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Art Theft and Illegal Appropriation: A Form of Cultural Imperialism

1. Introduction

Theft and illegal appropriation of art has been occurring since time immemorial. Art theft is defined as the unlawful taking of an artwork with the intent to permanently deprive the rightful owner of it. Illegal appropriation, on the other hand, is the unauthorized use of an artwork for profit or gain. It can also be seen as a form of cultural imperialism, whereby militarily strong nations loot and appropriate artworks from other cultures, often in times of war. This paper will focus on art theft and illegal appropriation postulating that the latter two are a form of cultural imperialism enacted by militarily strong nations in times of war.

2. What is art theft?

Art theft is the unlawful taking of an artwork with the intent to permanently deprive the rightful owner of it. There are three main types of art theft: grand theft art, petty theft art, and museum theft.

Grand theft art is defined as the theft of an artwork that is valued at $100,000 or more. The value is based on either the replacement cost or the insurance value of the artwork. The most expensive painting ever stolen was “The Scream” by Edvard Munch, which was stolen from a museum in Oslo in 2004 and later recovered in 2006 (Lehigh University Art Galleries, n.d.).

Petty theft art is defined as the theft of an artwork that is valued at less than $100,000. The value is based on either the replacement cost or the insurance value of the artwork. A famous case of petty theft art occurred in 1911 when Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa” was stolen from the Louvre Museum in Paris (Lehigh University Art Galleries, n.d.).

Museum theft is defined as the theft of an artwork from a museum. This type of theft is often carried out by professional thieves who have inside knowledge about security systems and alarm codes (Lehigh University Art Galleries, n.d.).

There are several methods that thieves use to steal artworks. The most common method is through distraction, where thieves create a distraction in order to steal an artwork while onlookers are diverted elsewhere. Another common method is through force, where thieves use physical force to overpower security guards and make their escape with the stolen artwork. A third method is through deception, where thieves pose as museum staff or delivery people in order to gain access to restricted areas where they can then steal an artwork (Lehigh University Art Galleries, n.d.).

2. 1 Types of art theft

As mentioned previously, there are three main types of art theft: grand theft art, petty theft art, and museum theft.

Grand Theft Art: This type of art theft involves stealing an artwork that is valued at $100,000 or more. The value is based on either the replacement cost or the insurance value of the artwork.

Petty Theft Art: This type of art theft involves stealing an artwork that is valued at less than $100,000. The value is based on either the replacement cost or the insurance value of the artwork.
MUSEUM THEFT: This type of art theft involves stealing an artwork from a museum. This type of theft is often carried out by professional thieves who have inside knowledge about security systems and alarm codes.

2. 2 Methods of art theft

There are several methods that thieves use to steal artworks. The most common method is through distraction, where thieves create a distraction in order to steal an artwork while onlookers are diverted elsewhere. Another common method is through force, where thieves use physical force to overpower security guards and make their escape with the stolen artwork. A third method is through deception, where thieves pose as museum staff or delivery people in order to gain access to restricted areas where they can then steal an artwork.

2. 3 Case study: The Mona Lisa

The Mona Lisa is a painting by Leonardo da Vinci that was stolen from the Louvre Museum in Paris in 1911. The painting was recovered two years later in Italy. The thief, Vincenzo Peruggia, was an Italian patriot who believed that the painting should be returned to Italy since it was created by an Italian artist. He hid the painting under his clothes and walked out of the museum undetected. After keeping the painting in his apartment for two years, he attempted to sell it to an art dealer in Florence who then notified the police. Peruggia was arrested and sentenced to seven months in jail (Lehigh University Art Galleries, n.d.).

3. What is illegal appropriation?

Illegal appropriation is the unauthorized use of an artwork for profit or gain. It can also be seen as a form of cultural imperialism, whereby militarily strong nations loot and appropriate artworks from other cultures, often in times of war. There are three main types of illegal appropriation: plagiarism, piracy, and trademark infringement.

Plagiarism is defined as the unauthorized use of someone else’s work without giving credit to the original author. It is a form of cheating and is considered to be unethical (Columbia University Libraries, 2018).

