Wednesday, 6 May 2009

e-boutaam: "an easy way to expand ... collections"

Phoenix Ancient Art has launched an online service selling antiquities, ("Phoenix Ancient Art launches its first e-commerce platform", PR Newswire May 4, 2009 [also available in, at least, Spanish, German and French]). This e-commerce service promised to open "the world of high-end antiquities ... to a larger audience than ever before".

Hicham Aboutaam of Phoenix Ancient Art is quoted:
"In launching e-tiquities(TM) by Phoenix Ancient Art, we hope both to introduce a new audience to the cultures of the ancient world, and to give our existing clients an easy way to expand their collections ... One of the things which makes Phoenix Ancient Art special in our field is the guarantee of authenticity that we provide to our clients, whether they buy works in our galleries or on our new website. Over the years, we've developed procedures to establish provenance (chain of ownership) to ensure that our pieces are both authentic and on the market in accordance with international law."

Aboutaam adds:
"Given current economic conditions, people of all financial status are looking for safer havens for their investments ... Antiquities have always been a good alternative through both booms and busts, and unlike stocks or bonds, the return on investment includes a piece of timeless beauty."
The new president of,
Alexander Gherardi, is quoted:
Many people are intimidated by the thought of purchasing antiquities. They fear buying something that is inauthentic, illegally acquired or overpriced. eliminates this anxiety. Our researchers have worked to make e-tiquities(TM) an educational site as well as an accessible way to collect elegant, guaranteed authentic antiquities. It is truly an innovation in the field.

One of the features of the new e-commerce site is a downloadable certificate from the Art Loss Register (ALR). I clicked on the link for an archaic Greek black-figured lydion of the 6th century BCE ("
Ex- Swiss private collection, collected in the 1960" [sic.) to find that the ALR report prepared by William Webber (May 30, 2005) described it as "Civilization: Roman", which raises some interesting issues.

But what about findspots and past histories? I initially checked two areas. First "Cycladic" where there is an Early Cycladic marble "plate" (or dish), "
Ex-Swiss private collection; acquired on the Swiss art market in 2004". The piece apparently passed through Phoenix Ancient Art in 2006. The ALR report is attached. Second "South Italian" where there is a pottery Messapian trozella for sale. The Provenance is provided: "Acquired in Switzerland, 1993". The ALR report is available.

Elsewhere my eye caught an archaic Siana cup, "Swiss Art Market, acquired in 1999". [The link to the ALR report gives information about another object]. Or in the Etruscan section a black-figured amphora with siren, "Acquired in 1998".

The ALR reports also include a statement:
The [ALR] database does not contain information on illegally exported artefacts unless they have been reported to us as stolen.
It would be interesting to know the documented histories of all these pieces prior to 1970. When did they emerge from their archaeological contexts?


Larry Rothfield said...

Your post makes clear why we need some alternative to the Art Loss Register that would provide a real vetting of archaeological material to leave no doubt about whether provenance passes muster. Ideally, the archaeological community would be officially in charge of a registering commission. Dealers would have to pay for the costs of the commission's work -- and one could tack on an additional charge (or if the commission were legally sanctioned, a tax) to raise money to help pay for site guards in countries where antiquities are being looted.

David Gill said...

The lydion no longer has a link to the ALR document. Perhaps somebody is making the correction to the text.

A Fragmentary Athena Attributed to Myron

It has been reported that a fragmentary Roman limestone copy of a 5th century BCE sculpture of Athena attributed to Myron is now the subject...