Wednesday, 15 August 2012

In This Trade it happens a Lot...

Kimberley Alderman gives a few of her thoughts on the antiquities trade (Another Reputable New York Dealer Busted for Trading in Looted Antiquities…).
This kind of thing is not the exception to the rule that the museum industry would have you think. Studies have repeatedly shown that 90% of the antiquities passing through the auction houses -- the most public portion of the market -- lack documentation to establish that they were excavated and exported in compliance with country of origin laws. If 90% of the antiquities traded on public portion of the market are unprovenanced, what would that percentage be for the private portion of the market [...]? As far as the art industry has come, museums still routinely purchase antiquities without appropriate provenance (documentation showing that the origin of a piece is legitimate). The standard is still not to buy pieces that are known to be illicit, but turning a blind eye is all too common, enabling unscrupulous dealers and traffickers to continue operating at an incredible profit. [...] There is a vast network out there for trading in illicit antiquities, and it is the licit market that serves as a smokescreen for and legitimizer of those transactions.
The million dollar question is however, just how much of the market, overall, actually IS licit? It seems common sense that with the sums of money involved, there has to be a very good reason, more than laziness and carelessness, for the lack of any sort of supporting documementation of the origins of as much as "90%" of the material on the market.

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