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Showing posts from June, 2010

Loans from Italy: Maxwell Anderson Makes His Position Clear

It is good to see that North American museums have been receiving a number of loans from Italy in the wake of the return of some 130 or so "recently-surfaced" antiquities. The most recently heralded example is from the Cleveland Museum of Art (Steven Litt, "Cleveland Museum of Art's new galleries include antiquities on loan from Italy", June 20, 2010). The details are outlined:
The fruits of this agreement -- four objects from archaeological museums in Reggio Calabria and Paestum -- will go on view in the newly reinstalled galleries of ancient, African and medieval art, which open Saturday.One of the objects is an enthroned female statuette, made in terra cotta -- a fired, red-orange clay. Another is the head of a Kore, an ancient Greek maiden, made in a refined, pinkish-yellow form of terra cotta.Also on view are a cast bronze mirror emblazoned with a winged siren, and a terra-cotta plaque depicting Persephone and Hades enthroned with clusters of …

So-called Research Institute Fails to Deliver?

In 2009 the Cultural Property Research Institute (CPRI) was launched with a proposed number of projects. In November 2009 the CPRI published its first preliminary report, "Project on Unprovenanced Ancient Objects in Private US Hands". There were serious flaws. The CPRI has yet to to publish the names of the authors of the report, the sources for information, the extent of the data, or the nature of the peer review process.

In January 2010 I discussed the potential use of a register of antiquities in private hands. The CPRI was due to deliver a report on "Developing different models for a registry that can be applied to privately-owned objects" by the end of 2009. It has yet to appear.

The CPRI also promised to announce the details of another project by the end of 2009, "Exploring the effect of source country policies on damage to archaeological sites and objects".
Source country policies toward development, private ownership, enforcement and export, among …

The Cleveland Apollo: The German Connection

It is reported that the Cleveland Apollo was found in the garden of premises inherited by Ernst-Ulrich Walter in eastern Germany. Who is this individual?

There is a helpful discussion of his collection by Katlen Trautmann ("Der Schatz von Göda", June 6, 2004). I presume it is the same individual. The Ohio press describes Walter as a retired lawyer and Trautmann states: "Ende 2003 gab er nach über 50 Jahren als Anwalt die Kanzlei in Wuppertal auf".

Trautmann describes entering Walter's farm:
Buddhas und Bodenvasen, Schnabelkannen und Schwerter, Korane und Gewänder aus den entlegensten Ländern des Ostens und Südens fügen sich zu märchenhaften orientalischen Zimmern - mitten in der Lausitz.But where did this material come from?
Die Stücke sind weder geerbt, noch vom Himmel gefallen. Zeit seines Lebens bereiste Walter die arabische Welt und Südostasien, er kennt sie nun wohl so gut wie seinerzeit Sindbad, der Seefahrer.Walter clarified: "Von jeder Tour bringt e…

The Cleveland Apollo: "I don't know who they're protecting by secrecy"

In 2009 the Cleveland Museum of Art returned 14 antiquities to Italy. Among them was a piece donated by Edoardo Almagià who has been linked to a recent report with the Princeton University Art Museum. At the time of the announcement about these returns it was reported that a special committee had been set up to look into the collecting history of the controversial acquisition of a bronze Apollo. (Another committee was also looking into the collecting history of a Winged Victoria.)

The statue, attributed to the sculptor Praxiteles, is said to have been purchased for around $5 million from Phoenix Ancient Art. Its collecting history is far from clear. One of the reasons for confidence on Cleveland's part lies in the fact that the Art Loss Register (ALR) "found no claims on the piece". But recently surfaced antiquities will not appear in the ALR (unless those removing the objects took photographs and those photographs passed to the ALR).

Cleveland is now being upbeat about …

Looting Matters on PR Newswire 4

Here is a list of the recent PR Newswire Press Releases (nos. 31-35):
Bonhams Withdraws Roman Statue from Auction (April 23)Toxic Antiquities and Photographic Evidence (April 30)Toxic Antiquities in the Market Place (May 21)Italian Prosecutor Calls for Return of Antiquities (June 4)Antiquities Sales Increase (June 18) For earlier releases: nos. 1-20, 21-25, 26-30.

