Crime, Law and Social Change

, 56:115 | Cite as

Art crime: a brief introduction

  • Mark Durney
  • Blythe Proulx


Art crime refers to criminally punishable acts involving works of art and includes a spectrum of phenomena as diverse as art thefts and confiscations, faked and forged art, vandalism, and illicit excavation and export of antiquities and other archaeological materials. This paper provides a cursory introduction to a variety of art crimes, and discusses the consequences of such crimes.


Cultural Heritage Archaeological Site Auction House Illicit Trade Illicit Antiquity 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. 1.
    Agence France-Presse, New York (2007). Mesopotamian sculpture sells for record 57million dollars. Dec 5. Retrieved January 23, 2008 from
  2. 2.
    Alder, C., & Polk, K. (2002). Stopping this awful business: the illicit traffic in antiquities examined as a criminal market. Art, Antiquity, & Law, 7(1), 35–53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Alder, C., & Polk, K. (2005). The illicit traffic in plundered antiquities. In P. Reichel (Ed.), Handbook of transnational crime and justice. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Allsop, L. (2010). Spot the face: The art world’s pricey problem with forgery. CNN. Retrieved January 7, 2011 from,
  5. 5.
    Associated Press (1980a). Art dealer pleads guilty. Associated Press, 3 August.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Associated Press (1980b). Art dealer sentenced. Associated Press, 3 October.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Associated Press (1994). 4 Norwegians guilty in theft of ‘the scream’. New York Times. Retrieved January 12, 2011 from,
  8. 8.
    Artdaily (2007). Guennol Lioness sells for $57.2 Million. Artnews. Retrieved January 23, 2008 from
  9. 9.
    Athens News Agency (1995). Greece petitions for international rights to Vergina star. Retrieved March 12, 2008 from
  10. 10.
    Atwood, R. (2004). Stealing history: Tomb raiders, smugglers, and the looting of the ancient world. New York: St Martin‘s.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Bailey, M. (2009). Spanish Forger bought by V&A. The Art Newspaper, 1 February.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Bator, P. M. (1982). An essay on the international trade in art. Stanford Law Review, 34, 290.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Beach, R. (2010). Man gets prison for role in Yale art theft. The New Haven Register, 21 August.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Berglund, N. (1994). Munch paintings recovered. Aftenposten. Retrieved January 12, 2011 from
  15. 15.
    Bernick, L. (1998). Art and antiquities theft. Transnational Organized Crime, 4(2), 91–116.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Borodkin, L. (1995). The economics of antiquities looting. Columbia Law Review, 95(2), 377–417.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Bowman, B. (2008). Transnational crimes against culture: looting at archaeological sites and the “grey”market in antiquities. Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice, 24(3), 225–242.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Boylan, P. (1995). Illicit trade in antiquities and museum ethics. In K. Tubb (Ed.), Antiquities trade betrayed: Legal, ethical, and conservation issues (pp. 94–104). London: Archetype/UICIC.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Brodie, N. (1998). Pity the poor middlemen. Culture Without Context, 3(Autumn), 7–9. Retrieved December 21, 2007 from
  20. 20.
    Brodie, N. (2002). Introduction. In N. Brodie & K. Tubb (Eds.), Illicit antiquities: The theft of culture and the extinction of archaeology. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Brodie, N. (2006). An archaeologist‘s view of the trade in unprovenanced antiquities. In B. Hoffman (Ed.), Art & cultural heritage: Law, policy, & practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Brodie, N., Doole, J., & Watson, P. (2000). Stealing history: The illicit trade in cultural material. Cambridge: The McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Burnham, B. (1975). The art crisis. New York: St Martin‘s.Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Cannon-Brookes, P. (1994). Antiquities in the market-place: placing a price on documentation. Antiquity, 68(295), 349–350.Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Carassava, A. (2007). Greek court dismisses case against ex-curator. New York Times, Retrieved February 1, 2008 from
  26. 26.
    Carassava, A. (2007b). Ex-curator acquitted in case of Greek relic. International Herald Tribune, Retrieved February 1, 2008 from
  27. 27.
