Skip to main content

Looting Matters: Looking Ahead to 2018

©David Gill
I attended the APPG on Cultural Property at Westminster in December and it is clear that there will be an increasing emphasis on the protection of cultural property in time of war and conflict. It is clear that the Ministry of Defence is keen to engage with the academic community to understand the potential issues and sensitivities. I anticipate that there will be some additional discussion over archaeological material moving from Syria and northern Iraq to markets in Europe. 

In the UK the DCMS has made it clear that it wants to work more closely with the heritage community (and this will be covered on the companion blog, 'Heritage Futures', co-written with Professor Ian Baxter). The impact of metal-detecting on scheduled and unrecorded sites continues to give some archaeological groups in the UK a cause for concern.

I would be surprised if objects known from the Medici, Becchina and Symes archives do not surface on the antiquities market. These cases now seem to be met with co-operation, perhaps tinged with resignation, by those linked to the market. It would be good to see those in the market adopting a more enhanced due diligence process.

Historic cases can drop of the agenda. It would be good to see the Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University negotiating the return of three disputed items with the Hellenic authorities.

There is likely to be renewed emphasis on the intellectual consequences of looting. How does the acquisition of looted archaeological material have an impact on the understanding of the past? This includes work on the problem of forged antiquities.

LM is always grateful to its readers for feedback, suggestions and comments.

Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

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…

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: 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…