May saw the completion of the first year of this partnership with PR Newswire. This relationship has generated some discussion from certain commentators.

Looting Matters: Antiquities Sales Increase

Looting Matters: Antiquities Sales Increase

A discussion of the sale of antiquities in New York, June 2010.

The New York Market and Antiquities

During June 2010 there have been two major sales of antiquities at Christie's and Sotheby's. Over $26 million worth of antiquities were sold. These half-year results show that 2010 is ahead of the total sales for 2005, 2006 and 2009. 2007 was an exceptional year with the sale of the Guennol Lioness at Sotheby's for a record-breaking $57 million.

Christie's accounted for just under $8.7 million. Their top-selling piece was a Roman bronze lamp-stand with a youth that went for $1.1 million. Christie's had been faced with calls for three objects to be withdrawn from the sale as the lots appeared to be similar to objects shown in photographs that appeared in the Medici Dossier seized in the Geneva Freeport. One of the three pieces, an Apulian rhyton, apparently failed to sell, while the marble youth with a cockerel sold for less than when it appeared at the same auction house in 2004. Overall, Christie's only sold 64% of their lots.

Sotheby's seem to have a stra…

Stonehenge Visitor Centre

One of the casualties of the UK spending review is the cancellation of the proposed £25 million visitor centre at Stonehenge (BBC News, June 17, 2010; "Coalition government axes £2bn of projects", BBC News June 17, 2010). The plan for the visitor centre had been approved in 2007 and then then Prime Minister had endorsed the project in October 2009. The final approval for the project had been given on January 10, 2010.

English Heritage has made a statement today:
English Heritage is obviously extremely disappointed that the £10 million promised by Gordon Brown, then Prime Minister, in the House of Commons on 13 May, 2009, will not now be forthcoming. Stonehenge is a project of global significance. It is Britain’s premier World Heritage Site. It was a key feature in Britain’s bid for the London Olympics. Transforming the monument’s setting and the visitor experience is vital to Britain’s reputation, and to our tourism industry, especially in 2012 but also thereafter. This does …

"Preserving this rich heritage"

I would like to extend my warmest congratulations to colleagues at Swansea University's Egypt Centre. In a speech to be delivered later today, Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) Heritage minister Alun Ffred Jones will be launching a new museum strategy for Wales ("Welsh Museums Look to the Future", WAG Press Release June 16, 2010 [Welsh language version]; "Museums in Wales urged to appeal to the young", BBC June 16, 2010). This will take place in the Swansea Museum, founded in 1841 and also home to Egyptian antiquities.

The minister is quoted:
"Wales is a unique and enriching place in which to live and work, with a distinctive character ... The museums of Wales play a critical part in both preserving this rich heritage and in sharing the excitement of their stories locally, nationally and internationally. Museums need to build on their tradition of working together to make effective use of resources.The strategy document draws attention to the award-winning v…

A krater from a United Kingdom private collection

Among the images recovered from the island of Schinoussa is a series relating to an Attic red-figured volute-krater showing a Dionysiac scene. The krater is said to have once resided in a private collection in the United Kingdom. It is also reported to have had a previous "home" in a Swiss "private collection".

Are these images suggesting that "private collection" means little more than the stock of certain dealers in antiquities? Is it time that the names of such private collections be revealed?

Detail from the Schinoussa Dossier (courtesy of Christos Tsirogiannis).

Journal of Art Crime: Spring 2010

The Journal of Art Crime 3, 1 (Spring 2010) is now available. The journal is edited by Noah Charney. For journal details see here.

