Friday, 27 June 2008

The "Antiquities Wars": Further Thoughts

Lee Rosenbaum has posted the second part of her views on the "Antiquities Wars" (and see my comments on her first part). She still emphasises the 1983 date in spite of the AAMD's unambiguous statement that the report
Recognizes the 1970 UNESCO Convention as providing the most pertinent threshold date for the application of more rigorous standards to the acquisition of archeological material and ancient art. Widely accepted internationally, the 1970 UNESCO Convention helps create a unified set of expectations for museums, sellers, and donors.
The AIA, AAMD and the Italian Government have all accepted 1970, so why don't we accept it? (However we also need to respect national laws.)

Rosenbaum expresses the hope,
American museums cannot be expected to empty themselves of all antiquities with uncertain pasts.

The recent returns to Italy have shown that only a selection of disputed antiquities have been returned. (There appear to have been long-lists which have not been implemented: Malibu, Princeton, Shelby White.) Surely the reason for this is that the returns are symbolic and intended to make a public statement that the institutions concerned had made unwise acquisitions. To suggest that museums will be "emptied" of all classical antiquities is mere scaremongering.

Rosenbaum lists some good ideas for returning antiquities including a "farewell" period of display. I also like the idea of "detailed disclosure" about how the object entered the collection: such information has been lacking in the cases of some of the returns.

Disclosure is part of the "due diligence" process. The AAMD has missed an opportunity to include acquisitions of antiquities since 1970 (as well as long-term loans) in its object register.

There continue to be disputed items that were acquired since 1970 - and these issues need to be resolved swiftly.

The ownership trail of an Apulian krater

Apulian volute-krater attributed to the Virginia Exhibition painter Source: Fordham University In February 2018 I drew attention to the For...