Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!


I am very grateful to readers for their continuing support for Looting Matters. Your suggestions and feedback are a huge encouragement - thank you! I look forward to commenting on some of the key issues for 2011 in due course.

Image
© David Gill, 2010

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Academic Debate Misunderstood By Washington Lobbyist

Washington paid lobbyist, Peter Tompa, has revealed his misunderstanding of the academic process in his discussion of the invited forum piece on the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) that has appeared in the Papers from the Institute of Archaeology. The Institute of Archaeology is part of University College London (UCL).

Tompa asserted, "Archaeo-blogger David Gill has organized a forum on the PAS". Tompa could have read Brian Hole's editorial where it was stated, "We would like to thank David Gill for accepting our invitation to write the lead article".

Brian Hole, the Journal Manager for PIA, has now commented, "to set the record straight, the forum was indeed organised solely on the initiative of PIA". Indeed Hole notes, "We’re particularly grateful to David Gill for accepting our invitation to write the lead piece". It looks as if Tompa has once again misunderstood the issues; earlier examples can be found in Operation Baklava and Operation Tartuffo (and see here).

Tompa should make an effort to get his facts straight before he makes unfounded claims.

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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Ton Cremers

Ton Cremers has announced that he will be stepping down from moderating the Museum Security Network. Ton has provided an important service in collating a range of news stories and Web 2.0 sources for those of us who research in this area.

Thank you, Ton, for all your work.

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Looting Matters: Overview of 2010

How did stories unfold? At the beginning of the year I looked ahead and suggested some developments.

Top of the list was the expectation that toxic antiquities would continue to appear. Bonhams offered a number of items that were identified from images in the Medici Dossier and the Schinoussa Archive at two sales this year (AprilOctober). The London press has started to comment on the phenomenon (see also here). Christie's in New York has also pressed ahead with the sale of material identified from the Medici Dossier in spite of a call for their withdrawal by the Italian State Prosecutor. Large numbers of Greek pots in the National Archaeological Museum in Madrid have been identified from the Medici Dossier and the Schinoussa Archive (overview). Princeton University Art Museum also seems to be subject to a further investigation apparently unrelated to the Medici Dossier. The issues surrounding the Attic krater in Minneapolis is still unresolved.

Operation Andromeda saw the return of some 337 antiquities returned to Italy (overview). This revealed links with the collecting of classical antiquities in Japan and in particular with the Miho Museum. A bronze Jupiter ("The Merrin Zeus") was returned to Italy. At the same time the case against Marion True has been dropped. The discussion surrounding the antiquities in Copenhagen is unresolved, as are the issues surrounding the Cleveland Apollo, the St Louis Mummy Mask, and the Minoan larnax in Atlanta.

An Egyptian coffin was returned to Egypt after being seized in Florida after passing through a gallery in Spain. This Barcelona route also seems to have been used for items removed from Saqqara.

I also suggested that the AAMD needed to address the issue of loans. This was illustrated by the collecting history of the Dioskouroi on loan to New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. However Maxwell Anderson has given a positive lead over the loan of archaeological material.

There has also been a hearing of CPAC to consider a request from Greece to establish a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).

Cultural property became a major issue with the BBC Radio 4 series, "A History of the World in 100 Objects". The New York antiquities market has seen a massive increase in sales, and there is a new role for Philippe de Montebello. The Cairo Conference took place and discussed historic claims on cultural material.

One of the more shocking examples of looting took place in Caria. Two impressive kouroi were seized near Corinth.

Discussion of the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) appeared as an invited forum piece in Papers from the Institute of Archaeology. This raised the issue of the Crosby Garrett helmet that was found in Cumbria earlier in the year. Other examples included the Frome coin hoard and the Staffordshire hoard. Looting Matters has continued to work closely with PR Newswire.

Readership of Looting Matters has increased with over 132,000 visits on top of the RSS subscriptions.

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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Benin Mask Withdrawn from Sale

Last week I drew attention to the sale of a Benin mask at auction in London. It has now been announced that the mask will be withdrawn (Rob Sharp, "Sotheby's cancels sale of 'looted' Benin mask", Independent December 29, 2010).

Protests against the sale emerged on social networking sites last week. An online petition was organised by the Nigeria Liberty Forum, which describes itself as a "UK-based Nigerian pro-democracy group".
"They should seek good counsel and refrain from selling the mask," Orobosa Omo-Ojo, an official in the state government of Edo, which contains the modern city of Benin, told the press in Nigeria. "Anything that makes them ignore this call [from] the Edo state government will [make us] use this as a starting point to protect our intellectual properties."

This demonstrates that Sotheby's is responsive to concerns over long-standing cultural property issues. 


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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Debating the Portable Antiquities Scheme

I am grateful to the editorial team of the Papers from the Institute of Archaeology (UCL) to write a forum piece on the Portable Antiquities Scheme and the Treasure Act. Brian Hole gives the background in his editorial.

This is now available online with responses from:
There is a final response from me.


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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Benin Cultural Property at Auction

I have commented on Benin cultural property before. I do not wish to discuss the matter further here due to the holiday season but I draw the attention of readers to the post by S. Okwunodu Ogbechie.

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Christmas Greetings


I would like to extend Christmas Greetings to all readers of Looting Matters from a snow-bound South Wales.

Happy Christmas!
Nadolig Llawen!

