Friday, 16 February 2018

Friday Retrospect: The Witschonke Premise

The Witschonke Premise.

Russia interferes with US elections, US has ambitions to interfere with everything else, including how distant sovereign states look after their own heritage.

German Collections: More Research Needed on Collecting Histories

Hermann Parzinger (left), more research
 on collecting histories needed
Berlin Museums chief calls for rules on restitution of colonial artefacts Hermann Parzinger wants more research on collecting histories to be carried out in German collections:

Art Newspaper

Cultural Property Repatriation News and Issues Blog


Argentina Seizes Package of Nazi Objects

Artefact collectors tend to think they have a 'right' to buy whatever they want, but some countries draw firm lines about what can be brought within their national borders. In the latest of recent confiscations of such items in the country, Argentinian police have seized a package containing objects adorned with Nazi symbols sent from the USA to the northwestern Argentine province of Salta (Luc Cohen, 'Argentina seizes package of objects adorned with Nazi symbols' UK Business Insider/Reuters Feb. 14, 2018).
Police raided the home of the individual who picked up the package from a post office, the Ministry said, adding that the person was cooperating with authorities. "There is no room in Argentina for these types of expressions, which make reference to a tragic era in human history," Security Minister Patricia Bullrich said in the statement. [...] Last June, police seized a cache of Nazi artifacts hidden behind a library in the house of an art collector in Buenos Aires. 
Vignette: Nationalist ideologies can lead to extremism and dehumanisation and need to be contested wherever they occur.

Calls for Art Market to Create Standards Association

“We should police ourselves,
otherwise outsiders will who do not 
understand the subtleties of the art market.”

Speaking at  the art fair in Maastricht ['Taming the Beast: Professionalising the Art World'], chairman of The Art Loss Register Julian Radcliffe has argued that an art trade-wide association regulating standards and ethics should be launched (Laura Chesters, 'TEFAF Talk: Calls for art market to create standards association' Antiques Trade Gazette 15 Feb 2018). Radcliffe  suggested that the UK could take the lead internationally:
We need a publication of standards, and mandate a certain level of training. When there are near-misses it should be reported, anonymised and circulated so others can learn from it.” Radcliffe said the industry should take the lead. He criticised the existing associations in the art world and said they have conflicts of interest because they represent their members and try to regulate them. [...] Radcliffe warned that if standards do not improve further the art market will “lose the ability to influence government”.
Also on the panel of speakers, art consultant Sara Pearce warned: “We should police ourselves, otherwise outsiders will who do not understand the subtleties of the art market.”  I really do not share the optimism that the UK 'can' led on this, it has done precious little to justify the optimism. Neither fdo I see anything is gained by not naming and shaming those guilty of the sub-standard deeds euphemised as  'near misses'. Yes, certain sectors of the art market should now lose the ability to influence government.

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Illegal treasure hunting in Romania

Romania, where the coins come from
Richard Giedroyć, 'Illegal treasure hunting active (sic) in Romania' World Coin News February 14, 2018 according to a Romanian police report,
“[four Czech citizens] undertook unauthorized searches and took from the archeological sites of Dacian fortresses several lots of artifacts belonging to the national cultural patrimony, causing the destruction of the archeological stratigraphy of the historical monuments in Piatra Roşie, Costeşti, Blidaru and Băniţa, in Hunedoara county.” Four bronze and silver coins identified as being Dacian and Roman valued at 2,000 euro (about $2,355 US) were seized. According to Romania-Insider, “As part of the same case, several other monetary treasures and archeological goods illegally taken to the Czech Republic by the four were recovered last year.”
Other arrests have taken place recently. At the beginning of November, police in Caras-Severin county announced the seizure of about 5,000 artifacts including more than 300 ancient and medieval coins.
The raids were aimed at treasure hunters in Caras-Severin, Arad, Timis and Bihor counties in western Romania. The announcement noted that 18 metal detectors had been seized, 12 of which “were not authorized.”
Other artefacts in private possessions were seized before the people could sell them on to no-questions-asked buyers, such as a unique gold bracelet  seized by police from a 27-year-old man in Olt County in southern Romania (reported when the man tried to sell it in a pawn shop) and collection-quality coins from Hunedoara county worth about1,500 euro.

Obviously the message is that if you are buying artefacts of this nature a responsible collector should by rights have to have access to the paperwork proving the seller obtained the items from a licit source and actually has legal title to them. Somehow Mr Giedroyć seems to have forgotten to put that in his article merely noting that in Romania 'The local policy appears to be that you are guilty until proven innocent', which is indisputably the case if you are caught red-handed with state property in your possession. What is so difficult to understand in that?

