Wednesday, December 5, 2007

"Always a background of quasi-socialist sentiment"

The coverage of recent rumours of impending US restrictions on antiquities provides some insights into the thinking behind some of those who appear to support or defend the unrestricted collecting of cultural objects (Jeremy Kahn, "Is the U.S. Protecting Foreign Artifacts? Don't Ask", New York Times, April 8, 2007).

One of the more colourful comments was from
William G. Pearlstein who describes himself as counsel at Golenbock Eiseman Assor Bell and Peskoe LLP. He is listed as representing "Private dealers and collectors of fine art and antiquities" as well as the "National Association of Dealers in Ancient, Oriental and Primitive Art, Inc."

Pearlstein came up with this wonderful statement (if we accept the veracity of NYT):

In a lot of anti-collecting bashing or museum bashing that goes on there is always a background of quasi-socialist sentiment.
And what is the evidence for this sweeping statement? Does "always" mean "always"? And what is "quasi-socialist sentiment"? And does speaking out against the looting of archaeological sites equate to "anti-collecting bashing or museum bashing"? In fact such a comment suggests that Pearlstein has rather run out of rational lines of defence.

If Pearlstein took a moment to think about his sound bite he would have been struck by the oddity of describing Lord Renfrew, for example, as a quasi-socialist.

But what made me amused was the next comment:

You always hear archaeologists hissing about money.
Is legal work conducted for dealers pro bono?

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