Friday, 8 March 2013

Dugup Antiquities, Defining "Criminal Activity"

Dealer Dave, one of the signatories of the vaguely-written  "petition" to "to whomsoever this may concern" complaining about the alleged fraud being committed by a member of his profession ("Defending a Legitimate, Respectable Industry"(sic),  March 2013) stresses that the normal way of dealing with this sort of problem in the USA is indeed "to present to the responsible authorities a request (i.e. petition) asking that an investigation be conducted, leading to a prosecution if warranted". He also thinks that, as they see it anyway:
The real victims in this case are legitimate, honorable antiquities dealers whose trade is being discredited by sellers of fakes. Thus, Mr. Carlos Regueira in initiating this petition is actually doing exactly what Mr. Barford thinks should be done....
Now, that is interesting, isn't it? In their opinion, it is not the customer who has unwittingly bought a fake (or smuggled or stolen artefact?) from a dealer they trusted, but the dealer himself that is in some way a "victim".

Just to make this clear: What Mr Barford thinks should be done is devising a way to voice public concern  to the law-makers and authorities about dodgy antiquities in general.

There is no reason for any dealer in identiifiably legitimate material to feel the pinch because of fakes. They will have items that can be shown verifiably to have come from some party of the archaeological record and passed through the appropriate official channels to arrive in a dealer's stock room. The fake seller has no such documentation. Just asking the dealer to show where a piece has come from immediately sorts out the angst over whether something is an authentic dugup or a fake made to look like one.

To clarify another misrepresentation, what I said is "Anyway, anything that weakens buyers' confidence in the no-questions-asked manner of buying antiquities is to be welcomed". Dealer Dave Welsh interprets that to mean that "Mr. Barford overtly welcomes criminal misrepresentation, false advertising and fraud".  Now I am not the one accusing the hounded New York dealer of these things. That is Dealer Carlos and Dealer Dave doing that. I have stressed my opinion that if ever investigated, in my opinion it will be found that what is happening in this particular New York gallery (like much that happens in New York galleries selling dug-up antiquities) is in fact within the bounds of the letter of the law in the US. As I said, that is exactly how US dealers in dug-up antiquities want to be assessed - "they can't touch you for it/ just within the letter of the law/ no US laws broken". While I am personally of the opinion that the majority of the objects I have seen offered by this particular dealer are not what it says on the box, I have the same doubt about a lot of "antiquities" offered for sale all over the place. That is how the "antiquities market" is, that is exactly how it is and has always been. Whether or not all sellers of artefacts of various degrees of dodgyness are all engaged in "criminal misrepresentation" would be up to a court - not Dealer Dave - to decide.  (May I remind these petitioners, especially the US ones, that they themselves would immediately throw the "innocent until proven guilty" bomb at their critics, why do they not apply it instead of mob-anger to their own dealings with all sellers?). After all, without proper documentation one way or another, it is opinion pitted against opinion here. Likewise "fraud" seems a heavy and legally defined (and I would say potentially libellous) charge for a rival dealer to lay at his door if there have been no convictions in thirty years dealing by the hounded dealer (which is longer than Dealer Dave and, I think, Dealer Carlos have been in business).

As I said, "anything that weakens buyers' confidence in the no-questions-asked manner of buying antiquities is to be welcomed". We need to stop this plague which is allowing crooks to profit from causing serious damage to the archaeological record and smuggling antiquities away from their place of origin to amenable foreign markets. That include the current public airing of rumours about the hounded New York dealer, especially as, I predict, it will be seen that nothing will have been done about these allegations, and the hounded dealer will carry on trading, and his objects will continue to enter private collections, and then those objects will continue to circulate as the "from an old ... collection" items that make up (we are told) the bulk of the antiquities trade. Yes, these dealers and collectors are themselves doing their bit to weaken confidence in the integrity of the market, and in that regard, I am quite happy to highlight their efforts here for anyone who is interested to see and think over.

Is it not "false advertising and fraud" to sell as legitimate objects which no effort has been made to ascertain that they are indeed 100% kosher? What does a US dug-up coin dealer's CoL (Certificate of Legitimate Origins) look like? Can somebody post an image online good enough to see the actual wording used? Thought not.

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