Protect Your Art With More Than a Handshake http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/03/your-money/home-insurance/03wealth…. By PAUL SULLIVAN Published: April 2, 2010

Last month, Lawrence Salander, a top Manhattan art dealer who ran the Salander-O’Reilly Galleries, admitted to stealing more than $120 million from clients, often by simply not paying them the full amount for art he sold on their behalf. Remarkably, he acknowledged that he had sustained the fraud for more than a decade before he was caught. His story offers insight into how wealthy collectors often trust gallery owners in ways they would never trust someone in any other type of business arrangement. One reason is the tradition of graciousness of the art world. Another reason is collectors’ fear of being blacklisted from buying prime works. Still, it would make sense that the wealthy would take more care in lending or consigning a multimillion-dollar piece of art than they would in lending their lawn mower to a neighbor. But in many cases, experts say, contracts are unspecific and collectors do not fully understand the legal risks. “It’s a market that tends to operate on trust and relationships,” said Jo Backer Laird, a lawyer at Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler. “Everything is O.K. until it isn’t, and when it isn’t you find yourself facing legal doctrines and situations that you have never heard of.” While most galleries are reputable — and have no incentive to upset multimillionaire collectors — the stories I was told in the wake of the Salander plea would boggle the mind. And this peek inside the art world revealed not only how little many collectors ask before lending their art but also how poorly some care for it themselves. TOO MUCH TRUST The Salander fraud was a case of a dealer deceiving his clients. But what a dealer is expected to do and what he can do with your art are not always the same thing. “Art is valuable and portable and it’s very hard to protect yourself,” said Norman Newman, who heads the fine arts and special risks department at HUB International, an insurance broker. He said many collectors were eager to have their art displayed in museums and at reputable galleries, because shows help increase the piece’s value. In their exuberance, collectors often neglect to have a properly worded contract drawn up. Such a contract would detail how long the gallery would show the art, the minimum price for it and where or if it could be moved. These all seem to be simple requests, but Mary Sheridan, the assistant fine arts manager for Chubb, the insurer, said families who had collected art for decades were used to doing business with a handshake. “Maybe nothing untoward has ever happened in those three decades,” she said. “But dealers can do whatever they want and not tell clients about it.” While a collector retains legal title to his art when he lends it to a gallery, the dealer can simply sell it. “Dealers are merchants in the kind of property you’re loaning them,” Ms. Laird said. “Once you’ve entrusted it to them, then they can sell it, and if they sell it in the ordinary course of business, that buyer gets good title to that work even if the dealer never pays you.” There is a simple way, though, to secure your claim to your own art: file a financing statement under the uniform commercial code. These forms are a public record of the owner’s claim. If the dealer then sells the art without the owner’s consent, the sale is considered theft. But filing these forms is not common practice. Likewise, if a gallery files for bankruptcy, as Salander-O’Reilly did in 2007, collectors who have consigned art without filing a uniform commercial code form may end up as unsecured creditors in bankruptcy court. This means their art could be counted an asset of the gallery and used to pay secured creditors first. HUMAN ERROR The insurance industry uses the phrase “mysterious disappearance” to describe a missing item when the owner does not know how it vanished. This is not all that unusual if the missing item is an earring, but a painting by Marc Chagall? That was what happened to one collector who had had a Chagall painting displayed on his yacht. In fact, it took the owners months to realize the painting was not on the wall. “The original had been replaced by a poor copy,” said Katja Zigerlig, assistant vice president of fine art, wine and jewelry insurance at Chartis Insurance. “The yacht had been to 30 different ports in the past year, changing crews, hosting charity events — there was no way to figure out the culprit.” These mysterious disappearances coupled with outright theft accounted for only 17 percent of the 200 largest claims Chartis paid in 2008 and 2009. The biggest area of loss — 47 percent — was art that had been broken or damaged. (Damage in transit added 6 percent.) One of the most famous art blunders in recent years involved Steve Wynn, the Las Vegas casino owner, who put his elbow through Picasso’s “Le Rêve” as he was showing the painting to some friends. It was his painting, albeit under contract to be sold for $139 million. The tear was eventually repaired, but the sale was canceled. Incidents like this, however rare, are why fine art insurers employ teams of risk assessors to judge how a collection is cared for. Richard Standring, risk services manager for the East Coast for Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company, said he found a Picasso hanging on the back of French doors in Boston. He attributed the placement to a decorator “being involved and not knowing it’s a multimillion-dollar piece.” Ms. Sheridan said a collector recently called to ask whether she thought it would be all right to have a friend drive a $2 million piece from Pennsylvania to Wyoming. She suggested instead that he use professional art shippers, who would pack the piece and transport it in a climate-controlled truck. While fine art insurance covers loss and damage, many of these objects are irreplaceable or would lose significant value if damaged. The point is that such carelessness is a greater risk to fine art than an unscrupulous dealer. WHO DID IT? When it comes to actual art thefts, the reality is far less romantic than Hollywood’s version. Thefts more closely resemble shoplifting than a scene from “Ocean’s Twelve.” “They’re usually inside jobs by staff,” said Donald Soss, vice president for personal insurance on the West Coast at Fireman’s Fund. “The employee is working with someone and gives them the burglar alarm code.” The more sinister culprits in a home are water leaks, fire and wind. Hanging your art above your fireplace or underneath an air- conditioning vent is a bad idea. So is thinking that just because something has hung in one spot for decades that it is fine: wires stretch and break over time. Then there is the risk of living in Florida, with its seasonal hurricanes. These are far greater risks to art than thieves and fraudsters. “Most collectors are very passionate and they wouldn’t want to hurt their art,” Ms. Zigerlig said. “But they overlook the perils in their own home.”

