Thursday, April 3, 2014

Bonhams and Becchina

Bonhams has withdrawn one of its lots from a sale. It was a Canosan pyxis that had passed through the Ariadne Galleries in New York during the 1980s. So it surfaced well after 1970, has an obvious link with Italy, and was handled by a gallery that has been linked with recently surfaced antiquities (such as the Icklingham bronzes). These would be three good reasons to conduct a thorough due diligence search.

Yet an unnamed spokesperson for Bonhams is quoted by the BBC ("'Looted' artefacts removed from auction", April 2, 2014):
"We take immense trouble to check and verify the history of any object we sell and work closely with the Art Loss Register, the British police and Interpol on establishing accurate provenance. 
"At this point there is no evidence to show that it was illegally excavated. But we take any such intimation very seriously and hence we have withdrawn it for further investigation."
Bonhams is well aware of the issues relating to these Italian photographic archives after the case of the Geddes sale. Or what about the "Medici" statue? And note the similarity of this statement to ones in previous cases.

Perhaps the spokesperson for Bonhams would care to expand on Becchina's role in the handling of antiquities. Or will the "further investigation" include contacting Becchina and asking him for the full collecting history?

And we note that in the list of sources Bonhams did not think of contacting the Italian authorities. The omission is perhaps significant.

Is it time for the senior management at Bonhams to tighten up the due diligence procedures for selling antiquities? (I suggested this precisely four years ago.)

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