Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Art Recovery Group on the Market for Syrian Blood Antiquities

Christopher Marinello, chief executive of the Art Recovery Group spoke to the BBC World Service Inquiry programme
"We've been aware of smuggled goods from Syria for some time. As a lawyer in New York, I represented a lot of galleries, auction houses and dealers that had problems bringing items in and out of the United States. So I was very aware of the smuggling routes that take place, and the traffic that is involved with antiquities. "What's happened now is Isis and other people are taking advantage of the war in Syria to tap into these markets and sell their goods on a worldwide basis".
He says we need to "increase awareness of collectors and dealers and auction houses not to purchase material that has no provenance". But what happens is dealers are already perfectly well aware of the issues surrounding material that has no provenance ("they can't touch you for it") and simply do not care? We all see how they (like the ADCAEA) try to use a Two Wrongs argument to deflect attention by only stressing how ISIL destroy monuments, thus presenting their no-questions-asked peddling of loose artefacts as a form of "saving history". It is nothing of the kind of course, it's just increased profits for the dealers.
"We [...] haven't seen the really high-end antiquities getting here. We know of a recent container that was seized here in the UK with a great deal of Syrian looted objects on it, and I can't go too much beyond that because it's a current investigation here in the UK. "But other than that container, we're seeing a lot of low-level material, and a lot of fakes. A lot of people are trying to take advantage of the situation and send fakes through and pretend that they're real. [...] It's the lower to mid-level dealer that [poses the risk]. It's that way with fine art as well: you always have those people who are looking to get a good deal without asking any questions. "That's a big threat because it creates a market, and as long as there's a market for this type of illicit and looted material, it's going to be dug out of the ground. And when you have a situation like we have in Syria - where the government is near collapse, and there's no authority to really stop the export of this type of material - you have chaos."
BBC The art detective fighting to save Syria's past 11th November 2015.


Dorothy King said...

The BBC is responsible for the headline, not him, but technically one cannot call oneself an art detective in the UK - was discussed at a conference, and the reason the bounty hunters all re-branded themselves a few years ago ...

Paul Barford said...

I cringed when I saw the headline, but what I was really interested in was that report of a CONTAINER... I'd be interested to see Tompa and the ADCAEA explain that away.

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