This Article is From Sep 28, 2010

Italy: Crack squad hunts down fake, stolen art

Rome: Captain Corrado Catesi of Italy's Carabinieri art squad strides into their high security vault in the center of Rome, eager to show some of the crack squad's latest seizures. The vault is filled with fakes and counterfeits.

The art squad recently announced a massive operation that involved the capture of 500 fake art works from some prominent contemporary artists - Matisse, Magritte, De Chirico, to name a few. Twelve people were arrested in the operation.

Among the confiscated works in the vault, there is the 'Holy Family' claimed to be by Italian Baroque painter Luca Giordano, a fake.

There is also the 'Saint John the Baptist in the Desert' described falsely as a work by Italian Baroque painter Guido Reni, and put on sale for 300-thousand euro.

The Carabinieri art squad was created in the late 1960s to protect Italy's vast cultural patrimony. It now has some 300 military police dedicated to the detection of stolen and false art works.

In the high security vault Carabinieri art squad, detectives bring works of art that they believe are counterfeit, then working together with art historians, using their massive database, sophisticated technologies and simple techniques, they discover if the work is indeed false.

Capitan Catesi says their work is becoming increasingly difficult as more people try to sell fake art on the internet.

"Internet does nothing more than provide - at least when we speak about auction houses - another platform to economic deals between private individuals. Therefore, clearly on internet it is possible to identify, confiscate or unfortunately buy false works of art," said Captain Corrado Catesi, Carabinieri art squad.

The art squads's most important tool for recognizing stolen and fake art is their massive database of artwork from around the world including over three million works.

Art Squad technicians spend hours and hours pouring over pictures of artworks in catalogues and on the internet comparing them to stolen or fake works in their database.

Over the decades, the art squad has recovered hundreds of thousands of false or counterfeit art works. They are considered one of the best art detectives in the world.