personnel should be advised not to report to work if they are sick or experiencing flu-like symptoms. All staff who routinely come into contact with the public or surfaces exposed to the public should wear exam gloves on site.

    Communicate with Your Stakeholders

    All organizations mut have a strategy to keep employees, stakeholders, and regulatory authorities informed—as appropriate—through consistent, concise messaging. Communication systems and processes are the essential tools to tell your story and manage perceptions about how you are handling the coronavirus pandemic.

    Organizations should provide information across multiple platforms, exercising and evaluating each to determine what works best for messaging. It is unsettling when information is not available. The lack of information can cause emotions to run high. Providing validated information will go a long way towards preventing gossip and speculation.

    Exercise your organization’s communication plan. Stay on message and provide accurate, credible information to media outlets and Intranet services.

    See Original Post


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