April 4th, 2010

Posted In: news comments / discussions

 

* Book review by Tom Flynn: Fiat Cuno (Who Owns Antiquity
 http://groups.google.com/group/museum-security-network/browse_thread/thread/53b8c31328eef5f4?hl=en

* Beware of Directors Bearing Guidelines?
 http://groups.google.com/group/museum-security-network/browse_thread/thread/027fdb0472059b1e?hl=en

* Roger Bland to Lecture at Field Museum Regarding Treasure Act and Portable Antiquities Scheme
 http://groups.google.com/group/museum-security-network/browse_thread/thread/db4d55b2fba36076?hl=en

* Les tableaux retrouvés en Moldavie inconnus au musée russe de l’Ermitage
 http://groups.google.com/group/museum-security-network/browse_thread/thread/50528a8fa9b66a21?hl=en

* Italian police recover 3,500 looted artifacts
 http://groups.google.com/group/museum-security-network/browse_thread/thread/72cc55bbdee4cda6?hl=en

* Eremitage-Museum verwundert über moldawischen Bilderfund
 http://groups.google.com/group/museum-security-network/browse_thread/thread/7daa2d79d89da067?hl=en

* Il y a 18 mois, une quinzaine de statues avaient été dérobées dans des chapelles du Trégor. Elles ont été retrouvées dans un triste état chez un
particulier. Trois personnes ont été interpellées.
 http://groups.google.com/group/museum-security-network/browse_thread/thread/f683a33440133e84?hl=en

* A RENAISSANCE painting by Bernadino Luini, an Italian painter in Leonardo da Vinci’s circle, that was stolen from a Welsh church has been found, it emerged
today.
 http://groups.google.com/group/museum-security-network/browse_thread/thread/3d0d4c728561d1b8?hl=en

* Archeologia, recuperate opere per oltre 3 milioni di euro  http://groups.google.com/group/museum-security-network/browse_thread/thread/66b26f7f458e8bcb?hl=en

* Chariot of ire: museum told to return Etruscan gem to Umbria
 http://groups.google.com/group/museum-security-network/browse_thread/thread/63c738b4ca6ca5eb?hl=en

* As the Bill Reid thefts show, art crime does pay: unfounded statements by Noah Charney whose fantasy is going adrift.
 http://groups.google.com/group/museum-security-network/browse_thread/thread/d643b9a0cb4353c5?hl=en

