Theft of the Kunsthal museum in Rotterdam

From the Huffington Post:

BUCHAREST, Romania — It may be a case of art to ashes – and scientists are trying to get to the bottom of the mystery.

A Romanian museum official said Wednesday that ash from the oven of a woman whose son is charged with stealing seven multimillion-dollar paintings – including a Matisse, a Picasso and a Monet – contains paint, canvas and nails.

The finding is evidence that Olga Dogaru may have been telling the truth when she claimed to have burned the paintings, which were taken from a Dutch museum last year in a daring daylight heist.

Ernest Oberlander-Tarnoveanu, director of Romania’s National History Museum, told The Associated Press that museum forensic specialists had found “small fragments of painting primer, the remains of canvas, the remains of paint” and copper and steel nails, some of which pre-dated the 20th century.

“We discovered a series of substances which are specific to paintings and pictures,” he said, including lead, zinc and azurite.

He refused to say definitively that the ashes were those of seven paintings stolen from Rotterdam’s Kunsthal gallery last year, because he said it was not his position to do so. He said justice officials would make that decision.

He did venture, however, that if the remains were those of the paintings, it was “a crime against humanity to destroy universal art.”

“I can’t believe in 2013 that we come across such acts,” he said.

Oberlander-Tarnoveanu said forensic specialists at the museum have been analyzing ashes from Dogaru’s stove since March, and will hand their results to prosecutors next week.

The seven paintings were stolen last October in the biggest art heist to hit the Netherlands for more than a decade. Thieves broke in through a rear emergency exit of the gallery, grabbed the paintings off the wall and fled, all within two minutes.

The stolen works have an estimated value of tens of millions of dollars if they were sold at auction. Thieves took Pablo Picasso’s 1971 “Harlequin Head”; Claude Monet’s 1901 “Waterloo Bridge, London” and “Charing Cross Bridge, London”; Henri Matisse’s 1919 “Reading Girl in White and Yellow”; Paul Gauguin’s 1898 “Girl in Front of Open Window”; Meyer de Haan’s “Self-Portrait” of around 1890; and Lucian Freud’s 2002 work “Woman with Eyes Closed.”

Three Romanian suspects were arrested in January, but the paintings have not been found.

Romanian prosecutors say Olga Dogaru – whose son is the alleged heist ringleader – claims she buried the art in an abandoned house and then in a cemetery in the village of Caracliu. She said she later dug the paintings up and burned them in February after police began searching the village for the stolen works.

Prosecutors have not said whether they believe her account, but Pavel Susara, a Romanian art critic, said the story has the ring of truth.

“Olga Dogaru describes how she made the fire, put wood on it and burned the paintings, like she was burning a pair of slippers,” he said. “She’s either a repressed writer or she is describing exactly what she did.”

And now the museum staff have found exactly what forensic experts say they were seeking – materials such as canvas, wood, staples, and paints that indicate the ashes were the remains of artworks.

The next step would be to compare them to what is known about the missing paintings, which given their quality and status would be well-documented in photographs and condition reports.

“If one finds general similarities between the stolen works and the burned (remains), then one could test the elemental – and possibly chemical – composition of the burned `works’ to determine if they could be consistent with the stolen works,” said James Martin of Orion Analytical, LLC, who has taught forensic paint analysis at the FBI Academy Counter-terrorism and Forensic Science Research Unit.

Art market experts said the Rotterdam thieves may have discovered what many art thieves have before them – that easily identifiable paintings by famous artists are extremely difficult to sell at anything like their auction value.

“Criminals who are successful in their usual endeavors are often undone by a foray into art theft,” said Robert Korzinek, a fine art underwriter at insurer Hiscox. “They steal these works of art … and then they have the problem that they can’t dispose of them.”

That means many works suffer ignominious fates. Some are lost forever. Others turn up after years of being buried or stashed in storage. Edvard Munch’s “The Scream,” stolen from an Oslo museum in 2004, was recovered in 2006, water damaged and torn. Police have never offered details on the painting’s whereabouts during those two years.

