Monday 14 May 2012

Upcoming French Auction, 164 Antiquities Have No Listed Provenance Upfront

Nord on Art on the trail of more anonymously-commodified dugup finds (I think I've seen that mummy mask somewhere before):
Same old story, different venue — another auction of antiquities with vague or non-existent provenance, this time at Paris-based Pierre Berge & Associates.  Their June 1, 2012 sale opens with 139 lots of ancient Egyptian artifacts of which 89 collectively have no provenance or undated provenance (65 have no provenance and 24 have undated provenance); and, of the 303 lots offered in the entire sale, 196 collectively have no provenance or undated provenance (164 have no provenance whatsoever and 32 have undated provenance).
How is this possible? Given the successful repatriation of antiquities to Italy, Egypt and elsewhere, why would any auction house offer antiquities for sale that have either no provenance or undated provenance? And why would any collector purchase such works?
Ah well, you know the old dealers' argument: with such "minor" pieces, providing the provenance would be more trouble than the object is worth . So when is a minor object not a minor object? And if a not-minor object has no provenance, what can it mean?


kyri said...

hi paul,as i have said in the past,our auction houses in london are not perfect but compared to germany and france they are miles ahead when it comes to due dilligance.
i wouldnt call ancient greek helmets and egyption mummy masks "minor pieces" its a joke,i dont know how they get away with it,especially with archaeologists in egypt and greece sending out warnings for people to look out for "fresh pieces" hitting the market but im sure many of my fellow collectors will foolishly close their eyes and buy.

kyri said...

hi paul,the french and germans are doing hardly any due diligence at all.i know that david gill and you on certain occasions have had a go at christies and bonhams in the uk and sometimes rightly so but compared to these guys they are at least 20 years ahead of them.
when archaeologists in egypt and greece are warning the market to look out for "fresh" pieces hitting the market its a bit of a joke that a major french auction house could list important pieces [i wouldnt call an ancient greek helmet and mummy masks minor pieces] with no provenance at all.
the sad thing is im sure many of my fellow collectors will close their eyes and foolishly buy.

Paul Barford said...

Hi, I was out which is why your comment did not go up the first time.

To be clear the term "minor items" was not used by this particular auction house, I was referring to the excuse we have all heard the sellers of dugup artefacts fall back on time and time again to explain why there are no provenances for what they sell.

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