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Showing posts from December, 2016

Looking back over 2016

This has been a year when more of my focus has been on the economic impact of heritage including an analysis of the economic contribution of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Greece. Last year I anticipated further developments around Syria and Northern Iraq, as well as on-going pillaging of archaeological sites in England and Wales. I also suspected that Madrid and the Michael C. Carlos Museum would not be handing over their disputed objects in a hurry (and so they can continue to receive a mention here).

However, some of the themes that have emerged.

The All Party Parliamentary Group on Cultural Property has been meeting in Westminster. One of themes was damage to the archaeological record in the UK. Part of its business has been to prepare the legislation in order to ratify the Hague Convention. The Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Bill started its way through Parliament and some of the debate was instructive. Some of the honing of the wording is underway. Lord Ashton di…

Sueono's Stone

The panels surrounding Sueno's Stone in Moray, Scotland have been damaged earlier this week (BBC News). The 7m high stone dating from the 10th century is in the care of Historic Scotland (HES).

Dinosaur footprints on Skye damaged

1/2 Unfortunately we can confirm we are investigating reported damage to the dinosaur footprints at Staffin yesterday. Were you in the area? — Lochaber&SkyePolice (@LochabSkyePol) December 29, 2016
Police are reporting that dinosaur footprints on the beach at Staffin on Skye, Scotland, have been damaged. It appears that someone poured paster into the imprints. Reports suggest that the person involved was in a camper van.

Further details from the BBC.

Tiffany Jenkins on Cultural Property

I am working my way through Tiffany Jenkins, Keeping their marbles: how the treasures of the past ended up in museums ... and why they should stay there (Oxford: OUP, 2016).

I will refrain from making my comments until I have finished but it is worth pointing out some of the reviews:
Mark Fisher, The Spectator March 2016: "Her level-headed and balanced book -- which not only considers the role of museums in shaping our historical understanding, but notes the way museums are being transformed by an outstanding generation of contemporary architects -- is a valuable contribution to the international debate, and will enrich audiences and scholars for a long time to come."Kwame Opoku, Modern Ghana March 2016 [online]: "Jenkins, like many supporters of retention of artefacts of others, is very quick to argue that repatriating artefacts 'would be allowing modern-day sensibilities to rewrite history ' Seriously, does anybody believe that returning one Benin bronze to Ben…

Relief from temple of Hatshepsut returned to Egypt

AP circulated a press release last week noting that a relief stolen from the temple of Hatshepsut in 1975 had been returned to Egypt from London (e.g. "Egypt receives ancient stolen limestone relief", Daily Mail December 20, 2016). It appears that the relief had been purchased from a gallery in Spain by a London based dealer.

Which gallery in Spain?

I am particularly interested in the identity of the London dealer as due diligence in the London market is a major theme of the APPG on Cultural Property.

Charges against New York art dealer Nancy Wiener

ARCA has provided a text-base version of the charges against New York dealer Nancy Wiener [see here].
There are some points to note:
apparent falsification of the collecting history ("provenance") of an objectapparent consigning genuine objects with other works to provide cover when passing through customsweakness in the policy for accepting lots by a major New York auction housethe apparent changing of a stated collecting history by the same major New York auction house We are particularly interested in co-conspirator #6:
Co-Conspirator #6 and his father are suppliers of illicit cultural property from primarily Afghanistan and Pakistan. According to several recorded conversations, Co-Conspirator #6 has been shipping large quantities of newly dug-up, stolen antiquities from Afghanistan and Pakistan to Thailand, often via Hong Kong, and then to dealers from around the world for more than a decade. We note:
Co-Conspirator #6, who in the mid-1980s was a child living in Pakistan…

Happy Christmas 2016

I would like to wish all readers and followers of Looting Matters a very Happy Christmas.

Arrest of New York dealer

The New York Times is reporting continuing fall-out over the antiquities from Asia case (Tom Mashberg, "Prominent Antiquities Dealer Accused of Selling Stolen Artifacts", New York Times December 21, 2016). The case relates to Nancy Wiener.

The complaint states:
“Defendant used a laundering process that included restoration services to hide damage from illegal excavations, straw purchases at auction houses to create sham ownership histories, and the creation of false provenance to predate international laws of patrimony prohibiting the exportation of looted antiquities,” Such claims undermine the position of the market at a time when dealers are claiming to conduct due diligence. How common is the creation of "sham ownership histories"? What about placing objects in collections so that they pre-date the 1970 UNESCO Convention?

Jason Felch adds an important observation:
“Even after a decade of reforms, the art market continues to be pervaded with stolen and looted an…

Cultural Property APPG Meeting (December 2016)

The Cultural Property APPG met this afternoon (see also statement from "Walk of Truth"). There were two main themes: the first, the movement of the Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Bill through Parliament; the second, enforcement.

