Changing the Rules

Episode 66: Sleuthing Out the True Piece of Art, Jane Jacob, guest

Episode Summary

Jane takes us on a journey of how she now protects art and art history for future generations to enjoy. While teaching at New York University she launched a crime conference in London and then New York to shed light on the criminality happening within the art world. That was the beginning of Jane's quest to do something personally. She tells us how even museums have been duped by forgeries of masterpieces. She now continues to work to shed light on the criminality within the art world by filmmaking. Take a listen to how Jane has been "Changing the Rules," she was a child.

Episode Notes

Guest Co-Host:  Rebecca Hoffman

Rebecca's Website:

Podcast Guest:  Jane Jacob

Jane's Website:



Kris Parsons  0:03  

Welcome to changing the rules, a weekly podcast about people who are living their best life and how you can figure out how to do it too. Join us with your lively host Ray Loewe, better known as the luckiest guy in the world.

Ray Loewe  0:17  

Good morning, everybody. This is Ray Loewe and I am the luckiest guy in the world. And one of the reasons I'm the luckiest guy in the world is I'm sitting here in scenic downtown Woodbury, New Jersey, at the Wildfire, podcast studios, and with an engineer, Taylor, who absolutely takes all the care and worry about running a podcast off of me and makes this run. So we're here with our program, changing the rules. And let me take a minute and just refresh everybody's memory on rules, and why they need to be changed. You know, all during our lives, people throw rules at us. And they're still doing it today. I mean, we just had a whole series of COVID rules that were thrown at us. And when we get rules, they get to a point where they start to clutter our lives and start to get in the way. Rules either tend to be something that tells us what we have to do, or they tell us what we can't do. And at some point in our lives, we have to look at those rules and decide which of those rules are pertinent to us. And we have to figure out what our body of rules are going to be. And if you're living your life by somebody else's rules, you're living somebody else's lives. And only when you change the rules and make them your rules, do you become free to be you. And that's what this show is all about. And today, I actually have two guests, I have a guest host that I'm going to introduce in a second. And then we have a guest. So again, I'm lucky I get the best of all worlds. And they're both absolutely fascinating young ladies. And let's start with Rebecca Hoffman. And Rebecca has been our guest host for this month of April. And welcome to changing the rules, Rebecca.

Rebecca Hoffman  2:11  

Thanks, Ray, good to be here again with you this week.

Ray Loewe  2:14  

And I'm not gonna let you off the hook. We're gonna talk a little bit more about this good egg stuff. Okay. So I am, I met Rebecca, a good number of years ago, and, she was working on a marketing problem for me, and she introduced herself as the good egg. And I've always found this fascinating. Okay, and Rebecca, refresh our memory on why you're the good egg.

Rebecca Hoffman  2:39  

Well, it reaches back a long time ago, when I had to make my first email address and didn't know what an email handle should be. And my friend said, Be the good egg. And so I became the good egg many, many years before I ever was doing the sort of work I do now. And the name stuck as nicknames do.  

Ray Loewe  2:55  

And it's here, and the good egg is not broken. And in fact, the good egg is doing wonderful things. It's bringing life to new ideas. I think. So one of the things that Rebecca did for me a long ago and Oh, so far away, is she helped me craft a series of stories, which had been part of my marketing campaign. And, I'm not going to tell you the stories, you've probably heard them already. But we have the story about the airplane, and the hyenas, and the penguins, and the map, and the geezer jock, of all things. And one of the things I learned from Rebecca is the power of a good story. And what she is a master at is creating stories, and teaching people how to create stories that will become part of their brand and memorable to them. So that they get that kind of right, Rebecca?

Rebecca Hoffman  3:46  

Thank you. I as I like to say like, I need to spend more time with you, Ray? Because you make me feel

Ray Loewe  3:50  

well, and I'm not finished. I'm going to take this line out of your website, which absolutely fascinates me. So good egg concepts is an economical, thoughtful, clever, endlessly curious consulting firm focused on your goals for brand. And Rebecca, welcome to changing the rules.

