Thursday, 18 January 2018

The Becchina archive, a Minoan larnax, and the Michael C. Carlos Museum

Left: Becchina archive. Right: Michael C. Carlos Museum
More than 10 years ago, back in 2007, Dr Christos Tsirogiannis identified two pieces in the Michael C. Carlos Museum, a Minoan larnax and a pithos, with photographs from the Becchina archive. There is a case number with the General Secretary of the Greek Ministry of Culture: prot. no. 61/1-6-2007.

Source: MiBAC
In 2015 the Italian authorities revealed a major collection of antiquities, worth some 50 million Euros, seized from Becchina in Switzerland. The Becchina archive itself contains some 10,000 photographs and 200 bundles of receipts. These images have led to the identification, largely by Tsirogiannis, of a substantial number of items in public and private collections as well as from auction houses and galleries.

A museum director who was faced with the identification of objects, i.e. more than one object, in their collection from this contentious source would no doubt wish to resolve the issue, not least because there is an obligation under the AAMD guidelines (2013). These state:
If a member museum, as a result of its continuing research, gains information that establishes another party’s right to ownership of a Work, the museum should bring this information to the attention of the party, and if the case warrants, initiate the return of the Work to that party, as has been done in the past. In the event that a third party brings to the attention of a member museum information supporting the party’s claim to a Work, the museum should respond promptly and responsibly and take whatever steps are necessary to address this claim, including, if warranted, returning the Work, as has been done in the past.
Given that the identifications have been made public in the Greek press as well as elsewhere on the internet, it seems unlikely that the director of the Michael C. Carlos Museum is unaware of the issue. In fact it is very unlikely as the museum issued a press release in 2008 on this very case.

There are some questions to be raised. Has the director of the Michael C. Carlos Museum contacted the Greek authorities in the light of the information that came to light after the acquisition of the larnax and pithos? Has the director of the Michael C. Carlos Museum ignored the issue and hoped that it would go away?

Has the AAMD responded to the situation relating to one of its members?

What do academics in the rest of Emory University think of the situation?

I suspect that the Greek authorities may wish to take the case further.


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3 comments:

Emmanuel said...
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Emmanuel said...

Dear David, as far as your last comment ("I suspect that the Greek authorities may wish to take the case further"), I’d rather hold my horses. Having watched the last interview Dr. Tsirigiannis has given to the Greek TV channel SKAI and his comments (which he repeats on every given opportunity) on the inexplicable apathy (to say the least) of the Greek Ministry of Culture on every fully documented identification made by Christos and and subsequently sent to the Greek authorities, I believe that the Carlos case will be left in limbo for the years to come.

David Gill said...

The onus is on the Carlos Museum to follow the AAMD guidelines. The museum director needs to contact the Greek authorities in the light of the photographic evidence from the Becchina archive.

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