Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Antiquities Trade: Looking Ahead

The seizure of the three dossiers of photographs in Greece and Switzerland has had one major impact on the antiquities impact: the need for caution. The statement that the piece had once passed through some anonymous European collection is one that would be met with a dose of suspicion. Auction-houses and dealers are now aware that they need to check the documentation for objects to show that their collecting-histores ("provenance") can be traced back to the period prior to 1970. Yet how far are unillustrated invoices being used to provide histories for objects that have surfaced in recent years? Statements in catalogues need to be verified. (This is an issue noted in the recently published Chasing Aphrodite.)

It is interesting that there have been several recent instances of auction-houses proceeding with sales even when they have been notified (privately in several instances) that there have been apparent matches with objects in the seized photographic archives. What does this say about the attitude of the trade to the supply of antiquities through specific European middle men and women?

No doubt there are some who would like to know which recently surfaced objects are unrecorded so that they can be placed on the market.

But what will restore confidence to the market? A desire to impose rigorous due diligence procedures that will confirm the background of objects.


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