Those interested in antiquities will be interested in the following items:

David W.J. Gill: Collecting Histories and the Market for Classical Antiquities, 3-10 [abstract]Helen E. Scott: Responding to Art Vandalism in British Museums and Galleries: A Survey of the Situation, 11-22Miranda Vitello: The Getty Kouros Mystery, 23-30.Olivia Sladen: Faking History: How Provenance Forgery is Conning the Art World 41-52.Simmy Swinder: The Looting of the Iraq Museums: An Examination of Efforts to Protect Universal Cultural Property, 53-74REGULAR COLUMNS

David Gill: Context Matters. “Italy and the US: Reviewing Cultural Property Agreements”,  81-85.Colonel Giovanni Pastore: Cultural Heritage. “The Defense of Underwater Archaeological Heritage” / “La Difesa Del Patrimonio Archeologico Subacqueo”,  87-92.Donn Zaretsky: Art Law and Policy, 95-97.

Collecting Histories and the Market for Classical Antiquities

The spring number of the Journal of Art Crime 3, 1 (2010) is now available [subscription details].

This includes my paper, "Collecting Histories and the Market for Classical Antiquities", pp. 3-10.

The use of the term “provenance” when applied to archaeological material has been related to previous ownership. The collecting histories of over 120 items returned to Italy from North American collections have demonstrated the need for the careful and rigorous documentation of individual pieces. Such a history would chart the “life” of the object from the moment that it is discovered to the point when it is sold at auction or acquired by a museum or private individual. The impact of the scandal surrounding the “Medici Conspiracy” led to the withdrawal of lots from a London sale in 2008, and a series of seizures from a New York auction house in 2009. The lack of collecting histories for individual objects suggests that the pieces were removed from their archaeological cont…

Egyptian antiquities at Sotheby's

I have been plotting the sale of Egyptian antiquities at Sotheby's (see December 2009). Egyptian antiquities in the June 2010 sale fetched $658,500. The median value was $16,250. This is comparable with 2004.

Analysis © David Gill, 2010.

Sotheby's results in a New York context

Sotheby's had a sale of antiquities in New York today. 102 lots were sold worth $17,479,938.

A Cycladic marble figure (lot 14) sold for $446,500. It had surfaced in 1977 via Mathias Komor in New York.

The Giuistiniani Athena head, estimated at $600,000 to $900,000, sold for $4,114,500. A Roman marble group of three satyrs fighting a serpent, estimated at $300,000 to $500,000, sold for $3,442,500. A Roman torso of a Julio-Claudian emperor, estimated at $800,000 to $1,200,000, sold for $7,362,500.

The Sotheby's results dwarfed those at Christie's yesterday (at $8,694,375) and with fewer lots (and no adverse publicity as far as I am aware).

The half-year results for both auction houses have now outstripped the whole of 2009  (and are very close to the whole of 2008).

© David Gill, 2010.

Youth with Cockerel: Lost Value?

An anonymous Massachusetts private collector will have been reminded that the value of antiquities can go down as well as up. Yesterday the youth with cockerel sold at auction for $20,000 (lot 139). Yet when it was purchased at Christie's in December 2004 the same piece fetched $22,705 (lot 576).

There has been the unresolved matter of the image from the Medici Dossier. Is the statue of the youth holding a cockerel the same as the piece shown in the Polaroid? Who consigned the piece to the anonymous Sotheby's sale in 1992? Why did Christie's overlook this part of the collecting history (or "provenance")?

And who now owns the statue? It is unlikely to be acquired by a North American museum. Was it purchased as stock for another dealer? Has it passed to another anonymous private collector? Is it now in the portfolio of an investment company that deals with antiquities?

From the Medici Dossier (courtesy of Christos Tsirogiannis).

Christie's: Statement

Christie's have now issued a press statement following today's sale of antiquities. 64% of the lots were sold.

The top selling piece, a Roman bronze lamp stand with a youth (lot 131), went for $1,142,500. It appears to have surfaced in an anonymous Swiss private collection "prior to 1980".

G. Max Bernheimer, International Department Head of Antiquities ...: “These results reflect continuing strength and depth throughout the Antiquities market. The top end of the market continues to perform exceedingly well.”