Rebecca Hoffman  4:12  

Thank you, Ray.  It's good to be here with you.  

Ray Loewe  4:15  

And we have a guest today and this is a guest, we wouldn't have if you weren't being our guest host. And she is an absolutely fascinating, fascinating lady. And why don't you give us a little bit of background on Nicole, other than I want to start with one line and then we're gonna come back to this? This whole podcast is about from CIA to art sleuth?

Rebecca Hoffman  4:41  

Yes, that's a good hint. Well, I'd like to introduce Jane Jacobs, who I've known now for more than 20 years. We were introduced through some work we were able to do together and she hired me when I was quite young, and we work together at the Terra Museum of American Art in Chicago. And that's where I got to know Jane. But really, over the years, I've stayed in touch with Jane. We're friends, we've had the chance to collaborate a few times. But Jane is spectacular and that her entire career has focused on art, but not just art, really on the qualities of art that need to be protected and how to do that. And she's done this in a few different ways through an art consulting practice. And most recently now through the launch of  Art Verite is her new, newest company launch a multimedia company that's providing documentary film to protect artists, and inform collectors and everyone who needs to know, in the art world. what's what. So I think, without further ado, we should introduce Jane and invite Jane into our conversation. And I think what would be really fun because Ray, you alluded to this, Jane had an interesting childhood. And if you could briefly tell us how your childhood possibly has informed your career. There's always tendrils reaching back, and we'd love to hear so thank you, Jane, for being with us.

Jane Jacob  6:06  

Oh, thank you so much, Rebecca, and Ray for this invitation to have a conversation with you all. To answer your question, Rebecca, I would very succinctly say that the Cold War crash with art for me. I'm the daughter of a CIA operative, and my life was spent moving around the world and included a stint where I began school in Okinawa, off the coast of Japan. And my father was always out of the country. And we were out he was out of the country that we were in, you know, so we kind of grew up with a mother who loved Jackie Onassis's statement, you may not like to do it, but we're going to get the job done. And so that's actually how I don't know if that was allowing me to break the rules early on in my life. But I learned, you know, to be a survivor.  We moved around the world, always, we usually moved in the middle of a semester. So we had to go in and create our time, you know, and persona into a community that already existed into a curriculum that we were behind on, and I learned to be a survivor. In the second grade in Okinawa, however, we had a Japanese art teacher. And at that time, many little girls aspired to be nurses, or teachers, or homemakers, none of which I was interested in. And that changed my life. It gave me a way to look at life through the lens of an artist. And so from that time on, I decided that that was what my path was going to be. So that's really what informed my early childhood,

Rebecca Hoffman  7:57  

And you have been changing the rules all the way through your career. Could you talk a little bit about some of the work you've done as we get ready to talk about your work through Art Verite? Yes, work that you did previously.

Jane Jacobs  8:09  

Yes,  I began my career in the art museum field. And where you and I met, I ended as the deputy director of the Terra Museum of American Art here in Chicago. And through that, I, when I did my master's degree, I did a case for registering works of art under the umbrella of the United Nations, by treaty by country. In the 1990s, the governmental information about World War II became a public document as it does after 50 years. And all of a sudden, there was this huge influx of stolen art in the subject of stolen art. And it interested me very, very much. And I conferred and partnered with an art attorney, which was my first relationship with an art attorney who served on the board of the Chicago, the Art Institute of Chicago. And it just got me to thinking about this problem of art and protecting it, and, you know, then the restitution, you know, that needed to take place. And so I began my career, you know, doing provenance research. And when I left the museum field and began my also parallel business to our Art Verite, Jacob Fine Art. We were consultants for people with art collections, institutions, these institutional collections, private collections, corporate collections, international collections. And people came to me and said, I have this but I'm not sure you know about where it came from.

Rebecca Hoffman  9:48  

So that's fascinating. And I think, as part of the run-up to this whole area of work and around fakes and forgeries, and art theft, you founded a symposium in New York. Could you tell us about what that was like?