    Charney, N. (2009). Introduction. In M. Charney (Ed.), Art and crime: Exploring the dark side of the art world. Santa Barbara: Praeger.Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Christman, B. (1998). Twenty-five years after the bomb: maintaining Cleveland’s “the thinker. Journal of the American Institute for Conservation, 37(2), 173–186.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Coggins, C. (1998). United States cultural property legislation: observations of a combatant. International Journal of Cultural Property, 7(1), 52–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Cohen, L., & Felson, M. (1979). Social change and crime rate trends: a routine activity approach. American Sociological Review, 44, 588–605.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Conklin, J. (1994). Art crime. Westport: Praeger.Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    Conley, S. (1995). International art theft. 13 Wis. Int’l L.J., p 493Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    Cordess, C., & Turcan, M. (1993). Art vandalism. British Journal of Criminology, 33, 95–102.Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    Danforth, L. (1996). The Macedonian conflict: Ethnic nationalism in a transnational world. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    DeAngelis, I. (2006). How much provenance is enough? Guidelines for the acquisition of archaeological materials. In B. Hoffman (Ed.), Art & cultural heritage: Law, policy & practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). (2000). Ministerial advisory panel on illicit trade. London: DCMS. First Report.Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    Durney, M. (2010). Art theft statistics: a need for reliability. American Society of International Law Cultural Heritage and Arts Review Fall/Winter, 2010, 13–16.Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    Durney, M. (2010b). An examination of art theft, analysis of relevant statistics, and insights into the protection of cultural heritage. (Master’s Thesis). London, UK: University College London.Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    Federal Bureau of Investigation (2011). Art theft program. Retrieved 1/20/11 at:
  40. 40.
    Frammolino, R., & Felch, J. (2005). Greek officials demand the return of Getty antiquities. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 1, 2008 from
  41. 41.
    Frey, B. (1999). Art fakes - what fakes? An economic view. In Working Paper Series Institute for Empirical Research in Economics No. 14.Google Scholar
  42. 42.
    Gerstenblith, P. (2004). Art, cultural heritage, and the law: Cases & materials. Durham: Carolina Academic Press.Google Scholar
  43. 43.
    Gauthier-Villars, D. (2010). Masterpieces stolen from paris museum. Wall Street Journal, 21 May.Google Scholar
  44. 44.
    Gibbons, F. (1999a). Satirists jump into Tracy’s bed. The Guardian, 25 October.Google Scholar
  45. 45.
    Gibbons, F. (1999b). Controversy over bed will not rest. The Guardian, 23 October.Google Scholar
  46. 46.
    Gill, D., & Chippindale, C. (2002). The trade in looted antiquities and the return of cultural property: a British parliamentary inquiry. International Journal of Cultural Property, 11(1), 50–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. 47.
    Greenhouse, S. (1995). Greece and Macedonia ready to settle dispute, US says. New York Times. Retrieved March 15, 2008 from
  48. 48.
    Gumbel, A. (2007). Lioness of ancient Mesopotamia sells for a record Pounds 28 m. London Independent. Retrieved February 1, 2008 from
  49. 49.
    Hamblin, D. (1970). Pots and robbers. New York: Simon & Schuster.Google Scholar
  50. 50.
    Hicks, R. (2006). A model investigative protocol for looting and anti-looting educational program. In N. Brodie, M. Kersel, C. Luke, & K. Tubb (Eds.), Archaeology, cultural heritage, and the antiquities trade. Gainesville: University Press of Florida.Google Scholar
  51. 51.
    Hoffman, B. (2006). Introduction to parts II and III: cultural rights, cultural property, and international trade. In B. Hoffman (Ed.), Art & cultural heritage: Law, policy & practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  52. 52.
    Hollowell, J. (2006). Moral arguments on subsistence digging. In C. Scarre & G. Scarre (Eds.), The ethics of archaeology: Philosophical perspectives on archaeological practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  53. 53.
    IFAR (2010). About IFAR. Retrieved on 16 August 2010 from World Wide Web:
  54. 54.
    Interpol (2007). Stolen works of art: Frequently asked questions. Retrieved December 20, 2007 from
  55. 55.
    Interpol (2009). Stolen works of art: FAQ’s. Retrieved on 16 August 2010 from World Wide Web:
  56. 56.
    Interpol (2010). Interpol news: Burglary from the modern art museum in Paris, France. Retrieved March 25, 2011 online from,
  57. 57.
    Kahn, E. (2010). Keeping it real: A show made of fakes. New York Times. Retrieved January 8, 2011 from,
  58. 58.
    Kozloff, A. (2005). The antiquities market: When, what, where, who, why…and how much? In K. Fitz Gibbon (Ed.), Who owns the past?: Cultural policy, cultural property, and the law. NJ: Rutgers University Press.Google Scholar
