Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Senator Kaine to Support Antiquity Dealers?

Tim Kaine on the side
of antiquity dealers?
The Association of Dealers and Collectors of Ancient and Ethnographic Art (11 August 2015) announced that they are "continuing our fight regarding HR-1493 [...] ":
Today ADCAEA President Sue McGovern-Huffman and Secretary Peter Tompa met with an aide to US Senator Tim Kaine (D), Virginia regarding concerns over HR-1493, now known as S.1887.
The ADCAEA do not want this bill to protect cultural property in times of war and civil strife, they claim that their (only?) issues with it are:
- it has no cost/benefit analysis to determine whether US actions are effective;
- it sets up a new bureaucracy to coordinate repatriation without representation by independent U.S. museums, the legitimate art trade, or art collectors who are primary museum donors;
- it bypasses the Cultural Property Advisory Committee and has no sunset clause;
- it aims to repatriate cultural property back to unstable, war torn nations without condition.
- it does not provide safe harbor for legitimately acquired objects.
What in fact the issue is of course is that it would reduce still further in the US the scope for the no-questions- asked trade in dugup antiquities. The ADCAEA reckon the "cultural property issues facing Syria" would be "best served" by not passing a bill to protect it. The question is however whether it s Syria they are more concerned about, or themselves?

To answer the dealers, US activities to date have NOT been "effective" since the Second World War at least in protecting anyone's cultural property in times of war and civil strife, they cannot even prevent Hopi masks from being auctioned in Paris. What is needed (as laid down in the 1970 UNESCO Convention to which the US is a state party) IS a new bureaucracy to coordinate matters concerning the antiquities market in the US (not just "repatriation" that old dullard stereotype of the dealers' lobby). Bypassing the wholly inefficient and totally unnecessary "Cultural Property Advisory Committee" in its present form would be a jolly good idea. In order to be effective, cultural policy needs institutional stability, so a "sunset clause" is counter-productive. It is sheer idiocy to say that an institution which has not yet even been set up will "aims to repatriate cultural property back to unstable, war torn nations without condition". First of all, one assumes it will be run by responsible thinking people, not ten-year olds. Secondly, wars end - that Iraq is unstable twelve years after the 2003 US-led invasion is nobody's fault more than the US which took responsibility for it, and then dumped it. The US is not innocent of the responsibility of funding the beginning of the current Syrian conflict, either.  Legitimately acquired objects do not need a "safe harbour".

Come on Senator Kaine, ask the right questions about the antiquities trade and its business methods and contact before agreeing to help them.  It's increasingly becoming a political hot potato, as a junior senator (and professor of 'Legal Ethics') - can you afford this?

Anyone want to write to him about this?

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