Saturday, 1 October 2016

Cultural rights and the protection of cultural heritage

The UN Human Rights Council "noting with deep concern the organized looting, smuggling, theft and illicit trafficking in cultural property that could undermine the full enjoyment of cultural rights, and are contrary to international law and which may, in some instances, generate funds for the financing of terrorism..." unanimously approved a resolution on Cultural rights and the protection of cultural heritage
Calls for enhanced international cooperation in preventing and combating the organized looting, smuggling, theft and illicit trafficking of cultural objects and in restoring the stolen, looted or trafficked cultural property to its countries of origin , and invites States to take measures in this regard at the national level

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Dodgy Dealers Faking Provenance Could be out of Pocket, Hugely

The Dancing Shiva was returned
to India in September 2014,
after it was found to have been
stolen from a temple in Tamil Nadu.
This will be a lesson for any antiquities dealer tempted to supply objects with a false provenance (Anne Barker, 'Dancing Shiva: National Gallery of Australia should get $11m compensation for stolen statue, court rules' ABC News 26th Sept 2016)  
The Supreme Court of New York has granted a motion in favour of a $11 million payment to the National Gallery of Australia (NGA), as compensation for its purchase of a stolen Indian antiquity from disgraced New York art dealer Subhash Kapoor that was later returned to India. The court has entered a 'default' judgement, meaning it was made without hearing evidence from Kapoor, who is in custody awaiting trial in India. 
The NGA in Canberra had bought the statue for $US5 million from Kapoor's New York gallery Art of the Past (AOP) in 2008.
It did so after Kapoor and an AOP gallery employee Aaron Freedman supplied the NGA with documents that purported to vouch for the statue's lawful and legitimate provenance. These included a document certifying that an Indian diplomat Abdulla Mehgoub had lawfully bought the Shiva in Delhi in 1970. Another document — a Letter of Provenance — asserted that his widow Raj Mehgoub later sold the statue to AOP in 2003. The letter purportedly certified that the statue had been out of India since 1971.
The statue had instead been stolen in 2006 from the Brihadeeswarar temple at Sripuranthan and smuggled to the US. The NGA claimed its money back from Kapoor and then sought compensation because "due to wrongful and criminal actions, NGA paid $US5 million for an artefact with a clouded title, and that the NGA had been damaged. " The NGA is considering whether to bring other cases against Kapoor because of other items they bought from him which are now having to be handed back. There are ten of them, and the price paid was in the millions also.
"The NGA is considering all legal options available," the NGA's assistant director Alison Wright told the ABC. [...] "We do believe we are the victims of fraud in relation to provenance supplied by the dealership [...]" Ms Wright said. She said the NGA is committed to investigate the provenance of all 5,000 works in its Asian collection.

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Peter Tompa's Sausages

In a sniping post on his Cultural Property Obfuscator blog, antiquities trade lobbyist Peter Tompa has a post about Cyprus "turning its back further away from its past Common Law traditions as part of the British Commonwealth of Nations..." because it proposes making dealers and collectors demonstrate the legitimacy of the items they hold  (see here). Mr Tompa and his dealer mates (brought up to rely on a 'they-can't-touch-yer-for-it-legality')  insist everyone should give them the benefit of the doubt (antiquities dealers - get it?) and presume an innocence until (somebody else) can prove their guilt. By virtue of the fact that all paperwork was thrown away by the trade for all-but everything they handle, that's what they feel safe (indeed, untouchable) with. I am among those who feel very strongly that this is not how it should be a legitimate trade does not exist by virtue of naming the name alone, it has to demonstrate its legitimacy - especially when it concerns a class of commodity where we know items of illicit and false origins are rife.

Although he published a snide comment by his BFF metal detectorist John Howland, he rejected mine on this matter, apparently unwilling to answer it honestly, so here it is:
If antiquities dealers turn their back on business practices which would allow documentation of licit provenance of the goods they handle, then they have only themselves to blame. I don't know how it is with sausages you buy in Washington, but here in eastern Europe butchers don't have this problem, they'll have the documentation of where those sausages have come from available for the health inspector. Woe betide a butcher that buys products with no documentation and thinks they'll get away with it. Are you a consumer of unprovenanced sausages of unknown contents and origins Mr Tompa?
Sausages of course were chosen in my analogy, as they are one of the cheapest form of meat (apart from giblets, but I'd not recommend Mr Tompa feeding his kids with unprovenanced giblets of unknown origins either).

