Monday, 27 September 2010

How to Avoid Buying a Medici Piece: David Gill Under Attack Again

There is an interesting thread on Tim Haines' Ancient Artifacts discussion group in which plot against David Gill of "Looting matters" which seems worth bringing out in the open. One collector of Greek pots etc. is told by another (ACCG's John Hooker) who specialises in another field:
I'm glad I do not have to endure what you do with that Medici photos business. Villains holding unpublished incriminating photos, looking for people to control, or turn into criminals? It's like something out of a comic book.
The latter then expands on who he had in mind:
If you are considering buying something that you feel might be included in the Medici archive, and you know that David Gill has access to this archive, and uses it to point out illicit objects then due diligence must include asking him if it is the archive. If it is, and he does not tell you, then I cannot see how he would not legally be considered an accessory to a crime. In any case, you would certainly be protected as you would have met the requirements for due diligence. If you do not check with him after knowing this, you have not met the requirements for due diligence -- it is as simple as that.
The archive of photos of items held by Medici ad his associates is being used, it is alleged for nefarious purposes, according to the collector on the Yahoo discussion list:
As far as I know, the archive has not been made public and is being used for "industrial espionage" purposes to damage the reputations of dealers and auction houses and have an adverse effect on their ability to conduct business. I would imagine that eventually the auction houses would launch a civil suit over this naming all of the involved parties -- but it is also possible that this activity is extra-legal and could come under police scrutiny at some point.
"Extra legal" seems to be the new no-questions-asked collector's buzz word.

So how to buy antiquities and avoid having your piece revealed as a looted piece? Its not really as simple as asking a researcher if the objects are on the "Medici and Associates" archive, for who is to say that a "Firanelli" or "Ravioli" (made-up names) archive of similar photos of similar implications will not surface next week? Surely the point is to avoid buying artefacts which can later be revealed were looted, which really means buying artefacts which the seller can demonstrate came from somewhere else, from a legitimate source.

John Hooker indicates that "archaeologist Raimund Karl who is also a specialist on
"Heritage" matters" has suggested that one way for a collector to avoid being caught with looted material on his hands is "to send yourself photographs and details of everything in your collection in a registered envelope. Keep it unopened as proof that by this date, you were in possession of these things". That really does not help, the question is not what somebody has acquired by a certain date, but where they acquired it from. Bangor University heritage specialist Mr Karl seems to be getting confused.

I think the gist of this discussion on the Yahoo list is buying looted or potentially looted artefacts is not the real problem, the real problem is how not to get caught doing it. That's the self-declared "responsible" collectors' forum. No wonder they keep that sort of discussion closed away where normal folk cannot see it without registering.

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