Friday, October 28, 2016

Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Bill

Photo: David Gill
The Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Bill [pdf] will have its second reading in the House of Commons on Monday 31 October 2016 (see timetable).

The Bill will "enable the United Kingdom to implement the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict of 1954 and the Protocols to that Convention of 1954 and 1999".

The House of Commons Library analysis (25 October 2016) can be found here.

The aims of the Bill are as follows:

  • create offences to protect cultural property (as defined by the Convention) in the event of armed conflict 
  • create offences relating to the unauthorised use of the “Blue Shield” – the emblem used to identify cultural property protected under the Convention and its Protocols 
  • make it an offence to deal in cultural property illegally exported from occupied territory 
  • introduce immunity from seizure for cultural property which is being transported to, or through, the UK for safekeeping

There has been considerable discussion and debate through the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Cultural Heritage.

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Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Draped goddess from "a distinguished private collection"

Goddess from Schinoussa Archive
Source: Dr Christos Tsirogiannis
Christie's is due to be auctioning a 'Roman marble draped goddess' in their auction at the Rockefeller Plaza, New York on 25 October 2016 (lot 92). It is recorded as the "property from a distinguished private collection". The collecting history ("provenance") is provided as: "with Perpitch Gallery, Paris"; and acquired from there by the current owner "prior to 1991". The estimated value is $100,000 to $150,000.

1991 is some distance in time from the benchmark date of 1970 provided by the UNESCO Convention.

The goddess appears to be the same as the one identified by Dr Christos Tsirogiannis in the Schinoussa Archive. This suggests that the goddess, at some point, passed through the hands of Robin Symes.

Why is the collecting history for the goddess that appears in the sale catalogue incomplete? Had the due diligence process failed to make the apparent link with Symes? How had the object's history between 1970 and 1991 been explained?

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Friday, October 7, 2016

Arrests in Greece

News is emerging of 26 arrests linked to a network supplying antiquities (including coins) to outlets in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the UK (Helen Stoilas, "Police in Greece arrest 26 in bust of alleged antiquities smuggling ring", The Art Newspaper 5 October 2016). It appears that more than 50 people were involved in the network.

It is reported:
The two alleged ringleaders of the gang were arrested on Sunday at the Greek-Bulgarian border, and had almost 1,000 coins and small artefacts hidden in the bumper of their car. Police said they have recovered a cache of more than 2,000 objects, mostly coins, but including gold jewellery, bronze figurines, ancient glassware and some larger stone and marble statues.
A number of metal detectors were recovered.

A spokesperson for the Greek police is mentioned, "Police said the works were sold using fake provenance documents attributing them to private collections in Europe, but that the auction houses involved (which have not been named) knew the coins were illicit property and often helped inflate the final prices paid for them."

This raises the question that there is a lack of rigour in the due diligence process adopted by some, as yet unnamed, dealers. However if any of those dealers have been linked in previous cases there needs to be a full investigation of internal procedures.

The case is a reminder of why coins need to form part of MOUs.


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