Sunday, 12 April 2015

The "corrupt art trade" and ISIL

The art trade
ARCA's Noah Charney has a slightly chatty piece in 'Salon' about the links between the "corrupt art trade" and ISIL.
The world of antiquities looting has crossed into the realm of terrorism—the ancient pot you buy on eBay, or at a prestigious auction house, might be funding jihadists. [...] Stolen art and looted antiquities fund terrorist groups. So why has it taken so long for the world to take this seriously, or even notice? 
Criminologists consider this old news, Charney recalls that the topic was under discussion a decade ago  at the annual Interpol conference in Lyon on stolen works of art, but it is only now with the rise of ISIL that the world has taken proper notice. ISIS’s activities are just the latest chapter in the story of art and terrorism. With a somewhat gratuitous reference to the Nazis (beware Godwin's Law), Charney points out that what is happening now in the Middle East:
sounds spookily similar to the indecisive Nazi theories on “degenerate art,” stealing as much as they could, selling as much of that as they could (much of it to prominent American and British collectors, who passed cash to the Nazi war effort), and burning the rest in bonfires. The art they didn’t like was to be destroyed, unless they could profit from it.
Charney observes that the focus of ISIL on high-visibility targets for their activities has made protecting cultural heritage a priority. The first step is to render saleable antiquities unprofitable. Steps must be taken to stop people  buying antiquities from ISIS-occupied territories.
Unless an object has a documented history of having been legally excavated and exported decades ago, it should not be touched with a 10-foot pole.  That may seem painfully obvious, but no terrorist would be able to turn pots and statues into cash unless there was someone handing cash to them in exchange.
Charney argues that in conflict zones, local guards should be posted at known archaeological sites and museums "as you would any high-price, saleable commodity that you do not want to fall into terrorist hands".
A museum can be worth as much as an oil field, provided there is someone willing to buy what has been stolen from it. Which brings us to the second point: stop buying anything that could have come from terrorist-occupied territories. Whether the concern is the preservation of cultural heritage from obliteration, or keeping cash from its sale out of the hands of terrorists, art, antiquities and monuments must be protected. It is not just the art that is at stake.
Noah Charney, 'ISIS and the corrupt art trade: We know cultural crimes fund terrorism — now what?', Salon Sunday, Apr 12, 2015.


Brian Curtiss said...

Very Well put. Thanks for posting the link as well. Spot on.

Paul Barford said...

I generlly do provide links so the reader can follow back to the source. The only times I do not are when I am distracted and forget or when I suspect a certain metal detectorist or a certain lobbyist have deliberately posted something they know will elicit a reaction specifically in order to generate web-traffic for their blogs. In which case the enquiring reader will have to find the source text using Mr Google.

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