Somebody posing as Bill Pearlstein "graciously consented to [Peter Tompa] publishing his comment" on the Cultural Property Obfuscator lobbyist-sniping blog:. The commentator suggests that:
trying to retrofit a requirement for documented provenance onto the reality of a market where nothing was ever documented is disingenuous, and creates the Orphan Problem without solving the looting problem.Hmm, where does the UNESCO 1970 Convention talk about solving the looting problem? Rather I think its the US lawyer's own argument that is not a little disingenuous. Where does the Convention or the US CCPIA talk of documenting "provenance"? It does not. Pearlstein blunders deeper:
let's face it—the 1970 Rule does not reflect a fair reading of UNESCO. Moreover, It's silly to pretend that every unprovenanced piece may have been recently looted. Some objects have come down through antiquity without being buried. The likelihood of privately owned Orphans that were never buried and never looted is simply outside the conceptual box of the 1970 Rule.Probably because (watch the lips), the UNESCO 1970 Convention is not designed to address the looting problem. Look at its title, look at its text (all the articles). To say otherwise is a US-specific reading of its text, inserting ideas that are not there in the original - no matter how Pearlstein may want to argue that it has been "badly translated". Inasmuch as the 1970 Convention does not mention the notion of provenanced versus unprovenanced artefacts then if there is anybody being "silly" about what it allegedly says about "unprovenanced piece", it is the North American polemicist.
As for "some objects have come down through antiquity without being buried" they mostly have names like "the Pantheon" and "the Colosseum". I really do not follow "the likelihood of privately owned [objects] that were never buried and never looted is simply outside the conceptual box of the 1970 Rule", what on earth is he on about? Unless they were kept in antiquity in Maryland and passed down among the Nephrites to arrive in a modern collector's hands today, they'll still need an export licence to get to the US (UNESCO 1970, art 6, art 7). I suggest also that Pearlstein re-reads Article 1 of the 1970 UNESCO Convention.
Finally that twee label "orphans" dealers use to denote artefacts they are trading which have somehow "lost" all trace of where they came from. Any dealer buying any goods for resale should know where they come from. That they are unwilling to pass that information on to the buyer is justified by them in a variety of ways, the rest of us may well suspect that the real reason for this is the unspoken one. Items where the pedigree is deliberately discarded are not being "orphaned' of their collecting history, they are being abandoned.
This is not, Mr Tompa, about "control", this is about common decency and responsibility qualities many of my readers will observe are notably lacking in certain circles. It is not a sign of abnormal "cleverness" to read the text of the Convention and understand what it does and does not say, though many US collectors demonstrate themselves incapable of that.