Crimes against Art: Forgery, Theft & Repatriation Issues: Introduction

Resources for research on art fakes & forgeries, art theft, art provenance, and cultural repatriation.


"Art and cultural property crime - which includes theft, fraud, looting, and trafficking across state and international lines -- is a looming criminal enterprise with estimated losses running as high as $6 billion annually." Quote from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Art provenance research refers to learning the history of ownership of an art work from the artist's hand to the current owner. Reconstruction of a complete history of ownership for a given work can be difficult and sometimes impossible since it may require access to archives and sales records not generally open to the public. Documented evidence of provenance for an object can help to establish that it has not been altered and is not a forgery, reproduction, stolen or looted.

Cultural repatriation refers to the return of cultural objects or works of art to their country of origin. It often refers to ancient or tribal objects. 

Holocaust-era theft & repatriation refers to the thousands of art objects were sold, robbed or confiscated during World War II. Survivors and heirs are actively working to regain ownership and art collections around the world are attempting to identify and repatriate any artwork plundered by the Nazis.

Art Crime

Fine Arts & Humanities Librarian

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Andi Back
Art & Architecture Library

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