Sunday, 25 September 2016

Peter Tompa's Sausages

In a sniping post on his Cultural Property Obfuscator blog, antiquities trade lobbyist Peter Tompa has a post about Cyprus "turning its back further away from its past Common Law traditions as part of the British Commonwealth of Nations..." because it proposes making dealers and collectors demonstrate the legitimacy of the items they hold  (see here). Mr Tompa and his dealer mates (brought up to rely on a 'they-can't-touch-yer-for-it-legality')  insist everyone should give them the benefit of the doubt (antiquities dealers - get it?) and presume an innocence until (somebody else) can prove their guilt. By virtue of the fact that all paperwork was thrown away by the trade for all-but everything they handle, that's what they feel safe (indeed, untouchable) with. I am among those who feel very strongly that this is not how it should be a legitimate trade does not exist by virtue of naming the name alone, it has to demonstrate its legitimacy - especially when it concerns a class of commodity where we know items of illicit and false origins are rife.

Although he published a snide comment by his BFF metal detectorist John Howland, he rejected mine on this matter, apparently unwilling to answer it honestly, so here it is:
If antiquities dealers turn their back on business practices which would allow documentation of licit provenance of the goods they handle, then they have only themselves to blame. I don't know how it is with sausages you buy in Washington, but here in eastern Europe butchers don't have this problem, they'll have the documentation of where those sausages have come from available for the health inspector. Woe betide a butcher that buys products with no documentation and thinks they'll get away with it. Are you a consumer of unprovenanced sausages of unknown contents and origins Mr Tompa?
Sausages of course were chosen in my analogy, as they are one of the cheapest form of meat (apart from giblets, but I'd not recommend Mr Tompa feeding his kids with unprovenanced giblets of unknown origins either).

So how is it with sausages in Washington, Mr Tompa?

Vignette: What's in your kiełbasa Peter? 


kyri said...

hi paul,the cypriot high commissioner mentioned this move by kasoulides in a twitter DM to me while i was discussing with him the new book by Gary vikan "sacred and stolen" [apparently much of the book is about cyprus and the looting of churches there].personally i think it will never get off the ground.sure there should be some paper trail for every piece out there to prove it didnt come out of the ground yesterday but as in cyprus case 42 years of a paper trail is just not a realistic goal.its only after the disgraceful behaviour of dealers in the 80s=90s when provenance became an issue and its only been maybe 15 years since since the trade has taken it seriously so we are looking late 90s early 2000s at most,of course any really important pieces would have to have been published somewhere well before the 80s-90s but a common cypriot jug worth £200 would very likely have changed hands with no paperwork at all 30 years ago.shifting the burden of proof for these smaller pieces is asking the impossible from dealers if it is set in stone that the date is 1970.

Paul Barford said...

You know it is in nobody's interest to protect the dealers' business other than the dealers themselves. It is no skin off anybody's nose if they all go broke and starve in the gutter because they've filled their stockrooms with undocumented goods. I do not see why that should concern anybody else. The 1970 convention showed what was required, if they continued to ignore it ever since then, then that is nobody's problem but theirs. But I understand that what is needed here is documentation that an object left a certain area legally before it became a conflict zone. I see problems in defining what that means (post sanctions Iraq, or post invasion Iraq?). But in general, anything that makes dealers and collectors clean up their act is no bad thing.

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