Monday, October 26, 2009

Further reflections on toxic antiquities

Earlier this year I wrote about the impact of "toxic antiquities". In other words antiquities that have surfaced on the market in an illicit manner and then lurk in a private collection or as part of a dealer's stock for some years before resurfacing. Take some recent examples:
The objects could have been purchased in "good faith" but it does not lessen the impact of the bad publicity if a government such as Egypt or Italy makes a claim.

We need to remember that there are well over 10,000 unidentified antiquities waiting for somebody to make the connection between a polaroid seized in a police raid in, say, Geneva or on, say, a Greek island, and the piece appearing in a sale or a museum catalogue.

So what can auction-houses do to protect their reputations? Why not avoid selling any ancient object that does not have a properly documented collecting history that can be traced back to the 1960s?

And what can museums and private collectors do to avoid the sort of "corrosive" publicity that has been attached to the returns to Egypt, Greece, and Italy? They should avoid objects that do not have a properly documented collecting history that can be traced back to the 1960s.


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2 comments:

Krystal D'Costa said...

David, you write:
So what can auction-houses do to protect their reputations? Why not avoid selling any ancient object that does not have a properly documented collecting history that can be traced back to the 1960s?

I agree, but is it really that simple? How easy is it to forge these documents? If the market is flooded with these items, then how does one tell the difference between authentic certificates and forgeries? I ask because this is relatively new to me—but very interesting. I appreciate these updates because they allow me to follow looting patterns.

David Gill said...

Krystal
You raise a good point. We do see falsified documentation - and last week I raised the issue of a pot due to be sold this week that suddenly acquired a history back to the 1960s even though the auction house could not explain why.
We need authenticated documentation.
Best wishes
David

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