Friday, 18 January 2013

AAMD Object Registry: "pieces with problematic pasts"

Drusus from an old Algerian collection
Source: Cleveland Museum of Art
Over on Culturegrrl there has been an important discussion of the AAMD Object Registry in response to the Getty's latest return to Italy. Lee Rosenbaum rightly draws attention to Maxwell Anderson's totally honourable and professional use of the Registry to rehearse much earlier acquisitions (and that have led to a sizeable return of objects to Italy as part of Almagià-gate).

Lee Rosenbaum makes the point about the AAMD guidelines on acquisitions:
The purpose of these rules was to diminish financial incentives for looters and their marketplace enablers. This intended benefit is lost If museums repeatedly demonstrate a willingness to shell out money for pieces with problematic pasts, using their publication on a registry as a pretext to skirt the UNESCO guidelines that they purport to uphold.
This comment has a response from Christine Anagnos of the AAMD: "AAMD's members understand that it is important to follow these guidelines---and we have every confidence that our members are doing so".

A good example of a recent acquisition (publicised on the AAMD Object Registry) that has been raising wider concerns was the Roman portrait of Drusus acquired by the Cleveland Museum of Art from an old Algerian collection via an interesting group in Paris. Of course Cleveland could pop up details of the so-called Cleveland Apollo, or the Bubon bronze of Marcus Aurelius. Or if Anagnos was serious about the AAMD Guidelines she could intervene.

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