Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Fragmented pots and the role of the academic

My regular column, "Context Matters", in the Journal of Art Crime considers the fragments ("orphans") of Greek pottery returned from the collection of a deceased North American collector (via New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art) to Italy. Fragments from the same collection were also returned via the J. Paul Getty Museum.

The column asks a series of questions about the source of these fragments and when the pots were broken. It also considers the silence from key figures at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

‘Context matters: fragmented pots, attributions and the role of the academic’, Journal of Art Crime 8 (2012) 79-84.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Buyers Beware: Surfacing Medici Material

Last week I was discussing the continued surfacing of material identified from the Medici Dossier with Cambridge University researcher Christos Tsirogiannis. It is clear that material is shortly due to be auctioned. And this raises a bigger question.

a. Is the auction house aware that it is offering ex-Medici material? Has its rigorous due diligence checks picked up the relevant collecting history/histories?
b. Has the Art Loss Register spotted the material in its checks? I am sure that if it has, the auction house will have been informed.
c. Have the Italian authorities identified the material? We know that the Italian authorities scan the sales and have made requests for material to be withdrawn, although such requests are often declined.
d. Will potential buyers be aware of the ex-Medici material in the sale? The only advice on offer is to avoid any material that cannot be traced back to the period prior to 1970.

Buyers should be cautious.

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Friday, October 19, 2012

Does academic blogging matter?

The Guardian hosted a live chat earlier today on "Academic blogging: the power and the pitfalls – live chat". I added a few comments to the discussion and was interested to see issues surrounding the citation of blogs. It is clear that academics are grasping the power of Web 2.0 technologies to share their research with a wider audience.

For an earlier reflection on "Does blogging matter?" (written in 2009) see here.

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The Geddes Collection at Auction

Bonhams managed to attract significant adverse publicity when they attempted to auction part of the collection formerly owned by Graham Geddes in 2008.

I note that the sale of antiquities next week (October 24, 2012) includes four ex-Geddes pieces:
  • lot 81. Apulian red-figured hydria, attributed to the Truro painter. Surfaced: Sotheby's, London, 9 December 1985, lot 375. Exhibited: the University of Melbourne, March 1988-July 2003; the Museum of Mediterranean Antiquities, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia, November 2005-April 2008 .
  • lot 82. Apulian hydria, attributed to the Patera painter. Surfaced: Sotheby's London, 21 May 1984, lot 222. Exhibited: the Borchardt Library, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia, March 1986-April 2008.
  • lot 85. Gnathian volute krater. Surfaced: Sotheby's London, 9 Dec 1985, lot 378. Exhibited: University of Melbourne, Australia, March 1986 - February 1994.
  • lot 86. Campanian red-figured neck-amphora, attributed to the Pilos Head group. Surfaced: Sotheby's London, July 11th, 1988, lot 178. Exhibited: the Museum of Mediterranean Antiquities, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia, December 1989 - April 2008.
It should be noted that these four pieces surfaced at Sotheby's, London between 1984 and 1988. Such a shared "pedigree" can be noted for other Geddes pieces. The May 1984 sale is particularly significant. Will Bonhams reveal who consigned these four pieces to Sothebys in 1984, 1985, and 1988? What sort of due diligence checks have been made?

The loan of material to various Australian collections is also of note.

Some of the ex-Geddes material can now be found in the Mougins Museum of Classical Archaeology and the National Museum of Archaeology in Madrid.

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Thursday, October 18, 2012

Heritage Matters

I attended the Heritage Debate at Magdalene College, Cambridge last night. It was a good reminder of the importance of the value of heritage to our society as well as to the economy. Dame Fiona Reynolds of the National Trust was particularly good at reminding us of the need to see heritage in a wider, indeed holistic, setting. James Berresford of VisitEngland was pragmatic about the type of heritage sites that attract visitors (though he was also very positive about working with the voluntary sector).

More interesting were the related informal conversations. One in particular revolved around the Crosby Garrett helmet and its inclusion in Bronze! at the Royal Academy. Here is a major piece of Roman heritage that has lost its context, and, if it was indeed found in Cumbria, it is unable to be displayed alongside other Roman finds in Carlisle.  It is a pity that some publicly funded bodies have not spoken out strongly about heritage asset stripping.

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