Monday, 14 May 2018

Ohio Trophy Artefacts (Used as Floor Decoration) to be Returned to Turkey

Not used for research
but decoration
Bowling Green State University in Ohio USA found out five years ago that 12 pieces removed from mosaics in their collection had been looted from Zeugma, Turkey in the 1960s. This was widely discussed and reported in the media at the time, but the university authorities have only now decided that they should be returned to Turkey.  The portableised floor pieces had been sold to them as coming from 'approved archaeological digs in Antioch overseen by Princeton University'.
BGSU purchased the pieces in 1965 for $35,000 from antiquities dealer Peter Marks at the Peter Marks Works of Art, a now-shuttered New York gallery. Paperwork on the sale is scant, but shows that the purchase was made at the suggestion of former art faculty member Hugh Broadley and approved by then-BGSU President William Jerome. The pieces were eventually restored and installed under thick protective glass in the floor of the Wolfe Center for the Arts at the university, which opened in 2012.
Only later did research (by Stephanie Langin-Hooper and Rebecca Molholt) show that combing through photos of the Princeton dig would have revealed that that the mosaic fragments did not match those of the Antioch excavation, but rather, some in ancient Zeugma.
“That site had been extensively looted ... and comparing photographs of looted sites, we were able to pinpoint the exact location, the particular room in a mosaic house, where the fragments came from,” Ms. Langin-Hooper said. “A lot of the mosaic was looted and BGSU does not have all of it. Some of the mosaic, we don’t know where it is. It could be at another university, or lost or who knows, but there was enough there, the particular geometric patterning, the coloring, the size of the tesserae, the individual tiles, everything was a match.”[...] The professors discovered that 11 of the pieces, measuring about 12 by 12 inches, were part of the same floor. The 12th piece, 2 by 3 feet in size, depicts the mask of an ancient Greek female figure and was determined by Ms. Langin-Hooper and Ms. Molholt to have come from the same villa.
The dealer involved specialised in SE Asian and Islamic artefacts, Chasing Aphrodite ‏ notes (here, here and here) that 
Peter Marks' name has surfaced in several other investigations. Australia’s National Gallery  found at least three works from Marks during their internal investigation of un/under-documented Asian antiquities.   Marks was also the source of the Shiva Natarajah that the NGA deaccessioned to purchase the inferior (and looted) Shiva Natarajah from Kapoor. It is now in the Louvre.   Marks also sold this Shiva Vinadhara to the  Freer Sackler Gallery in 1997: [...]  In 1998, Marks wrote an essay on "The ethics of art dealing" in which he lamented, "The moral world of the art dealer and the market in antiquities have recently come under attack", International Journal of Cultural Property 7(1): 116–127.
While dealers may feel that what they are doing is in some object-centred (and self-centred) way, the rest of us may feel that their views may well be open to challenge (is that an 'attack', if those views are defensible?).

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