An excerpt from the May/June 2007 Issue of PI Magazine
James Alan of James Alan Investigations Agency, Inc. of Florida, is a former Miami police officer who has specialized in fine art recovery for five years now.
“Art investigations are not like your typical he-said-she-said investigations,” said Alan
One of Alan’s most recent successful cases was a multi-million dollar stolen rare art case out of the St. Louis Missouri area. The rare stolen art pieces were by artists such as Pablo Picasso, abstract expressionist painters William de Kooning, Mark Rothko, Milton Avery, Ukranian Cubist sculptor Alexander Archipenko, and many others.
“I have always had a passion for fine art. And the multi-million dollar art case that I did in St. Louis, the owners were friends of mine,” said Alan.
Within four days of taking the case and landing in St. Louis, Alan and his team of investigators had located several of the pieces and photographed them inside a private residence in a suburban home in Missouri. They tracked down several key individuals who had stolen the artwork and who had sold it to various art galleries and citizens in the state. They brought the information to the local Missouri law enforcement and the local FBI. As a result, the artwork was returned to their clients and the thieves pleaded guilty to federal charges.
James Alan said payment for resolving art crime cases includes a percentage of the total findings of the artwork.
“I take great pride in what I do and a lot of the times it is not about how much money you can make off each investigation, it is about making a dent in art crimes,” said Alan.
Whichever path a PI takes toward specializing in fine art recovery, Alan said that there is much information a PI will need to learn about artwork before starting an art crimes investigation. He said PIs should take art classes to become familiar with art.
“You need to be able to know a real painting from a fake. You also need to be able to read a title to a piece of art, known as provenance,” said Alan. “Sometimes an investigator can contact their local FBI and sit in on some of their classes that they have with their art crime team.”
Alan also advised visiting a well known local art gallery to sit in on a class or to speak to people about artwork. He said he has “clocked many, many hours of class room time to be able to work and specialize in art crimes.”
For Alan, specializing in fine art recovery has allowed him to combine to passions: his appreciation for fine art and his love of investigative work.
“It is very rewarding to be able to help people, when such a true love of theirs –artwork- has been stolen. To hear my clients thank me for finding something that is so precious to their family is the best thing in the world,” he said. “I do love helping put trash in prison, as well, when they steal from good people.”