* HOPEWELL TOWNSHIP, N.J. – Police plan to return a 100-pound bronze sculpture that was stolen from a lawn in Hopewell Township in May.
 http://groups.google.com/group/museum-security-network/browse_thread/thread/32f02ab6e6229edf?hl=en

* Marseille : comment le FBI a aidé la PJ à retrouver les tableauxLes toiles volées à Nice ont été retrouvées mercredi à Marseille
 http://groups.google.com/group/museum-security-network/browse_thread/thread/873ef1cf4b201394?hl=en

* NANTUCKET, Mass. — Police are looking for the culprit of a pricey piece of artwork in Nantucket.
 http://groups.google.com/group/museum-security-network/browse_thread/thread/63389aacdde12a02?hl=en

* Book Burnings in the Holy Land are Considered ‘Kosher’ Provided the Books are Christian
 http://groups.google.com/group/museum-security-network/browse_thread/thread/8e7d9d6bffdfd56e?hl=en

* Public art inspires even vandals, tramps and thieves
 http://groups.google.com/group/museum-security-network/browse_thread/thread/f8080013d1a6a55b?hl=en

 
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June 7th, 2008

Posted In: comment, Mailing list reports, Museum thefts, news comments / discussions

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TUESDAY, APRIL 22, 2008
Mr Cuno takes the gloves off

James Cuno (left: all links and photos: http://tom-flynn.blogspot.com/), director of the Art Institute of Chicago, has never been backward in coming forward over cultural heritage issues and it’s all grist to the mill. But his article in the online Yale Global (Who Owns the Past?), deserves a response. I assume it’s a précis of some of the ideas in his latest book, Who Owns Antiquity?, which I haven’t yet read.

Having argued yesterday for a more constructive and civilised dialogue over these issues (here), I’ll try and keep the tone as parliamentary as possible, but it’s irritating how those arguing against a more equitable approach to cultural heritage impute overriding political motives to those who express alarm at its increasing desecration and dispersal. The real political agenda, in fact, comes from the other side.

In his Yale piece, Mr Cuno states, “Most nation states have cultural property laws that restrict the international movement in archaeological artifacts found within their borders.”

Why do most nation states have those laws? Might they be a response to what they have seen unfolding in Iraq, for example, where reckless American neo-imperialism has exponentially exacerbated the desecration of that country’s cultural heritage? Yes, Mesopotamian antiquities might be the birthright of humanity in general, but ought we to deny their value to the Iraqi people? And where is most of it ending up? In the hands of wealthy collectors who value private over public ownership. (On which subject, see this article from the New York Times posted on Ton Cremers’s Museum Security Network, relating to a collector on the board of Mr Cuno’s own museum.)

“Antiquity belongs to all of humanity” says Cuno. I’m afraid until we can rein in America’s tendency to exercise its ambition and power beyond its borders we need these cultural property laws, however frail they might occasionally seem.

“Government serves the interest of those in power,” writes Cuno. “Once in power, with control over territory, governments breed loyalty among their citizens, often by promoting a particular identity and history. National culture – language and religion, patterns of behavior, dress and artistic production – is at once the means and manifestation of such beliefs, identity and loyalty, and serves to reinforce governments in power.”

Yes, and there’s no better expression of this than the US government and its cognate — American national culture. Loyalty among its citizens is beyond question, even when its government is in contravention of international law, as in Iraq.

“Governments can use antiquities – artifacts of cultures no longer extant and in every way different from the culture of the modern nation – to serve the government’s purpose,” argues Cuno. The Parthenon Marbles are relics of an ancient culture from which modern democracy originates. The Greeks are understandably proud of that. The British, however, do use them as an expression of political power and nationalism. Moreover, I would argue that often the “extinct cultures” to which Cuno refers cannot properly be described as extinct while important objects survive as material testimony to a set of ancient cultural ideas and practices that are themselves worth preserving. Material culture reminds us of our social duties and moral obligations, which are often as local as they are universal.

At the core of Cuno’s argument against what he derisively stereotypes as “retentionist cultural property laws” (as if there were no diversity in the nature and purpose of cultural heritage struggles) is “their basis in nationalist-identity politics and implications for inhibiting our regard for the rich diversity of the world’s culture as common legacy.”