Jane Jacob  10:02  

I did. I taught at New York University for over pretty much 12 years. And because this problem of criminal activity in the arts didn't seem to be going away, I mean, there's the famous quote of the FBI, perhaps 60% of the art in the marketplace is a fake or a forgery, pretty arresting. So I convinced my Dean that I would love to launch our crime conference, we launched it in London, and then brought it into New York City and had it for four years. And that was really the beginning of my quest to do something personally, about the problem with criminality in the artwork and protecting art for art history. And so

Rebecca Hoffman  10:50  

That's spectacular. And how now with Art Verite, are you protecting art? What are some of the ways your filmmaking is doing that?

Ray Loewe  11:01  

You know, could Can I interrupt for a minute? Rebecca, I'm going interrupt whether you like it or not. Okay. But can we go back a little bit and talk about some of the problems that museums have with knowing whether art is real? And, what the cost is of finding out? Maybe something is not real? And because I think it sets the stage for where we're going with the solution, that Jane brings to the table? Sure. Sure.

Jane Jacob  11:33  

Well, museums are not in you know, they're not without risk. When they collect art, because they collect an enormous amount of art, it comes from all different places. And so there have been many instances where museums have really gotten caught, you know, unknowingly, perhaps, too, with works of art that were stolen, or, and even artworks that were forgeries. And so in that, their whole reason for existing is to protect our collections. So having a piece of stolen art is a problem. Having a work that is purported to be by a particular art, artists corrupts art history, that's a problem. And so every institution is faced with these problems, as are private collectors. And so with museums, their hunger and thirst to build collections for the general public, and sometimes going in a specific path. For example, if you have the Art Institute of Chicago, for example, has many Monet's, more Monet's than any other museum outside of Paris. And so if you're going in a particular direction, and your appetite is of a voracious one, to collect the best collections for the general public, you are eventually you're going to get caught. The criminality component in this world is they're very good. They're very good. And they actually are able to, to pull the wool over, you know, experts eyes. And it's very complicated Ray, what you're talking about, in order to find out about a piece of art, it is very costly, in that it takes a lot of hours. I think a lot of people just think it may be the Antiques Roadshow, it is or it isn't. And that is not at all reality it's research and arduous years sometimes to find out whether there's a clear title, or whether it is an authentic piece of artwork. And then there's even within the system of experts. There are differences of opinions. And so it's very costly. It's costly to art history, the knowledge that we have that goes from generation to generation to learn about an artist, it's costly for those that invest in it and lose the money. I think we've addressed the fact that the court system has basically said you should be doing your due diligence and put the onus on the buyer, where reality is, is that the onus should be on those that are expert in the field of arts, and they're the ones that are contributing. Savvy museums ask better questions now. It continues to grow, it's not going away. It's not being solved by legislation. It's not being solved by just a catalog resume, which is a compendium of an artist's works. Every artist doesn't have a catalog resume. And so that's a costly endeavor to document every single piece of known artwork around the world for a particular artist. So you can see that the cost of these things can be enormous and the currency is not always money, the currency really the bottom line. And this is how Art Veritae has gotten involved with this. It's about your reputation. That's what we are positioned to do. We are putting together films which address the resolve to these problems in many ways. It's not always a case that's happened. It's a case that could happen. And with that, we are positioning institutions, collectors, attorneys, even artists for certain in a way that it saves them time, because we bring together all the experts, it saves them money because they could not go all over the world and find these experts, they may not invest in something that red flags have gone up about. And it saves them first and foremost reputation.

Ray Loewe  15:59  

Yeah, that's got to be the worst part of it is taking the blame when you find out you spent several million dollars on something that isn't real.

Jane Jacob  16:09  

Yeah, it's horrific, you know, it is. But to make everybody feel better, you know, it happens to the best of us. You know, it happens to major institutions all over the world, it happens to the Auction House when they can sign a work of art to sell. It happens to galleries, whenever they go out and buy a work of art. It certainly happens through estates, when you inherit works that you thought, your grandfather had this, you know, multimillion-dollar piece of art. And it turns out to be nothing more than a copy. So yeah, it happens to everybody. It definitely does.