Chris Marinello of the Art Loss Register, which specializes in tracking down stolen artworks, said that if Olga Dogaru is telling the truth, “this isn’t the first time the mothers of art thieves have come to the rescue of their son.”

One famous case involved a prolific French criminal named Stephane Breitwieser, who stole more than 200 works from small museums across Europe in the late 1990s.

His mother admitted destroying dozens of the works after police began investigating her son, cutting up paintings, stuffing the remnants down her garbage disposal and throwing valuable jewels and other antiquities into a canal.

She was arrested after some of them resurfaced. “Old Masters were washing up on the bank,” Marinello said.

More than 100 works were recovered from the mud and restored, but much of what Breitwieser stole was lost forever.

Mariette Maaskant, spokeswoman for Rotterdam’s Kunsthal, said Olga Dogaru’s allegation “underscores the pointlessness of the theft.”

“If this terrible news is true, then the last trace of hope that the art works would return is definitively gone,” she said. “It would be a loss that touches every art lover.”

Perhaps the only positive note is that, if Dogaru hoped to destroy the evidence, she likely failed.

“Almost everything nowadays leaves a trace,” said Marinello.


Jill Lawless reported from London. Associated Press Writer Michael Corder in The Hague contributed to this report.



Mom and Dad Lend Art Collection to Family members or Institutions

Lately, I have been receiving requests to insure living trust assets that are at various family members homes.

Usually, I write a one-shot transit policy from the parents home to the new locations. I have been able to insure the Art collection maintaining the control of ownership.

Most Insurance policies exclude or limit property of others in the Care, Custody, and Control of the Named Insured.

By working with the variables, I satisfy estate attorneys concern of not properly covering these assets while they are still in trust or in preparation to be gifted.

Complete the Collectors Application for a quote.

Artist who Exhibits… Read further.


I have been working with many artists who have opportunities to exhibit in venues where the venue only offers the space but not the Insurance for the Art installed.

Many times as I interview these Artists, I find out the Artwork limits requested and the time period required will trigger the policy minimum premium of $1,000.

Being that I care about artists and the expenses they go through I explain for the same cost, Insurance is available to cover Artwork in the studio, in storage, while in transit and while the Art is at exhibitions.

Call me at 1.800.921.1008 to find out how you can protect your artwork or fill out the artist application here at

William G. Fleischer CIC

Bernard Fleischer & Sons


Super Storm Sandy

This storm was amazing.  The art Galleries I insured all had flood coverage and none suffered financial loss from the Art.

The capacity is still there, just have to ask for the coverage where in the past, it was thrown in.  Most Personal Collectors policy have no exclusions for flood, some have for earthquake. I like to show the exclusions on my proposals to keep everyone in the know.

For insurance coverage for Flood or Named Storm, complete an application at

Protecting your Paintings

I have been issuing Fine Art Insurance policies for many collectors who recently purchased work for their collection. The prices range from $280.00 up to $500, I have been including the transit coverage from the gallery to the home.

I even wrote one from Italy to Washington, no deductible. It’s also important, to include the frame, under the description part of the policy. If this is not written in the schedule description, then only the work will be covered.

This is a little fine line, I just discovered. I am always watching out for the benefit of the collector, it’s all about properly insuring, knowing your exclusions, hedge your financial downside and most of all, enjoying the Art.

Artists can insure their own work

For the past few weeks, I have written Fine Art policies for Painters, sculptures, and photographers.  The coverage is broad enough where the Art is covered in Transit, at the Gallery or Venue, and most important while it is in the studio.

The value of the art is based on the selling price minus 30%than the sale price. If the piece is sold. There is one catch, for the work to be covered, it must be for sale.  Living with an artist, I know everything in the studio is for sale, the question is at what price.

Which brings me to another determination.  The sale price is based on previous sales, just to keep the numbers real in an event of a loss.