So how is it with sausages in Washington, Mr Tompa?

Vignette: What's in your kiełbasa Peter? 

One Born Every Minute

The ebay seller  ancientgas aka Dr Geoffrey A Smith (1061) is offering this unlovely item for a mere US $1,200
Part of my personal collection  it was adherent to a larger item ..? Shield face  I really think this was Mycenae Or a bit later Greek which was looted by the Celts thus in a Celtic dig site as an item of status. Ex Smith, Guaranteed
Maybe Mr Hooker (FSA) will be putting in a bid? Or offering an expert opinion? Or witholding it in collectors' solidarity? 

Stated provenance: "in a celtic dig site". In which country and under what circumstances it left that country and entered the (seemingly limitless) "Smith collection" are simply not stated, or why the previous owner cleaned only one face of it  - neither is the basis of the dating (analogies?) and trite narrativisation. The Celtic invasions of the Mycenaean realms are an as yet unknown episode of ancient historiography enlightened for us by the collector's ... um, .... 

Saturday, 24 September 2016


Poles demonstrated today against their current government which divides the nation and leads it away from EU values. A great time was had by all KODers.

Cyprus promotes new convention to combat illicit trafficking in cultural property

In a move that hopefully will gather momentum, during its Presidency of the Council of Europe, between November 2016 to May 2017 Cyprus plans to organise a series of activities that would kick-start a new criminal law convention to combat illicit trafficking in cultural property (CNA News Service Cyprus promotes new convention to combat illicit trafficking in cultural property / Sept 23rd 2016)
Cyprus led a cross-regional Statement on the protection of cultural heritage in armed conflicts in the framework of the Human Rights Council. The statement was co-sponsored by a staggering number of 146 members and observer states of the HRC, thus [...] putting the issue of cultural heritage firmly in the Human Rights agenda.
The point is that the no-questions-asked buying of antiquities is simply a lack of respect by the buyers of the richer ('market') nations of the rights of the citizens of the countries whose past they so shamelessly and selfishly exploit. Cypriot Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulidesannounced that: 
in a few days, in collaboration with a core group of partners, Cyprus will present at the 33rd Session of the HRC in Geneva, a comprehensive Resolution on “Cultural rights and the protection of cultural heritage”. “Yet, what we see as imperative is the active role of the UN Security Council on this issue, and particularly on the crucial issue of the provenance of cultural artefacts. As you are well-aware, the main obstacle encountered in securing the restitution of looted cultural property is the proof of identification by the claimant country, especially for objects that have not been inventoried or adequately documented” [that is why dealers and collectors apparently routinely discard any documentation that they have for any antiquity PMB] the burden of proof must not fall to the claimant state for the blocking of auctioning suspicious objects and, eventually, for the restitution of artefacts. He pointed out that was is of most importance, is a robust UNSC Resolution through which purchases of artefacts originating from conflict zones are not considered “bona fide” purchases and which will apply universal limitations on the trade and transfer of artefacts originating from all conflict zones, with the obligation of proof of legitimate trade resting upon the traders, auction houses and buyers and not on the originating state.
and, in the circumstances, with trade-wide responsibility-laundering discarding of documentation of collecting history of the artefacts passing through it to avoid detection, this is how it now has to be. Dealers and collectors only have themselves to blame.

Vignette: Cyprus 

Friday, 23 September 2016

Egypt’s Malawi Museum Reopened Three Years After Being Trashed

Egypt’s Malawi National Museum, located in El Minya, reopened on Thursday three years after it was ransacked and partially torched.
The restoration, which cost around EGP 10 million and was partly financed by the Italian government, provides a more educational experience for visitors. Malawi National Museum was ransacked, looted, and parts of it torched in August 2013 during violence that followed the ouster of former President Mohammed Morsi. More than 1,000 antiquities spanning 3,500 years of history were reported to have been stolen, with the few remaining pieces left damaged. However, according to state media Al-Ahram, the majority of the pieces were eventually recovered by the Egyptian government after police promised not to prosecute anyone returning looted antiquities.
Vignette: Thoth ibis
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