Ray Loewe  16:46  

Yeah, no, I think this sets a stage for where you're going to go here. And I'll let you go off in that tangent in a minute. But, the other thing that I realized in looking at some of the material that you sent me is that it's not all about these famous, famous artists, the Van Gogh's and the Rembrandt's and all of these things. That's a whole series of problems. But what about the younger, less known artists? the up and coming ones? And, don't we have a whole series of issues and problems there, too?

Jane Jacob  17:16  

That's a very good question. And the answer is succinctly, yes. Emerging artists or artists, you know, who were in the beginnings of their career, even sometimes in the mid-career, where they may not be represented by a major institution or any institution at all, have just as many problems. They're commissioned to do works. Their works are consigned with galleries. They are involved in things where people want them to do which something that may be outside their bailiwick because they have an idea. But basically, looking at the way that galleries today, for example, do handshake deals, that is very, very much a general operative with many galleries. That's the way they've always done business. It's the status quo that happens to affect ours in many, many ways. If the gallery is not unscrupulous I mean, they may be just as honest as they can be, and really have the best interests at heart. They can also enter into things like bankruptcy. And if the artist doesn't know, for example, to file a UCC form, which is a $50 form, to protect their work in the case of bankruptcy, their artwork consigned to that gallery can become part of the liability of that settlement. Obviously, through COVID, and you've mentioned that Ray, there have been many, many times where galleries have shuttered. The art is in a storage facility that the artists can't have access to it. Also, there have been we are in the middle of doing a film where an artist's work was lent to an HBO pilot. And the dealer that organized that did not pay the artist it was if the pilot went into seasons, he would be paid for the pilot as well as the seasons. So it wasn't so we had to file a lawsuit. Artists who good-naturedly give their designs to commercial entities that they're just feeling like I just want to show you what I can do have had their designs stolen and used and put into production. So yes, emerging artists can have a lot of problems.

Rebecca Hoffman  19:43  

So what are some of the ways that your films are going to help? And what parts of the world will they touch? Because watching your first film that I've had a chance to see. It's extremely watchable, even just as a person in the world you can learn a lot and it's just extremely interesting, but then there's obviously a higher level of watching that people who care will be doing. So how will your films contribute to what's known?  

Jane Jacob  20:08  

Well, what we do is we bring together the most recognized experts in the world. What we do is what we call a symbiotic relationship, storytelling method. And that's a long, lots of commas in that, but basically, we bring together artists, or art stories about an artist, so all of our artists are not alive, that have had something happen, there's been a problem. And it had to be addressed either on the front end through an attorney to protect them or on the back end, through litigation, also an attorney to protect them. And so we feel like by bringing together these stories, and using the experts that may be forensic scientists, which talk about materials, they may be a gallery, you know, directors or personnel, they may be curators, the museum, that we bring all the information together on a platform that is usually viewed within an hour or less to provide for the watchers. And we'll get to the audience in a second, Rebecca, but to provide the watchers and the viewers, a thought a thinking process of like, hey, this could happen to me. What was done in this case, what could I do differently? One of the films that we've done about an artist I believe you've watched it, Dan Peterman, who's an international artists Chicago based, had an instance where his work of art was shipped from castle Germany back into Chicago, and it was horribly damaged. Well, he didn't take pictures beforehand, he definitely didn't consider that that was going to happen. And so while he did receive insurance, it was a year and a half settlement. His work of art wasn't restored for that amount of time. And it was one of his iconic works. And the insurance people in that, in that film actually go through and tell artists, what to think about, what should you think about what kinds of forms should you have? Should you use transit insurance, which doesn't cover, you know, a pittance of what the value of work is, and it's more expensive. So very pragmatic information is given in each one of our films, because the artists that are involved, or the storytellers be they attorneys or the FBI agents. They're very willing to be transparent about what went on, in particular instances where art crime or not even crime, but accidents or unforeseen circumstances happen. So there's great insight as far as here's what can happen, here's how you should think about it. Here's what you can do to protect yourself. That's what our films do. Our audience includes art attorneys, you know, the art consultants such as wealth strategists, family practices, insurance companies, which are financial as well, museums, galleries, auction houses, and of course, artists. So I'd love to get to that conversation about why the artist is so integral, and I know we will. But basically, these films are not just for artists, these films are for the nucleus that surrounds the art community. And so that's really, you know, our intent is to bring everybody into this community address all the problems, and to ultimately establish relationship in positive ways between the community. If I love you, I'll protect you. If you love me, I'll protect you. And so, basically, you know, that's the idea of Art Veritae.