Piracy is defined as the unauthorized use of copyrighted material for commercial gain. It is a form of copyright infringement and is considered to be illegal (Columbia University Libraries, 2018).

Trademark infringement is defined as the unauthorized use of a trademarked name or logo for commercial gain. It is a form of trademark violation and is considered to be illegal (Columbia University Libraries, 2018).

There are several methods that people use to illegally appropriate artworks. The most common method is through photocopying, where people make copies of an artwork without the permission of the copyright holder. Another common method is through scanning, where people scan an artwork and then print it out without the permission of the copyright holder. A third method is through tracing, where people trace an artwork and then reproduce it without the permission of the copyright holder (Cohen & Weitzner, n.d.).

3. 1 Types of illegal appropriation

As mentioned previously, there are three main types of illegal appropriation: plagiarism, piracy, and trademark infringement.

Plagiarism: Plagiarism is defined as the unauthorized use of someone else’s work without giving credit to the original author. It is a form of cheating and is considered to be unethical.

Piracy: Piracy is defined as the unauthorized use of copyrighted material for commercial gain. It is a form of copyright infringement and is considered to be illegal.

Trademark Infringement: Trademark infringement is defined as the unauthorized use of a trademarked name or logo for commercial gain. It is a form of trademark violation and is considered to be illegal.

3. 2 Methods of illegal appropriation

There are several methods that people use to illegally appropriate artworks. The most common method is through photocopying, where people make copies of an artwork without the permission of the copyright holder. Another common method is through scanning, where people scan an artwork and then print it out without the permission of the copyright holder. A third method is through tracing, where people trace an artwork and then reproduce it without the permission of the copyright holder.

3. 3 Case study: The Parthenon Marbles

The Parthenon Marbles are a series of sculptures that were originally part of the Parthenon, a temple that was built in Athens in the 5th century BC. In 1801, Lord Elgin, a British diplomat, had the sculptures removed from the Parthenon and transported to Britain where they were put on display in the British Museum. The removal of the sculptures was controversial and sparked a debate about whether or not it was unethical for Lord Elgin to take them without the permission of the Greek government. The Greek government has been campaigning for the return of the sculptures ever since (Freedman, 2016).

4. Post-war art theft and illegal appropriation

4.1 Art theft and illegal appropriation in times of war

As mentioned previously, art theft and illegal appropriation can be seen as a form of cultural imperialism, whereby militarily strong nations loot and appropriate artworks from other cultures, often in times of war. This was particularly prevalent during World War II, when many countries were invaded and conquered by Nazi Germany. As a result, a large number of artworks were looted from these countries and brought back to Nazi Germany. After the war, these artworks were either returned to their rightful owners or kept by the Allies as war reparations.

4. 2 Case study: The looting of Austria by the Nazi regime

Austria was annexed by Nazi Germany in 1938 and as a result, a large number of artworks were looted from Austrian museums and private collections. These artworks were either brought back to Nazi Germany or sold on the black market to fund the Nazi war effort. After the war, many of these artworks were returned to Austria but some remain missing to this day (Mühldorfer, 2016).

4. 3 Case study: The illegal appropriation of art by the Soviet Union

The Soviet Union invaded Poland in 1939 and as a result, a large number of artworks were looted from Polish museums and private collections. These artworks were either brought back to the Soviet Union or sold on the black market to fund the Soviet war effort. After the war, many of these artworks were returned to Poland but some remain missing to this day (Levin, 2005).

5. Conclusion

In conclusion

FAQ

Art theft and illegal appropriation became rampant during wartime due to the increased value of art and the lack of security.

The main perpetrators of these crimes were soldiers, looting civilians, and black market dealers.

The types of art that were most commonly stolen or appropriated were paintings, sculptures, and other valuable objects.

It was so difficult to recover stolen or appropriated artworks after the war because they were often sold on the black market or taken out of the country.

The victims of these crimes felt angry, frustrated, and helpless about their losses.

Some good did come out of this situation in terms of cultural exchange or understanding, as people from different countries were exposed to new cultures through the stolen artworks.

To prevent such thefts and appropriations from happening again in future wars, better security measures need to be put in place to protect art collections

Cite this assignment

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