  59. 59.
    Lowenthal, D. (1985). The past is a foreign country. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  60. 60.
    Lufkin, M. (2010). Portrait of Wally case settled for 19 million. The Art Newspaper. Retrieved January 8, 2011 from,
  61. 61.
    Mackenzie, S. R. M. (2005). Going, going, gone: Regulating the market in illicit antiquities. Leicester: Institute of Art and Law.Google Scholar
  62. 62.
    Mackenzie, S. R. M. (2009). Identifying and preventing opportunities for organized crime in the international antiquities market. In S. Manacorda (Ed.), Organised crime in art and antiquities (pp. 95–108). Milan: International Scientific and Professional Advisory Council of United Nations Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Programme.Google Scholar
  63. 63.
    Massy, L. (2001). Le Vol D“Oeuvres D”Art: Une Criminalité Méconnue. Bruxelles: Bruylant.Google Scholar
  64. 64.
    McCalister, A. (2005). Organized crime and the theft of Iraqi antiquities. Trends in Organized Crime, 9(1), 24–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. 65.
    Meyer, K. (1973). The plundered past. New York: Atheneum.Google Scholar
  66. 66.
    Naylor, R. T. (2002). Wages of crime: Black markets, illegal finance, and the underworld economy. Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP.Google Scholar
  67. 67.
    Naylor, R. T. (2008). The underworld of art crime. In: Crime Law Soc. Change, 50, 263–291.Google Scholar
  68. 68.
    Neapolitan, J. (1997). Cross-national crime: A research review & sourcebook. Westport: Greenwood.Google Scholar
  69. 69.
    Nicholas, L. (1995). The rape of Europa: The fate of Europe’s treasures in the ThirdReich and the second world war. New York: Vintage Books.Google Scholar
  70. 70.
    O’Keefe, P. (1997). Trade in antiquities: Reducing destruction and theft. UNESCO.Google Scholar
  71. 71.
    Owens, D. (2009). Stolen artwork recovered. The Hartford Courant, 24 March.Google Scholar
  72. 72.
    Passas, N. (1998). Globalization and transnational organized crime: the effects of criminogenic asymmetries. Transnational Organized Crime, 4(3/4), 22056.Google Scholar
  73. 73.
    Passas, N. (2002). Cross-border crime and the interface between legal and illegal actors. In van Duyne et al. (Eds.), Upperworld and underworld in cross-border crime. Nijmegen: Wolf Legal Publishers.Google Scholar
  74. 74.
    Passas, N., & Proulx, B. B. (2011). An overview of crimes involving art and antiquities. In S. Manacorda (Ed.), Crime in the art and antiquities world. (forthcoming).Google Scholar
  75. 75.
    Pastore, G. (2001). The looting of archaeological sites in italy. In N. Brodie et al. (Eds.), Trade in illicit antiquities: The destruction of the world’s archaeological heritage. Cambridge: McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research.Google Scholar
  76. 76.
    Pendergast, D., & Graham, E. (1989). The battle for the Maya past: The effects of international looting and collecting in belize. In P. Messenger (Ed.), The ethics of collecting (pp. 51–60). Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press.Google Scholar
  77. 77.
    Proulx, B. B. (2010). Organized criminal involvement in the illicit antiquities trade. Trends in Organized Crime (23 October 2010), pp. 1–29. Retrieved January 19, 2011 from,
  78. 78.
    Sadler, R. (2005). The FBI art theft program and its impact on collecting: a report from FBI Special Agent Robert Wittman and the editor. The American Society of Arms Collectors Bulletin, 93, 51–57.Google Scholar
  79. 79.
    Shahine, A. (2010). Van Gogh $55 million ‘poppy flowers’ theft in Cairo blamed on Lax Security. Bloomberg News. Retrieved March 25, 2011 online from,
  80. 80.
    Sullivan, P. (2010). Protect your art with more than a handshake. The New York Times, 2 April.Google Scholar
  81. 81.
    Tijhuis, E. (2006). Transnational crime and the interface between legal and illegal factors: The case of the illicit art and antiquities trade. Nijmegen: Wolf Legal Publishers.Google Scholar
  82. 82.
    Van der Linde, I. (2010). 2010 Capgemini HNWI research. 2010 World Wealth Report.Google Scholar
  83. 83.
    Van Duyne, P. (1996). Organized crime in Europe. Commack: Nova Science, Inc.Google Scholar
  84. 84.
    Wigmore, B. (2007). £10 m an inch - 3 1/4in carving of lioness roars into the record books as Briton buys it for £29 m. Daily Mail. Retrieved February 1, 2008 from
  85. 85.
    Wittman, R. K., & Shiffman, J. (2010). Priceless: How i went undercover to rescue the world’s stolen treasures. New York: Crown Publishing.Google Scholar
  86. 86.
    Wren, C. (1995). Greece to lift embargo against Macedonia if it scraps its flag. New York Times. Retrieved March 17, 2008 from

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Art Theft CentralNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.Virginia Commonwealth UniversityRichmondUSA

Personalised recommendations