Undocumented Antiquities, Undocumented Immigrants

The American Committee for Cultural Policy have a new conspiracy theory, this one is a real cracker:  'Tangled Interests With State Department, ICOM Emergency Red Lists May Serve Other Goals' ('Yemen Claims Jewish Religious Artifacts). Whoah, tinfoil helmets out everyone. 

This is about the new Emergency Red List for Yemen (January 2018) which has made the no-questions-asked market a bit leery. And of course, it being America, the Jews are involved. For the ACCP this is not at all about the heritage of the territory of Yemen, but part on an anti-Jewish conspiracy, Readers may remember the fuss the same group of people kicked up about the so-called Iraqi Jewish Archive a while ago. Now it is Yemeni Jewish Collectables they are on about.

The Yemen Red List has raised extreme concerns among the broader Jewish community, and especially among exiled Jews from the Middle East. Yemen is just the latest nation to assert its government’s ownership and control over the heritage of Jewish peoples that were persecuted and driven to leave en masse in the mid-20th century, after the partition of Palestine and creation of a Jewish state in 1947. Iraq, Syria, Egypt, and Libya have already laid claim to all of their former Jewish population’s heritage. Yet the Department of State has long held to the position that people do not have legitimate claims to their history or their art; only governments have claims to art and history. [...] There is no acknowledgement of legitimate private or community ownership, even in the case of heritage belonging to exiled peoples. 

That is because we live in a world in which human communities are currently organized into states. When the anarchists (or Leninists) get their wish, then there would be no states, and no state oppression of the rights of individuals to do as they wish. Poland too recognizes its obligation to look after the heritage of former Jewish populations of the state's territory, as do the Germans, Hungarians, Danes and many of the rest of the European countries from which the Jews have departed, why does the ACCP concentrate on only the brown-skinned countries of the Muslim world, one wonders. Could there be some bias in their summary of the issues?

The author is the text clearly misunderstands or misrepresents what a Red List is for:
While Red Lists may accomplish the goal of helping law enforcement to recognize a country’s most distinctive artworks, they do not help to determine if an artwork has been stolen or illicitly trafficked – or not. 
Well, of course they do not. That is not at all their purpose. But they help prompt law enforcement to request what any no-questions-asked dealer dreads hearing: 'have you got any paperwork showing licit origins of that item?'. Many of them are inexplicably careless about keeping any legitimacy-affirming paperwork with the objects they bring onto the international market. It is that paperwork that determines that an object has not been stolen or illicitly trafficked (the same as the documents being carried by a brown-skinned man in Trump's America show he has the right to be in the US, if he's undocumented, he cannot stay, no?). 

Once again, the antiquities trade lobby focuses on their bugbear of destruction of buildings and monuments as the stock-in- trade smokescreen for the no-questions-trading of loose artefacts. Chalk and cheese:
Given that the destruction of war has been so great, and the illicit removal of cultural items so relatively sparse [...] why is the Department of State so focused on illicit trade, when a US ally is actively engaged in obliterating key monuments of Yemen’s cultural heritage?
The answer to that is not any kind of anti-Jewish conspiracy, but a corollary of the manner in which the US administration is organized. Cultural property protection is accommodated as part of US 'soft power' among the diplomats of the Department of State, rather than a dedicated Ministry of Culture as in other countries (such as Yemen). In its exercise of 'hard power', the US is just as capable of blowing up old buildings as any 'brown-skinned Ayrab' regime of the Orient.

When it comes to the conspiracy theory we read that:
The government of Yemen seems very concerned with reclaiming the heritage of its exiled peoples. Jewish (and also Christian) art, artifacts and heirlooms are included in the items covered by the Red List. Jewish religious artifacts and manuscripts are pictured and explicitly included. The Yemen Red List includes photographs of a pair of Torah finials and a Hebrew manuscript. 
How odd eh? Now Google "Yemeni torah" and see how many Yemeni manuscripts are currently on the market, almost all of them without any but the vaguest and apparently unsupported indication of how and when they reached the market. This is the clue to why there is concern, with a large emigre population eager to buy some tangible link to their culture (to their feeling of self ) there is a huge potential market. If the buyers restrict themselves to goods that are demonstrably of legal origin, no problem. If they stoop to buying stuff where the seller cannot demonstrate it's from a legal origin, then there is a problem. Thus since one cannot dictate what people buy on a free market, at least one can try to curb the passage of unpapered artefacts from the source countries into the market countries. Why is that so difficult for the ACCP to understand?  Too many syllables in the words? 

The Conspiracy Theory and the Real World

For all those no-questions-asked antiquities trade lobbyists out there....

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