Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2014: The Year Ahead

What will be some of the issues that are likely to emerge during 2014?

I would be surprised if there are not further revelations from the Medici Dossier and the Becchina Archive. There are pieces in North American museums waiting to be identified. But a more fundamental question is why has the due diligence process conducted by major auction-houses failed to stop these antiquities from surfacing? Are the checks made by organisations such as the Art Loss Register adequate? We need to expect more rigour in the research prior to sales.

But is it just about North American museums? When will Copenhagen return material to Italy? And what about the Goulandris in Athens?

There needs to be more research on the quantification of the market. What is the annual value for the sale of antiquities? What percentage of the objects are known (and documented) prior to 1970?

It would be good to see resolution on some outstanding issues that include the Koreschnica krater, the Icklingham bronzes, the Minoan larnax in the Michael C. Carlos Museum, and the SLAM Mummy Mask.

Transparency will remain a key issue. Dallas set a favourable example by publishing full collecting histories for objects that had been questions. Will other North American museums follow suit? Will New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art publish more images of the Bothmer pot fragment collection? And what about the full collecting histories? How did Bothmer acquire the fragments? What were his sources? And the Getty will need to respond to questions about its collection. For example, what are the full collecting histories for all the donations by Bothmer?

The Cleveland Museum of Art has exposed itself to scrutiny following the publication of the bronze Apollo by curator Michael Bennett. Will we see a balanced symposium that will explore all the issues? Or will Cleveland be inviting those who share its narrow curatorial position? Will another country lay claim to the Apollo when the statue base or further fragments are identified?

Heritage Crime will continue to be an issue for the UK. What will be the implications (in England) for the reorganisation of English Heritage? Will the Portable Antiquities Scheme start to respond to some of the ethical issues raised by those searching for Britain's buried past? Is it just about recording previously unknown objects? Are there intellectual consequences?

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