Skip to main content

Almagià: "The museum has a right to collect; the dealers have a right to deal"

In June I noted the new Italian investigation into antiquities acquired by Princeton University Art Museum. The antiquities are reported to have been handled by Edoardo Almagià whose name had already been linked to antiquities returned to Italy from the Cleveland Museum of Art.

The June report had mentioned that Princeton curator Michael Padgett was the focus of attention. Padgett was interviewed for Princeton Alumni Weekly (W. Barksdale Maynard, "Art museum curator targeted by Italian prosecutors", PAW July 7, 2010). He is quoted:
After working so closely and cooperatively with the Italians in the past, I was very disappointed and surprised that this investigation is now taking place. I am reluctant to comment at length at this early stage, but I do want to clearly state that I am innocent of what the Italian prosecutor is apparently alleging.

It is noted that Maynard now thinks that some "1.5 million items are believed to have been looted from archaeological sites in Italy" since 1970. For anybody who is unconvinced by the scale of the problem of looting and why action needs to be taken, that is a whacking estimated 37,500 antiquities looted every year for 40 years. And that is only from Italy.

The President of Princeton, Professor Shirley M. Tilghman, comments:
What is challenging is that the standards of provenance have been changing over the last 30 years — and rightfully so — and have become much more stringent.
Tilghman, and perhaps the curatorial staff of the Princeton University Art Museum, were unaware of the implications of the 40 year old UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property (see "The 1970 Rule") or the 1973 AIA Declaration on the Acquisition of Antiquities by Museums. Indeed the main change has taken place in the last decade since museums and private collectors woke up to the implications of the Medici Conspiracy. Tilghman (a molecular biologist) also needs to drop the use of "provenance" and adopt the more correct term "collecting history".

The PAW interview also quotes Edoardo Almagià who commented on the 2007 agreement between Italy and Princeton:
You give them your hand, they’ll take your forearm. ... What they took from Princeton [in 2007], it’s ridiculous. The museum has a right to collect; the dealers have a right to deal.
It would be helpful if Princeton could now release a full list of any objects in its collection associated with Almagià as part of the new spirit of transparency announced ("clear and transparent standards") by Tilghman.


Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

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.



"Beating sites to death"

Policy decisions for protecting archaeological sites need to be informed by carefully argued positions based on data. Dr Sam Hardy has produced an important study, “Metal detecting for cultural objects until ‘there is nothing left’: The potential and limits of digital data, netnographic data and market data for analysis”. Arts 7, 3 (2018) [online]. This builds on Hardy's earlier research.

Readers should note Hardy's conclusion about his findings: "they corroborate the detecting community’s own perception that they are ‘beat[ing these sites] to death’".

Pieterjan Deckers, Andres Dobat, Natasha Ferguson, Stijn Heeren, Michael Lewis, and Suzie Thomas may wish to reflect on whether or not their own position is endangering the finite archaeological record. 

Abstract
This methodological study assesses the potential for automatically generated data, netnographic data and market data on metal-detecting to advance cultural property criminology. The method comprises the analysi…