FBI and NSW Police to address conference on art theft

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The cultural upheaval caused by theft of art from cultural institutions and the proliferation of increasingly sophisticated fakes will be discussed at an international conference at the University of Western Sydney.

The Art Game Symposium at the UWS Bankstown campus on June 12 will bring together the FBI's Manager of Art Theft, the NSW Police Commissioner, art curators, security professionals and academics to discuss ways to prevent the theft and copy of artistic works.

The theft of valuable art is a crime that damages our national cultural heritage, yet authorities are often faced with unique hurdles in protecting and tracking down stolen pieces.

Many curators decline to publicise lost works so as not to alarm benefactors and potentially attract more thieves. Private collections with important works are often unsecured and are attractive targets for thieves, as recent high profile heists demonstrate.

In addition, the proliferation of fake artworks is an increasingly commercialised business, with ramifications beyond the financial damage and embarrassment of the unlucky buyer. In particular, fakes are causing acute pain for Indigenous artists, who are battling for a share of the market with professional outfits mass-producing replicas.

To discuss these and other issues, the conference will hear from the following speakers:

  • Dr Bonnie Magness-Gardiner, Program Manager, Art Theft Program
  • NSW Deputy Commissioner of Police Nick Kaldas APM
  • Dr Pamela James, University of Western Sydney: Indigenous art crime: White Markets, Black art and Dots for Dollars
  • Detective Sargeant John Floros, State Crime Command Fraud and Cybercrime Squad: Ronald Coles and the Art Investment Gallery: A Case Study
  • Associate Professor Robyn Sloggett, University of Melbourne: Art Fraud- Why Bother?

The Conference Organiser Dr Pamela James, from the UWS School of Humanities and Communication Arts, says changes to the law are needed to protect the integrity of the industry.

"We need the law to recognize art crime and have specific legal remedies, such as treating a painting as a painting, and not categorizing it simply as a document," she says.

"We must also ensure auction houses and art dealers operate under the same legal constraints as pawn shops or second hand dealers, so buyers are afforded some legal remedies in case of fraud."


5 June 2015

Mark Smith, Senior Media Officer

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