Tuesday 6 April 2010

Pearlstein quotes "Beastie Boys" on Antiquities

Lawyer William Pearlstein formerly of the ACCP is, I think, much more rewarding to debate cultural property issues than the usual ACCG culprits. Peter Tompa however got hold of the "forfeiture complaint that led to the recent repatriation of an Egyptian sarcophagus that had been imported into the U.S. from Spain" and sent a copy of it to Pearlstein. In a post on his blog (More on Repatriation of Egyptian Sarcophagus ) Tompa gives Pearlstein's reaction to it. The basic conclusion does not surprise us given the people involved: "this forfeiture doesn't seem to be justified on either the law or the facts". Well, the Spanish dealer involved should have engaged Mr Pearlstein to fight his corner I guess instead of refusing to contest the issue. As a result the sarcophagus has gone to be exhibited in a public collection in the country from which it comes rather than used for private viewings in a Florida collector's den. Apparently the US Gub,nmint "will try to get away with seizing whatever it can, however improbable the cause". He gives two tips for "importers fighting a forfeiture". The first is to convert the action into a civil litigation. The second is that if the importer wins, they should consider suing the Government for damages for wrongful forfeiture. Forcing the taxpayer to pay twice for the fact that imported items are not accompanied by some papers explicitly demonstrating title.

He ends by quoting the Beastie Boys from 1986: "You gotta fight. For your right. To paaartay".

The video accompanying this classic (?) hit seems to me an analogy to the relationship between the responsible collector interested in responsibly engaging in increasing knowledge about the past and the horde of indiscriminate collectors who spoil it for everyone while indulging their self-centred urges, refusing to acknowledge the damaging consequences of their actions. So I am embedding it here.

"we can invite all our friends and have soda and pie"
"yeah, I hope no bad people show up".

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