Skip to main content

Renfrew on 1970 as a Benchmark

Lord Renfrew will be giving the 2009 SAFE Beacon Award Lecture, "Combating the Illicit Antiquities Trade: the 1970 Rule as a Turning Point (or How the Metropolitan Museum lags behind the Getty)". Mike Boehm has commented on the forthcoming lecture in "Getty's antiquities policy gets kudos vs. the Met" (LA Times blog January 1 2009).

Renfrew has already criticised James Cuno for not accepting 1970 as a key date. (For wider reactions to James Cuno's views see here.)

But times are changing and key bodies are choosing the earlier date. The American Association of Museums (AAM) encourages the use of 1970 for the acquisition of antiquities. The Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) advocates the use of 1970 for the acquisition of antiquities as does its Object Register.

I have discussed 1970 against the 1983 deadline here; after all, material from North American museums that was returned to Italy was acquired from 1971 onwards. And what happens to disputed material that was acquired before 1970?

Renfrew seems to have New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art (MMA) in his spotlights. He has no need to go further than the exhibition celebrating the Philippe de Montebello Years. It is also worth reflecting on the collecting histories of the ex-MMA pieces that appeared in the Nostoi exhibitions in Rome and Athens (see also "Orphans and the Berlin painter"), in addition to the Morgantina silver.

Of course there is a marked difference between the MMA and the J. Paul Getty Museum when it comes to the objects that they have returned to Italy. The Getty has embraced transparency and has provided full disclosure (see Gill and Chippindale on the return). Will the MMA follow this important lead?

Comments

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.