Skip to main content

Portable Antiquity Collecting

Paul Barford has shown true tenacity, resolve and patience in the way he has raised issues about portable antiquities. He now has his own blog Portable Antiquity Collecting and Heritage Issues in addition to being an invited commentator on Safecorner.

Here is a flavour of what he plans to talk about:
Even a perfunctory perusal of the websites, “discussion” (sic) lists, forums and blogs of the advocates of a (‘leave us alone’) status quo for portable antiquity collectors will reveal that they have a number of common characteristics. There are a canon of justificatory mantras which portable antiquity collectors tend to repeat to each other as some form of self-affirmation of identity and personal faith. There are usually some perturbing views expressed, for example on what is ethical and responsible basically comprising little more than an ‘it’s legal innit?’ argument. If it goes beyond that, collectors concentrate attention on the isolated object rather than the information its original archaeological context comprised. They see personal artefact collecting as a matter of personal rights rather than the conservation issue that it is. They demand free and easy access to any cultural heritage that may take their fancy and most of their explanations of the difficulties that are put in their way involve conspiracy theories, and they cast themselves in the role of innocents unfairly victimised. Another tendency is to engage in attacks on a generalized “(radical) archaeology” to which the dealers in undocumented ‘pieces of the past’ ascribe all the blame for any problems that are put in the way of an unrestricted flow of easily accessible antiquities to their collections.
And if you in any doubt about who lies behind the (incorrect) use of "radical archaeology" see here.

I am looking forward to Paul's distinctive contribution to the debates and discussions.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Marble bull's head from the temple of Eshmun

Excavations at the temple of Eshmun in Lebanon recovered a marble bull's head. It is now suggested that it was this head, apparently first published in 1967, that was placed on loan to New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art (Tom Mashberg, "Met Museum Turns Over Another Relic With Disputed Past to Prosecutors", New York Times August 1, 2017 ). The head is reported to have been handed over to the Manhattan district attorney after a request was received from the Lebanese authorities.

It is suggested that the head may have been looted from an archaeological storage area at Byblos in the 1980s during the Lebanese civil war. Mashberg has rehearsed the recent collecting history:
The owners of the bull’s head, Lynda and William Beierwaltes of Colorado, say they have clear title to the item and have sued Manhattan prosecutors for its return.  The Beierwaltes bought the head from a dealer in London in 1996 for more than $1 million and then sold it to another collector, Michael …

Sardinian warrior from "old Swiss collection"

One of the Sardinian bronzes of a warrior was seized from an as yet unnamed Manahattan gallery. It appears to be the one that passed through the Royal-Athena Gallery: Art of the Ancient World 23 (2012) no. 71. The collecting history for that warrior suggests that it was acquired in 1990 from a private collection in Geneva.

Other clues suggested that the warrior has resided in a New York private collection.

The identity of the private collection in Geneva will no doubt be telling.

The warrior also features in this news story: Jennifer Peltz, "Looted statues, pottery returned to Italy after probe in NYC", ABC News May 25 2017.

Attic amphora handed back to Italians

The research of Dr Christos Tsirogiannis has led to the return of an Attic red-figured amphora, attributed to the Harrow painter, to Italy (Tom Mashberg, "Stolen Etruscan Vessel to Be Returned to Italy", New York Times March 16, 2017).

The amphora is known to have passed through the hands of Swiss-based dealer Gianfranco Becchina in 1993, and then through a New York gallery around 2000 (although its movements between those dates are as yet undisclosed).

During the ceremony, Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., the District Attorney stated:
“When looters overrun historic sites, mine sacred spaces for prized relics, and peddle stolen property for top dollar, they do so with the implicit endorsement of all those who knowingly trade in stolen antiquities” More research clearly needs to be conducted on how material handled by Becchina passed into the North American market and into the hands of private and public collectors.