Featured Project

A Year in Provenance is Markham Caerus’ current blog project, following along in my first year of delving professionally into the art crime world.

Excerpts of posts will be featured here; please visit the full blog site for the complete blog, more background, archive of posts, and links. I welcome feedback comments on posts, and you may contact me directly at vst@markhamcaerus.com.

A Year in Provenance

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Upcoming projects

  1. The Medici Model: learning from one of the most extensive cases of art crime on record.

  2. Focus on the Pacific Northwest: testing solution models on a regional level.

  3. A guide for collectors interested in ethically purchasing works of art, historical or ancient artefacts.


A Year in Provenance

a Markham Caerus blog


Art is a small world, and art crime a bizarre one. Problems arise in trying to combat it that are negligible or even non-existent in other realms of law enforcement or crime prevention. One uniquely frustrating aspect is scale; perhaps in the era of universal globalisation, trafficking networks crossing continents isn't surprising, but what is, is the scope of time. Art crimes can drag on over a span of years, from the time a piece is stolen, through the hands of fences and dealers, until it is finally sold; art criminals seem to possess extraordinary patience. The more hapless, small-time criminals often find themselves stuck with a work for years, trying to find a buyer without risking getting caught, while more sophisticated types will deliberately slow negotiations or delivery of an illicit piece to help them fly under the radar. There is evidence that the most experienced traffickers even exploit statutes of limitations, planning ahead for deals to be made only after they can no longer be tried, even if caught.

This is one of the reasons successes like a smuggling case stopped by the FBI (mentioned in my 25 September 2012 post) don't come often enough. Even in that case, it is likely even fraud would be easier to prove than violation of cultural heritage laws.

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Problems Peculiar to Art Crime

posted 28 September 2012

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