Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Dealer Swope Puts the World to Rights

Mari looting - Swope says the international antiquities trade
is in no way connected with these holes. Tell us how.

Tom Swope, ACDAEA "Dealer of Ancient art from around the world" Hudson, NY, United States has a gallery: and he has a blog. The ACDAEA is promoting his latest blog post: "Civilization Under Attack, what can we do?" Monday, September 28, 2015. It is another example of the cardboard cutout thinking that defies rationality. He is disappointed that the reaction to the looting is meetings "bashing the antiquities trade, as if the dealers were responsible for the destruction of the archaeological sites in the Near East" ummm, duh!   The problem is this numpty sees statue/monument smashing and museum trashing as the only form of destruction, and simply shuts his eyes to the  burrowing into the stratigraphy of sites to produce the artefacts like the ones he has in his own gallery (which obviously fell from the skies) as in any way a destructive activity. This is the problem with antiquity dealers (the ACDAEA in particular - a notably underinformed group of people). His blog post also presents the market as entirely a 'high end' affair. "Rich people are not stupid" he says, but not only rich people buy antiquities, and looking at what some of them do, indeed, buy, yes, there are obviously very many completely stupid, ignorant, people out there buying antiquities (or crappy fakes and misdescribed objects masquerading as antiquities). Then he plays the victim. They all do that. Instead of postulating and putting into action steps to clean up the antiquities market, dealers present themselves as helpless victims of an unfair academia who expects more of them. He sees dealers and collectors as saviours of "civilisation":
However the situation is different now, we are dealing with a new force of evil beyond our comprehension. We need a different approach. I would suggest that in this situation where objects and sites are being actively destroyed that perhaps the moral and right position to take is to purchase everything we can, and hope to encourage looting. There is little doubt in my mind that what is left in the Middle East will not be preserved, rather it is all at risk of destruction. [...] The great museums and collections we have are the repository for our common human history.
Mr Swope, there are many kinds of evil in the world, and different concepts of what evil is, but two wrongs do not make a right. I'll wager that paying armed militant groups to loot sites so you can have the pleasure of supplying your rich customers with goodies is not exactly high on most peoples' personal list of good deeds. The fact that much of the destruction which he decries was actually facilitated by the artefacts concerned being concentrated in museums escapes him (unless we assume that by "great museums" he means those of the United States of America).

Note the special pleading in his argument. 
The destruction of Nimrud was complete, ISIS used high explosives which sent shock waves through the ground, and would have destroyed everything both above ground and underneath. The archaeological site has been effectively and utterly destroyed with nothing left for future generations to discover.  Now the only remnants are what was taken out by the West and currently in our great museums. 
First of all, just one complex of buildings (formerly a popular tourist site) was destroyed. Secondly, no "high explosives" were used, it was an IED of ammonium nitrate fertiliser used here. The short sequence at the end of the ISIL snuff video showed a site where the top had been blown off, but my own personal opinion is that there was not much (corrugated tin roofing on a light wooden framework) to deflect the force of the explosion down, and that contained in the excavation, it mostly went up and we will find the base of those walls intact - the archaeology of bombed sites in London after the 'Blitz' was still there to be excavated by Grimes and others after the War. Here Mr Swope is heading off the argument that what is not looted is safer in the ground than it would be in a museum. But then ISIL is not blanket bombing very single archaeological site in Iraq and Syria, but dozens of them are being riddled with holes to feed a voracious "ancient art" market one of the motors of which is now idiot texts like that of Mr "purchase everything we can, and hope to encourage looting" Swope. Can we put a stop to this nonsense from dealers and their supporters and have some proper discussions about stopping the illicit trade in smuggled and looted artefacts. I note that not a single one of the antiquities which I looked at in Mr Swope's gallery has a stated collecting history.

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