THE recovery of more than 400 lost works by Dutch artist Karel Appel has led to a call for storage companies to tighten their due diligence on objects they handle.
The works came to light after Bonhams
contacted the Art Loss Register while carrying out their own due
diligence on a box of 34 Appel drawings sent for valuation with a
view to consignment.
The storage and logistics company which had
sent them to Bonhams told ALR the box was one of eight found inside
a warehouse they had purchased years earlier. It had no
documentation concerning the boxes, said the ALR, and it was not
until a warehouse employee researched 'Karel Appel', whose notes
and signatures adorn most of the works, that they realised the
boxes were worth more than mere salvage.
It transpired that the works had been lost
in transit in December 2002. They comprised a crate of eight boxes
containing drawings, sketches, notebooks and mixed media works by
the artist, who had sent them to the newly created Karel Appel
Foundation in Amsterdam.
The loss was reported at the time to law
enforcement and the ALR, who registered the works on their database
of stolen, looted, and missing artwork.
After five weeks of what the ALR described
as intense negotiation with the logistics company and their
solicitors, a settlement was finally reached, with the company
agreeing to release their claim to the artwork.
Christopher A. Marinello, a lawyer and chief
negotiator for the Art Loss Register said: "This case highlights
the responsibility of companies who store and transport works of
"With last year's BBC statistics suggesting
that over 90% of UK museum collections are kept in storage, the
concept of positive registration and due diligence should form part
of logistics companies' standard operating procedures.
"Logistics companies store and move millions
of pounds worth of art every year but rarely check with the ALR.
Highly secure, fine art storage facilities have opened worldwide,
from New York to Singapore.
"These storage complexes are the new Swiss
bank vaults and no one but the proprietors know what is going in
and out of there. While the owners of such facilities are staunchly
opposed to having stolen art on their premises, they are reluctant
to perform due diligence searching for fear that they will lose
business to competitors who may guarantee a more discrete
And he warned: "Unless and until fine art
storage and shipping companies unite and agree to police
themselves, it may be necessary to push for legislation requiring
the industry to become more transparent."