I’m sorry, you can’t have this both ways. American foreign policy under a Republican administration (coterminous, it seems, with the recent critical rise in the temperature of many cultural heritage issues) could not be more grounded in nationalist-identity politics. The imposition of ‘democracy’ on nations beyond America’s own borders has become an instrument of American nationalist-identity politics and we’re now living with the dire consequences of that in terms of global instability.

We are witnessing Iraq and surrounding region descend into a Dantean hell of internecine tribal warfare, but for Mr Cuno it is cultural property laws that are to blame for “reinforcing the dangerous tendency to divide the world into irreconcilable sectarian or tribal entities.” Au contraire, it is American foreign policy that has done most to undermine “the nature of culture as an overlapping, dynamic force for uniting rather than dividing humankind.”

Over the decades in which they’ve been in place, as Mr Cuno rightly observes, the looting of archaeological sites has continued, indeed in the eyes of many archaeologists it has increased. “This happens just as the world is increasingly divided along nationalist, sectarian lines,” he maintains. Clearly his teleological compass has lost its needle. The increase in looting can be ascribed in no small measure to the geopolitical faultlines that have opened up since the start of the so-called ‘War on Terror’.

Cuno’s dismissal of UNESCO as an organisation grounded in nation-state politics and respect for nationalism is more than a little reminiscent of the scorn poured on UN resolutions against the Iraq war (UNESCO is indeed the UN’s cultural body and thank heavens for that).

He also refers to the Taliban destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas (right: links and photos: http://tom-flynn.blogspot.com/) as evidence of what he sees as UNESCO’s emasculated function in cultural heritage protection and then has the temerity to blame UNESCO for failing to protect the Iraq Museum following the ‘Shock and Awe’ campaign. At least UNESCO initiated a dialogue with the Taliban in an attempt to dissuade them before the destruction began, which is more than can be said for Rumsfeld’s finger-puppets in Baghdad, who watched as the museum burned.

The UNESCO Convention has not failed. But no amount of international conventions and agreements can overcome the obstacle represented by bellicose developed economies imposing their will on weaker nations, which has become a signal factor in the rise of cultural heritage desecration.

Mr Cuno, like many leading museum directors, is currently suffering from post-colonial tristesse — that melancholy condition which descends with the realisation that the great universal museum collections over which they preside are no longer able to maintain the upward growth curve that began during the imperial era. Get over it.

We must now look forward to a more equitable distribution of material culture. It is the American neoliberal psyche that needs to move beyond its “pervasive misunderstanding, even intolerance of other cultures.”

A proper understanding of that sense which Mr Cuno refers to, that “ancient and living cultures belong to all of us,” will only really set in when European and North American museum directors cease believing in their eternal and divinely-endowed role as custodians of global cultural heritage.

And finally, to mirror James Cuno’s closing rhetorical flourish, the real argument over the Parthenon Marbles, to take just one example, is indeed between those who value antiquity — archaeologists and others who yearn to see the Marbles reunited in their rightful home in Athens — and the nationalist ends to which they are manipulated in London.

Yes, we can indeed do better.

(James Cuno photo credit: antiquesandthearts.com)

POSTED BY TOM FLYNN AT 4:01 AM 0 COMMENTS LINKS TO THIS POST: http://tom-flynn.blogspot.com/

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April 22nd, 2008

Posted In: International conventions, looting and illegal art traffickers, Mailing list reports, news comments / discussions, Unesco Struggle Against Illicit Trade

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Who Owns the Past? 

