Tuesday, 5 October 2010

More Objects from Medici on Sale?

Two works coming to auction with Bonhams tomorrow (October 6th) appear similar to those pictured in Polaroids found in a notorious convicted dealer’s Geneva store. David Gill comments on this in "Looting Matters" (Medici Dossier and the London Market), while Mark Durney on Art Theft Central picks out the most interesting pieces of the article:
Today, The Art Newspaper reports,
Bonhams London is to auction two antiquities that may have passed through the hands of the dealer Giacomo Medici, who has twice been found guilty of trafficking in antiquities in Italy, but is free as he mounts his third and final appeal. As we went to press, the auction house had not withdrawn the lots because the necessary information on the items had not been released, despite Bonhams’ repeated requests to the Italian authorities, they say.
The article continues,
Spokesman Julian Roup said that the firm has yet to have any proof that the pieces’ provenance is questionable. The auction house says that no items in its sales appear on any stolen art databases (including the Art Loss Register, and the Interpol database), adding that the so-called Medici Dossier currently “does not appear on any of the checkable databases”. The problem is common across the trade. Christie’s told us: “We would encourage anyone with knowledge of [suspicious] works to register with the appropriate bodies.”
Duh. It really beggars belief, as mark Durney notes, that when dealing with unprovenanced archaeological (i.e., for the most part dug up) objects that anyone would consider checking the databases of reported art thefts as adequate due diligence. It really beggars belief that Bonhams considers that this is all that is needed (together with the seller's say-so) to check that a find has not been recently illegally and clandestinely dug up when Bonhams knows as much as the rest of us that there are worrying quantities of looted artefacts are on the market. It really beggars belief that all those who will be traipsing along to Bonhams to bid for these items and those like it accept that sort of weak excuse. And so the sales go on with everybody - seller, auction house, buyer all wringing their hands and claiming to be 'victims' who can do nothing about the illegal trade.

Well, they can, can't they? They can stop buying and selling stuff which cannot be documented as coming from a legitimate source.

Vignette: Methinks there are pots more worth having in the home than those, decorative though they may be, that might turn out to be 'hot'.

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