Interpol has opened its stolen art database to the public (though you’ll have to pass a little vetting) to help improve awareness of stolen artworks, the Independent gets into the details:
The new online art gallery, one of the largest and the most eclectic in the world, belongs to the international police organisation, Interpol. It consists of an illustrated database of 34,100 works of art whose only common theme is that they have been stolen some time in the last 62 years and never recovered.
The Interpol catalogue, which has achieved an almost mythical status among art-lovers, was previously accessible only on CD-Roms, or, more recently, through DVDs. The organisation has now taken the decision to make its database available online to all comers. Or almost all comers. The only restriction is that you have to fill in an online application form which “may be vetted” (in other words, you can be sure you will be vetted) by the authorities in your home country. Art thieves or traffickers should not apply, at least not under their real names. Access codes take a few days to be issued while this vetting process takes place. […]
“As a matter of principle, we wanted the database to be open to as many people as possible,” said Mr Kind. “The new site is intended partly, of course, for museums or art dealers who may be doubtful about a work of art that they have been offered. But it is also Interpol’s intention that it should be used by the widest possible public. An art collector cannot be too careful. If he spends a lot of money on a piece of art which turns out to have been stolen, he may not just end up with a work to which he has no legal title. He might also face prosecution.”
The Interpol catalogue does not include all the stolen art in the world – far from it. The Italian police’s list of hot art contains a staggering 300,000 items, 10 times as many as the Interpol site. A French site, which uses the latest image identification technology but which is open only to the police, has 80,000 entries.