Skip to main content

CPAC: New Appointment

While most of us have been following the "credit crunch" and yesterday's surprise vote in Washington (what the BBC has termed a "bail-out failure"), the White House announced a new member of the Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC): Brent R. Benjamin, Director of the St Louis Art Museum (press release, September 29, 2008).

Peter Tompa has commented on the appointment and has noted:
Mr. Benjamin should be well acquainted with cultural property issues due to an ongoing dispute with Dr. Zahi Hawass, the publicity seeking Secretary General of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, over a funerary mask of a nineteenth dynasty noblewoman named Ka Nefer Nefer.
I disagree with Tompa. Benjamin does not appear to understand the "due diligence" process when it comes to this particular mask (see my earlier comments). Was this mask removed from the store at Saqqara? What is the certified documentation to show that the object had been in the hands of various European dealers and collectors?

Announcing Benjamin's appointment yesterday looks like a case of "burying bad news". Benjamin's appointment can only be seen as controversial. Does the Bush administration mean to send out a signal that it does not care about claims on cultural property in North American museums?

Comments

Thanks for your perspective. The only thing I would like to comment on is that I highly doubt the timing of this announcement is a case of "burying bad news."

Presumably, the Bush Administration wanted to fill this slot rather than let it stay vacant and Mr. Benjamin was someone well qualified to serve in this unpaid position who was comfortable with the policies of the President. Generally speaking for this kind of post, qualifications are not the only thing. Rather, there must also be some confidence that the person who is being appointed to a "political position" is comfortable with the policies of the Administration who is doing the appointment. To the extent "politics" had something to do with it, I suspect that the fact that Mr. Benjamin hails from Missouri (a "battleground state") may have been relevant to the White House decisionmaking.

Sincerely,

Peter Tompa
Paul Barford said…
> comfortable with the policies of the President<
that seems to me a rather odd characterisation of somebody ostensibly appointed by the US President as an expert in an advisory role. What kind of advice is he seeking?
David Gill said…
Wayne Sayles has now commented on this announcement as "positive news". He sees the appointment as protecting the rights of collectors.

Popular posts from this blog

Codename: Ainsbrook

I have been watching (UK) Channel 4's Time Team this evening. The programme looked at an undisclosed field (under a potato crop) where a Viking burial had been found. The location in Yorkshire was so sensitive that it was given a codename: Ainsbrook. Here is the summary:
In late 2003 two metal detectorists were working in a field in Yorkshire. They found 'treasure' buried just beneath the surface – a collection of Viking material next to a body. Although they had been detecting on the site for a number of years, during which time they had made large numbers of finds, nothing they had uncovered previously compared with this. They decided to share their discovery with archaeologists.The programme explored the tension between metal-detectorists and the English Heritage sponsored archaeologists putting six trenches into the field based on a geo-physical survey. Finds made by the metal-detectorists did not easily map onto the archaeological features.

Part of the programme had an …

The scale of the returns to Italy

I have been busy working on an overview, "Returning Archaeological Objects to Italy". The scale of the returns to Italy from North American collections and galleries is staggering: in excess of 350 objects. This is clearly the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the material that has surfaced on the market without a history that can be traced back to the period before 1970. 

I will provide more information in due course, but the researcher is a reminder that we need to take due diligence seriously when it comes to making acquisitions.

Stele returns to Greece

The Hellenic Ministry of Culture has announced (Saturday 8 September 2018) that a stele that had been due to be auctioned at Sotheby's in London in June 2017 has been returned to Greece (Friday 7 September 2018). The identification had been made by Cambridge-based forensic archaeologist Dr Christos Tsirogiannis.

It appeared that the stele had been supplied with a falsified history as its presence with Becchina until 1990 contradicted the published sale catalogue entry. It then moved into the hands of George Ortiz.

A year ago it was suggested that Sotheby's should contact the Greek authorities. Those negotiations appear to have concluded successfully.

The 4th century BC stele fragment, with the personal name, Hestiaios, will be displayed in the Epigraphic Museum in Athens. It appears to have come from a cemetery in Attica.