Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Bab Dadge and his Tainted Arguments on "Legal Collecting"

"Artemis Gallery is an ancient art gallery and antiquities dealer specializing in Greek, Roman, Egyptian, and Pre-Columbian art, as well as collections of Near Eastern, Far Eastern and Oceanographic [sic] antiquities for sale. Our extensive inventory includes ancient pottery, stone, metal, glass, textile objects and Pre-Columbian art from South America, Central America and Mexico, as well as art from Greece, Italy, Rome, Egypt, the Middle East, China, India, Japan and the South Pacific. All antiquities for sale are unconditionally guaranteed authentic for as long as you own them".
Bab Darge (Artemis Galleries Erie, CO 80516 USA) sells a whole lot of stuff and offers some advice to collectors on "Cultural Patrimony and Legal Collecting",

Posted on You Tube by Artemis Gallery
He says:
There are lots of lars and lots of areas of confusion about these lars [...] this is something you must know about as a collector, dealers, if you don't know about it, you shouldn't be dealers.
Mr Darge then goes on to show what he knows about it:
Well, first of all, in 1983 the United Nations held a canference called UNESCO [sic] and UNESCO was a number of countries around the world gitting together and creating a treaty that started to regulate the exportation [sic] of cultural property, but a lot of people think, OK, 1983, magic date, that's the date you have to be concerned with. Well in the United States [...] 1983 isn't a magic date. In 1983, UNESCO was signed, but that is a,... it's an agreement but it's nut a lar.  The first lar that came about as a result of UNESCO was [inarticulate noise], ironically, in the United States in 1983 and it is culled the Cultural Property Implementation Act. An' it basically put some, um, things into place that allowed lar enforcement to prevent the smuggling of items from these countries where items are found into the United States [...] if you are not on this list of what is currently seventeen different countries, it is still legal to import items from these countries
OK, let's leave it there. The real name of the document he mentions is the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. Anyone who actually knows about it as much about as the Barfords' cat (but evidently not Dealer Darge) can see that the guy has got the whole thing right round his neck. The last point of course ignores exactly what the Convention is about - the legality of export relies on the issue of a permit for objects which in the legislation of a source country such a permit is required. UNESCO (as my cat knows) is not a "conference" and does more than just write a convention or two (or would if the US would pay its subs). The Convention without-a-name was written in 1970. The US was not the first country in the world [sic] to implement it - but most other countries who are state parties implement all of it, not just Article 9 ignoring the other 25 as the US does. 

Note what he's doing here in this deceptive little "info-video". He's searching for a "magic date" beyond which he does not need to trace collecting history. It is not 1963 he tells his viewers, it is often much later. No matter that his country's government ostensibly signed up to the principles embodied in the 1970 Convention in 1983, Dealer Darge suggests to his buyers that legally, there is a 'can't touch you for it' period where they can buy smuggled stuff from the Seventeen US-Sanctioned Pillaged Countries between then and the date each individual MOU with a specific source country came into force. Because that's what the law says, the law that is supposed to be implementing the 1970 UNESCO Convention in the US but is not. Dealer Darge also somehow seems not to remember to inform his viewers that for the US museum community, that "magic date" is no later than 1970 - when the Convention came into force on an international scale.

Dealer Darge is delighted to add that in the CCPIA there is a provision which is "actually nice fram a collector's or dealer's standpoint":
There is what is called a Safe Harbor Provision of the [Convention on the] Cultural Property Implementation Act that allows items that have been in the United States for greater than twenty years to be awarded Safe Harbor. It means that if you can prove they have been in the United States  for longer than twenty years, in theory according to this lar, they're now legal. It is OK for you as a collector to own them, for me as a dealer to buy them and sell them.
He means 19 U.S. Code § 2611 (2)D which gives the definitions of items from the Designated Lists which are excempt from to seizure and forfeiture (as long as "the claimant establishes that it purchased the material or article for value without knowledge or reason to believe that it was imported in violation of law" Note: imported as opposed to exported). So basically anything in the US before 1996. Dealer Darge seems distressed that another US law the [1934 National] Stolen Property Act (18 U.S.C. §§ 2314–2315) applies to those same objects.
that act basically says the [C]CPIA is meaningless [sic]. The Stolen Property Act basically says that if an item is stolen, it is stolen. So it doesn't matter if it was stolen fifty years ago [...] if this item was smuggled out of a foreign country and they have lars in place that prevented that, the United States can enforce the those laws of those countries, so it takes those seventeen or so states we've got treaties with and lars enforcing and says "it doesn't matter" [waves arm dismissively]. Fortunately, that law is seldom if ever used but it can be.
For Holocaust art for example, Mr Darge. Or that Acoma Pueblo shield stolen more than twenty years ago, or that inverted Jenny stamp. And it should be for any portable antiquity looted even twenty-one years ago in 1995. What is there to contest about what is and what is not stolen property based solely on when the crime was committed? The US dealer's attitudes to law expressed here really beg questions about just what moral issues we are dealing with. Basically stacking a load of looted objects from a country pillaged by artefact hunters at the back of a cupboard for twenty years or less if the MOUs expire (and we all recall how strenuously US dealers and their lobbyists try to fight their extension) should not be allowed to make tainted goods somehow (legally) kosher. Mr Dodge's enthusiasm for a mere two decades long Safe Harbour period (it's less than he's been dealing antiquities) is a tainted argument.

What we need is less of the emphasis on (merely) "legal collecting" and more on ethical and responsible collecting. Then things are not as complicated as searching for the dates various MOUs were signed, if an object cannot be verified as legally obtained and owned, then it is not kosher

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