Friday, 5 December 2014

Christie's Head Complains

Christie's executive complains about provenance ('International Head of Group William Robinson reviews the year’s achievements and looks forward to the December sales'):
"Each individual area has had particular challenges.  For me this year, many have been directly or indirectly related to the questions of cultural property and provenance.  We have not been able to sell any Pre-Columbian Art in 2014, as we have not been presented with any that has had provable provenance dating back to before the bilateral agreements that various countries have made.  I sincerely hope that we will be able to successfully sell items in this field in the coming year. 
I'm a bit puzzled by the use of the restrictive term 'cultural property' here. Surely most of the objects sold by Christie's are cultural property.
"This issue of having to prove provenance on items, with its implied assumption of ‘guilty unless proven innocent’, is an attitude which I detest but reluctantly have to agree is sensible in the current atmosphere. Strong provenance is also becoming more and more reflected in the prices that are achieved in the sales.  The flip side to this is that our attitude towards provenance was also a major factor in our winning the most important collection that came onto the market in 2014 (due to be sold in 2015).  At the same time I have worked internally as one of the members of the Cultural Property Committee to try to modify Christie’s approach towards works of art where there are anomalies in our regulations, or situations that lead to unnecessarily rigid application". 
The question is whether the "detestation" of having to ask the well-heeled, "well where did you get this from then?" is a genuine dislike of knowing for sure that goods are kosher, or whether it is here as a politic apology?

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