Monday, 12 April 2010

Robin Symes Assets: the UK Government in "an absurd situation"

Robin Symes has been closely linked to the trade in recently surfaced antiquities (see overview). Symes' name has been linked directly to a number of antiquities that have been returned from North American collections.

In April 2008 I was informed by the UK Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) about the arrangements for the dispersal of the Symes' assets (see here). It was reported to have included the Italian authorities.  However, instead of returning material to Italy the Home Office is reported to have initiated the sale of the first 1000 objects for the benefit of the UK taxpayer (Dalya Alberge, "UK accused over sale of 'looted' Italian treasures to pay tax bill", The Observer Sunday April 11, 2010). The Home Office appears to be unaware of the detailed evidence demonstrating Symes' links with antiquities from Italy.

One of the most telling evidence comes in the form of a fragment from a Greek pot; the rest of the piece has been returned to Italy by the J. Paul Getty Museum. The fragment should be reunited with the rest of the pot in Italy; there can be no justification for selling this piece.

There needs to be an urgent rethink before the sale goes ahead.

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Mark said...

David, could you please clarify for me which international law as stated in the Guardian article requires the UK to return Symes's former collection. Likely, there is no evidence of its import into the UK, but the burden of proof rests on the Italian authorities at which point the UK would certainly bar the sale, correct? Thanks.

David Gill said...

The fragment that fits the rest of the pot returned from the Getty is itself telling. Was it the 'intention' of the pot-painter for his (or her) work to be smashed and distributed to different museums?
The UK Government should have allowed Italy to demonstrate which pieces appear to have been looted from Italy.
Best wishes

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