As a special treat I share a video from the North Point iBand ... I expect all iPad, iPhone and iPod users to be be joining in.



Image
Singleton Park, Swansea, December 2010 © David Gill


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Antiquities seized in Germany

It has been reported that 15 antiquities, some stolen from the Baghdad Museum, have been seized at Krefeld in Germany. It looks as if those handling the material will escape prosecution.

Germany does not have a good record for handling recently-surfaced antiquities (e.g. Apulian helmet). There have also been concerns that antiquities from Iraq are using Germany as a route to the market.

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Culture Monster and Minneapolis

In 2005 a reporter from the LA Times showed the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (MIA) a photograph that linked an Attic red-figured krater to a wider investigation into recently-surfaced antiquities. Now "Culture Monster" at the LA Times has noted (December 21, 2010) the Lee Rosenbaum's coverage of the story.
Questions are being raised about whether the Minneapolis Institute of Arts is coming sufficiently clean about an ancient Greek vase in its collection, which has been linked to antiquities dealers involved in tainted acquisitions by the Getty.
MIA Director, Kaywin Feldman, is probably regretting writing a letter to the New York Times that drew attention to her thinking on cultural property. And her position is important because she is also President of the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD).

But there is another aspect to this story. The krater is reported to have been acquired by the MIA on the recommendation of Michael Conforti, then head curator at the museum. Conforti is a former president of the AAMD and is an advocate of licit markets for antiquities (see also here). Does the acquisition of the Minneapolis krater reflect on his curatorial position?

Rosenbaum also draws attention to the AAMD position ("get tough stance") on the proposed MOU with Greece. The AAMD continues to advocate a surely discredited policy of licit antiquities formulated by Conforti among others (and see here).

Is it accurate that Conforti recommended the acquisition of the MIA krater? If that is the case, what due diligence searches did he conduct?

And will the MIA disclose the results of the internal enquiry that was apparently launched in 2005?

Image
Detail from the Medici Dossier.


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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Medici Dossier and the Minneapolis krater

Lee Rosenbaum has asked the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (MIA) a series of key questions about the Attic red-figured krater acquired in 1983 reportedly on the recommendation of Michael Conforti ("Transparency Gap: Minneapolis Institute Refuses to Discuss Greek Hot Pot", Culturegrrl December 20, 2010). Her starting point is a letter to the New York Times by Kaywin Feldman, director of the MIA and president of the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD), where she noted "the highest principles of collecting and stewardship of their collections".

Rosenbaum rightly shows that this is not a new story. She links to a statement made by MIA in November 2005 (i.e. over five years ago). She also notes that the MIA confirms that the statement as reproduced is accurate. In other words staff at MIA had been shown an image of the krater by a reporter from the Los Angeles Times.

The image, as Rosenbaum reminds us, is derived from the Medici Dossier. It shows the krater still cover with salt, apparently fresh out of the ground.

Readers will be aware that snow is having a major impact in the UK and even Looting Matters is not immune as access to research notes is at present restricted. However an e-trail suggests that I tried to contact MIA in 2007. However I did email Michael Padgett, now at Princeton, who had published a study of the krater ("An Attic Red-Figure Volute Krater", The Minneapolis Institute of Arts Bulletin 66, 1983-86 [1991]). He had noted that "Robert Guy saw the krater on the London market" prior to its purchase. Elsewhere, in an abstract that appeared in the American Journal of Archaeology, he related that the krater had passed through private collections in Switzerland and the United Kingdom. (I have discussed some of the issues in Present Pasts for 2009.)

We also know that the Italian prosecutor has stated in a 2009 interview that he would like to see the krater returned to Italy.

Even after five years of "provenance research" (i.e. working out the collecting history) a representative of the museum stated that "MIA is taking steps to research the krater and for now that's all we can say about it". Does this mean that MIA is only now starting to research the collecting history? And under AAMD guidelines the staff at MIA do not need to be contacted by Italian authorities, but rather they should be proactive and contact the Italians.

Has the time come for the curatorial staff at MIA to resolve the issue?

Image
Detail of a krater from the Medici Dossier

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Friday, December 17, 2010

Monday, December 13, 2010

German Courts and an Apulian Helmet

Last week a German court rejected an Italian claim on a helmet that is alleged to have been removed from an archaeological context in Apulia (Sabine Deckwerth, "Prozess um einen Paradehelm Italien verlangt einen wertvollen antiken Kopfschutz zurück - und zog deshalb vor das Verwaltungsgericht", Berliner Zeitung December 10, 2010). The Italians claim it came from illicit activity in 1993 ("Der hegte einen Verdacht: Dass der Helm aus einer Raubgrabung in Apulien im Jahre 1993 stammt.") The helmet, dating from between 900 and 700 BCE, then passed to the Axel Guttman collection, and after his death in 2001 was offered on the London market (2002). It was spotted in a catalogue by an Italian academic, and in 2004 Italian authorities submitted a claim; the helmet was seized pending the court case.

The German judge has stated that the Italian authorities were unable to demonstrate that the piece had been looted or been able to show when the helmet entered Germany ("Man wisse nicht, ob der Helm tatsächlich aus einer Raubgrabung stammt und wann er von Italien nach Deutschland gelangte"). The court decided to apply a statue of limitation to the case which expired in 2008.

What was the fully documented collecting history for the Apulian helmet?


