Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Looking Out For Toxic Antiquities

Recent events have suggested that auction-houses need to be careful when handling material that surfaced in a certain London auction-house in the 1980s and early 1990s. If lots from those sales were consigned by the agents of Giacomo Medici then there is a strong possibility that there could be a Polaroid lurking in the Medici Archive that was seized during the raids on the Geneva Freeport. Wise staff will either conduct ultra-rigorous due diligence searches or pass over the opportunity to sell the object. Yet if there is a declining pool of antiquities from old (i.e. pre-1970) collections, then some auction-houses are likely to take risks and hope that the objects will not be recognised. And the Medici Archive is but one set: remember the images seized from Schinoussa and the Basel warehouses. There may be well some 20,000 objects waiting to be identified.

And this must be a concern for potential buyers. Who would want to spend tens of thousands of dollars for an object that could well turn out to be ex-Medici?

Caution is the watchword.

Detail of Roman marble statue from the Medici Archive.

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