Antiquities from great cultures belong to humanity, not nation states that emerged centuries later 

All links and images: http://yaleglobal.yale.edu/display.article?id=10678 

It’s a myth that cultural-property laws protect ancient antiquities or archaeological finds. Instead, the nationalist retentionist cultural-property laws are a dividing force, inhibiting regard for the world’s culture as a common legacy, argues James Cuno, president and director of the Art Institute of Chicago. Nations often use cultural artifacts for political claims, as tools to express a specific identity. Some governments even deny excavation permits or display requests for artifacts that reveal values that don’t reinforce a self-selected national image, and thus deny to the rest of the world the history of our common past. Worse, some nationalistic governments pervert the cultural record to spur racial, religious or ethnic violence. Culture is not a pure force, yet its power extends beyond national boundaries. As Cuno says, “An understanding that ancient and living cultures belong to all of us could contribute to greater respect for the differences among us and serve as a counterargument to the call for cultural purity that flames sectarian violence.” 

CHICAGO: Unprecedented global travel and cultural exchange help make the world a smaller place but, ironically, they also stir national pride. Nationalism, combined with business calculation, now threaten to segregate antiquity that belongs to all of the humanity. 

Most nation states have cultural property laws that restrict the international movement in archaeological artifacts found within their borders. But some antiquities are undocumented, lacking evidence of archaeological circumstances or removal. In the current debate over the acquisition of undocumented antiquities, the world’s archaeological community has allied with nationalistic programs of nation states. 

Nations can and do bring charges of possession of, or conspiring to possess, stolen property against people and institutions holding objects covered by the relevant ownership laws, as seen with the Republic of Italy’s charges against the former J. Paul Getty Museum curator, Marion True, or Peru’s charges against Yale University with regard to contested Machu Picchu artifacts. More often than not, such laws are perceived as free of politics – the stuff of objective, reasoned best practice and indifferent government regulations. 

Nothing could be farther than the truth. 

Government serves the interest of those in power. Once in power, with control over territory, governments breed loyalty among their citizens, often by promoting a particular identity and history. National culture – language and religion, patterns of behavior, dress and artistic production – is at once the means and manifestation of such beliefs, identity and loyalty, and serves to reinforce governments in power. 

Governments can use antiquities – artifacts of cultures no longer extant and in every way different from the culture of the modern nation – to serve the government’s purpose. They attach identity with an extinct culture that only happened to have shared more or less the same stretch of the earth’s geography. The reason behind such claims is power. 

At the core of my argument against nationalist retentionist cultural property laws – those calling for the retention of cultural property within the jurisdiction of the nation state – is their basis in nationalist-identity politics and implications for inhibiting our regard for the rich diversity of the world’s culture as common legacy. They conspire against our appreciation of the nature of culture as an overlapping, dynamic force for uniting rather than dividing humankind. They reinforce the dangerous tendency to divide the world into irreconcilable sectarian or tribal entities. 

Sadly, the public discussion about nationalist retentionist cultural property laws focuses on their role, which foreign governments and the archaeological community promote, as a means of protecting the integrity of archaeological sites. It’s argued that the laws inhibit looting and consequent illicit trade.   

But this is only partly true. Over the decades in which they’ve been in place, strengthened by international conventions and bilateral treaties, the looting of archaeological sites has continued. In fact, many archaeologists claim it’s increased. The real purpose of such laws – and this is what we should be arguing about – is to preserve nation states’ claims of ownership over antiquities found or presumed to have been found within their jurisdiction. This happens just as the world is increasingly divided along nationalist, sectarian lines. 

The alternative to consigning the protection of our ancient heritage to national jurisdiction is the United Nations, specifically its cultural body, UNESCO. Sadly, UNESCO’s Achilles’ heel is its grounding in nation-state politics and its respect for nationalism. For example, relying on its charter, the organization maintained that it could not prevent the destruction of much of the Kabul Museum’s extraordinary collection in 2001. This occurred in the aftermath of the destruction of the monumental Buddhas at Bamiyan, led by Taliban forces who ran the Afghan government at that time and thus had sovereignty over Afghanistan’s cultural property. The UNESCO special envoy to Afghanistan had discussed the edict with the Afghan foreign minister before the destruction, but in the end UNESCO only condemned the actions, watching as the collection was attacked. 

Earlier, UNESCO had discouraged the foreign acquisition of antiquities likely to have been pirated from Afghanistan during the calamitous 1980s war with the Soviet Union. As a result, many stayed in Kabul as Afghan cultural property became subject to the Taliban’s destruction. 