Sales of the Axel Guttmann collection include:


For earlier comments on the role of Germany in the antiquities market see here.


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Saturday, December 11, 2010

Operation Carolina Mosaico: Expoliadores arrested in Spain

In November it was reported that four individuals had been arrested in Spain following looting from a Roman cemetery ("España: descubiertos restos robados de una necrópolis de Córdoba", AFP, November 16, 2010; "Spanish police recover relics from Roman necropolis", AFP November 16, 2010). One of those arrested was a Belgian-Lebanese male who was reported to be linked to the consignment of marble column-base, valued at 150,000 euros, to Christie's in London. The finds recovered included a Roman mosaic, prehistoric axes and 800 Arab and Roman coins. It was said that "police were still searching for the mastermind behind the network".

There seems to have been a development ("Cae una red que expoliaba y subastaba en Internet piezas arqueológicas", EFE Newswire December 10, 2010). It is reported that there have been some 85 arrests in several provinces: Madrid, Sevilla, Córdoba, Jaén, Málaga, Granada and Valencia. This is part of an operation known as "Carolina Mosaico". There have been some 115 searches that have yielded "6.000 monedas romanas y medievales, puntas de flecha, fíbulas de origen romano, pendientes y hebillas visigodas, hachas de piedra pulimentada, estelas con inscripciones en árabe, columnas y exvotos". The network had been supplying objects to buyers in Germany, the United Kingdom and the USA.

The police statement said that some members of the network had been using metal-detectors ("utilizando detectores de metales") and were paid a daily rate (plus expenses) to search specific sites for archaeological material ("Los expoliadores actuaban en comisión de servicio. Se les asignaban un yacimiento y se les pagaban dietas y gastos de transporte").

The group also seems to have been dealing in precious metals. The seizure also included 120 kg in gold and 900,000 euros ("Detienen en Málaga a dos joyeros y a un numismático en una operación contra el expolio", Sur December 11, 2010). Those arrested include a numismatist ("numismático"), as well as German nationals. A number of weapons, including a machine-gun, have been seized.

There is also apparently evidence of a sophisticated workshop producing objects that were passed off as genuine. Members of the network are reported to have made "auto-bids" for objects offered for sale through the internet.


This story should alert any coin dealers who have been buying directly or indirectly from Spain.

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Friday, December 10, 2010

New York market: update


A year ago it looked as if the New York antiquities market was in decline. The results from Sotheby's and Christie's this week show that there has been a massive upturn, bolstered by the Antinous at Sotheby's and the Cycladic marble figure at Christie's. Together they accounted for over $40 million (out of $79 million achieved this week).

Over $133 million worth of antiquities have been sold at the two auction houses this year. (The second highest year, 2007, only reached $55 million.)

Sotheby's seems to be well ahead of Christie's in the period from 1999 to 2010.

Chart
© David Gill, 2010

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Cycladic on the New York market

I have commented before on the appearance of a marble Cycladic figure, attributed to the 'Schuster Sculptor', on the New York market. Max Bernheimer is no doubt relieved to find that the figure fetched a record $16,882,500 yesterday [press release]. Bernheimer is quoted:
Christie's Antiquities Department made history once again, achieving $34 million, the highest total for an Antiquities sale at Christie’s and selling the exceptional Cycladic marble reclining female figure for an amazing $16.8 million, a world auction record for a Cycladic marble figure and the highest price achieved for an ancient work of art ever sold at Christie’s.
The Christie's sale fetched $34,092,875, a little behind Sotheby's at $45 million. But this means some $79 million worth of antiquities were sold at two New York auction-houses this week.

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Thursday, December 9, 2010

AAMD President "taken aback" on cultural property debate

I am grateful to Lee Rosenbaum of Culturegrrl for her comment on Kaywin Feldman's letter to the New York Times (December 7, 2010) on the return of material from New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art to Egypt. Feldman is president of the Association of Art Museum Directors and director of the Minneapolis Institute of Art. She was responding to a NYT editorial, "Repatriating Tut" (November 29, 2010), that drew attention to Hawass' attempts to reclaim the mummy mask acquired by the St Louis Art Museum.
Egypt has rightly been demanding that governments and museums return fundamental parts of its patrimony that have disappeared from ancient troves. It has had no success thus far with a 3,200-year-old burial mask at the Saint Louis Art Museum, a bust of Nefertiti in Germany, or the Rosetta Stone at the British Museum.
Hawass takes the view that the mask was removed from one of the archaeological stores in Saqqara.

Feldman claimed to be "taken aback" by the editorial, and wrote "to stress that American art museums responsibly manage their collections of ancient art from other countries and cultures". She claimed that members of the AAMD "subscribe to the highest principles of collecting and stewardship of their collections". Yet it has to be remembered that at least five AAMD members (Boston's MFA; Cleveland Museum of Art; Malibu, J. Paul Getty Museum; New York's MMA; Princeton University Art Museum) have returned antiquities to Italy.  Feldman claims that all the other 199 members of the AAMD would do the same as the MMA if research showed that there was a question over an acquisition.

