Tuesday 8 February 2011

Collecting History a Dealer's Way Forward?

Californian coin dealer has on his blog a second post on documenting collecting histories of sold objects. This one (posted Tuesday, Feb. 8 th, 'The Mania for Provenance') claims
Provenance to a find spot or origin predating UNESCO 1970 is prized these days, however critics of private antiquities collecting such as Paul Barford have urged that even if such a definitive universal standard is impractical, there is still significant value in documenting provenance to a date prior to that, which at the very least reduces uncertainties involved and could, over time, perhaps evolve into acceptable provenance.
I am not sure I recognise anything I have written in that. First of all, as dealers and collectors keep having to be told, I am not a "critic of private collecting" per se, but the way in which it is currently done. Secondly I think what the other blogger wanted to say would be better expressed if instead of using the words "prior to that" he'd written "posterior to that". Anyhow the point of his blog post was that Welsh announces gleefully that although in the past he was against proposals for recording schemes for collecting histories "on the grounds of feasibility":
I am pleased to report that there are now realistic grounds to believe that transition to a full disclosure of provenance so far as it is known can feasibly be provided to every buyer without a significant increase in the cost of online transactions. Over a long period of time that would presumably address nearly all licitness concerns. The question now becomes whether such incremental provenance documentation would be satisfactory. Feasiblity does not equate to zero cost. "Per transaction documentation" would not be free, though its cost might be reasonable. If it became apparent that incremental provenance documentation might become a rational basis for a settlement of differences, it would be possible to expand upon these observations.
Unfortunately it is a bit difficult for anyone to say whether or not what he proposes ("incremental provenance documentation" - eh?) would produce a "settlement of differences" (I guess he means between exploiters and preservationists) until he actually reveals what is meant! Who is it he expects to say whether what he proposes would "address nearly all licitness concerns"? On what basis if he is not prepared first to set them out and demonstrateo whether ethical collectors and other dealers will accept them too?

I wonder if this has not been prompted by the Hay-Patrikiadou affair to be discussed in the post above this?

Vignette: where does the 'meat' in a hamburger really come from?

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