Wednesday 29 May 2013

Ex-Kluge Collection on the market

Antiquities that formed part of the John Kluge collection are not without interest on LM. I see that three ex-Kluge pots are up for auction at Christie's Rockefeller Centre on June 6, 2013:

  • lot 546: Attic black-figured column-krater, attributed to the Bucci painter. Surfaced on the Freiburg market, 1988. [Unstated: Becchina Archive.]
  • lot 594: Apulian amphora, attributed to the Edinburgh exhibition painter. Surfaced in Royal-Athena Galleries, 1981.
  • lot 595: Apulian volute-krater, attributed to the Baltimore painter. Surfaced in Royal-Athena Galleries, 1979.
What are their full collecting histories (prior to their first stated appearances)?

Readers of LM should re-read Lee Rosenbaum's observations about Kluge dating back to 2007. 

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Friday 24 May 2013

A Gnathian Krater from the Swiss Art Market

Among the items presented for auction at Christie's Rockefeller Centre on June 6, 2013 is a Gnathian bell-krater (lot 600). Its collecting history ("provenance" [sic.]) is provided as "Art Market, Switzerland, 1994".

My colleague, Cambridge University researcher Christos Tsirogiannis, has identified the krater in one of the photographic archives seized in Switzerland.

Who is consigning this krater for the auction? Who is the present proprietor?

Can we presume that the staff at Christie's have contacted the Italian authorities as a matter of urgency?

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Thursday 23 May 2013

Coins returned to Bulgaria

Source: ICE
ICE has announced the return of 546 ancient coins to Bulgaria ("Federal authorities return ancient coins to Bulgaria", May 21, 2013).

Bulgarian Ambassador Elena Poptodorova was quoted:
It is a special privilege to receive today, on behalf of the Bulgarian people, a part of our rich antique patrimony that was unlawfully taken away from us, ... I would like to thank both the HSI and CBP for their excellent work and high professionalism in retrieving these valuable ancient coins and returning them to where they belong, their homeland Bulgaria.
It appears that the coins were intercepted after a false declaration of origin.

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Wednesday 22 May 2013

Two Canosan kraters returned to Italy

This time last year I was commenting on identifications made by Cambridge researcher Christos Tsirogiannis. He spotted that a pair of Canosan krater that were due to be auctioned in the June 2012 sale at Christie's Rockefeller Plaza could be identified from the polaroids in the Medici Dossier.

The research did not go unnoticed. The pair of kraters were returned to Italy on 14 September 2012. Investigative journalist Fabio Isman informs us that they are currently in an exhibition of repatriated antiquities at the Museo Nazionale di Castel Sant' Angelo in Rome (20 May -5 November 2013).

Tsirogiannis has written up the work for the next number of the Journal of Art Crime (2013). The detail is telling but readers of LM can wait for the publication.

This return demonstrates that items identified from the Medici Dossier (and this should be extended to the Becchina and Schinoussa archives) are perceived as "toxic". This is not the first time that such a return has been made from this auction house.

Readers of LM will be aware that Tsirogiannis has made a number of identifications in the June 2013 auction (although not all the pieces have been discussed). Two things need to happen. First, senior officers at Christie's need to look closely at what appears to be a flawed due diligence process in their "ancient art" department. Second, somebody should be contacting the Italian authorities as a matter of urgency.

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Euboean amphora from the Borowski collection

One of the pieces to note in Christie's forthcoming sale in June is a Euboean black-figured amphora showing a seated woman and a sphinx (lot 540). The amphora first surfaced in an anonymous sale at Sotheby's (London) December 3, 1991, lot 383. It then entered the collection of Dr Elie Borowski and was sold for $10,575 at Christie's (Rockefeller Plaza) on June 12, 2000 (lot 27; "Ancient Greek Vases formerly in the private collection of Dr. Elie Borowski"). It was then sold twice by Royal-Athena Galleries, New York, 2001 (Art of the Ancient World, vol. XII, no. 172) and 2010 (1000 Years of Ancient Greek Vases, no. 31).