Feldman is no doubt contemplating the photographic evidence of one of the Attic kraters in her own collection. Just in case Feldman is unaware of what to do:
If a member museum, as a result of its continuing research, gains information that establishes another party’s right to ownership of a work, the museum should bring this information to the attention of the party, and if the case warrants, initiate the return of the work to that party, as has been done in the past. In the event that a third party brings to the attention of a member museum information supporting the party’s claim to a work, the museum should respond promptly and responsibly and take whatever steps are necessary to address this claim, including, if warranted, returning the work, as has been done in the past.
In other words, Feldman needs to contact the Italian authorities ("the museum should bring this information to the attention of the party") and investigate the claim.

Of course Minneapolis is not alone in failing to respond to photographs of recently-surfaced antiquities. Take the Minoan larnax in one North American university collection (and AAMD member).

Is this what Feldman interprets as "the highest principles of collecting and stewardship"? Does she understand the issues relating to recently-surfaced antiquities? Would she be better advised to remain silent?


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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Antiquities on the New York market: update


The results of today's sale of antiquities at Sotheby's have been released (see also Clarence Day collection results). Over $45 million worth of antiquities were sold over the last two days, of which $12 million were Egyptian antiquities. It looks as if the market is growing with over $63 million worth of antiquities sold at Sotheby's this year.

Since 1998 some $64 million worth of Egyptian antiquities have been sold at Sotheby's, representing approximately one fifth of sales. Some 65% of Egyptian antiquities surfacing on the market through Sotheby's in the same period do not appear to have a documented collecting history pre-dating 1973 (the date of the AIA declaration). Approximately 95% of the Egyptian antiquities do not have a recorded find-spot.

Chart
© David Gill, 2010

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Martin Carver on sums paid to treasure hunters

Professor Martin Carver, editor of Antiquity, discusses recent metal-detecting finds in his December 2010 editorial.
... why should we pay a treasure hunter 1000 times more than an archaeologist to dig up an object? Even to my politician, it seems pretty obvious that new finds like this year’s Crosby Garrett Roman helmet need to be in a museum where people can see them; and equally obvious that the sums of money paid to treasure hunters are as absurd as their public adulation. Two million pounds for the helmet and three for the Staffordshire hoard – these are sums that could keep a small museum going for several years.

There is a huge debate in the United Kingdom about the value of Arts and Humanities. Craver concludes his editorial with this:
Archaeology is in the business of understanding the climate, the soil, society, religion, conflict, commerce, living together: no minor matters. It is as important as every other science, from medicine to space travel, and its findings have a permanent value. Whatever the future brings, let’s hang on to this principle: the true currency of archaeology is knowledge; that’s our gold standard, valid everywhere.

I am grateful to Paul Barford for drawing my attention to this editorial.

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Clarence Day sale: results

The sale of the Clarence Day collection took place at Sotheby's yesterday (December 7, 2010) with a staggering $36,769,250 achieved [results].

The bust of Antinous, lot 9, fetched $23,826,500 (estimate $2-3 million). The marble was found at Banias (Caesarea Philippi) by M. Pérétié, Chancellor of the French Consulate, Beirut (1879-1882). It then has a well documented collecting history (and even passed through the hands of Robin Symes).

A green porphyry sphinx, lot 25, fetched $5,234,500 (estimate $800,000-$1,200,000). It had surfaced through Hagop Kevorkian, New York, and was "probably acquired before World War II".

A polychrome ushabti, lot 27, achieved $1,314,500 (estimate $200,000-300,000). It was known from a Cairo collection in the 1920s.

The Cycladic figure, attributed to the Rogers sculptor (Lot 6), fetched $332,500 only just within the estimate ($300,000-500,000).


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Saturday, December 4, 2010

Bernheimer on a Cycladic 'Masterpiece'

I have noted earlier the forthcoming sale of a Cycladic marble figure attributed to the 'Schuster Sculptor'.

Max Bernheimer of Christie's has spoken in a short video about the forthcoming auction of the reclining figurine:
G. Max Bernheimer, International Head of Antiquities showcases a Cycladic marble figure, one of the few sculptures attributed to the Schuster Master. The idol is one of the most iconic sculptural types to have survived from antiquity and is the highlight of Christie's Antiquities sale in New York on 9 December.
Bernheimer seems so out of touch with Cycladic scholarship that he still uses the now obsolete nomenclature. I have noted elsewhere:
One change in G-G's approach has been the abandonment of the term 'Master' in favor of 'Sculptor' (though still in upper case). In G-G's earlier work, she explained: 'The term master is used throughout ... to denote a craftsman who was thoroughly competent in his profession although not necessarily highly skilled or capable of producing masterpieces' (SC, p. 62). The use of this term for Cycladic had been challenged: it may be appropriate for the language of 'high art' but not for what is likely to have been a humble craft (GC, pp. 651-52). G-G reports that her methodology and terminology were not borrowed from Morelli or Berenson, or from Beazley -- the obvious close precedent for identifying 'Masters' amongst the makers of ancient Greek artefacts; she reverts to what she now considers to be more art-historically neutral language (pp. xv-xvi).
The auction catalogue entry continues to overlook Pat Getz-Gentle's attribution of 16 figures to the Sculptor.

Those interested in the issues surrounding Cycladic figures can explore some of the issues in:

  • David W.J. Gill and Christopher Chippindale, "Material and intellectual consequences of esteem for Cycladic figures", American Journal of Archaeology 97, 4 (1993) 601-59 [JSTOR]

See also our response to Pat Getz-Gentle [BMCR 2002] as well as the study of the Keros Haul [AJA 2007] that contained some of the figures attributed to the Schuster Sculptor.


