I'll blog this properly when I'm back on a laptop, but I recommend this article highly to anyone interested in Cultural Property. Two journalists from the New York Times finally did an expose of The Art Loss Register:
My experience of them has been a joke.
Last year I found a Greek vase that had been stolen decades ago from a small museum in Britain.
I Googled the description and it came up on an art dealer's web site.
The 'return' of the vase was slightly complicated partly by an academic who had written their thesis on the painter saying that this was the other of two vases by him with this subject - ie the one that was not stolen - which turned out to be incorrect.
And mostly by The Art Loss Register.
I wanted to go through Interpol if the dealer wouldn't return the vase - although both he and the Swiss dealer than had sold it to him were going out of their way to co-operate. The Art Loss Register like to give the impression that they are the police. They are not.
Luckily they 'saved the day' in this case and got the vase returned to the museum.
Did I mention that they had charged the museum to list the vase in their database? AND that they had charged the dealer to buy a certificate of them to 'prove' that the vase was not in their database? (Most dealers' associations require certificates from the Art Loss Register for items over a certain value).
The best bit? They charged the museum to negotiate for the return of the vase.
The police don't charge people to help with crimes. The Art Loss Register repeatedly charged the museum and the dealer over one small vase.
My favourite part? I love the way the ALR claim they found the vase not me.