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Showing posts from February, 2010

The Spanish Connection: Sarcophagus to Return to Egypt

Back in 2008 I noted a raid on an antiquities dealer in Barcelona, Spain. This revealed a substantial number of archaeological objects apparently looted from Italy.

Now Barcelona is in the news again. It appears that an Egyptian D21 painted coffin of Imesy will be returned to Egypt. Reports in the Spanish press map its route from its acquisition, apparently in Egypt, by a Spanish private collector by name of Miguel Angel Buendía during the 1970s ("Egipto recuperará en marzo un sarcófago faraónico, incautado en Estados Unidos", El País February 22, 2010). [I am grateful to a reader of LM for this report.]

The coffin was reportedly seized by US Customs at Miami, Florida in October 2008. It appears that the object lacked the appropriate documentation to demonstrate its collecting history (or "provenance"). It had apparently been consigned by a Barcelona gallery, "Arqueología Clásica" (proprietor Félix Cervera), passed through Ireland, and arrived in the US …

A misleading Washington lobbyist?

I note that a Washington lobbyist responded to my latest PR Newswire release, "Do Coin Collectors Care About the Archaeology of Cyprus", by writing:
Archaeologist David Gill has issued another misleading press release about the ACCG's test case related to import restrictions on "coins of Cypriot type."I wrote: "Earlier in February 2010 a Washington law-firm acting for the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild filed an action against (among others) the US Department of State and the US Customs and Border Protection." I hope the lobbyist will have observed that somebody from his Washington law-firm has filed an action on behalf of the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild (ACCG).

So to my next paragraph: "The government of Cyprus had urged the US State Department to sign a MOU in order to restrict the movement of archaeological material from the island to the US." There is a MOU in place.

So to paragraph three: "A Brussels-based numismatic trade organiz…

"False claims" made over CAARI

Washington lobbyist Peter Tompa has responded to a recent PR Newswire Release, "Do Coin Collectors Care About the Archaeology of Cyprus", by commenting that the Cyprus American Archaeological Research Institute (CAARI) "was involved in behind-the-scenes lobbying on behalf of the Cypriot Department of Antiquities, the Cypriot government body that issues excavation permits that allow CAARI affiliated archaeologists to excavate on the Island".

CAARI also features in a test case submitted by Jason H. Ehrenberg, Tompa's legal colleague from Bailey & Ehrenberg PLLC; Tompa's name is attached to the legal papers.

Ellen Herscher (Vice President, CAARI) has responded to Tompa on the "Museum Security Network" (February 21, 2010). She writes:
Once again the ACCG has made false claims about the role of the Cyprus American Archaeological Research Institute in the U.S. government's decision to enter into a bilateral agreement with Cyprus.

CAARI's Dire…

From Switzerland to Greece: (Another) Basel Connection

The raids on the Geneva Freeport have led directly to the return of well over 100 antiquities. However there was a similar raid on several facilities in Basel; several truckloads of antiquities have been returned to Italy and there are some 10000 objects along with 200 receipts that will provide many additional leads for the way that the antiquities market was operating.

Now there is news of a return of significant antiquities from Basel to Greece ("Five rare Byzantine fresco-icons stolen in 1978 return to Greece"; Hellenic Ministry of Culture). The Byzantine frescoes were seized from a facility run by "a well-known Italian antiquities dealer, at a gallery he ran jointly with his German wife". (This elusive description recalls the statements made about the earlier returns from Basel.)

The frescoes are reported to have been stolen in 1978 from the Palaiopanagia Church in Steni, on the island of Evia. The four frescoes will need substantial conservation before they a…

The Antiquities Market and the Journal of Field Archaeology

In the opening editorial of the Journal of Field Archaeology, James Wiseman ("Editorial Comment", JFA 1, 1/2 [1974] 1-2 [JSTOR]) wrote:
The section of the journal called "Perspectives"is open to all readers and the readers are encouraged to comment on, or even challenge, the studies published here or elsewhere, or to write on any archaeological topic. "The Antiquities Market" reflects another central interest of the Association for Field Archaeology; it will provide a forum for commentary on the illicit traffic in antiquities.Later in the same number is the first of a series of sections on the "Antiquities Market" (pp. 215-24 [JSTOR]). This informs us in the heading section:
The Antiquities Market will be a regular feature of the Journal of Field Archaeology. Its aim is to provide just what is stated in the sub-title: news and commentary on the illicit traffic in antiquities. The presence of this feature in the Journal reflects one of the centra…

The Baltimore Coin Test Case

Last November, after the decision over the FOIA case, it was announced, "the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild still plans to pursue a test case regarding whether those import restrictions were promulgated in an arbitrary and capricious fashion".

Now a Washington-based attorney, Jason H. Ehrenberg of Bailey & Ehrenberg PLLC, has filed an action on behalf of the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild (ACCG) (plaintiff) against the US Customs and Border Protection, Department of Homeland Security; the Commissioner,  US Customs and Border Protection; the US Department of State; and, the Assistant Secretary of State (educational and cultural Affairs), United States Department of State. (The pdf can be found here.)

Ehrenberg's expertise lies, according to his firm's website, in "employee benefits, employment and civil rights law, and higher education law, representing both individual and organizational clients on a broad spectrum of issues within the employment relationship&…

The Fano Athlete: Seizure Order

Yesterday it was announced that an Italian court had ordered the seizure of the ancient bronze known as "The Fano Athlete" from the J. Paul Getty Museum ("Court orders seizure of Getty Bronze", ANSA February 11, 2010). Judge Lorena Mussoni has ruled that the bronze should be confiscated.