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Princeton: correction

I am grateful to a reader for pointing out that Catherine Duazo's article on acquisitions by the Princeton University Art Museum has been updated. It now states:
In June 2010, the Italian government accused the Princeton University Art Museum’s antiquities curator, J. Michael Padgett, of acquiring nearly two dozen Italian artifacts for the museum that were the property of the Italian government. The University conducted an internal investigation and is now waiting for the Italian government's response.
It should be noted that the New York Times disclosed the Italian papers in June 2010.

There is an additional note at the end of the article:
Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that J. Michael Padgett was accused of illegally donating artifacts to the Princeton University Art Museum when, in fact, he allegedly assisted in the artifacts' acquisition from an alumnus.
This story is about the due diligence process conducted by a curatorial member of staff at the Princeton University Art Museum. And the correction is misleading in that the report that appeared in The New York Times included loans as well as acquisitions.

The alumnus has given an interview to Princeton Alumni Weekly (and see my earlier comments):
The New York Times recently reported that Italian authorities are investigating Edoardo Almagià ’73 for illegal trafficking in antiquities. The Times cited a document written by Italian authorities alleging that the former antiquities dealer loaned, donated, and sold ancient artifacts to the Princeton University Art Museum through curator Michael Padgett, who also is under investigation.
Objects linked to Almagià have been returned from Cleveland to Italy.

What are the fully documented collecting histories of the twenty or so disputed pieces? What loans were made? Will Princeton make all this information available via its website? (A model for this would be Boston's Museum of Fine Art where it is extremely easy to find objects derived from Almagià, e.g. Roman portrait acquired in 1991, "By 1991: with Edoardo Almagià, 136 East 56th Street, New York, NY 10022; purchased by MFA from Edoardo Almagià, May 22, 1991"). Will Princeton make available its full due diligence process?

James Steward, the present director of the Princeton University Art Museum, claims:
We ask a very rigorous set of questions about any work of art that hypothetically might enter our collection either as a gift or a purchase ... We really have a tough standard in that regard, and I would say one of the toughest standards in the country.
If such a "rigorous set of questions" have been asked about the twenty or so objects, Princeton University Art Museum has an academic responsibility to make a full disclosure of this information.


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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Princeton: antiquities with a "period of uncertain whereabouts"

The Princeton University Art Museum has attracted some attention in recent years. In 2007 the museum returned some items to Italy though it has yet to disclose (unlike Boston's Museum of Fine Art, and the J. Paul Getty Museum) the complete collecting histories for the objects. However it appears that some of the items feature in the Medici Dossier.

More recently, in June 2010, it was reported that the museum has been mentioned in papers relating to Edoardo Almagià, a New York dealer. The appearance of Almagià is not without significance as his name has been linked to objects returned to Italy from the Cleveland Museum of Art. Almagià has responded to the story with an interview. The Princeton curator mentioned in the Italian report has also given an interview.

Now Catherine Duazo ("Art museum acquisitions face scrutiny over past ownership", Daily Princetonian November 30, 2010) has commented on the Alamagià story.
In June 2010, the Italian government accused the Princeton University Art Museum’s antiquities curator, J. Michael Padgett, of acquiring nearly two dozen Italian artifacts through fraudulent means and illegally donating them to the museum. The University conducted an internal investigation and is now waiting for the Italian government's response.

“There is still no indictment, and there is no investigation of the museum,” explained James Steward, director of the museum. “Beyond that, we’re in a wait-and-see situation.” Steward is the only member of the museum authorized to discuss its acquisition policies, and he declined to elaborate on the internal investigation.

In fact it was the New York Times that reported that the Italian legal case existed.

And what did the internal investigation show? What were the documented collecting histories of the disputed pieces? Could the objects be traced back to the period before 1970?

Duazo talks about the new Princeton acquisition policy.
Lorraine Sciarra, senior University counsel, said in an e-mail that the art museum’s current acquisition procedures have been in place since 2006.

“Princeton University Art Museum has a stringent acquisition policy in keeping with the November 1970 UNESCO agreement regarding the acquisition of ancient works of art or archaeological material,” she explained. “The policy reflects the art museum's commitment to respecting the preservation of every nation's cultural heritage as well as the specific patrimony law of each country of origin.”
But what about the due dilgence process in the 1980s, the 1990s and the early 2000s when the disputed pieces were acquired?

A university art museum like Princeton could be expected to disclose the full collecting histories of the disputed pieces. Why has this information been retained? (And while we are talking about collecting histories, what was the source for the silver gilt plaque acquired by Princeton in 2002?)

Padgett's name has also been linked to a pelike he attributed to the Eretria painter that apparently appears in the Medici Dossier.


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Monday, November 29, 2010

Sherif Hassan released

Thank you to all who supported Sherif Hassan who was detained in Egypt. There were some 4000 visits to the website over the weekend. I understand that he has arrived at Heathrow this evening.

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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Rick Witschonke on the stigma of association

Rick Witschonke of Califon, New Jersey has responded in a letter to the editor of the Art Newspaper.  He comments on the report of the appearance of two items that feature in the Medici Dossier in the October sale at Bonhams.