Similarly, after the 2003 invasion of Iraq, UNESCO failed to protect the Baghdad Museum and the archaeological record of that vital part of the ancient world. Instead, the organization called for the return of any undocumented antiquities thought to have been improperly removed from that divided, failed state. UNESCO unambiguously respects the nation state and vests authority in it, as revealed by the preamble of the 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, which claims that “cultural property constitutes one of the basic elements of civilization and national culture,” that true value can be appreciated only in relation to the fullest possible information regarding its origin, history and traditional setting. 

Ironically any state can denounce a UNESCO Convention “on its own behalf or on behalf of any territory for which territorial relations it is responsible” and simply ignore it altogether.    

To date, 30 years later, the convention has failed because it cannot contradict the authority of member states. Meanwhile, the world is losing our common ancient heritage through
th

eft and destruction, poverty, development, warfare and sectarian violence. No amount of international conventions and agreements that proclaim to respect the “collective genius of nationals of the State” can overcome the obstacle of nationalism, the age-old route out of international agreements. 

Archaeologists go along because they depend on nation states to do their work. Nation states hold antiquities and archaeological sites as national cultural property, and control access. 

Nations that have hosted excavations depend in great part on the work of foreign archaeologists for the raw material of their nationalist ideologies, not to mention the tangible property that fuels their tourism economies. Archaeologists, especially those who benefit from working in host university museums, should examine their support of nationalist retentionist cultural property law. Many collections could not have been formed since the implementation of these laws. 

Archaeologists should work with museums to counter the nationalist basis of laws, conventions and agreements, and promote a principle of shared stewardship of our common heritage. Together we should call attention to the failure of these laws to protect our common ancient heritage and perversion of that heritage by claiming the archaeological record as a modern nation’s cultural property. 

The recent rise in nationalist and sectarian violence and the pervasive misunderstanding, even intolerance of other cultures, adds urgency to the need of resolving these differences. Ignorance of the interrelatedness of cultures overlooks that we all have a stake in their preservation. One need only consider the loss of the Gandhara sculptures in the Kabul Museum – which bore reference to the region’s historic place at the crossroads of Asia, where Greek, Chinese, Indian, Pagan, Buddhist and Hindu cultures influenced one another over centuries – to recognize what we lost in their destruction: sublime evidence of the basic truth of culture: It’s always mongrel, made of numerous and diverse influences from contact with new and strange experiences. This was as true in antiquity as it is as today. 

An understanding that ancient and living cultures belong to all of us could contribute to greater respect for the differences among us and serve as a counterargument to the call for cultural purity that flames sectarian violence. 

We can do better. Arguments between museums and archaeologists over the acquisition of undocumented antiquities are a diversion from real arguments, which ought to be between those who value antiquity and the nationalist governments who manipulate it for political gain. 

James Cuno is president and director of the Art Institute of Chicago, and the author of “Who Owns Antiquity? Museums and the Battle Over Our Ancient Heritage,” published by Princeton University Press in 2008.

April 22nd, 2008

Posted In: news comments / discussions

Located on a flat rock in the heart of Athens, the 5th-century BC structure is a beacon of antiquity that will soon be complemented by a modern museum at the southern foot of the Sacred Rock. According to Greece’s Minister of Culture Mihalis Liapis, the transfer of antiquities to the Acropolis Museum will be finished in a month well ahead of its grand opening in September. (more…)

December 20th, 2007

Posted In: Mailing list reports, news comments / discussions, Parthenon Marbles

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5:00AM Saturday December 08, 2007
When something precious is lost, it is well to be reminded of what really matters. In the week since the theft of Victoria Crosses from the Waiouru Army Museum, it has been hard to put the crime into perspective.