It made me reflect on what constituted cultural material with a "worldwide significance", perhaps prompted by some who wanted to ensure that they could continue to trade in low value pieces. (And readers might want to reflect on what pieces of cultural property have truly "worldwide significance".) Is there an over-reliance on the Red List (e.g. for Syria)? I have observed that some objects that appear to be derived from Syria and that are surfacing on the London market are in categories that do not feature in the list. Should we be concerned about them?

We await the formal minutes of the meeting.

Lord Ashton on the Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Bill

Lord Ashton used the Heritage Alliance "Heritage Day" on 1 December 2016 to draw attention to the Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Bill that is currently moving its way through Parliament. In his speech (available here from DCMS) he noted:
I have responsibility in the House of Lords for the passage of the Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Bill. It will protect cultural property at home and abroad; introduces the Blue Shield – an emblem which is the cultural equivalent of the Red Cross; and makes it a prosecutable offence to deal in unlawfully exported cultural property from an occupied territory.  More than six decades after signing it, we will become the first Permanent Member of the UN Security Council to ratify the 1954 Hague Convention and its two Protocols. Lord Ashton also answered some questions.

For some of the themes of the "Heritage Day" see here.

Vibia Sabina and the Kyknos krater

Dr Christos Tsiriogiannis has published a significant study of the routes by which the marble statue of Vibia Sabina and the Kyknos krater passed through the market.

Christos Tsirogiannis, "False Closure? Known Unknowns in Repatriated Antiquities Cases", International Journal of Cultural Property 23 (2016) 407-31. [Cambridge University Press online]

Based on research into the confiscated photographic and document archives in the hands of the top antiquities dealers (Robin Symes-Christos Michaelides, Robert Hecht, Giacomo Medici, and Gianfranco Becchina), so far more than 250 looted and smuggled masterpieces have been repatriated from the most reputable North American museums, private collections, and galleries, mainly to the Italian and the Greek states. Most of these repatriations were advertised in the press as voluntary action by the institutions and the individuals who possessed them. However, this is far from true; the repatriations were the results of lengthy n…

An Apulian Situla, the Becchina Archive, and a Munich Auction

The forthcoming auction at Gorny & Mosch is due to include an Apulian situla attributed to the Lycurgus painter (Lot 87). The collecting history is presented:
Aus der James Stirt Collection, Vevey in der Schweiz, erworben 1997 bei Heidi Vollmöller, Zürich. Dr Christos Tsirogiannis has pointed out that an image of the situla appears in the Becchina archive. He notes: "A handwritten note indicates that the images were sent from Raffaele Montichelli, a convicted antiquities trafficker, to Becchina on 18 March 1988". The image shows that the situla is covered in salt encrustations and is presumably relatively fresh out of the ground.

It is known that part of the James Stirt collection was derived from Ellie Borowski (e.g. an Athenian black-figured cup that passed through Christie's London in 2014 [see Beazley Archive]). In this case the source is Heidi Vollmöller of Zurich.

Dale Trendall [not Sir John Boardman as in the catalogue] described the Lycurgus painter as repres…

A Gnathian squat lekythos and the Becchina Archive

Dr Christos Tsirogiannis has spotted that a Gnathian squat lekythos that is due to be auctioned by Gorny & Mosch (lot 127). The collecting history is provided:
Ex Christie´s London, 15.04.2015, ex 113; aus der Privatsammlung von Hans Humbel, Schweiz, erworben bei der Galerie Arete, Zürich in den frühen 1990er Jahren. Tsirogiannis points out that the Becchina photograph is dated to 24 September 1988. The objects appear to have been supplied by Raffaele Montichelli.

The significance of the collecting history is that the object was offered for auction at Christie's (London) on 15 April 2015 (lot 113). This is one of four lots withdrawn from the Christie's sale after Tsirogiannis had raised concerns about their collecting histories. It is perhaps noteworthy that the online Christie's catalogue has removed information about the askos.

This raises a number of questions:

Was the askos sold at Christie's in spite of being withdrawn?Was the askos returned to its vendor?Is th…

An Etruscan bronze athlete from an old Swiss collection

Dr Christos Tsirogiannis has drawn attention to four items in the December sale of antiquities at Gorny & Mosch in Munich.

I am particularly interested in the fifth century BC Etruscan bronze figure of a youth. The collecting history is given as follows:
Ex Sammlung R.G., Deutschland. Bei Royal Athena Galleries, New York, Catalogue XXI, 2010, 43. Ex Sotheby´s Catalogue of Antiquities 13. Juli 1981, 341. If we tidy this up, it could be presented as:
R.G. Collection, Germany; Sotheby's (London) 13 July 1981, lot 341; Royal Athena Galleries, New York, Catalogue XXI, 2010, no. 43. However if you check the Royal-Athena Galleries catalogue for 2010, the following collecting history is provided:
Athos Moretti collection, Bellinzona, Switzerland; Royal-Athena Galleries, 1985; R.G. Collection, Calodyne, Mauritius, 1985-2008. From my notes on the piece I can provide a little more information:
Athos Moretti collection, Bellinzona, Switzerland; Sotheby's (London) 13-14 July 1981, lot …