There are several points worth noting:

  • "The stigma of association with one of these convicted antiquities traffickers is often enough to result in its withdrawal". This was not the case with either Bonhams in October 2010 or Christie's in June 2010; both auction-houses proceeded with the sales. However this was true for Bonhams in October 2008, and April 2010. (For seizures at Christie's in 2009 see here.)
  • "The larger issue, however, is that US collectors, dealers, auction houses, and museums are compelled to research the provenance of any prospective purchase to ensure it is not recently looted". The issue is that it is appropriate for vendors and buyers to conduct a rigorous due diligence process. In some recent cases the objects had passed through London sales that had included material already returned to Italy. On a minor note this is not just an issue for US collectors etc.
  • "The objective is to make the antiquities trade more transparent". This is why it is important for auction houses and galleries to provide documented collecting histories to demonstrate that the objects on offer can be traced back to the period before 1970 (and the UNESCO Convention). And note the word documented: the collecting history needs to be verifiable.
  • "If a collector could go to a public archive (the Art Loss Register, for example), and determine whether a prospective purchase was questionable, the object would likely remain unsold". If the aim is to return material removed illicitly from archaeological contexts in Italy then objects recognised from (say) the Becchina Archive may not resurface in case they are seized. Is Witschonke right to suggest that the ALR does not have access to part of the Medici Dossier?
  • There is a more important issue to note. Bonhams appears to have presented a misleading collecting history for both piece: "European private collection, formed between the 1960s and early 1990s" and "Swiss private collection formed in 1960s-1970s". Yet if the Polaroids are to be believed the two items were passing through the Swiss market in the 1970s or later. This is not the only time that the Bonhams collecting histories have not been entirely straightforward. And it appears that Christie's "forgot" to divulge a key part of the collecting history of a recently discussed object that appeared at auction earlier this year.

Witschonke is a curatorial associate of the American Numismatic Society (ANS) and Co-Director of the ANS Graduate Seminar in Numismatics.

For a further comment on the Art Newspaper letter with a response from Witschonke see here.

Image
Witschonke at the ANS Graduate Seminar.



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Please Release Sherif Hassan!

Looting Matters normally confines itself to archaeological matters. However, in this case, I am going to make an exception as I know that these posts are widely read by those interested in (ancient) Egypt.

Mark Meynell, who works at All Souls, Langham Place (next to the BBC), has posted a story that is hard to ignore.
On 9th November, we had the terrible news from friends at All Souls. Emma and her Egyptian husband, Sherif, who only got married at All Souls in the summer, were travelling to Cairo to visit members of his family. She was immediately put back on the plane she had come in; Sherif was detained. Over the last couple of weeks, contact has been sporadic, mainly by email but one brief phone call.
Meynell has set up a website to encourage support for Sherif Hassan.

If you have an interest in Egypt please consider supporting this campaign and make Sherif's case known.

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Friday, November 26, 2010

Looting Matters: Zeus Returns to Italy

Looting Matters: Zeus Returns to Italy
A discussion of the Zeus returned to Italy.

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The Barcelona Galerista and Egypt

I am very proud of my postgraduate students who are a bright group. Today we were discussing repatriation and Egypt. They drew my attention to a limestone block from the Tomb of Imep-Hor that is now listed on the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) website.

According to the SCA website the block was spotted in the Alexandra Irigoyen Art Gallery in Madrid.
On March 19th, 2009, Dr. Josep Cervello from the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona sent an e-mail to the Secretary General of the SCA expressing his concern about a limestone block that was then on display in the art gallery of Alexandra Irigoyen in Madrid.
This story had been spotted in anonymous form by the same group of students. But now we have further detail:
Dr. Cervello also was able to ascertain that the piece belongs to the Galerias F. Cervera in Barcelona.
This is the same Barcelona galerista linked to the Egyptian coffin seized in Miami. Barcelona has also been the location of seizures during Operation Ghelas.

I presume that the Barcelona galerista will be providing the SCA with full information as part of their enquiries.

Image
SCA

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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Looting Matters would like to wish North American readers a Happy Thanksgiving!

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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Portable Antiquities Scheme: detail on cuts

The Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) has posted details of how it will deal with the cuts announced as part of the Comprehensive Spending Review. PAS is facing a 15% reduction by 2014-15. One of the most significant features is the impact of devolution. Historically PAS has covered England and Wales. However it is stated:
To reduce the current contribution made by the Scheme to PAS in Wales, the total costs of which is £75K pa, from £59K this year to £6K from 2012. This is on the basis that these costs should be borne by the Welsh Assembly Government, through CyMAL or the National Museum Wales
Wales is facing significant budget cuts. (See draft budget.) Last Friday, the Heritage Minister, Alun Ffred Jones, announced:
As a result of cuts to the Welsh budget by the UK government, the Heritage portfolio revenue budget will see a reduction of 3.15% over 3 years with the capital budget decreasing by 33.9% over 3 years.
The Welsh Assembly Government website does not appear to contain any mention of PAS.

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Portable Antiquities Scheme and The British Museum

I recently completed an invited forum piece on the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) and the Treasure Act and am now waiting to write my response to the five reactions. I note that today the Department of Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) announced the new arrangement for PAS. Culture Minister Ed Vaizey "confirmed an additional £1.3m of funding going directly to the British Museum to run the Portable Antiquities scheme" (press release, October 23, 2010).

