Sunday 29 July 2012

Noah Charney on 'The Secret History of Art' ("Looted Indian Antiquities on Madison Avenue")

Noah Charney has a brief piece inspired by the recent Kapoor investigations in the US (or rather the US' embarrassed  attempts not to be left behind by the Indians once they'd learnt he'd somehow been arrested in Germany).
Looted antiquities flood out of Asia, and yet we tend to hear very little about it, with the world of illicit art largely focused on Europe, with Italian antiquities and paintings in major museums.  In truth there are tens of thousands of artworks stolen or looted each year, and that is only what is reported–a far larger amount goes unreported, since antiquities are largely looted from remote sites, taken directly from the earth (or sometimes the sea), with no record of their existence available. [...] Homeland Security agent James T. Haynes Jr. said “These seizures send a clear message to looters, smugglers, and dealers to think twice before trying to profit from illicit cultural property in the United States.”  Yes, absolutely it sends a message that you might be caught.  But the illicit trade is so widespread, that we can only hope that such a seizure will scare other potential wrong-doers straight.  In truth only a tiny fraction of artworks declared looted or stolen are recovered, as little as 2-6% in most countries, and so these admirable efforts by law enforcers are beating against a powerful current.
He remarks that he finds it alarming "just how many Madison Avenue-type galleries have been rocked by scandal" (Sakhai, Knoedler, Kapoor " just to name a few, the batting average is not so good for high-end Upper East Side galleries").

Noah Charney, 'Looted Indian Antiquities on Madison Avenue',  The Secret History of Art  July 29, 2012.

Photo: Kapoor's gallery (now closed) had been selling this stuff since 1976, but the recent events seem to be the first time anyone looked more carefully at where this stuff was 'surfacing' from.  How come? (photo from Noah Charney's blog post)

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