Friday, 15 August 2014

New York Times, "Buy Antiquities don't Worry about the Weapons"

Antiquity collection funds guns?
The fluff piece by Scott Reyburn ('The Lure of Antiquities', New York Times, Aug 15, 2014) convinces NYT readers that they need not worry about investing in art if they go to London and buy from the right dealer (four are helpfully named in the article and their exact addresses given). The article contains an interview with Sam Hardy in the bit where it is mentioned that "ongoing wars in countries such as Syria and Iraq allow the illicit excavation, looting and selling of antiquities to continue".  There is a plug of his website, Conflict Antiquities, (described rather loosely as "monitors the trade in antiquities in war zones"). Sam is then quoted as saying  "there’s a huge amount coming out of Syria”:
“The rebels have teams dedicated to looting and refugees are using portable statuettes, pots and glass as an international currency,” he said. However, Mr. Hardy has seen no reliable evidence to support recent claims in the Western media that the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria is selling antiquities to procure arms.

That last sentence seems a rather unfair use of Sam's words, I am sure - given what he has been writing recently - that this is not an accurate portrayal of what he actually said to the NYT journalist (and feel sure there will be a clarification on his blog). The journalist seems concerned only to put more trade the way of the four dealers he names, and to dismiss from the minds of potential customers the idea that there could be any problems in such purchases. I guess the reader is intended to come away with the feeling that if they stick with the goods, somehow magically 'reunited with their provenances', offered by expensive Mayfair dealers, they can dismiss any unpleasant associations from their minds. I wonder which dealer primed him to look out for that point before Hardy was interviewed. Is this the fallout from that stupid Sunday Times claim about the Bonham's stele (it is still not resolved how that false fact got into the British newspaper)? That claim must have caused a bit of unease in the Mayfair antiquities trading community - what is Fergusson's relationship with the latter? 

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