Christie's: results

The three lots highlighted earlier today came under the hammer:

Lot 104: Apulian rhyton. Apparently unsold. [Estimate: $25,000-$30,000]Lot 112: Canosan terracotta. Sold: $7500. [Estimate: $6000-$8000]Lot 139: Youth with cockerel. Sold: $20,000 [Estimate: $20,000-$30,000]
The sale generated $8,694,375.

Objects from the Medici Dossier (courtesy of Christos Tsirogiannis).

The Medici Dossier: Unresolved Issues

Later today at 10 am Christie's will be holding a sale of antiquities in the Rockefeller Plaza, New York. Readers will be aware that concerns have been raised about three lots (104, 112, 139) that appear to be close to objects that feature in the Medici Dossier seized in the Geneva Freeport. Are they the same? What due diligence searches have been undertaken by the staff at Christie's to ensure that they are not selling ex-Medici material? What reassurances can be given to potential buyers? Why did Christie's fail to mention the Sotheby's London collecting history for one of the pieces when the catalogue first appeared?

Christie's has made it clear that the sale of the objects would "proceed" in spite of a call for the three lots to be "repatriated" by an Italian prosecutor closely linked to the return of some 130 objects from North American collections. It was added, "Christie's has undertaken its own research into this matter and has …

Apulian pottery and loss of knowledge

Ricardo Elia of Boston University has conducted significant research on Apulian pottery. His study has suggested that as little as 5.5% of the Apulian corpus has been derived from scientific excavations. And if we put this another way 94.5% of Apulian pots do not have a scientifically recorded context. In other words, we do not know what else was found in the tomb: for example, other pots, terracotta figures, bronze armour, jewellery, single or multiple burials, or the gender of the bodies buried with the pots. And this has implications for understanding the stylistic development of the pottery. Were pots attributed to the same hand placed in the same grave? Were pots from the same broad workshops placed together? Are workshops linked to specific cemeteries? Deliberate destruction of the funerary record of ancient Apulia has caused extensive and permanent loss of knowledge.

Apulian pots featured prominently in the "Nostoi" exhibitions in Rome. Some 50 Apulian pots were repor…

Cleveland and Edoardo Almagià

Last week the New York Timesreported on antiquities linked to Edoardo Almagià. I noted that two Etruscan silver bracelets had been acquired by the Cleveland Museum of Art in 1996 [archived here]; they were gifts of "Edoardo Almagia and Courtney Keep in honor of Arielle P. Kozloff". (For Kozloff see here.)

Steven Litt has written a short piece for the Plain Dealer (Cleveland, OH) ("N.Y. dealer being probed may have sold to art museum ", June 4, 2010). He notes that the Cleveland Museum of Art "declined to comment" on the story, even though the pieces had been part of the batch of antiquities returned to Italy. Litt was asking a reasonable question: what else was obtained by Almagià?

"We have not been contacted by the Italians, nor have we seen documents referenced in the article," Christa Skiles, assistant director of communications at the museum, said Thursday in an e-mail."Right now, there are too many questions for us, and likely all of the…

Christie's, the Medici Dossier and William G. Pearlstein

Kimberly Alderman ("Is Italy “Asking For It” By Refusing to Release the Medici Photographs? Three items at Christie’s raise questions", The Cultural Property and Archaeology Law Blog June 6, 2010) wanted to have a different view on the story carried in the Wall Street Journal last week [see here with quotes from original article]. She contacted New York attorney William G. Pearlstein who "represents collectors, dealers and auction houses in transactions, disputes and regulatory matters involving fine art and antiquities, including purchases and sales of fine art and antiquities, regulatory issues relating to the antiquities market; attribution, authenticity and provenance". He is also the Director of the Cultural Property Research Institute (CPRI) and spoke at the review of the MOU with Italy. Pearlstein appears to have views on "quasi-socialists" and, if a Washington lobbyist is to be believed, an acquired taste in music.

