Thursday, 5 April 2012

St Louis Art Museum Mask: implications for Swiss dealer

I have noted earlier this week that the collecting history ("provenance") for the Egyptian mummy mask acquired by the St Louis Art Museum was seemingly flawed. It cannot have been given to the excavator (who died in 1959). It cannot have been in Brussels in 1952. It cannot have been in the "Kaloterna collection" in 1962. The reason for this is the apparently undisputed statement that the mask was known to be in Egypt in 1966 and recorded in Cairo.

The collecting history for the mask was allegedly supplied by the vendor, Phoenix Ancient Art. One of the owners of the gallery apparently supports the repatriation of antiquities to the country of origin. What was the basis for the mask's collecting history as supplied by Phoenix Ancient Art? Who created the collecting history?

It now appears that SLAM's due diligence process prior to the acquisition was flawed. The collecting history, as it was understood at the time of acquisition, no longer appears to be secure.

Will the director of SLAM, who is a member of the AAMD, make the appropriate professional and ethical response by opening up negotiations with the Egyptian authorities?

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1 comment:

Paul Barford said...

Has anyone answered the question, what would happen if SLAM turned to the person who sold it to this piece of disputed art which has embroiled them in so many additional legal costs saying that they want their money back?

Have the Aboutaams at any time indicated that they are willing to have the Ka Nefer Nefer mask back if their client is unwilling to display it any more? I see nothing on their website about this.

Presumably they stand by the collecting history they supplied to SLAM and therefore the piece at the very least retains its value, so why have they apparently not offered to take back this piece of disputed art?

Perhaps somebody could contact the Aboutaams to ask a simple yes-no question, whether they would accept the piece back.

A Sardinian boat-shaped lamp from an "old Austrian collection"

Sardinian boat-shaped lamp.  Left: Bonhams. Right: Becchina archive (courtesy of Christos Tsirogiannis) The sale of antiquities at Bonhams (...