Jason Felch has written about the decision in today's LA Times ("Judge orders statue seized", LA Times February 12, 2010). He cites the prepared response from the Museum.

The full statement is available from the Getty's website.
STATEMENT ABOUT THE RULING IN PESARO ON THE GETTY BRONZE, February 11, 2010

LOS ANGELES—“The Getty is disappointed in the ruling issued February 11 by Judge Mussoni in Pesaro, Italy, involving the Statue of a Victorious Youth, often referred to as the Getty Bronze. The court’s order is flawed both procedurally and substantively.

“It should be noted that the same court in Pesaro dismissed an earlier case in 2007 in which the same prosecuto…

"Commercial interests are increasingly fighting for public-recognized legitimacy"

The Journal of Field Archaeology, published by Boston University, has a regular feature on "Archaeological Heritage and Ethics". I see that the latest number for Winter 2009 has an article that will be of interest to readers of Looting Matters.

Elkins, Nathan T. 2009. Treasure hunting 101 in America's classrooms. Journal of Field Archaeology 34 (4):482-9.
Readers will be interested in the flow chart of antiquities from "source countries" to collectors via wholesalers / suppliers.

The editorial, by Morag M. Kersel and Christina Luke, is also worth a read: "Sale of coins = Looting in Bulgaria".


Looking back: removing antiquities from Turkey

I was interested to read Paul Barford's comments on looted antiquities from Afghanistan. Barford rightly draws attention to Dave Welsh's comments on the programme mentioned in the posting. Welsh writes:
Those dealers in ancient art with whom I am personally familiar, Malter Galleries for example, go to considerable trouble to ensure that they are not involved in acquisition of anything likely to have recently been excavated (as I do in acquiring coins).Barford discusses the background to the story.

I have done a little more research and found some additional information. The Malter case can be traced back to 1997 ("Antique dealer admits to scheme that smuggled antiquities from Turkey", AP February 25, 2000). It appears that one of the people in the "smuggling scheme" was "a reserve U.S. Air Force major stationed at Incirlik Air Force Base". In the subsequent case, "Joel Malter, 68, of Malter Galleries in Los Angeles, pleaded guilty to a conspi…

The Universal Museum: time for a rethink?

I have been re-reading the essay, "The Universal Museum: a special case?" (ICOM News 1, 2004), by Geoffrey Lewis, the chair of the ICOM Ethics Committee.
The real purpose of the Declaration was, however, to establish a higher degree of immunity from claims for the repatriation of objects from the collections of these museums.His comment was on the "Declaration on the Importance and Value of Universal Museums" (December 2002). The declaration included this statement:
Calls to repatriate objects that have belonged to museum collections for many years have become an important issue for museums. Although each case has to be judged individually, we should acknowledge that museums serve not just the citizens of one nation but the people of every nation. Museums are agents in the development of culture, whose mission is to foster knowledge by a continuous process of reinterpretation. Each object contributes to that process. To narrow the focus of museums whose collections …

The intellectual consequences of forgeries

London's Victoria and Albert Museum has been hosting a short-lived exhibition of Fakes and Forgeries. The show has been mounted with the collaboration of the Art and Antiques Squad of the Metropolitan Police. One of the pieces on display was the Amarna princess --- created by Shaun Greenhalgh --- that was sold to the Bolton Museum with the support of the National Arts Collection Fund. The statue was even supplied with a false collecting history, namely that it had once resided in the Silverton Park collection. Greenhalgh was also responsible for the creation of the Roman Risley Park lanx.

The creation of forgeries and their admission to the corpus of knowledge can have serious intellectual consequences. This is the case for some Cycladic marble figures that were attributed to the hand of a supposed third millennium BC sculptor ('The Stafford Master') only to find that they were modern creations. Doubts about the antiquity of the 'artisan' had been raised when it …

Michael Brand's Departure from the Getty

Lee Rosenbaum of Culturegrrl has an important interview with Michael Brand about his departure from the J. Paul Getty Museum. She also carries a comment sent to the staff at the Getty about the Fano Athlete story.



The Fano Athlete: LA Times and Correction

Last month I drew attention to the story covered in the LA Times about the Fano Athlete. Although I did not quote the correspondence from Bernard Ashmole that suggested the acquisition of a bronze statue had been a "crime", my attention has been drawn to a correction in the LA Times:
The letter from the late antiquities expert and Getty adviser Bernard Ashmole, which referred to the museum's "exploits over the bronze statue" as a "crime," was describing a different bronze statue in the museum's collection. Garrett, who initially told The Times the letter referred to the bronze athlete, now says he was mistaken.I have earlier rehearsed the apparently undisputed collecting history of the statue as it passed through Italy.



Morgantina Antiquities Set for Return and Display

The agreement between North American museums and Italy have included three lots of material associated with Morgantina:
The Morgantina silver hoard (from New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art)The acrolithic Aphrodite (from the J. Paul Getty Museum)The acrolithic sculptures (formerly on loan to the University of Virginia Art Museum in Charlottesville)
The names of Robin Symes and Robert Hecht have been linked with parts of this batch. 

Together this group of objects represents some $22 million worth of acquisitions.


The Italian press is now reporting on the planned reception of the pieces and the expected display in Sicily ("La Venere di Morgantina torna in Sicilia", ANSA January 27, 2010).