Monday, 17 November 2014

ADCAEA "Due Diligence Guidelines for Dealers & Collectors"

Back in the middle of September, the so-called "Association of Dealers and Collectors of Ancient and Ethnographic Art" (actually just four US dealers) issued a document which they called "guidelines for conducting due diligence". They say it's because they were " greatly concerned about the recent reports of heavy looting in Egypt and the Middle East", I would suggest that rather than the effects on the cultural heritage of those source countries, they were more interested in the effects of these reports affecting public opinion about the antiquities trade.

Anyway they helpfully explain that they think "Due Diligence is the process where the collecting history (provenance) of an object is investigated and recorded", which of course is only one third of the story. A collecting history that has significant gaps, or on checking contradicts other facts (like the same artefact being documented in two places at once) is no use to man nor beast . It's not enough to have "a" collecting history which anyone can invent, it has to be verifiable to have any meaning. The second factor missing from the ADCAEA definition is due diligence is the active rejection of items that cannot be included in a collection while maintaining the hygiene of the latter. I think we need look no further than the comments on recent developments in the SLAM Ka Nefer Nefer ADCAEA's McGovern-Huffmann's comments ("nice to see a precedent being set") on precisely such a case to see just how seriously she, at least, treats either of the last two points.

 It says, "this document is available in the "Members Only" section of our website" but Peter Tompa another ADCAEA officer, apparently unaware of this, posted a link to where this superficial text can be seen by all (Note that he calls it "due diligence guidelines for its members, primarily dealers and collectors of high-end material" so the intention of this document is unclear from the outset).

Check it out and see whether you think the "recommendations" there will assist anyone to make "informed decisions when considering the purchase of ancient objects in order to establish, to the best of their ability, the property has not been recently looted or illegally exported from the country of origin" and whether it's definition of "to the best of their ability" is testing enough to decide which potential offers should be avoided by the responsible purchaser. I submit the document just fuzzes over the whole issue, the document as it stands is a typical piece of facadism that we all associate with the antiquity trade. I spent some time to read the document carefully, wrote down my thoughts on its content and form, and sent them to the ADCAEA was assured that it was all a big mistake that what is presented on the "Wild Apricot" website as a final document should have been given the title "draft" and a final version, incorporating all the comments would appear at the end of October. It is now the middle of November and no revision has even been hinted at on the ADCAEA website. Neither has any clarification about whether due diligence in the understanding of the ADCAEA is something a collector only needs to do when the number of figures in the price exceeds the number of fingers they all have.

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