Skip to main content

Announcing news on Thanksgiving Day

Steinhardt Sardinian Figure
Source: Tsirogiannis / ARCA
The apparent removal of the Steinhardt Sardinian figure from auction at Christie's is timely. After all, today is Thanksgiving Day. Eight years ago, also in late November, the J. Paul Getty Museum announced the return of its first batch of material to Italy.

So perhaps it is a day to bury "bad news".

But what is surprising is that a major institution like Christie's has not absorbed the lessons of the last eight years in what has become known as "The Medici Conspiracy".

Academic researchers now realise that it is important to probe and investigate "collecting histories".

And we know that it is important to check the photographic archives that have been seized by the Italian authorities.

Staff in the "Ancient Art" department at Christie's need to adopt a more rigorous due diligence process to prevent this type of incident happening again. They ought to recognise that their present process is not "fit for purpose".

It is perhaps timely that my next essay in the 'Context Matters' series for the Journal of Art Crime is on this very theme.

Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Comments

kyri said…
hi david,do the people at christies have access to the "seized archives"if they dont how could they possibly do their due diligence.
kyri.
DR.KWAME OPOKU said…
Constant and permanent observation of all those who stand to benefit from the selling of objects with dubious history is what academics should have learnt from the experience of the last two decades. Kwame Opoku.
David Gill said…
For the body responsible for checking if objects are on a database of "stolen" objects see here:
https://www.academia.edu/849412/Polaroids_from_the_Medici_Dossier_Continued_Sightings_on_the_Market
kyri said…
hi david,firstly let me congratulate you on your academia page,very impressive,i will enjoy reading some of the papers when time allows.
so it seems christies did not consider ex-medici pieces to be "problematic" or stolen property,if that is the case than they are going to have to withdraw many more pieces in the future and they deserve all the bad publicity that they get.as we know the ALR is not fit for purpose when conducting due diligence on antiquities so if christies are relying mainly on them they will have problems but my question is would the italian authorities tell christies if a piece is in the dossier or wait till the catalogue is published,so they can get maximum publicity out of any returns?if they say ,"yes" to christies the piece is in the dossier,than what will stop the piece just disappearing underground and sold privately.unless the italians are willing to help and christies are willing to disclose the id of the consigner at the very least,the status quo will not change.i personally dont believe the italians will tell them anything and so christies could not do their due diligence,maybe im wrong. christies can take a big step in the right direction by accepting that anything in the medici dossier is very problematic,that is a very basic requirement in my eyes.
kyri.

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…