Friday 21 May 2010

Looting Matters: Avoiding Toxic Antiquities

A reflection on how auction houses can avoid offering "toxic antiquities" for sale by adopting 1970 as their benchmark for collecting histories - Looting Matters: Toxic Antiquities in the Market Place.
The pressure is on to find antiquities with well-documented collecting histories or "provenances." Dealers want to avoid the adverse publicity of offering material that may be subject to seizure. Potential buyers want to know that there have been rigorous checks before they "invest" in a piece of ancient art.

Museums in the United Kingdom have long-taken a firm ethical stand on the acquisition of antiquities. More recently the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) adopted 1970 - the date of the UNESCO Convention - as its benchmark. Will dealers start to use it as well?
I suppose they will if they want among their clients responsible collectors who realise that the integrity of their collections cannot be compromised by acquiring the cast-offs that museums do not want on account of the lack of evidence of licit origins. Leaving the sale of them to the cowboys who never cared anyway about documenting provenance.

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