Thursday 6 December 2012

Government Clueless: But Would you Buy this Second-Hand Statue?

Sotheby's auction house in Manhattan and consignor Decia Ruspoli di Poggio Suasa are the claimants trying to stop the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York seizing a broken-off ancient  Khmer statue from Koh Ker in order to repatriate it to Cambodia. Rick St Hilaire has a detailed account of the latest vicious development in the case ('"The Government Now Relies on the Inherent Right of Kings," Says Sotheby's in Cambodian Statue Forfeiture Case'). It is beginning to sound as if the lawyers on the side of the White Hat Guys fluffed this case too. I hope I am wrong, but there is a good chance we may lose this one.

The legal technicalities may allow Decia Ruspoli di Poggio Suasa to keep "her" statue - and all the Black Hat Guys in the US and beyond will be rejoicing and cheering. This is the "it's legal innit?" crowd, and thyeir attitude is that if a law does not explicitly forbid something, it is therefore perfectly OK.  I would imagine that for the majority of people who are following this blog however, the moral situation will be absolutely clear. No matter how you slice it, the statue should not be broken off at the ankles and floating around the US antiquities marketbecause there is no actual law at the moment to stop it.

I would like to think that out there are enough responsible collectors, that this object if placed on sale by the owner, would not find a buyer. I suspect however that reality is that there are many private collectors who'd be only too glad to give this snapped-off piece of statuary house room without a second thought. And it is such thoughtlessness among such people that deserves the strongest condemnation. 


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