Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Provenance and Import - Two Different Things

The facts. The international dugup dealers lobby take us all for illiterate fools and kid themselves they can pull the wool over our eyes in their quest to keep the channels of no-questions-asked antiquities open. On the Museum Security List the paid representative of the IAPN and PNG (but also representing the ADCAEA among other antiquity dealer support organizations) disingenuously writes of the proposed law changes in the US and Germany:
These proposed changes will be detrimental to legitimate small businesses which won't be able to comply with the provenance requirements that are being proposed for many, if not most, of the items they currently can sell. Simply, most low value antiquities (and a surprising number of high value ones) don't have the paper trail that is required. This has nothing to do with them being recently "looted" and everything to do with the fact that at the time they were acquired provenance information was not considered to be important.
He's counting on people not remembering what these proposals entail. It is nothing to do with "provenance", the 1970 UNESCO Convention deals primarily with movement of objects between states parties. Dealers are constantly trying to create a smoke screen by confusing the two in order to stall discussion. So when it comes to the 'New legislation on the cards in Germany' (as reported by media outlet DW) we read: 
Monika Grütters demands changing the basic assumptions when dealing with looted art. The federal government aims to make it such that the import and trade of cultural goods to Germany will only be open to objects with an official export license from their country of origin
And in the USA the wording of the Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act (as also reported for example in the The Art Newspaper and 'Hyperallergic' just ten days ago) states:
the President shall apply the import restrictions referred to in such section 304 with respect to any archaeological or ethnological material of Syria as if Syria were a State Party to such Convention, except that subsection (c) of such section 304 shall not apply. Such import restrictions shall take effect not later than 60 days after the date of the enactment of this Act.
Section 304 (2602) refers to establishing circumstances of export, not removal from the ground.Once again, as was the case with the attempt of the IADAA to brush aside concerns, the dugup dealers are simply trying to dodge the issue and produce a smokescreen. 

What dealers in dugup antiquities "thought" was important is neither here nor there. the 1970 UNESCO Convention (Art. 3) defines as illicit cultural property (thus artefacts) which were imported, exported or transfer of ownership of which was effected contrary to the provisions adopted under this Convention by the States Parties thereto - that is the export licensing procedure described in art 6 to 8. If since 1970 dealers have been throwing away regardless the documentation which renders a loose artefact licit because they "thought" it was unimportant, that's their lookout.

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