Wednesday 2 November 2011

Christie's Fouled in Web of Lies

Christie's not only employs smarmy sarcastic types in their public relations department, but also cannot always check out the stories about the origins of the objects it sells at such a glorious profit (Martin Bailey, 'Head sold at Christie’s stolen from Libya', ArtNewspaper 31 Oct 11). According to this, the Italian buyer of a head of a women with piggy eyes has voluntarily relinquished the work because it turned out after the sale on 14 April that it had been stolen in Libya in 1990.
It was bought at auction by an Italian for £91,250 and has now been recovered in Italy by the carabinieri.[...] At the time of the sale, an archaeologist contacted Christie’s to warn that lot 261 was the head of a statue at the Sabratha Museum, west of Tripoli; it had been detached and stolen in 1990.[...] A Christie’s spokesman said: “Additional information was brought to our attention after the auction. We subsequently cancelled the sale and are assisting all relevant bodies with the return of this object.”
The provenance was given as “private collection, Switzerland, circa 1975; acquired by the present owner in Switzerland in 1988”. In other words, the recent seller claims to have owned it two years before it was stolen. So I would say Christie's would be helping with more than merely the "return" of the object to the Museum, but the investigation of the crime of its theft, where an obvious first step would be establishing where the seller got it from and why they lied about the date he acquired it.
The Italian buyer voluntarily relinquished the head and is being reimbursed by Christie’s.
and why not the seller? If the surrender was 'voluntary', why were the carabinieri involved?

David Gill reflects:
Why is Christie's appearing so frequently in such cases? Perhaps those in senior positions in the auction house should start to ask some searching questions about their department of ancient art.
Personally, I'd suggest they have a look at certain aspects of the public relations department too.

1 comment:

Damien Huffer said...

Fortunately the buyers, at least, are having sudden attacks of conscious. Maybe at least a few would be willing to take that next step and not spend their millions on antiquities to begin with!

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