Recovered Treasures /Curatorship of a museum exhibition in UNESCO

Paintings by Guercino and Caracci

Paintings by Guercino and Caracci

Curatorhsip and production of the exhibition “Recovered Treasures. International cooperation in the fight against the illicit trafficking of cultural property: successes of the Italian Carabinieri”


From June, 19th until July 6th 2012


UNESCO House (Miró Hall), Paris, France.


Each country’s cultural heritage is a subject of collective identity, study and enjoyment, but it also represents part of the legacy that we, as a society, will bequeath to future generations. Its preservation allows nations to secure the future of valuable expressions from previous eras for an enriched and deeper understanding of our current world.

This exhibition speaks about the unjust episodes during which the items shown here were wrenched away from their legitimate owners and illegally exported for financial gain. Such violations in their natural history could have affected not only the relationship between these fragile treasures and the public, but also their state of conservation and future existence.

Contrary to popular belief, fabulous and sophisticated thefts in the style of Thomas Crown or Danny Ocean are rare. Looting is, in most cases, perpetrated by unscrupulous people who plunder churches, mutilate monuments and archaeological sites, rob museums or conduct illegal excavations. Fortunately, the current exhibition calls attention to thefts of this nature and, more importantly, the circumstances of their successful recovery. The efforts of the Carabinieri Department for the Protection of Cultural Heritage in locating and retrieving these goods are indispensable. In many cases, this is made possible thanks to the inestimable cooperation of other countries, in keeping with the spirit of the 1970 UNESCO Convention, a legal instrument that promotes international cooperation among its 122 signatory states.

It is in grateful recognition of these efforts, that we have brought together these exceptionally diverse pieces of great quality and historical significance, including the incunabulum of a letter written by Christopher Columbus describing the discovery of America, paintings by masters like Guercino or Caracci, a unique carved ivory Byzantine cross, pottery from the fourth century BCE and figurines from early Ecuadorean cultures.

When cultural heritage items are illicitly moved from public collections to unscrupulous hands, we too become victims. With this exhibition, a celebration of and testament to the living memory of our history and culture, let us embrace the return of these items to their legitimate owners and hope that such exemplary altruistic behaviour may inspire future efforts for the preservation of the cultural heritage.

© Text: Iñigo Martínez Möller


This exhibition was organized by:


1970 Convention for the fight against the illicit trafficking of cultural property


With the support of:

Swiss Confederation, Federal Office of Culture

Permanent Delegation of Italy to UNESCO

Italian Carabinieri

Italian Ministry for Heritage and Cultural Activities


Axa Art



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