A more detailed press statement was issued by the British Museum ("British Museum to manage Portable Antiquities Scheme, as exciting new finds go on display", November 23, 2010).
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey today confirmed that the future funding of the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) has been secured with a reduction of 15% in real terms over four years. From April 2011 it will be managed directly by the British Museum.

There is a quote from Neil Macgregor:
Following the Spending Review settlement we will wish to maintain the integrity of the Portable Antiquities Scheme as much as we can. Bringing both the PAS and the administration of the Treasure Act together under the management of the British Museum will ensure an effective and efficient mechanism for dealing with archaeological finds made by the public, which also complements the work of curators, conservators and others at the museum.
Image
Ed Vaizey "handling treasure". Source: DCMS.

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Creative collecting histories?

The "Merrin Zeus" is a reminder that purchasers need to have fully documented collecting histories that can be traced back to the period before 1970. If the Zeus was indeed removed from the Museo Nazionale Romano in 1980 it would appear that the collecting history that it had been in an old Swiss collection in the 1960s was fabricated. Who created the account? Who knew it was fiction?

The Castor and Pollux statues now on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art also have an interesting collecting history. Where did they acquire the reported find-spot of the Mithraeum in Sidon? The curatorial staff at the Met have yet to present their documented and authenticated collecting history.

What do the Zeus and the Dioskouroi have in common?

Image
Head from Roman marble statuette. The Schinoussa Archive.

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Monday, November 22, 2010

The collecting history of the Merrin Zeus

It appears that my suggestion that the bronze Zeus returned to Italy was significant. This means that we can reconstruct the recent collecting history:

a. 1980. Statue reported to have been removed from the Museo Nazionale Romano.
b. 1982. Statue surfaced in the supplementary exhibition, The Search for Alexander, in The Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco (no. S-10).
c. 1983. Statue appeared in the supplementary exhibition, The Search for Alexander, in the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto (no. S-14).
d. 1984. Statue published by Joyce Geary Volk in California Studies in Classical Antiquity. Owner stated to be Edward H. Merrin of New York City. Collecting history stated: "Mr. Merrin purchased it from a dealer who had obtained it from a Swiss collector in the late 1960s".
e. 1988-89. Statue appeared in The Gods Delight: The Human Figure in Classical Bronze, organized by Arielle P. Kozloff and David Gordon Mitten (no. 29).  Owner stated to be: Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence A. Fleischman.  Exhibited: The Cleveland Museum of Art; The Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
f. 2004. Statue auctioned at Sotheby's New York December 9, lot 249. Sold for $164,800. Sold as: Fleischman collection, New York.
g. 2010. Statue returned to Italy.

If the identification is correct, and I have no reason at present to doubt it, then there are serious questions to ask.

Where did Edward H. Merrin obtain the bronze Zeus? What is the name of the "dealer who had obtained it from a Swiss collector in the late 1960s"? And what is the identity of the anonymous Swiss dealer?


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Saturday, November 20, 2010

The bronze Zeus returned to Italy: a little more detail

The Italian press has been commenting on the report that a female marble torso and a bronze Zeus have been returned to Italy ("Busto romano in vetrina a New York riportato in Italia da un maresciallo", Corriere della Sera November 20, 2010).
Il pregevole bronzetto era detenuto da una ricchissima collezionista di Manhattan, che l'aveva comprato da una casa d'aste per 537 mila dollari. La donna, messa al corrente della provenienza illecita, l'ha restituito senza chiedere contropartite. In precedenza era transitato per una mostra a Cleveland, nell'Ohio, dove era stato presentato con un'expertise di Marion True processata poi per gli acquisti del Getty Museum di Malibù e mostrato sulla rivista «Gods Delight».
The Italian report confirms the Zeus was in the exhibition The Gods Delight at the Cleveland Museum of Art.

But who is 'la donna' described as 'una ricchissima collezionista di Manhattan'?

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Friday, November 19, 2010

The bronze Zeus returned to Italy

Earlier today I noted the return of a marble female torso and a bronze Zeus to Italy. The statue of the Zeus is distinctive with the right arm lost below the elbow. (There is now a short statement on the Carabinieri website; see also "Zeus statue returned to Italian museum after 30 years", Daily Telegraph November 19, 2010)

Paul Barford also noted the story and added a quote from AFP.
The bronze statue, which was stolen from the National Roman Museum in 1980, was sold by Sotheby's auction house in New York in 2006 and later put on display at an exhibition in Cleveland in the US state of Ohio.
I have been unable to find a bronze Zeus at auction at Sotheby's in 2006. However a bronze figure of a Zeus, some 24 cm tall, with a "missing right hand" (it appears to be missing from the elbow) was auctioned at Sotheby's New York on 9 December 2004, lot 249.

The Zeus auctioned at Sotheby's in 2004 had been exhibited at the Cleveland Museum of Art:
The Gods Delight: The Human Figure in Classical Bronze, Arielle P. Kozloff and David Gordon Mitten, eds., catalogue of the exhibition at The Cleveland Museum of Art, November 16th, 1988 - January 8th, 1989, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, February 9th - April 9th, 1989, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, May 9th - July 9th, 1989, Cleveland, 1988, no. 29, pp. 168-172, illus.
At the time of the Cleveland exhibition this Zeus was the property of Mr and Mrs Lawrence A. Fleischman. The Fleischman statue had appeared in the Search for Alexander exhibition at The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco in 1982. It was published by Joyce Geary Volk ("A Lysippan Zeus", California Studies in Classical Antiquity 3, 2 [1984] 272-83) who reported that in 1984 the Zeus was the property of Edward H. Merrin: "Mr Merrin purchased it from a dealer who had obtained it from a Swiss collector in the late 1960s".