Download the application here Artist’s fine art Insurance

Specialty Jewelry Collections – AXA Art Policy Highlights


AXA Art launched a specialty jewelry product for private collectors of classic antique and designer jewelry. The mono-line, broad coverage product is available in the United States for schedules in excess of $500,000 for focused collections ranging from ancient to vintage to contemporary jewelry.

Our specialty jewelry product offers affordable, all-risk coverage on a worldwide basis. The policy can be written as a separate policy or added to an existing fine art policy. This jewelry collection policy is offered in addition to our scheduled jewelry product for values below $500,000.


  • Target: $500K up to $30MM jewelry collections, higher limits available
  • Minimum: $500K personal jewelry collections
  • Competitive rates for collections kept in the residence, residence safes and bank vaults
  • Worldwide coverage
  • No restrictions for California earthquake or any coastal windstorm locations including Florida
  • No deductible requirements, deductible options available for various rate credits
  • Coverage for loose, cut gems and stones available
  • Valuation Options: Agreed, Current Market Value
  • Scheduled or blanket policies
  • $50,000 blanket coverage included

Submission Requirements:

  • Completed AXA Art application
  • Listing of jewelry in the collection with values
  • Purchase receipts or appraisals for items valued at $100K or more


For more details about AXA Art’s specialty jewelry program, please contact me your AXA Art broker, William Fleischer, CIC, Senior Underwriter, at (800) 921-1008 or email


New York’s Art World Braces for Hurricane Irene 8/29/2011

Found in the New York Observer.

With Hurricane Irene expected to hit New York on Sunday, the region’s art world–including both the city and areas heavily populated by collectors and dealers, like the Hamptons–is taking action to mitigate any potential damage from the category 2 storm, which is currently generating sustained winds of 115 miles per hour down in North Carolina.

A map of hurricane flood zones released by the New York City government shows much of West Chelsea, which is home to many of New York’s largest blue-chip galleries in “Zone A,” where residents “face the highest risk of flooding from a hurricane’s storm surge,” according to the map. That area includes blocks between 20th and 26th Streets, from Tenth Avenue to the Hudson River.

Julia Joern, of the David Zwirner Gallery, which is located on West 19th Street, west of 10th Avenue (just south of that high-risk zone), said that staff members are “moving what art we have in the gallery to higher ground” and off-site, to a warehouse in Queens.

As Ms. Joern noted, the hurricane threat comes at a peculiar time in the art industry’s calendar, since most galleries are shuttered for the summer and are preparing for their September shows.

Update, 2:45 p.m.: Luhring Augustine, which is located on West 24th Street, squarely within Zone A–the area that now Mayor Bloomberg has marked for mandatory evacuation–is also taking precautions. Associate director Monica Schwerin said that, like many of their neighbors in the area, the gallery is placing sandbags in front of doors to prevent water from seeping in, in the event that public drainage systems overflow. Artworks are being stored well above the floor. “We have water sensors, and the alarm company notifies us soon as they are blocked,” Ms. Schwerin said. Many employees live in the area, she added and will be watching events unfold.

“We take extra precautions whenever we have a storm like this,” said Andrew Faintych, the chief operating officer of art shipping firm Atelier 4, which operates out of Long Island City in Queens. “We’re not in a flood zone,” he said and emphasized that was intentional.

Mr. Faintych said that the firm is keeping works in storage off the ground, to prevent damage in the event of flooding, and is rescheduling shipments, keeping their moving trucks off the road. “It’s mainly a scheduling issue he said,” he said, noting that the same actions are taken in the event of a regular, heavy rainstorm or blizzard.

“There’s a lot of activity right now throughout the entire Mid-Atlantic and New England,” said Robert Pittinger, the national director of underwriting at AXA Art Insurance said. Mr. Pittinger said that some clients are moving art to warehouses.

