Saturday, January 4, 2014

The Pearlstein perspective on the Khmer statue

In December 2013 it was announced that Sotheby's would be returning a Khmer statue to Cambodia. I have been reading William G. Pearlstein's "Buying and selling antiquities in today's market" (Spencer’s Art Law Journal, 3, 1, spring 2012). There is a section on the case and Pearlstein predicted:
Sotheby’s compliance director (a former U.S. prosecutor who worked with Zawi Hawass on the Schultz trial) was quoted to say, correctly, that the statue could have been exported at any point in time before or after Cambodian national ownership laws were in effect. A dispassionate analysis under McClain, Schultz and SLAM suggests that the Government should lose, given its failure to allege the date of export. [Emphasis mine]
Pearlstein correctly anticipated "The owner/consignor is at risk of losing its purchase price in the statue".

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1 comment:

Cultural Property Observer said...

I agree Cambodia had a good moral claim, but that is different than a legal one. As Sotheby's threw in the towel before there was any decision on the merits, we will never know if Bill was correct. As I've observed first hand, the government are masters of stringing matters out and avoiding the merits of issues-- this wears down most litigants, even it seems one as powerful as Sotheby's. Here, also the government always held the possibility of a criminal action over Sotheby's-- and that too is a powerful disincentive to litigate.


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