Thursday, June 11, 2015

From the Koutoulakis Collection

Peter Watson explored the relationship between Giacomo Medici and Nikolas Koutoulakis. Koutoulakis' name also appears in the 'organigram'. So would a potential buyer be nervous if a Greek object was on offer with its stated collecting history ("provenance") as 'from the Koutoulakis collection'?

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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Koutoulakis Herm returns to Greece

Source: Hellenic Ministry of Culture
In October 2014 Bonhams offered a Roman herm that it was claimed to have been in the collection of Nicolas Koutoulakis collection in Geneva since 1965. But Glasgow University researcher Dr Christos Tsirogiannis spotted that the head had been offered on the market in the spring of 1987, undermining the collecting history presented in the catalogue.

The head has now been returned to Athens and features in a major press release. Sadly Tsirogiannis' contribution is not acknowledged.

I have written on the issues relating to this herm in the Journal of Art Crime ("Context Matters: Learning from the Herm: The Need for More Rigorous Due Diligence Searches").

This case reminds us of the need to authenticate the documentation used to present collecting histories, and it brings into question the issues relating the due diligence search conducted by Bonhams (and its agents).

It perhaps shows that objects associated with Koutoulakis are not above suspicion. I was recently viewing such an object linked with that individual in a high profile London gallery. What questions should be asked about that piece?

For my earlier discussion of this herm see here.

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Monday, June 8, 2015

Journal of Art Crime 2015 (Spring)

The Spring number of the Journal of Art Crime, edited by Noah Charney, is now available.

Here is the table of contents for the latest issue of this bi-annual publication listing the archaeological papers that will be of interest to readers of LM:

ACADEMIC ARTICLES

  • Analyzing Criminality in the Market for Ancient Near Eastern Art by Ryan Casey 
  • Damaging the Archaeological Record: The Lenborough Hoard by David Gill
  • “But We Didn’t Steal It:” Collectors’ Justifications for Purchasing Looted Antiquities by Erin L. Thompson 

REGULAR COLUMNS

  • Context Matters “From Palmyra to Mayfair: The Movement of Antiquities from Syria and Northern Iraq” by David Gill 
  • Nekyia “Duplicates and the Antiquities Market” by Christos Tsirogiannis 


EDITORIAL ESSAYS

  • New Archaeological Discoveries and Cultural Ventures beyond War Threats: A Model of Excellence Stemming from Iraqi-Italian Cooperation by Francesca Coccolo 


REVIEWS

  • Cultural Heritage Ethics: Between Theory and Practice Edited by Constantine Sandis Reviewed by Marc Balcells


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Thursday, June 4, 2015

From an old Montecito collection

When a Palmyrene sculpture appears on the market you would expect the auction house to provide an authenticated collecting history. "Acquired prior to 1996" sounds rather imprecise and suggests that there is no documented collecting history showing the sculpture's origins.

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Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The impact of the Medici and Becchina archives

Source: MiBACT
The Art Newspaper (Melanie Girlis, "Calls to open looted-art archives grow louder", 2 June 2015) has published a skewed comment on the impact of the photographs (and other documentation) from the Medici and Becchina archives (and there is, of course, the Schinoussa archive). Over 300 items have been returned to Italy as a result of the on-going investigations into the trade in recently surfaced archaeological material (see interim report). Museums have included: Boston's Museum of Fine Art, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the J. Paul Getty Museum, New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Princeton University Art Museum. (The Dallas Museum of Art conducted a voluntary internal review and returned a number of items.) The returns have included private collectors such as Shelby White and the late Leon Levy, Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman, and Muarice Tempelsman. And objects have been withdrawn, returned or seized from auction houses and galleries in North America. And even a pair of statues were returned from a health insurance company.

It is clear that in spite of the 1970 UNESCO Convention auction houses, galleries and dealers continued to handle recently surfaced material from Italy, and that public museums (including university collections) and private collectors continued to acquire this material without asking serious questions about how the material arrived on the market.

Christopher Chippindale and I explored some of the themes in 2000 [see JSTOR] without access to the photographic archives. We were able to identify pieces without a collecting history that could be traced back to the period before 1970 that were subsequently returned to Italy.

Peter Watson's investigations into a major auction-house in London identified the way that objects were consigned to the market, and these sales have been represented by a number of objects that have been returned.

So why are dealers and museum directors calling for these photographic archives to be made public? First, they do not wish the lack of due diligence in the preparations for sales and acquisitions to be made public. Second, there is concern that there could be reputational damage if objects are identified in collections are sales.

So what can the market do? There needs to be an improvement in the due diligence process, and objects need to be provided with properly authenticated and documented collecting histories. Is that too much to ask?

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