Saturday, 4 September 2010

PAS stops Sale of Antiquities in the BRITISH MUSEUM

Here's a rare post for me, I'm able to praise the PAS for speaking out.

According to the Telegraph, contemporary jewellery [earrings, cuff links or necklaces] designed by Yorkshire artist Peter Leathers was "selling like hot cakes" at the British Museum shop in the prestigious Grenville Room, for prices between £50 and £350 each. The trouble is that this jewellery incorporated metal-detected relics (such as Roman casket hinges, English Civil War musket balls, and medieval girdle rings). One wonders who gave them the contract to sell these items in the Museum in the first place. After they had been on sale for three months (and virtually every example was sold), the PAS stepped in, “If the museum was seen to be selling antiquities, it would open a whole can of worms,” wrote an official from the PAS. “If they sell British objects, where do they stop? Museums cannot be tainted by dealing in antiquities.” At the beginning of August "English Relics", the company that markets the jewellery, was informed that it could no longer sell its products at the shop.

Leathers entered the "antiques business" in London's Soho and Kensington High Street in the 1980s.
He bought his antiquities by the shoe box, priced according to weight, either direct from metal-detector finds or from dealers. “It’s the flotsam and jetsam of the antiquities market,” he says of his stock in trade – buttons from cloaks, hooks, or handmade Tudor nails. “They are mundane, but very beautiful.” His experience in the antiques business helps him to identify their date and their function.

According to the Telegraph journalist, Leathers "believes he is the only artist producing work of this kind", oh no he is not, you can get many ancient objects made into wearable jewellery at David Welsh's classical Coins sister company ("Classical Creations") and many other sites.

The Telegraph journalist's later "reflections" rather spoilt the rest of the article for me, he does not seem to understand what the issues were (and that, of course, IS the remit of the PAS outreach) and the end is rather disappointing: "The PAS had no objection to Leathers selling his work outside the museum, so long as provenance details and valid export licences could be provided". Not in My Backyard eh? How many provenances does the PAS expect to resurrect from stuff bought as the "flotsam and jetsam of the antiquities market" in shoebox loads or sold by weight like so many potatoes? So, these shoebox loads, they are probably not items on the PAS database are they? This is the fate of just some of the four million metal detector finds that seem likely to have slipped through the PAS "system".

Colin Gleadell, 'Jewellery that 'tainted' British Museum shop', Telegraph, 31st August 2010.

"English relics" - "Beautiful handcrafted jewellery and fashion accessories made with genuine Roman, Viking, Medieval and Tudor antiquities found in Britain. Necklaces, handbags, cuffs, belts and cufflinks giving a modern twist to recycling historical artefacts". [Those shoebox lots definitely did not contain any looted Balkan items did they? Are you sure?]
Vignette: from the English Relics website.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

'kin' hell-- eye popping stuff. Crass.

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