LONDON, 19 SEPTEMBER 2016: Art Recovery Group is pleased to announce the recovery of an indigenous Colombian artefact. The ceramic sculpture was offered for sale at a London auction house earlier this year, 80 years after a mysterious and inexplicable disappearance from a museum in Cartagena, Colombia. The figure was last catalogued by the museum in 1939 though its location has been a mystery ever since.

In 2016, after purportedly being rejected by Sotheby’s, the sculpture was consigned to Hampstead Auctions in London for sale. While researching the provenance of the piece, Hampstead Auctions art historian Beth West saw a number of red flags which prompted her to contact Art Recovery Group, which manages the ArtClaim Database: the world’s most advanced private database of stolen, looted and claimed works of art, as part of their standard due diligence processes.

Further research revealed the chequered ownership history of the sculpture. The consignor, who wishes to remain anonymous, was contacted by Art Recovery Group who learned that the sculpture had been obtained as a gift in 1999 on a visit to Cartegena.

Art Recovery Group contacted the Colombian authorities and, shortly thereafter, the Director of Colombia’s National Museum, Daniel Castro, confirmed the sculpture’s history within the museum’s collection. The museum holds no record for the circumstances under which the sculpture disappeared.

With the object identified from the museum’s inventory, the consignor agreed to an unconditional restitution of the sculpture to the Colombian authorities and the work was officially returned at a small ceremony at the Colombian Embassy in London earlier this month.

Christopher A. Marinello, CEO of Art Recovery Group, said:

“According to the consignor, in 1999 he was visiting his then girlfriend’s family in Colombia and was given the sculpture as a departing gift. He was thoroughly searched at the airport for drugs, even including the shoulder pads of his jacket. But whilst the figure was presented to airport security, it was allowed to leave the country without a second glance.”

“However, I am very impressed at the level of cooperation achieved in returning this important part of Colombia’s cultural heritage and I know how grateful they are to have it back. Hampstead Auctions should be commended – it is a relatively small operation but they could teach the bigger players in the art market a thing or two about thorough due diligence.”

Art Recovery Group offers its services to governments and law-enforcement agencies on a pro-bono basis, and the Quimbayan sculpture will now be sent back to Colombia to be received by the Colombian Institute of Anthropology and History.



LONDON, 04 FEBRUARY 2016: A painting of a Parisian street scene stolen in New York has been recovered by Art Recovery Group. The painting had been consigned to a Miami art gallery in November last year by a private individual.

‘La Porte St. Denis’ by Antoine Blanchard (1910-1988) was one of over 3,000 works of art stolen from the Herbert Arnot Gallery in between 1954 and 1968.

Over a 12-year period, a worker used his access to the gallery, both during and subsequent to his employment, to steal substantial amounts of art from the gallery on a regular basis. A year after leaving Herbert Arnot, Louis Edelman was arrested in Chicago with 800 stolen paintings in his possession and was charged with transporting stolen property across state lines. Edelman was sentenced to two years in jail but many of the paintings remained unaccounted for.

However, in November 2015, ‘La Porte St. Denis’ was identified when offered for sale on the website of a Miami-based art gallery. Art Recovery Group were contacted and immediately appointed to represent the rightful owners in their recovery efforts.

It quickly transpired that ‘La Porte St. Denis’ had been consigned to the Miami gallery but remained in the possession of a third party: a building contractor living in Florida who had accepted the painting in lieu of payment for maintenance work. Contact was made with the possessor and, with the assistance of Art Recovery Group’s Spanish-language consultant Guilherme Maximino, a resolution was reached soon after.

The legal process of determining ownership in this case presented very few obstacles. Unlike the legal systems in most European countries, it is a basic tenet of US law that no individual can obtain good title to a stolen work of art – not even when purchased in good faith. Generally, the law recognises that a stolen work of art is always stolen property and therefore makes no exceptions for good faith, passage of time or the number of owners since the theft occurred.

Commenting on the case, Christopher A. Marinello, CEO of Art Recovery Group, said:

“This is the third Blanchard work I’ve recovered for the Arnot Gallery and the second in just two years. With every recovery it feels like we’re a step closer to making right this decades-old crime. The internet can play a very important role in tracking down stolen art and we encourage victims to register their losses for free on the ArtClaim Database for the best chance to identify and recover claimed works.”

Vicki Arnot, Owner of Arnot Gallery, added:

“Chris is someone who fully understands the world of stolen paintings, something that is more unusual than the norm. Arnot Gallery thanks him for his professionalism and successful efforts in negotiating on our behalf and recovering ‘La Porte St. Denis’ for our gallery.”

Art Recovery Group will continue to work with the loss victims to identify and recover all outstanding stolen art works.



SALIBSURY, CT – 31 DECEMBER 2015: In the summer of 2015, Le Sacré Coeur au Printemps by Maxime Emile Louis Maufra was stolen from a home in Salisbury, Connecticut. Within months, the painting was discovered being offered for sale at Fairfield Auction, just 65 miles away.

Whilst the painting is not considered a major masterpiece, it holds a great deal of sentimental value to the Drew family, based between Salisbury, CT and York, England.  Sisters Bettina and Allison Drew had previously inherited the painting from their father with the request that they find a way to share it.

When offered for sale at Fairfield Auction, Le Sacré Coeur au Printemps attracted considerable interest and was eventually bought by a private individual based in France. The painting was days from being shipped outside of the United States when Jack Destories, owner of Fairfield Auction, agreed to halt the sale pending further investigation.

The Drew family contacted Art Recovery Group (“ARG”), UK-based art recovery specialists, to liaise with law enforcement, the auction house, and the possessor who claimed to have acquired the painting at a swap shop located on the premises of the Salisbury Waste Transfer Station.

Within just four weeks, ARG negotiated an unconditional release of the painting to the Drew family who took possession just in time for the holidays.

Alison Drew commented:

“Just one day after reporting the theft of our Maufra painting to the Connecticut State Police, I discovered it on the Fairfield Auction web site. After several weeks at an impasse, I had almost given up hope. Then I contacted Art Recovery Group. Chris Marinello and his team worked a miracle and negotiated the safe return of our painting.”

This recovery marks a record year for the London-based Art Recovery Group who have overseen the successful recovery of over $75 million in stolen and claimed works of art over the last 12 months.

Art Recovery Group is grateful for the cooperation of Fairfield Auctions and the possessor in resolving this matter amicably.


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