Saturday, February 18, 2017

The value of looting in Syria

Rick Noack has written a piece on the funding of IS ("The Islamic State’s ‘business model’ is failing, study says", Washington Post 17 February 2017) based on a report by London-based International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR) at King's College London and Ernst & Young.

The report states that the amount of money derived from IS from Antiquities is 'unknown' though it suggests that some $110-190 million was derived from looting, confiscations and fines (in 2016).

For my work in this area: "Context Matters: From Palmyra to Mayfair: the Movement of Antiquities from Syria and Northern Iraq", Journal of Art Crime 13 (2015) 73-80.


Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Sarcophagus fragment: Greece, Basel, and New York

Source: Becchina archive
One month ago I was informed that a sarcophagus fragment had been seized from a New York gallery. The identification of the piece with an image in the Becchina archive had been made by Dr Christos Tsirogiannis.

It is worth reviewing the collecting history for the piece:

  • piece handled by Greek trafficker, Giorgos Ze[ne...]
  • 25 May 1988: Gianfranco Becchina paid SF 60,000 to Zene[]
  • Object placed in the Basel Freeport
  • Andre Lorenceau cleaned and then drilled the fragment to create holes for mount
  • April 1991: Swiss art market
  • Attributed by Dr Guntram Koch [date of attribution not provided]
  • 1992: Royal-Athena Galleries, Art of the Ancient World vii, no. 57
  • 2000: Royal-Athena Galleries, Art of the Ancient World xi, no. 30
  • April 2000: Dr H collection, Germany
  • 2016: Royal-Athena Galleries, Art of the Ancient World xxviii, no. 6 [online] Price on Request
  • 2017, 14 January: fragment seized
  • 2017, 10 February: sarcophagus returned to Greece
The identity of the vendor on the Swiss art market in April 1991 is not made clear in the history. Who sold the sarcophagus fragment to the Royal-Athena Galleries? What other pieces have been derived from the same source? When did those transactions take place?

Will there be further clues in the Becchina archive showing how material passed from Switzerland to North America?

For further information and images see ARCA.

Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Weeting Castle and metal-detecting

Weeting Castle © David Gill

It has been reported that metal-detectorists have been investigating the area around the English Heritage property of Weeting Castle in Norfolk (Rebecca Murphy, "Reports of illegal metal detecting near the historic Weeting Castle", Watton & Swaffham Times 13 February 2017).
The incident is believed to have involved seven men and to have taken place around Weeting Castle area over three consecutive nights towards the end of January and beginning of February.
I presume that we will be hearing a strong condemnation from Historic England.


Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Friday, February 10, 2017

New York dealer returns sarcophagus to Greece

Source: Becchina Archive
Back in January I reported that a sarcophagus identified by Dr Christos Tsirogiannis from the Becchina archive had been seized from a gallery in New York.

Today there has been a ceremony in New York with the Hellenic Consul General. The sarcophagus was spotted in the Royal-Athena Galleries.

Further details in the Greek press.

Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Revisiting Cycladic figures




I will be presenting a seminar on Cycladic figures to the Aegean Archaeology Seminar in Cambridge on Thursday 9 February. I am taking as my themes:

  • Responses to Gill and Chippindale on Cycladic figures (published in the American Journal of Archaeology)
  • The value of Cycladic figures sold on the antiquities market in London and New York since 2000
  • The Keros Haul (and why it is not a hoard)
  • The return of the Karlsruhe figure and the 'inadequate sculptors'
  • Forgeries of Cycladic figures
  • The wider implications for and the application to classical archaeology


Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Setting high ethical standards for collecting antiquities

Ka Nefer Nefer mummy mask. Source: SLAM
Victoria Reed, from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, has been discussing the need for due diligence in museums ("How should museums respond to art smuggling scandals?", Apollo January 24, 2017). This is clearly an important issue for the museum as it was one of the first of the North American museums to return objects to Italy in the wake of the Medici Conspiracy (see  "From Boston to Rome: reflections on returning antiquities").

Reed makes an important point about 'verified' information; I choose to talk about 'authenticated' documentation. How to we chart the collecting history of an object? What are the confirmed sources?

I was taken by this section:
If, however, an investigation turns up looted antiquities in a museum collection (for example, if photographs show an object shortly after it was illicitly removed from the ground, or if its provenance documentation was demonstrably forged), then a museum has an obligation to redress the break in the chain of that object’s ownership in some way. Usually such a resolution is achieved through a financial settlement with, or physical return to, the country of modern discovery. Museums hold their collections as public trusts, and no museum should wish knowingly to retain stolen property on behalf of the public.
It is worth returning to the case of the Ka Nefer Nefer mummy case at the St Louis Art Museum ("The Case of the Ka Nefer Nefer Mummy Mask"). Now that the email discussions have been made public it would be appropriate for the museum to revisit the acquisition and to start negotiating with the Egyptian authorities.

Minoan larnax. Source Becchina archive, and Carlos Museum
And what about the Minoan larnax in the Carlos Museum at Emory University? Why has there been no attempt to resolve this claim from Greece that has been on-going for so many years? Is the imagery from the Becchina unconvincing for the museum curators? How do they explain the images and the documentation?

Reed, I am sure, is sincere in what she writes. But her writing does not take full account of museums in North America that have yet to adjust their ethical positions in defiance of their public and educational roles.

Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Monday, January 23, 2017

Operation Pandora

A selection of coins seized in Operation Pandora. Source: Europol.
The Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH has reported that Operation Pandora has recovered some 3500 cultural objects including some 400 coins. 75 people are said to have been arrested in 18 countries.

Some of the selling of material has taken place online.

Europol has issued a press release ("3561 artefacts seized in Operation Pandora", 23 January 2017). The main activity took place in November 2016.

Countries listed:

  • EU-countries: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Germany, Greece, Italy, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain and the United Kingdom. 
  • Non-EU countries involved: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Switzerland

What activity took place in the UK?

See also the report from the BBC ("'Operation Pandora' recovers thousands of artefacts", 23 January 2017).

Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Friday, January 20, 2017

Further damage at Palmyra



The BBC is reporting further damage at Palmyra ("Syria: IS destroys part of Palmyra amphitheatre", BBC News 20 January 2017). This includes the theatre (not amphitheatre) and the tetrapylon.

Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Intellectual Consequences of Forgeries

I attended the Second AHRC Workshop | Art, Crime and Criminals: Painting Fresh Pictures of Art Theft, Fraud and Plunder at RUSI in London yesterday. I was very struck that some of the issues that I have explored with Christopher Chippindale in our work on Cycladic sculptures were emerging for other works of art and from so many different cultures. Undetected forgeries corrupt the corpus of knowledge and undermine the genuine pieces.

Some of the lessons derived from the conference should be that academics need to be more cautious about providing attributions and opinions as these can be used to authenticate the forgeries. Secondly, the due diligence needs to be far more rigorous.

I will be revisiting Cycladic figures in February as part of a presentation in Cambridge and I expect modern creations will feature in the discussion.

Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Monday, January 16, 2017

Sarcophagus fragment reported to have been seized

Image from Becchina archive. Source via Dr Christos Tsirogiannis
I was in London for a conference today and was informed that US authorities seized a fragmentary sarcophagus in New York over the weekend. Full details have yet to be confirmed and I also understand that the fragment remains on display in the gallery.

It seems likely that the piece of sculpture has associations with northern Greece.

The fragment featured in the Becchina archive.

Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails