Tuesday 14 October 2008

Tompa and Welsh on St Louis Mask

Apparently criticism of the recent appointment of SLAM's director to the CPAC is a "campaign" of SAFE and its supporters. Is it? Or is it just uncomfortable for some that there are people who have a different idea of what is right and wrong? According to antiquity dealer Dave Welsh:
SLAM's Trustees have a fiduciary duty to the museum not to give up the piece without satisfactory proof that Egypt has proper title.
No, the Trustees of the museum and its staff actually have a duty to the museum and the good people of the town of St Louis not to acquire something that the people of exploited source countries like Egypt has proper title to. The museum FAILED to do this job properly, and the US President has (deliberately or accidentally) rewarded them for it. The object came from a state-funded excavation in Egypt and despite what the Unidroit-L collectors and dealers would insist, has no right to be where it is. Period. Tompa says:

Brent R. Benjamin and SLAM have shown some backbone in their dealings withEgypt. I for one appreciate President Bush appointing someone who can standup to such bullying to this important post.

A comment which in the circumstances of this case, I find particularly revealing of the mindset of the US collector. Who here is being the "bully boy", the robbed or the robber?

I am not sure how much of a "victory" for the pro-collecting lobby this will turn out to be. The Ka Nefer Nefer affair will not go away, and my feelings are that Benjamin's own experience as a representative of a beleagured "importer" may well be reflected in his contribution to future discussions within the CPAC. The MOUs it debates after all concern only undocumented imports. Items with proper documentation that they have passed national borders of their "source countries" are not affected, only those which have none. Perhaps instead of a weakening of resolve to clean up the US antiquities trade with more effective due diligence, the effects of having this particular person on the committee, it would be nice to think, might in fact have the opposite effect. Especially if the Egyptian government, viewing this appointment, decide to step up the pressure on St Louis to highlight the wider issues involved.

1 comment:

Nathan Elkins said...

If you are collecting a list of knee jerk reactions, see also the
typical feeble rant
by Wayne Sayles, a rather profitable dealer in ancient coins and the founder of the organized lobby of dealers in the U.S.

He is essentially calling the negative reaction to Benjamin's appointment by archaeologists and others hypocritical, but what he seems to be overlooking (or rather blissfully ignoring) is that the mask in question has been photographed and inventoried from a state funded excavation in Egypt and in no way could have been licitly sold.

The appointment is not a question of opposing viewpoints, but rather the ethics of someone who is not willing to return something that was clearly stolen.

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