In one sense, it is hard to imagine a more despicable act. The crosses were pinned on the chests of men whose bravery stands in sharp contrast to that of the sneak thieves who entered the museum through a fire escape at the dead of night, went to the Valour Alcove, smashed the glass and took about 100 medals. (more…)

December 8th, 2007

Posted In: news comments / discussions

“Prime Minister has suggested a reclusive collector may have organised the heist” Statements like these return again and again after major art heists take place. However, this ‘reclusive collector’ has never been found. It is quite well possible that thieves know which fence will be eager to buy stolen objects, and that fences even place orders, but a ‘reclusive collector’?A collector who can afford to have cultural objects stolen to order will find himself in a very difficult position when criminals start blackmailing him.What will he do when these objects are stolen from him? Report this theft to the police? The ‘reclusive collector’ even ‘organising the heist’ will never be able to show off with his collection.I wonder on which information the New Zealand Prime Minister based his statement. Or did he just see one crime movie too many? 

 Ton Cremers  (more…)

December 7th, 2007

Posted In: news comments / discussions

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November 20th, 2007

Posted In: news comments / discussions

The Case of the Elgin Marbles  

Posted on November 11th 

At the end of the summer of 2007, the week before fall university classes began, Greece was on fire. The Peloponnese was uniformly scorched, nearly a hundred people were killed, rural economies were displaced, and flora and fauna indigenous only to Greek pine forests and mountainsides were burned, perhaps beyond any eventual recovery. Though the fires were barely held back from the famous antiquities of Olympia and Athens, other archaeologically priceless sites were not so fortunate .Though some of the fires were attributed at their source to arsonists, Greek Prime Minister, Kostas Karamanlis, whose New Democracy party was returned to office this past September, is partially culpable in this tragedy. Karamanlis and other Greek officials were slow to acknowledge the severity of the fire emergency and have yet to admit the true extent of the damage.“There are several well known ‘arsonists’ in Greece — garbage dumps (burning spontaneously), farmers burning brush, animal farmers burning land to sprout fresh grass for grazing,” Nikos Charalambides, director of Greenpeace in Greece, told a reporter from Reuters on October 1.“But the biggest arsonist is the state, which has not clarified the use of land, leaving suburban forests vulnerable to rogue developers,” he added in the same piece.“The lack of a national land registry and national zoning laws leave room for doubt about the characterization of land, whether it is forest or not,” told Reuters.It is not a good time for antiquities, and the dire circumstances are of course more attributable to the traditional colonial superpowers than to Grecian malfeasance.The blame for the theft of treasures from the Baghdad Archaeological Museum, the burning of Baghdad’s National Library, and the looting of more than 10,000 Ur, Sumerian, and Babylonian archaeological sites may be laid, in the name of Operation Iraqi Freedom, on the doorstep of the United States and bullied ally Great Britain.

It is in this poisonous atmosphere (additionally contaminated by pollution, global warming, and the threats of vandalism and terrorism) that the debate over who rightfully owns the Parthenon sculptures – or, more accurately, who owns the right to display the friezes – continues at:

http://italiangreyhounds.org/errata/2007/11/11/the-case-of-the-elgin-marbles/

November 12th, 2007

Posted In: news comments / discussions

THE LOGIC OF NON-RESTITUTION OF CULTURAL OBJECTS FROM THE MUSEE DU QUAI BRANLY: Kwame Opoku Print
Written by Dr. Kwame Opoku
Sunday, 11 November 2007

THE LOGIC OF NON-RESTITUTION OF CULTURAL OBJECTS FROM THE MUSEE DU QUAI BRANLY.

I thought I had heard all the desperate arguments and explanations from European and American museum directors for not returning the stolen cultural objects which fill their museums. But on reading the recent excellent book from Sally Price, Paris Primitive:Jacques Chirac’s Museum on the Quai Branly (1).

(more…)

November 12th, 2007

Posted In: Dr. Kwame Opoku writings about looted cultural objects, news comments / discussions

ROME (AP) — Italian authorities claimed another victory in their campaign against the illegal antiquities market Tuesday, unveiling eight Etruscan or Roman artifacts they say were looted from the country and returned by a New York art dealer.

The ancient treasures, including a Roman statue, bronze figurines, and exquisitely painted vases, were worth more than half a million dollars and were bought at auctions by New York dealer Jerome Eisenberg, Italian officials said. (more…)

November 6th, 2007

Posted In: news comments / discussions