Pearlstein has called for the pu…

Youth with Cockerel: Collecting History

There is (at least) one unexplained detail relating to the sale of a marble youth with cockerel that is due to be sold at Christie's on June 10, 2010 [lot 139]. Why did the original catalogue entry for lot 139 fail to mention the earliest recorded part of its collecting history (or "provenance")? This was:
Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, London, 9-10 July 1992, lot 527.Although the information has been added as an additional note, this part of the collecting history was known when the youth passed through Christie's Rockefeller Plaza in December 2004 [see details here].

So was this collecting history left off the entry for lot 139 because the staff at the auction house are not very good at compiling collecting histories?

Or was it because Christie's did not want to draw attention to a collecting history that showed that the statue had passed through Sotheby's London at a period when that auction-house seems to have been receiving consignments from the agents of…

Neil MacGregor at the Hay Festival

Neil MacGregor spoke fluently and engagingly at the Hay Festival today about BBC Radio 4's series, 'A History of the World'. His starting point was an illustration of some pot sherds from Kilwa in Tanzania. These pointed us to China and the Persian Gulf. His emphasis was on how objects can help to write history.

A major theme of his talk was the enlightenment ideal. His second illustration was an Asante drum acquired in West Virginia. However recent study has shown that it was created in West Africa. How did it get to North America? MacGregor emphasised that the drum has a 'trajectory of meanings'. He argued that its appropriate home was in the cosmopolitan community of London.

This moved us into a North American buckskin map showing dating to 1774-75. This still had two neat holes where the animal had been shot through the right shoulder. The inks used were derived from European sources.  MacGregor explored the issue of mapping and control.

He then turned to Captai…

Looting Matters: Italian Prosecutor Calls for Return of Antiquities

Looting Matters: Italian Prosecutor Calls for Return of Antiquities

Discussion of the issues surrounding the apparent links between three antiquities due to be auctioned in New York and objects that appear in the Medici Dossier.

Christie's: Overview

Italian Prosecutor: "We want to repatriate those objects"

Paolo Ferri, the Italian prosecutor, has been linked to many of the returned antiquities. He is now quoted over the possible identification of three lots in a forthcoming New York auction to images from the Medici Dossier (Dalya Alberge, "Critics Say Christie's Should Pull 3 Items From Auction", Wall Street Journal June 3, 2010).
Paolo Ferri, a Rome prosecutor who specializes in art theft cases, is seeking to recover the objects. He described the Christie's sale as "very unethical," adding: "We want to repatriate those objects." He said he had been aware of the sale since the catalogue was published some weeks ago and was pursuing his efforts to repatriate the objects through diplomatic and international police channels.Ferri added, "Christie's knows they are selling objects that appeared in the Medici archive".

Alberge, who also covered the April sale of antiquities at Bonhams in London, interviewed a range of European and North Amer…

Princeton development: Cleveland link

The New York Timesreport, citing the investigation into the link between a Princeton University Art Museum curator and antiquities dealer Edoardo Almagià, suggested other North American museums were involved. Two Etruscan bracelets were returned to Italy from the Cleveland Museum of Art: "Gift of Edoardo Almagia and Courtney Keep in honor of Arielle P. Kozloff" (inv. 1996.16-17).

Did the Cleveland Museum of Art acquire any other items from or through Almagià?

Princeton development

In October 2007 Princeton University Art Museum announced that it would be returning some of its antiquities to Italy (list). Hugh Eakin (and Elisabetta Povoledo) have reported on a new development ("Italy Focuses on a Princeton Curator in an Antiquities Investigation", New York Times June 2, 2010). Eakin writes:
an Italian investigation of a second American museum curator, in a case involving similar allegations of criminal conspiracy, seems likely to upend assumptions about any rapprochement. According to a 14-page legal notice from the public prosecutor’s office in Rome, J. Michael Padgett, 56, antiquities curator at the Princeton University Museum of Art, is a focus of a criminal investigation of “the illegal export and laundering” of Italian archaeological objects.The legal notice is said to cite "a former New York antiquities dealer, Edoardo Almagià, 59, and two other co-defendants". Eakin gives details of the pieces:
The document identifies nearly two dozen wo…