Friday, 17 February 2012

US Dugup Dealer Shows True Colours and True Aims of their Anti CCPIA Movement

The news of the armed robbery of the Olympia Museum was greeted with shock and dismay by the cultural community today, but among those involved in the trade in antiquities there was a totally different reaction. Dugup antiquity dealer Dave Welsh (Classical Coins) for example urges the immediate suspension of the implementation by the US of the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. He treats this theft by armed raiders as:
incontrovertible evidence that Greece, given her present difficulties, cannot at this time be considered a safe custodian for ancient artifacts. The USA should immediately suspend repatriation of artifacts to Greece and enforcement of import restrictions requested by Greece, until an impartial investigation determines whether the Greek government is capable of providing secure custody of the artifacts for which it is presently responsible.
What astounding nerve! First of all it is certainly not up to the United States of America to be the judge of whether another sovereign state should be a custodian of ITS OWN cultural property. This is sheer US imperialism raising its ugly head once again in dealers' dealings with the weaker nations of the world. Mr Welsh and his ACCG cronies would obviously willingly and without scruple take advantage of Greece's weakened position to keep in the USA any stolen Greek artefacts that may be found in that country. Disgusting.

Secondly, the UNESCO Convention (see Art. 7 for example) and the CCPIA which implements it (19 U.S.C. 2607 and 2610) is meant to deal precisely, and arguably even primarily, with just such circumstances as we have here. A museum has been robbed and states parties to the Convention are asked to keep an eye open for the loot and stop it being imported into and acquired in their own territories. It is precisely at such a moment that Mr Welsh wants to prevent the Convention being implemented in the case of Greece? This would not by any chance have any connection with Mr Welsh's own involvement in the trade in artefacts of (among others) Greek origin would it? Why would any dealer want to see a suspension of the Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property as a result of a major museum theft in one of his "source countries"?

Thirdly, the only reason this raid was carried out was so the thieves (and we may speculate that they could be part of an armed - and even foreign - organized criminal group) could get their hands on valuable finds which they will try to monetise. Where? Pottery has minimal scrap value, so it seems they were taking items with a thought for their value on the no-questions-asked antiquities market. The very same international antiquities market that Dave Welsh and his organization the ACCG apparently support and wish to maintain. This raid would not have happened had there not been a market where stolen antiquities can safely be sold off, only to "surface" anonymously later. Collectors who buy stuff without requiring information where actually it came from are as much to blame for these sorts of thefts as those who see in the current state of the market a golden opportunity too good to miss.

Fourthly, it took kalashnikovs to loot this museum and the violent treatment of a museum guard. The ANS money Museum in the USA was robbed much more easily, through a fault in the internal auditing system which allowed a thief to take a million dollars worth of objects probably over a period of time, and earlier another theft of the same type to take place. As I said earlier, there has not been a peep about this on the coiney anti-preservationist blogs, let alone a call from US coineys for a deep investigation of museum security in the US. And these are the people whingeing about "discrimination"...

Finally, it is misleading to present the fight against the trade in illicit antiquities merely as a drive for "repatriation". Its not about what to do with the proceeds of crime, but preventing the crime. Let us not ignore the crime, let us call a spade a spade - even if no-questions-asked traders and collectors cannot bring themselves to.

Vignette: Dodger and Fagin discussing a "newly surfaced" coin. Some dealers in such "collectables" apparently hanker for a return to the golden period of culture-theft before the UNESCO Convention, they apparently would feel better working in a more nineteenth-century mode.


Cultural Property Observer said...

Mr. Welsh does have a logical point. If the assumption behind restrictions is that they are to promote the study and preservation of artifacts in Greece, but Greece has no money to do so, there is no reason to continue the restrictions then. The Greek situation is bad. The same underlying structural problems that have led to their financial meltdown are also apparent in their cultural establishment, corruption, gross mismanagement and excessive state controls. Of course, archaeologists will never admit that as they have a vested interest in protecting their contacts with the bureacracy.

Paul Barford said...

Mr. Welsh does not "have a logical point". He rarely does these days. He is so hampered by blind hatred for anyone who stands between him and free access to whatever coins he wants to sell that he long ago ceased seeing the rounder picture. Perhaps he'd do well to take a step back and consider how others (over here for example) view Americans writing in the tone he does - and how it reflects on the coiney war against other peoples' rights to the cultural property US collectors covet.

“If the assumption behind restrictions is that they are to promote the study and preservation of artifacts in Greece”
What? Where did you read that? The CCPIA is there to “implement” the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. Not “promoting” anything other than the legal trade of antiquities(cultural property in general in fact). Resisting it, therefore, means as far as I am concerned supporting the illegal trade in such items.

”there is no reason to continue the restrictions then”
Pardon? So, you’d like to see the unlawfully exported antiquities of all types flood into the US then, including onto the market run by your ACCG and PNG pals? I bet you (and they) would!

I reckon though that somewhere in the US are some decent folk who'd not like to see this happen. I do not think they all work in the Department of State.

Yes, the Greek situation is bad, and you lot kicking them when they are down, and aching to be allowed to steal and keep their stuff is not exactly helping them is it? Why do you hate the Greeks so much? Because they have a heritage you do not?

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