Tuesday, 17 February 2015

CCP: "Syria, The Lies they tell: They are all Lying"

Unfortunately, many members of
the news media have repeated inaccurate
information on ISIS’ supposed profits from
an illegal market in antiquities.

"Inflamatory claim" is how the American  so-called Committee for Cultural Policy, based a Santa Fe lawyer's office dismiss the notion that arefacts surfacing on the no-questions asked antiquities market are putting money into the hands of militarised groups ("Media Alert: Poor Data on Syria Triggers Widespread Disinformation Campaign", February 11, 2015). There is a lot of hyperbole here, and the usual straw man arguments we have seen from the dealers' lobby before. This includes the now-traditional seeking to meke dealers a victim: " the allegation that some unknown number of antiquities sales is helping to fund ISIS is tied by activists and media followers to a demand to end the unrelated legitimate trade in art and antiques". The regulation of a legitimate market, surely, does not end it, but strengthens it. The CCP (like the ADCAEA and ACCG and all the rest) keep harping on about the deliberate destruction of Syrian and Iraqi monuments by the Islamists and the bogeyman of giving it all to the tender mercies of the Assad regime". This is arguing chalk and cheese.

There is another revealing quote at the bottom, where the CCP write of:
The cynical use of the tragedy in Syria by those opposing international trade in art
I suspect they really lack any sense of human decency. Most of the people writing about the destruction of cultural heritage in the Middle East do it because they are profoundly upset by this, the needless destruction of things that have survived centuries, outlived empires, and survived other wars and natural disasters only to be vandalised now. We want to see a stop to this, we want to see Syria and Iraq return to normality. Nobody is opposed to licit international trade in art. What we are opposed to is the illicit trade buy dealers who refuse to take responsibility. In any case, cuneiform tablets and potsherds are not "art" like landscape paintings or Whistler's Mother, they are artefacts. Dealers in dugups are no more "art dealers" than a used car salesman an engineer.

The CCP seem to be denying there is much of a problem with looting. They are closing their eyes and ears stating:
So far, there is no evidence that Western art dealers and collectors are dealing in or acquiring looted ancient art from the Syrian and Iraq regions [...] Statements from auction houses and Western art dealer organizations show they want nothing to do with it.
One might ask them to provide firm evidence they are not.  Somebody is buying the stuff, there is a lot of it on the "western" markets, why evoke the coin fairies? Can the CCP prove that instead of the freshly surfaced material (with no prior collecting history verifiably documented) coming from trade-driven digging and smuggling that it comes from the Munich coin elves?

The CCP are still stuck in the dealers' penis-measuring mentality, the numbers dominate their straw man argumentation ("Media Repeats Discredited Numbers"). This of course concentrates on Martin Chulov and the memory sticks and Michael Danti and of course the CCP in the effort to preserve US collectors' rights gives only one side of the story rather than a proper breakdown of the ongoing discussion of both. There is a closely-referenced breakdown to show that "the figures" are  poorly founded in fact. All this is surely irrelevant to the main conclusion, which is that sites are being looted and material is entering the international market (the BBC report tonight showed that - unlike CCP, they sent sombody to Beirut to check the evidence on the ground). 
All possible steps should be taken to stop ISIS. But there appears to be no factual support for the claim that the art market is supporting ISIS, and no justification for the current disinformation campaign or opportunistic manipulation of the press.
After a bit of Jim-Bob backyard politicky talk involving shadowy stereotypes, dire effects of any moves to stem illicit antiquity movements on dealers, collectors and museums ("and their ability to protect and provide access to all art in the future") the group suggests not imposing any kind of embargoes and trade barriers in the US. The most sensible thing these people say is at the bottom:
Perhaps the best step to take in order to halt the illegal trade in antiquities is to find out what it really amounts to and to base efforts to ameliorate it on facts, not fantasy. 
Right. Let's do it. Are the dealers going to lead the way, or are they going to drag along behind, moaning that they are being victimised and "anyway, you ain't go anything on me"?   What of course is lacking here from the "Committee for Cultural Policy" is any form of policy except, in effect: Turkey and Lebanon should stop the smugglers and everybody should leave US dealers alone.

1 comment:

David Knell said...

"So far, there is no evidence that Western art dealers and collectors are dealing in or acquiring looted ancient art from the Syrian and Iraq regions."

Well no, there wouldn't be much "evidence" would there? That's the whole meaning of "laundering" - the obliteration and obfuscation of anything suggesting an illicit origin. The black market in illicit antiquities has been laundering them for a very long time and they are extremely good at it. So long as "Western art dealers and collectors" don't delve too deeply into an object's source, it will continue.

But data (e.g. Conflict and the Heritage Trade), anecdotal evidence and sheer common sense indicate that antiquities recently looted from Syria and Iraq are indeed reaching markets in the West, not necessarily through high-profile auction houses but through other outlets.

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