Ray Loewe  24:14  

Cool, you know, unfortunately, Jane, we're getting near the end of our time, time flies when you're having fun. And, you know, I, you presented an interesting history here, you know, if I'm going to take you back to the CIA because I just think that's neat. But, I think the whole crux of your career was building towards this value that you're bringing to the table now. And I think you're being commended as an artist, an art scholar, a patron of the arts, and you know, you're it all comes down so that we can go to a museum, we can view the spectacular things when we know they're real, and we know something about them. So thank you.

Jane Jacob  24:54  

My pleasure. My pleasure.  

Ray Loewe  24:56  

Do you have any final comments you'd like to make before we wind up?

Jane Jacob  25:00  

You know, I'd love to just take a second and talk about why art is so integral to life and how people might consider thinking about it in a bit of a paradigm shift. One is, I think, we've had a conversation, initially about artists really speak through their medium, just like musicians, just like authors. They use a medium to express what's going on inside them. In fact, I define art history as history through the lens of the art. Artists are often social realists. Many, many people we know go into museums and go, my three-year-old could have done that. Why is this in a museum, and I really believe that one, you should have the permission not to like something, nobody, you should never feel embarrassed about going into a museum and not resonating with a work of art. We don't resonate with all the people that we encounter. I mean, some people we want to be best friends, I love Rebecca. And there are plenty of people that I meet in her field that, you know, I really just don't want to be their friend, you know, nothing negative is just we just don't resonate. And that is the way art is, it is an expression. So I just want to give this final story about my friend who is German who took me through an exhibition in New York City of German expressionist art. And I, my first encounter and I have a long time history in the art world was I just, I would never want to live with this on my wall. I don't, not that why was it in the museum collection, but I don't really want to look at this stuff. It's too painful, you know. And she took me through with the history of the Weimar in Germany during a time of depression and economic downturn. And this particular piece I was looking at was a drawing of a man in a top hat standing outside of a beautiful bourgeois restaurant, everybody drinking their martinis and dressed to the guild. And he was urinating on a man on the sidewalk. And I was like, Oh, my gosh, you know, what is this about? And she went on to explain to me what was going on in the Weimar. And of course, it opened up a whole new world to me, and I've done research, and I still don't want it on my wall over my breakfast table every morning. But I really believe that if people take the time to get to know the artist behind the artwork, that the ability to enjoy the conversation, is so much greater. And that is my hope for the world Ray.

Ray Loewe  27:40  

Well, I don't think there's a better way, to sum up. So you know, thank you so much for being with us and for opening my eyes to this world of art that I didn't understand before. And, thanks for being one of the luckiest people in the world. And thanks for sharing your journey and where it started and where it wound up with the rest of us. So hopefully, we'll get you to come to one of our cocktail conversations sometime and we can ask more specific questions to you.

Jane Jacob  28:08  

Love to I just want to say thank you so much for this conversation. It's been delightful,

Rebecca Hoffman  28:14  

Thank you, Jane.

Jane Jacob  28:15  

Thank you, Rebecca.

Ray Loewe  28:16  

And thank you and we'll see you guys next week with another exciting podcast.

Kris Parsons  28:23  

Thank you for listening to changing the rules, a weekly podcast about people who are living their best life and how you can figure out how to do that too. Join us with your lively host Ray Loewe, better known as the luckiest guy in the world.