Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Pearlstein Talks the Talk

It is interesting to see some speaking for the antiquities market admitting that yes, yes buying antiquities needs full due diligence and disclosure, while others hold out for the nineteenth century way of doing things. In light of the entirely logical chain of reasoning which leads to the first position the latter come over as stubbornly unreflexive retards. Like the ones in the USA who stubbornly pretend  they  cannot understand that the issue is about illicit antiquities and not "repatriation" - morons.

Anyway, atavistic dullards aside, we may consider how to build on the apparent desire of the representatives of the trade to foster a truly responsible and accountable antiquities trade, and turn fine words into action. William Pearlstein appears to speak for these folk in an interview on New York Public Radio on Sep 1, 2015 (listen here).
William Pearlstein, a partner at the firm Pearlstein and McCullough who specializes in helping collectors avoid buying stolen art, told WNYC that potential buyers shouldn't buy any art without proof of its origin. He said buyers should err on the side of caution and demand documents, like proof of U.S. import. Pearlstein said the majority of "high-end auction houses" and museums obey the law, but that "there's a sector of the market that willfully ignores the existence of legal restrictions and requirements and I think there's a segment that is reckless and actively irresponsible and acts badly and illegally."
I am a bit puzzled by the lawyer's juxtaposition of "proof of origin" and "obey the law". There is no such "law" and dealers staying merely within the law (and employing legal firms "who specialize in helping collectors avoid buying stolen art") to make sure they are) are the problem. We don't dealers who merely stay on the "they can't touch you for it" right side of the lax laws, we need dealers who offer watertight cases for the artefacts they handle being not only "legal on paper" but truly licit.

Pearlstein thinks about those who've unwisely invested money in antiquities under the principle "don't ask questions, get told no lies" and he reckons a register of antiquities "Already passed through the market" will do the trick. Obviously in order that fresh stuff cannot be added to this register, allowing it to be used to 'launder' increasing amounts of freshly looted material,, it has to have a cutoff date. Perhaps 31st December 2015 would be an appropriate one? Certainly, if this is what it takes to get the market cleaned up, the time to do it is now rather than talking and talking about it (I proposed the idea five years ago, David Knell tried to get a discussion going among collectors - guess what?). Pearlstein says:
"Ultimately, the only way to separate good material from bad and create order in the market" he said, "will be to create a web-based system on which listed objects would either be considered free and clear or be subject to a fair dispute resolution process. In other words, transparency would be traded for repose. This would require various stakeholders to rethink their current position, but in the end transparency is better than secrecy."
That is a good start: "transparency in the antiquities market is better than secrecy" - discuss.

And here is the dugup antiquities dealers association's lobbyist reporting it - note the 'R' word, and what Peter Tompa deliberately AVOIDS saying about Pearlstein's appearance.

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