Image
AP via artdaily.com

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Two Stolen Statues Return to Italy

It has been reported that two statues stolen from collections in Italy have been returned ("Italy announces return from US of 2 stolen statues", New York Post November 19, 2010; "Eagle-eyed officer helps return stolen art to Italy", BBC News November 19, 2010). The marble female torso had been stolen from a museum at Terracina in 1988. It was spotted by off-duty Carabinieri officer, Michele Speranza, in an antiquities gallery in Madison Avenue. He recognised it from the image database of stolen items.

The bronze head of Zeus was stolen from the Museo Nazionale, Rome in 1980. It had resurfaced at an auction at Sotheby's in 2006 and was found in a New York collection.

I am grateful to Katie Downey for alerting me to the story.

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Looting Matters: The Treasure Act and the Crosby Garrett Helmet

Looting Matters: The Treasure Act and the Crosby Garrett Helmet

Lord Renfrew calls for a review of The Treasure Act (1996) in the wake of the sale of the Crosby Garrett Roman helmet.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Lord Renfrew calls for transparency

The sale of the so-called Crosby Garrett helmet for £2.2 million ($3.6 million) has started to raise some uncomfortable questions. It is now clear if the helmet was found by "a young guy" (Georgiana Aitken of Christie's) or "an unnamed father and son" from Peterlee County Durham (The Independent). Dr Roger Bland of the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) has talked about "the real gap" in The Treasure Act (1996). (Indeed the real issue is the term used for the act.)

A month ago Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn called a review of The Treasure Act in a letter to The Times (London).

On October 20, 2010 Lord Renfrew tabled a written question:
To Ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will review the definition of "treasure" so that major heritage discoveries, such as the Roman parade helmet found at Crosby Garrett and recently sold by public auction, should fall within the scope of the Treasure Act.[HL2515]

Baroness Rawlings (the President of the British Antique Dealers' Association [BADA]) presented a written reply:
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport plans to review the Treasure Act Code of Practice and this will include the definition of Treasure contained in the Treasure Act 1996. This review will take the form of a public consultation and so will provide the opportunity to consider whether it would be appropriate to extend the definition of treasure to include items such as the Roman parade helmet found at Crosby Garrett.

Lord Renfrew has now returned to the theme in the House of Lords by asking the question (November 11, 2010):
To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will review the definition of “treasure” in the Treasure Act 1996 in the light of the sale at auction of the Roman parade helmet recently found in Cumbria for £2 million.

Baroness Rawlings reminded Lord Renfrew of her written reply. In response Lord Renfrew noted:
It is strange that a national treasure can be sold at public auction by an anonymous vendor to an anonymous buyer.
But he then added a question that must cause concern for those dealing in antiquities within the United Kingdom:
will the Government consider reviewing the law on antiquities at sale by auction in favour of some transparency?
Transparency would mean auction houses and galleries providing full details of collecting histories and vendors.

Lord Redesdale returned to the issue of the Crosby Garrett helmet:
My Lords, are moves afoot to look at the practices of the auction houses, given that this helmet was found in many pieces and an enormous amount of archaeological information was lost when conservators put the pieces back together without consulting archaeologists? Is that a practice that auction houses should undertake, given that loss of information on a very rare artefact? Are the Government looking at sales of antiquities through internet sites such as eBay? That is becoming a real source of worry, as much of our heritage is disappearing abroad without any record whatever.
The restorer's report on the helmet is indeed enlightening and I am very grateful to Georgiana Aitken of Christie's for sending me a copy. There is indeed real concern that such an unusual object - could we use the term 'national treasure'? - was not put in the hands of an archaeological conservator.

But Lord Redesdale also raises the issue about eBay. He appears to be suggesting that archaeological material from the United Kingdom is slipping abroad. Are these just chance finds? Or are there those who make a deliberate search for archaeological material? And are all these items recorded by the Portable Antiquities Scheme? How much material goes unrecorded?

Baroness Rawlings responded by talking about 'provenance' (or more accuratley 'collecting histories'):
It is in the interests of both auctioneers and dealers to check that the provenance of items is acceptable to reduce any risk of prosecution for handling stolen goods or dealing in tainted or mended goods.
This brings us back to Lord Renfrew's point for the need of greater transparnechy in the market and the full disclousre of documented collecting histories when archaeological material is offered for sale on the market.

The sale of the Crosby Garrett helmet may well be seen as a turning-point in the debate over the market in archaeological material.


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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

RSS Subscriptions and Cultural Property Blogs


Back in July 2010 I took a snapshot of those subscribing to Looting Matters via RSS and Google Reader. I have just taken another look and note that 287 people receive LM in this way. (RSS is also delivering to other Web 2.0 contexts so this is a partial figure.) This means that in October approximately 8000 posts were delivered to electronic desktops, smart phones, iPads and other mobile devices. This was in addition to the 13,695 visits to the website over the same period; email subscriptions are on top of that figure.

For convenience I have combined the latest figures (red) with those for July (blue) to give some idea of how subscriptions have changed.

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