Cambridge University researcher Christos Tsirogiannis has spotted the amphora in the Medici Dossier. This suggests that Medici, or one of his agents, consigned the pot to Sotheby's in London. (See other pieces that passed through Sotheby's in London and since returned to Italy.) The amphora seems to have been photographed prior to surface cleaning.

Will one of the staff at Christie's be contacting the Italian authorities to clarify the full collecting history of this piece?

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Tuesday 21 May 2013

Dr Mona Ackerman and Robin Symes

Detail of Apollo.
Source: the Schinoussa Archive
The Huffington Post has carried a feature on the sale of the art collection formed by Dr Mona Ackerman (Katherine Brooks, "Dr. Mona Ackerman Art Collection: Works By Pablo Picasso, Jean Arp And Egon Schiele Head To Christie's", April 12, 2013). One of the pieces, a marble Apollo, is shown in her apartment. The report quotes Paul Provost, Deputy Chairman of Christie's:
Provost explained that Dr. Ackerman worked closely with Peter Marino, an apartment designer, who helped to arrange the eclectic mix of masterpieces in her expansive New York City apartment. One particularly beautiful display included a figurative marble work by Jean Arp as well as a Roman marble torso of Apollo. Both sculptures were displayed in front of the ample apartment windows overlooking the Metropolitan Museum of Art; a subtle juxtaposition of Ackerman's far-reaching tastes.
"Arp has human forms in many ways, about the same size of this Roman torso from the 1st or 2nd A.D," said Provost. "There is a millenia separating them, yet they are harmonious as two beautiful marbles with tremendous symmetry and balance. A significant amount of thought went into this juxtaposition."
It is perhaps significant that the Apollo seems to be the one that features in the Schinoussa Archive of photographs.

The appearance of such Symes material on the market is clearly seen as problematic by some major auction houses. [See overview.]

What is the full collecting history of the Apollo? Will the Italian authorities be interested in this piece?

I am grateful to Christos Tsirogiannis for making this identification from the Schinoussa Archive.

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Monday 20 May 2013

New York market and recently-surfaced antiquities

Fabio Isman has published an article noting how items identified from the Medici, Becchina and Symes photographic archives are surfacing in the New York Christie's auction this June ("La Grande Razzia è ancora tra noi, e Christie’s lo sa", Arte Magazine, May 2013). He includes a number of photographs from these dossiers, and gives credit to Christos Tsirogiannis for the identifications.

He poses the question, what will Christie's do?

We know what Christie's should do if they are serious about due diligence. A member of their antiquities department should contact the cultural attache at the Italian Embassy.

Is that what will happen?

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Additional collecting histories for an Attic krater

It appears that further information can be added to the Athenian black-figured column-krater due to be auctioned at Christie's on June 6, 2013 (lot 546). The catalogue entry tells us:

  • Art Market, Freiburg, 1988. 
  • with Royal-Athena Galleries, New York, 1990 (One Thousand Years of Ancient Greek Vases from Greece, Etruria & Southern Italy, no. 35). 
  • Patricia Kluge, Charlottesville, Virginia. 
  • with Royal-Athena Galleries, New York, 2010 (One Thousand Years of Ancient Greek Vases II, from Greece, Etruria & Southern Italy, featuring the Patricia Kluge Collection, no. 50).

The present proprietor is stated as a Midwest Private Collector.

The Royal Athena Gallery informs us of a parallel collecting history:

  • Ex German collection; Patricia Kluge collection, Charlottesville, Virginia, acquired from Royal-Athena in 1991.

The Beazley Archive (no. 44199) omits the "old German collection" as well as the anonymous Midwestern private collection.

The dealer in Freiburg is perhaps one noted elsewhere on LM but we cannot be sure.

But the main omission is that the krater also seems to appear in the photographic archive of Gianfranco Becchina.

Did Becchina supply material to the Freiburg market? If so, what other material from the Freiburg market can be traced to Becchina?

Kluge is also interesting as a collector.

But is this the only piece in the New York sale that can be identified from the photographic archives?

