Saturday, 27 January 2018

Gandharan Art: The Present Trade in Dugup Bits of a Past

From internal evidence, this text (Stephen F. Beiner, 'Gandharan Art: The past Meets the Present') was written in 2002. It has an interesting comment about the chronology of the movement of Gandharan sculpture out of NW Pakistan/NE Afghanistan
The recent dramatic events in the region, the unique melding of cultures and styles in Gandharan art, as well as its relative affordability has created a lively and renewed interest in Gandharan art. Today Gandharan art is the "hot item" in the antiquities market; a few years ago Gandharan art was virtually unknown except to the esoteric collector. Prices for Gandharan art are literally going through the roof [...]
When, actually did this more intense trade begin, with the 1979 Soviet invasion? or the early 1990s during the seizure of power by the Taliban? Whatever the answer, it is interesting to read how wonderful Mr Beiner thinks this art is for the collector, and it just so happens, the author runs an art gallery which has something to offer:
The Griffin Gallery (Gallery Center, Boca Raton) at its next monthly opening on April 4, 2002 will be featuring a newly acquired Gandharan gray schist frieze, dating to the 2nd century C.E. depicting a standing Buddha surrounded by four acolytes. The Buddha in typical Gandharan fashion, is wearing a flowing robe typical of earlier western, Greco Roman tradition. The Buddha's face, serenely and gracefully turned toward the acolytes, has features typical of Indian art. While Gandharan art still remains relatively affordable, it is evident that as the interest in this art continues to increase and the pieces become increasingly less available, prices will dramatically increase.
Oh, yeah... or maybe they will drop as more and more stuff makes its way out of the source region 'somehow' and onto the global market as articles like this 'increase the interest' in them. But:
While many of the artifacts now coming on the market are generally without provenance, careful comparison with known sculpture coming from Afghanistan and Pakistan leave little doubt as the authenticity of the pieces.
If the majority of these pieces have entered the market less than 'a few years ago', what does it say that so many are 'generally without [collecting histories]' when the bulk of them would from what this dealer says be recent arrivals? After all, surely it is not just 'authenticity' that matters, but a  verifiably licit source. No, Mr Biener? 

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