Death threats force art website to close

A dangerous business

The website of Michel van Rijn, the self-styled inkslinger investigating and reporting on the global illicit art trade, has closed up shop.

Regular readers may remember our report about van Rijn's site back in 2004, when he was embroiled in a legal battle with James E Ferrell, founder of propane distributor FerrellGas, and Bruce Ferrini, an art dealer.

He resurfaced this summer in connection with the recovery of a long-lost Peruvian head-dress.

The artefact was described as the Peruvian Mona Lisa, and had gone missing in 1988 when a tomb was looted and the contents sold on the black market.

This time, however, van Rijn says he has been forced to close his site - not because of legal troubles, but because of a not-very-veiled threat to his children.

On his front page he writes:

"Today is the Day; the Day that your inkslinger has decided enough is enough. I'll keep it as brief as possible. For five years my website has been a beacon in the endless sea of the illicit trade in the artworld.

"It didn't bring me a billion dollars...neither did it bring me history, but neither, Baruch Hashem, did I pay the ultimate price. Today is also the Day that I received photos of one of my children at my doorstep."

Van Rijn, whose own life has been threatened in the past, says his children are his ultimate treasure, and he couldn't continue his website if it posed any danger to them. He is, however, determined to continue to work to repatriate looted artefacts. ®

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