October 23, 2009 – Nowadays, the computer is an indispensable aid in providing information for the broad public quickly. Especially the internet has become an important means of fighting theft of works of art. Thus far, Interpol’s stolen works of art database was accessible only to the police. Now it has been opened to all, to collectors, dealers and anyone interested.
Theft of works of art concerns everybody, states in the First World as well as in the Third. France and Italy are most affected by this phenomenon although it can happen to any art collector. Even bigger is the risk of buying a stolen work of art of dubious provenance. Interpol opens his records to increase the chances of stopping stolen works of art in the process of the change of ownership. Now, everybody can make sure that at the very least an object hasn’t been reported stolen prior to purchasing it.
On the English / Spanish / French website several categories can be discovered:
– Recent thefts (http://www.interpol.int/Public/WorkOfArt/Search/RecentThefts.asp)
– Recovered items (http://www.interpol.int/Public/WorkOfArt/Search/Recovered.asp)
– Objects that have proven to be stolen although their owners are unknown (http://www.interpol.int/Public/WorkOfArt/Search/Owner.asp)
In addition, there are the new Interpol posters of the most wanted works of art (http://www.interpol.int/Public/WorkOfArt/Poster/Default.asp) and references to the ICOM Red list registering objects which are particularly prone to looting in their home countries (http://www.interpol.int/Public/WorkOfArt/Partnership/ICOMRedList.asp).
Unfortunately, the search itself is quite troublesome since when looking at recent thefts one has to run through all of the 24 pages containing 186 objects.
The theft of an item can’t be reported to Interpol by private individuals. Usually one of the National Central Bureaus of the 188 member countries has to contact Interpol to advertise an international search subjected to strict regulations.
The report of coins is rather difficult since the Interpol database includes as few reproducible objects as possible. After all, it should be prevented that innocent people get arrested only because they happen to own a wanted antique book, a wanted engraving or a wanted coin. Nevertheless, the database includes a couple of coins, medals and orders which can make a closer look worthwhile.