Saturday 25 February 2012

Potts on Laundering by Warehousing

Larry Rothfield discusses Lee Rosenbaum's interview with Getty's Tim Potts (' "We have to support better policing of the sites", says the new Getty Museum Director. What does he have in mind?', February 25, 2012). The interview is also discussed by David Gill ("Timothy Potts: "the problem hasn't gone away" "). Potts concedes that "there is still a huge amount of ongoing looting and this issue is not being addressed". Rosenbaum reminded him (and us) that a few years ago Potts had supported a rolling 10-year statute of limitations on the ban on buying unprovenanced antiquities. This of course is wholly within the thinking behind the US 1983 Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act where is a dealer or importer can claim with a clear conscience (no need even to actually document it) that an object has been out of the country of origin for ten years or more, it can be regarded as "clean". As Larry Rothfield notes:
That position was rejected for the quite obvious reason that it would give thieves an easy way to loot with impunity: simply warehouse your finds for a decade. But Potts has not taken the point
But one wonders whether those that looted the sites in Iraq from the 1990s onwards did. The tenth anniversary of the 2003 invasion comes up next year, will we see the emergence of increasing numbers of Mesopotamian artefacts on the international market, all of which "left Iraq more than ten years ago and have been kept in an old [****} collection"? All that is needed now is for the US to lift emergency restrictions and replace them by a bilateral cultural property agreement (the MOU type) and there would be nothing to prevent these items being imported into the USA for private consumption in huge quantities perfectly legally under the terms of the CCPIA. If this happens, will the Getty be buying any?

Vignette: Dr Timothy Potts

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