Lower East Side galleries appear to be comparatively better off than their Chelsea brethren. Even in the case of a category 3 or 4 hurricane, the New York flood map says that Orchard and Ludlow Streets, which are home to many of the city’s youngest galleries, should avoid flood damage. In fact, one of the city’s hurricane relief shelters, the Seward Park High School, is located mere blocks from L.E.S. mainstays like Rachel Uffer Gallery and Miguel Abreu Gallery.

Update, 4:00 p.m.: Most New York museums have announced that they will be closed on Saturday and Sunday.

Update, 2:30 p.m.: In an e-mail, Sotheby’s worldwide director of press and corporate affairs Dianna Phillips said, “We will have staff here all weekend, including engineers, management, art handlers, and security, monitoring the situation carefully and addressing anything that requires attention.”

Mr. Pittinger said that he had talked to plenty of collectors who were being proactive about the storm, securing windows and moving their art into safe locations within their houses. The best response, he said, was to plan for a hurricane well in advance. “Don’t wait until one is churning in the Gulf,” he said. “Start planning in March, April, and May.”

Update, 5:00 p.m.: Bob Crozier, the founder of art shipping and storage company Crozier Fine Arts, told The Observer that teams of art handlers and conservators have been working throughout the week in the Hamptons, New York City, and the surrounding region, in order to secure artworks or move them off of balconies and beaches and into safe locations like warehouses and residences. “There are hundreds of millions of dollars of art and objects along the shores,” Mr. Crozier said.

“I haven’t seen anything like this before,” Mr. Crozier said when asked to gauge his clients’ response to the incoming storm compared to previous storm threats. Come Monday, after the storm has passed–if, in fact, a storm does arrive–he said that he anticipates calls from collectors who did not act to secure property. “We’re backed up by a lot of conservators,” he said.

For the right Art Insurance




 1. Take inventory of your valuables

This means going through these steps to register each of the items in your collection with the Fine Art Registry™ which automatically requires that you photograph and describe each item and makes a permanent record of this in a central database.


2. Get an appraisal

Get an appraisal of your most valuable items. This will require consulting with an accredited appraiser. Make sure you hold on to the appraisal and any other documents that show the value of your collection. And, if an item needs repair and preservation, find a conservator. (Fine Art Registry™ services will soon offer the ability to digitally upload supporting documents, such as appraisal reports to its database upon registration. This will also allow for the updating of yearly appraisals as may be required by insurance carriers.)


3. Understand what your homeowner’s policy covers.

 Compare the coverage to your homeowner’s policy to understand the value of the extra coverage.

4. Discuss with your agent

Work with an insurance agent to figure out the right type of insurance for your collection. Discuss with your agent  any additional art services your insurer may offer along with the insurance policy.

5. Study the blog.

Study the Blog sections of this article which help you distinguish between insurers and we can help you find the one that is most suited to your particular needs.

www.ArtInsuranceNow.Com  call 800-921-1008



AXA Art Insurance Highlights of Coverages

AXA distinguishes itself
as the only insurance company specializing exclusively in fine arts and collectibles. It employs 50 full-time art historians around the world and has an extensive network of art-world specialists including curators, appraisers, adjusters, conservators, tax attorneys and shipping agents specializing in the arts and collectibles. AXA serves all clients, from the first time collector to the most established collectors. The company is a co-founder of the international Art Loss Register.


AXA offers:

 • Broad, all-risk worldwide coverage.

• Large and small capacity insurance.

• Blanket location coverage.

• Automatic coverage on a newly acquired property of up to 25% of total policy limit within a 90-day reporting obligation.

• Claims processing.


Art Services:

• Evaluations that assess the current market values of clients’ collections.

• Loss prevention advice and disaster planning.

• Transportation, shipping, and handling consultation.

• Fine art collection schedules (inventory and values of all items in your collection).

• Curatorial and collection management services.

Call discuss your Insurance Needs; 800-921-1008

Insuring Art, Art Gallery, Art Dealer, Artist and the Art world needs