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A new mobile app launched by Interpol, the global criminal police organization, aims to help identify and track stolen art and cultural property. The ID-Art app provides real-time access to the agency’s Stolen Works of Art database, an international archive of more than 52,000 objects verified to be missing along with images, descriptions, and certified police reports.
Users can browse objects reported stolen, such as Johannes Vermeer’s “The Concert” (1663–1666), swiped during the infamous Gardner Museum heist in 1990, and conduct reverse image searches with their own photos to determine whether a work they own has shady provenance. They can also upload and export objects for law enforcement in case of theft, and report cultural sites at risk after a natural disaster or conflict.
“In recent years we’ve witnessed the unprecedented ransack by terrorists of the cultural heritage of countries arising from armed conflict, organized looting and cultural cleansing,” said Interpol Secretary General Jürgen Stock in a statement.
Earlier this year, two officers from Italy’s Carabinieri identified an ancient Roman marble stolen a decade ago from an archaeological site while off-duty in Brussels. Their suspicions were confirmed using Interpol’s database, and the statue was returned to Italy by Belgian authorities.
After a quick test run, however, I can confirm the app has a major blind spot: it does not seem to list the thousands of artworks looted by Western colonial powers that currently reside in major museums. I guess the definition of “stolen” is subjective.
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