Museum professionals across the globe are under increasing pressure to heed the demands of previous owners for the return of many of their priceless treasures. Who should own the world’s cultural wonders? This course will examine the motives for and consequences of the questionable appropriation of art and artifacts throughout history. Our experts will also assess the methods used by museums and private collectors to establish the provenance of precious objects, evaluate the relative value of ownership claims, and balance priorities when determining whether to return particular works.
October 16: From Theft in Antiquity to Theft of Antiquity
David Brauer, senior lecturer at the Glassell School of Art, will uncover the rich history of plundering. In the first of his two lectures, Brauer will follow the fate of ancient objects, from the artifacts carried from conquered lands by the Romans to the stunning sculptures stripped from the Parthenon by Lord Elgin.
October 23: State-Sponsored Theft: From Revolution to Revolution
David Brauer will return to explore the organized pillaging of the collections of French aristocrats during the Revolution, looting in Africa and the East by colonial powers, and the Bolshevik appropriation of Russian private collections.
October 30: Art with a Past: Tracing World War II Provenance
Victoria Reed, specialist in the provenance of European art with the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, will delve into the importance placed upon fine arts by the German leadership and the ways in which works of art were stolen from victims of Nazi persecution. Using recent case studies, including the high-profile court decision regarding five paintings by Gustav Klimt, Reed will focus on how art museums today address the need to examine the wartime ownership of objects in their collections.
November 6: The FBI’s Art Crime Team
Special Agent Frank R. Brostrom, St. Louis Division, has been assigned to the FBI Rapid Deployment Art Crime Team since its inception in 2004. He is the Art Crime Team coordinator for the South Central Region, including Texas. A real Rothko retrieved from the Far East and a fake Rembrandt revealed in a St. Louis hotel room will be among the artworks highlighted in Brostrom’s lecture about the FBI Art Theft Program and the recent successes of the Art Crime Team.
NOTE: This lecture, which will take place in the Brown Auditorium of the MFAH, is free and open to the public; however, enrollment in the full “Finders, Keepers?” seminar ensures special reserved seating until fifteen minutes prior to the lecture.
To learn the circumstances of the FBI's Top Ten Art Crimes and view images of the stolen artworks, visit the home page of the FBI's Art Theft Program.
Members of the MFAH and law enforcement personnel are entitled to a discount when registering for the full seminar.
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