Monday, October 3, 2011

Christie's on cultural property

We have been reassured that Christie's "do[es] not sell works that we have reason to believe are stolen" (May 2010). G. Max Bernheimer, International Head of Antiquities at Christie's , has stated, "Provenance has always been important, and in light of recent repatriation issues, it has become paramount" (May 2010). More recently Bernheimer has commented (March 2011):
"Buying through an auction house, where due diligence is incredibly thorough and everything is openly published in the catalogue, limits the possibilities over ownership and repatriation issues later on."
Indeed he is quoted as saying, "Christie's sells only objects that it can confirm as legitimately acquired" (February 2011). Moreover, in 2009 a spokesperson for Christie's described objects identified from seized photographic archives as "stolen".

Yet in May 2010 Christie's (New York) pressed ahead with the sale of a number of items that had been identified in spite of calls by Paolo Ferri for the objects to be returned. Questions have also been raised about the recorded collecting histories of lots (April 2011).

So what will Christie's (London) do if they are requested to withdraw material by the Italian authorities this week? And have the full collecting histories been disclosed to potential buyers?


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