The New York Times takes a close look at the Art Loss Register and its principal, Julian Radcliffe:
Mr. Radcliffe’s company operates in the dim recesses of the art world, where the prevalence of theft, fakery and works of murky provenance has given rise to many businesses that promise to help clients navigate this lucrative but largely unregulated market.
But for the Register, despite its official-sounding name and pivotal role as a monitor, profits have not come easily, and the company’s future looks increasingly cloudy, threatening a core player in the recovery of stolen art.
Mr. Radcliffe said that he hopes the Registry will break even this year, but that it has lost money for the last six and has stayed afloat only thanks to his cash infusions. Now the company is losing talent, too.
During the past year, two key employees resigned; additionally, the company’s general counsel, Christopher A. Marinello, who has been as much a public face of the company as Mr. Radcliffe, says he is leaving at the end of this month, with plans to start a rival business.
Among the incidents that have drawn criticism, the Register misled a client who wanted to check the provenance of a painting before he purchased it, telling him it was not stolen, when in fact it was, so that he would buy it and unwittingly help the company collect a fee for its retrieval.
It has been known to pay middlemen and informers for leads on stolen works, a practice that troubles some in law enforcement, who say that it can incite thefts. And the company often behaves like a bounty hunter, charging fees of as much as 20 percent of a work’s value for its return.
Tracking Stolen Art, for Profit, and Blurring a Few Lines (New York Times)