On September 23-24, 2015, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) held a Symposium on “Investigating and Prosecuting the Illicit Trafficking of Cultural Property.” This is the second such event held between the two organizations, the first of which was held in 2014 at the Royal Ontario Museum; this year’s symposium was hosted at the AGO.
A practice established over 2000 years ago, counterfeiting is the creation or selling of art falsely credited to another, usually famous, artist. Although counterfeit art is a very lucrative business, modern technology has made identification of forged work simpler.
The symposium highlighted the means of identifying, tracking, and seizing counterfeit or stolen artifacts. The Public Affairs Section and Homeland Security of the U.S. Mission to Canada invited many notable experts like Harriet Beaubien, former Head of Conservation at the Smithsonian Museum Conservation Institute to speak at the event. Consul General Juan Alsace opened the symposium by welcoming the participants and the speakers. He also highlighted the importance of preservation and prevention illicit trafficking of cultural property. Many of the presentations focused on cultural property, art theft, looting, trafficking, and forgeries. Attendance at the symposium consisted of Canadian law enforcement, museum administrators, academics, and private sector partners whose focus is on antiquities, the shipment of art and cultural heritage. The 2015 Symposium shows a continuing effort to develop cross-border partnerships to deter this type of deep-rooted, continuous transnational crime.