Art crimes are a threat to our cultural identity. Investigate famous cases alongside experts and learn what techniques are used to uncover fakes, forgeries, and thefts.
From the looting of antiquities to Nazi theft to the seizure of paintings right off museum walls, the world of art crime is as fascinating as it is diverse. Millions of dollars as well as reputations of premier art institutions and experts are on the line in this high-stakes arena. Have you ever wondered how fakes enter the market? What methods are used to determine whether a work is authentic or a forgery? How are suspected art crimes investigated? How and when are works restituted to their rightful owners? What are the most provocative and notorious instances of art theft and forgery?
This exciting course asks these questions and more. Using case studies of the most notorious art crimes of the past two centuries, students will be introduced to the basic legal and ethical issues specific to the art market. Students will learn the basic techniques for spotting forgeries from the people who investigate them for a living at auction houses and galleries. Ever wonder how one man in a garage could forge works by famous artists, such as Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock, then sell them to gallerists who would later resell them for upwards of $80 million? Or how two unarmed men posing as police officers could steal 13 famous artworks valued at nearly $500 million right off the walls of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston—and never be caught? Students will look in depth at the captivating case of Gustav Klimt’s Adele Bloch-Bauer I (now hanging in New York’s Neue Galerie), at the Nazi theft of the painting and the restitution to its rightful heir—a case that was profiled in the 2015 film The Woman in Gold. Students will have the opportunity to study these fascinating cases and more.
Visits will include a combination of trips to museums, galleries, auction houses, and other art institutions and businesses that have or can be affected by art crimes.
In the past, site visits have included:
- Sotheby’s auction house
- The Klimt portraits in The Neue Galerie
- The Old Masters collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art
- The headquarters of the AXA Art Insurance Agency
- Arcis, a high-tech art storage facility
- Columbia University’s art museum
Students will hear first-hand about how to spot a fake, how art criminals were able to pull off their crimes, how these crimes are prevented, how cases are litigated, and more.
In the past, guest speakers have included:
- Speakers from the Art Crime Unit of the F.B.I.
- Art Lawyers
- Forensic scientists
- Auction house experts
- Art insurers & handlers
Materials Fee: $195
Please note: This information is subject to change at any time at the discretion of Sotheby’s Institute of Art-New York.