Monday, 21 November 2011

Polaroids and Munich

My attention has been drawn by a fellow researcher in East Anglia to the appearance of objects in a forthcoming sale in Munich that appear to feature in one of the seized polaroid dossiers. Does this suggest that German dealers have a less rigorous due diligence process? Or are fewer questions asked about collecting histories? Or are owners of such material trying to sell objects in markets other than London and New York?

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kyri said...

german auction houses are way behind british ones when it comes to asking questions and in their due diligence operations.i cant realy put my finger on the reason why but this is a fact.i know many british dealers consign to german auction houses rather than british ones.on many ocasions when i have enquired about a piece i have been told that it has been consignd by someone in the uk and i could never realy understand why when bonhams and christies are on their doorstep.i think the lack of due diligence by the germans may have something to do with it.i also see more fakes sold than in the uk in german auction houses.

David Gill said...

I wonder if this article from 2009 is relevant. It is suggesting that Germany is a key hub for recently surfaced antiquities.

kyri said...

david,we both know it is.i think the very large turkish population with their links with relatives back home in turkey has something to do with it.i certainly know that many looted icons and mosaics from cyprus ended up travelling through turkey and ended up in germany.its easier to smuggle looted artifacts to turkey and with the due diligence being practically nonexistent,the pieces once legitimized by being published with a bogus provenance can be exported to the rest of europe and the usa.

Paul Barford said...

It should be recalled that the US coin dealer lobbyists when pressed about whether they possess copies of export licences for coins from a certain south European country for coins they have in stock have said they "do not need them" because they were bought through German sources.

We also recall an infamous letter to the US State Department about imports of illegally exported coins from south Europe written by no less than the Bavarian trade minister on behalf of the Munich coin dealers.

There is obviously urgently needed a concerted effort to create common EU standards and policies on illicit antiquities.

kyri said...

im sory paul but to me there is a big difference between a greek sculpture looted from asia minor worth 100k and a coin worth a few £s when it comes to documentation.i know you dont agree with this but i do think there should be some monetary limit.if i go into coincraft oposite the bm and buy an apulian pot i would ask and expect to recieve provenance but in the corner were they have a tray of low grade roman bronze coins selling 3 for a pound[which they do have],i wouldnt ask or expect a paper my opinion any coin worth over £500 should have full doumentation.there are just to many low grade coins on the market to expect documentation for all of them.of course i understand that to an archaeologist the smallest coin or pot shard is as important as the greek sculpture but i do think it is unrealistic to expect anything else.there are millions of low grade coins out there allready.if they were buying and importing gold tetradrachms from germany than that is a different thing alltogether.

Paul Barford said...

So Joe Thugwit the Northumberland Nighthawk can get rid of his pocketfuls of sestertii looted all along Hadrian's Wall on a totally no-questions-asked market simply by bringing them to London and selling them to a shop keeper as long as it's for less than 500 quid each for them?

And the same goes for fibulae looted on the Danubian limes, grave pots, glass vessels, crucifixes and signet rings, metal detected and bulldozed in countries like Bulgaria in industrial quantities (which is why they are so cheap on the current market)?

No, source countries have export licencing procedures for even what the market calls "minor objects" (which Kyri you seem to be forgetting also does the UK - irrespective of value). Any transaction which bypasses that procedure - however it is done - is ILLICIT (Act 3 of the 1970 UNESCO Convention).

Should not the seller of such coins - irrespective of value - be constrained to be able to show that such items which they are selling have not been obtained through disregard of the relevant legislation?

Note, I was talking about export procedures, not "provenance".

kyri said...

paul,what you say is true and your %100 right but at the moment governments cant even control the big ticket items being launderd,what chance have they got policeing the sale of a roman coin worth me it is a matter of priorities. if a policeman stops me on the street,smoking a splif,he would give me a caution and send me on my way,if i had a kilo of marijuana on me than i would be in trouble.its not that the splif is less important,im still breaking the law,its a matter of scale.
richard ellis,the policeman that formd the art squad at scotland yard and has been fighting antiquities looters/smugglers for decades[now retired but he still pops up on the lecture circuit],says.
"blanket bans dont work as they will drive the trade underground,it is a question of ballance,an unballanced treaty,convention or law will result in theft ,smuggling and associated crimes and result in the uncontrolled haemorhage of a countrys heritage".
i agree with this.
there are millions of low grade coins on the market which are legal but with no paperwork at all.
for me its when a 50k vase comes on the market that seems to have poped out of thin air that alarm bells start ringing.mind you,talking about unballanced laws,it can go to far the other way,because of the "unballanced" treasure laws we have in the uk at the moment we are haemorhaging artifacts by the thousands and some of them very important mr ellis says a ballance needs to be found and demanding a paper trail for a 50p coin or even a £20 one ,for me is unreasonable and rather than confrontation is the way forward.

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