Saturday, 18 December 2021

The Fordham Antiquities and the New York Galleries

The announcement that "Ninety-six pieces with an estimated value of $1.8 million [were] seized from the Fordham Museum of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Art on May 28, 2021" raises new questions (Press Release, Manhattan DA: "Manhattan D.A.’s Office Returns 200 Antiquities to Italy", December 15, 2021). The statement reports, "All but two of the pieces seized from Fordham were trafficked by [Edoardo] ALMAGIÀ." One of these two pieces is probably the Apulian patera attributed to the Baltimore painter that surfaced through Sotheby's in London in December 1983.

It is clear that some of the Fordham objects have a public and published record that they had surfaced on the New York market through Almagià. What is more surprising is that four New York galleries appear to be associated with the returning material: at least 85 of the seized objects are reported to have passed through these routes. (Around 80 objects come from just two of the galleries.)

Separate legal papers present the way that Almagià's material is said to have moved from Italy to north America. Does this mean the bulk of the Fordham material that had allegedly been "trafficked by ALMAGIÀ" had been passed to specific New York galleries? (This would imply that the donor of the material to Fordham had purchased the items from these four New York galleries rather than directly from Almagià.) 

These four galleries are not ones that have featured in the sorry tale that so far has been told about the selling and collecting of cultural property from Italy. This raises the possibility—and I would stress the possibility—that further revelations are likely given that, as the Manhattan DA press release reminds us, Almagià's "Green Book" contained "entries for almost 1,700 looted antiquities that ALMAGIÀ purchased from tombaroli in Italy and then sold in the United States." 

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Return of antiquities to Türkiye

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