Skip to main content

Looking Ahead: 2013

This time last year there was little expectation that a major university art museum would be returning a batch of material to Italy for a second time. Nor could we have anticipated that pottery collected by one of the most distinguished classical curators of the 20th century would be leaving the collection that he had helped to build. So perhaps the first point is this: expect the unexpected.

I suspect that Asian antiquities will continue to dominate the headlines in two specific areas: firstly items from India, and secondly Cambodian objects. Museums that purchased in these two areas over the last four decades may well begin to feel the discomfort that was experienced in the wake of the Medici Conspiracy.

The Medici Conspiracy will continue to have an impact. It is clear that objects that can be identified from the Medici Dossier regularly appear at auction, especially in New York. This determination to sell recently surfaced antiquities could undermine the wider sale of antiquities. We can also expect that material handled by Medici will continue to be identified in North American collections.

Attention will shift to the Becchina archive. This is likely to have much wider ramifications. I think that we can expect further revelations about material in major North American collections. Will we also understand which North American dealers were receiving objects via Becchina (or should that be 'v/Becchina')?

Will the focus shift to European collections? Which UK museums were buying objects that were handled by Hecht and Symes?

I suspect that Turkey will step up its claims to have objects returned. Top of the list will no doubt be the stunning Bubon bronzes, as well as Late Antique silver. I also wonder if the Düver frieze will feature. And I hope that officials in FYROM will continue to pursue the Koreschnica krater and associated grave-goods that have apparently passed into a New York private collection as well as a major North American university collection.

In Britain I would imagine that there will be a renewed focus on 'heritage crime'. To what extent is the archaeology of the UK being damaged by casual digging? And I hope that 2013 will see the return to the UK --- and especially to Suffolk --- of the Icklingham bronzes presently residing in a New York private collection.

Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know


Damien Huffer said…
I agree with your assessments, David, especially re the "rise" of Asian antiquities research and investigations. I'm glad to be a part of it. Let 2013 also be a year for the furthering of quantitative approaches to understanding past trends and how they shape the current market. If I have anything to say about it, it certainly will be. Happy New Year!

Popular posts from this blog

Marble bull's head from the temple of Eshmun

Excavations at the temple of Eshmun in Lebanon recovered a marble bull's head. It is now suggested that it was this head, apparently first published in 1967, that was placed on loan to New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art (Tom Mashberg, "Met Museum Turns Over Another Relic With Disputed Past to Prosecutors", New York Times August 1, 2017 ). The head is reported to have been handed over to the Manhattan district attorney after a request was received from the Lebanese authorities.

It is suggested that the head may have been looted from an archaeological storage area at Byblos in the 1980s during the Lebanese civil war. Mashberg has rehearsed the recent collecting history:
The owners of the bull’s head, Lynda and William Beierwaltes of Colorado, say they have clear title to the item and have sued Manhattan prosecutors for its return.  The Beierwaltes bought the head from a dealer in London in 1996 for more than $1 million and then sold it to another collector, Michael …

The Getty Kouros: "The moral is, never ever buy a piece without a provenance"

In the wake of the 1992 Athens conference to discuss the Getty kouros (85.AA.40), one of the delegates, a "distinguished" American museum curator, was quoted ("Greek sculpture; the age-old question", The Economist June 20, 1992):
The moral is, never ever buy a piece without a provenance.
The recent discussions about the return of antiquities from North American museums to Italy and Greece may seem far removed from the acquisition of what appears to be a forged archaic Greek sculpture in the 1980s. However, there are some surprising overlaps.

The statue arrived at the Getty on September 18, 1983 in seven pieces. True (1993: 11) subsequently asked two questions:
Where was it found? As it was said to have been in a Swiss private collection for fifty years, why had it never been reassembled, though it was virtually complete?
A similar statue surfacing in the 1930s
A decision was taken to acquire the kouros in 1985. The official Getty line at the time (and reported in Russell…

The Getty kouros: a modern creation?

The refurbished galleries of the J. Paul Getty Museum no longer include the Getty kouros, a sculpture purchased in 1985 (Christopher Knight, "Something's missing from the newly reinstalled antiquities collection at the Getty Villa", LA Times April 19, 2018). Knight explains:
Unexpectedly, the Getty kouros, a controversial sculpture even before the museum acquired it more than 30 years ago, has been removed from public view. The work is now in museum storage.   For decades, the life-size carving of a standing nude youth carried one of the most distinctive labels of any work of art in an American museum: “Greece (?) about 530 B.C. or modern forgery.” The label encapsulated puzzling issues about the work, whose questionable status as dating from the archaic dawn of Western civilization had been the focus of scholarly and scientific research, debate and international symposiums for years. It is ten years since I provided an overview of the kouros here on LM. And over 20 year…