Saturday 13 August 2011

Hundreds of Illegally Traded Khmer Artifacts Auctioned in US?

According to a study published last month during the 1990s (available online at Springer Science + Business Media), the US-based auction house Sotheby's handled sales of hundreds of ancient Khmer artefacts without proper documentation on their origins. This, it is claimed by the study by researcher Tess Davis from the US Lawyers Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation, indicates that most of these expensive antiquities were looted in Cambodia or had left the country illegally. She found that from 1988 to 2010, Sotheby's Auction House in New York City put 377 Khmer pieces on the auction block. Of these pieces, 71 percent lacked a proper collecting history while the remainder had weak provenance.
"None established that any of the artifacts had entered the market legally, ... [and] came from archaeological excavations, colonial collections, or the Cambodian state or its institutions," Ms Davis wrote. Throughout the 1990s up to 28 Khmer artifacts per year were sold at Sotheby's, with numbers spiking early in the decade when Cambodia was plagued by organized looting and illicit trading of Angkorian artifacts. However, auctioning of Khmer artifacts at Sotheby's had dropped to just a few pieces annually since 2000, after US-Cambodian bilateral restrictions on the import of archeological material came into place, the study found.

yes, but the US became a state party of the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Cultural Property in September 1983, so what was America doing about this trade in illicit antiquities through its territory between 1983 and 2000? The trade in illicitly obtained artefacts in which the study claims Sotheby's was involved coincided with a period of turmoil in Cambodia, there was war and the state was experiencing economic problems and it seems the 'art" market took advantage of this. With a greater stability in the country, the trade in illicit items has apparently decreased from the 1990s levels.
The traded antiquities consisted mostly of 11th- and 12th-century Angkorian Hindu and Buddhist sculptures and were sold at prices averaging from $17,000 to $24,000. One piece was sold for $600,000. The "shoddy excavation and looting" of such illicitly traded antiquities, Ms Davis wrote, means that even when they are returned, key archeological information on how a piece was found is lost. [...] Ms Davis added that the prestigious auction house has refused requests from "numerous organizations, scholars, foreign governments and the media" to provide valid provenance information for its Khmer sales.
See, among other places, here for looting at Angkor. This is not the first time that Sotheby's has faced allegations of handling stolen "art". Not long ago the auction house had to facilitate the return of two sandstone heads and a statuette to Cambodia after they were published in "Looting in Angkor: One Hundred Missing Objects", a 1993 report by Unesco and the International Council of Museums aimed at returning Khmer art. So far only 10 of the 100 missing objects documented in the report had been retrieved and repatriated to Cambodia.

Cambodia currently has bilateral cultural property agreements with the US, Australia and Thailand. The 2010 Cambodian Antiquities Red List, a brochure for Interpol and customs officers worldwide with photos of at-risk Khmer artifacts, was also helping stem illicit trade. On Monday Cambodia urged the return of 36 Khmer artifacts in Thailand, which were found being smuggled into the country in 2000.

Paul Vrieze, 'Sotheby's Auctioned Hundreds of Illegally Traded Khmer Artifacts, Study Says', The Cambodia Daily 11 August 2011

Photo: headless statue from Angkor, some more stunning photos from the same site. In whose collection is this looted head now?

No comments:

Creative Commons License
Ten utwór jest dostępny na licencji Creative Commons Uznanie autorstwa-Bez utworów zależnych 3.0 Unported.