Can we presume that the head of Christie's antiquities department will be contacting the Italian authorities as soon as possible?

I am grateful to Cambridge researcher Christos Tsirogiannis who made the identification. 

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Saturday 18 May 2013

Due diligence and collecting histories

Collecting histories are important. They indicate the routes through the antiquities market. And the collecting histories for objects that have been returned to Italy as a result of the Medici Conspiracy are fascinating. So if, say, a major auction house was asked to offer an object that shared the same collecting history (some continue to use the flawed term "provenance") as a returned object, I would presume that the staff of the antiquities department would conduct a rigorous due diligence process. Not only would they contact the Art Loss Register, but potential buyers would expect these purveyors of ancient art to contact (say) the Italian authorities to ensure that there is no overlap with the three major seized photographic archives. Can we be sure that such a rigorous process has taken place? What can buyers expect?

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Thursday 16 May 2013

"Convincing provenance" and the London market

Readers of LM will know that I keep emphasising the need for properly documented "collecting histories". It now appears that Egyptian antiquities, with what were termed "convincing provenances", had to be withdrawn from a sale at Christie's (London) earlier this month (Georgina Adam, "Apples - only $41.6m a bowl", Financial Times May 10, 2013). It seems that the material had come from a recently looted tomb near Thebes ("they were believed to have been stolen from a recently discovered and excavated tomb in Thebes"). We perhaps should note the FT's careless use of the word "excavated". The reported collecting history was that the objects came from an uncle who had served in Egypt during the Second World War.

It is a good reminder that auction houses need to apply more rigorous processes during their research on lots.

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Friday 10 May 2013

The Wonderful World of Disney

This lecture will explore the background to the donation of the "Disney collection" to the University of Cambridge, and the establishment of the Disney chair of archaeology. It will place the benefaction of Thomas Brand Hollis to the Reverend John Disney in the context of religious dissent in the late eighteenth century. The bequest included sculptures collected on the Grand Tour by Brand Hollis and his friend Thomas Hollis (a benefactor of Harvard and supporter of republican values).

John Disney, the son of the Reverend John Disney, was president of the Chelmsford Philosophical Society that embraced archaeological investigations in Essex. Disney's collection included material discovered in the Roman cemeteries on the west side of the colonia at Colchester during the construction of the County Hospital. Disney was also instrumental in helping the establishment of the Essex Archaeological Society, along with the Reverend John H. Marsden, the first Disney professor of archaeology.

Disney was involved with political reform and stood as a candidate in three parliamentary elections. He was a Fellow of the Royal Society, and supported some of the first demonstrations of photography in Essex.

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Friday 3 May 2013

Cambodian statues to be returned from New York

Kneeling Attendant
Formerly New York MMA 1987.410 / 1992.390.1

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York has announced that it will be returning two statues to Cambodia ("Metropolitan Museum of Art to Return Two Khmer Sculptures to Cambodia", May 3, 2013, press release).

Tom Campbell, the Director, is quoted:
“The Museum is committed to applying rigorous provenance standards not only to new acquisitions, but to the study of works long in its collections in an ongoing effort to learn as much as possible about ownership history. This is a case in which additional information regarding the Kneeling Attendants has led the Museum to consider facts that were not known at the time of the acquisition and to take the action we are announcing today. In returning the statues, the Museum is acting to strengthen the good relationship it has long maintained with scholarly institutions and colleagues in Cambodia and to foster and celebrate continued cooperation and dialogue between us.”
The announcement sets a significant precedent for other museums that are presented with additional information about collecting histories.

What other museums have acquired material from the same donors or collectors? Will they, too, be reviewing their acquisitions?

The Met's "rigorous provenance standards" will also no doubt extend to the Bothmer bequest of pottery fragments. It has already been shown (from the few published images) that a connection has been made with a collection in Rome.

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Another Bubon bronze head likely to be repatriated

It appears that a bronze head acquired by the J. Paul Getty Museum from Nicolas Koutoulakis has been removed from display and appears to be...