Friday 13 September 2013

Koh Ker Duryodhana: Nasty Tussle Gets Nastier

The title really speaks for itself: U.S. v. Cambodian Sculpture Case Heats Up: Prosecutors Accuse Sotheby's of Stalling the Discovery Process and False Information; Sotheby's Accuses the Government of Burdensome Conduct and Invented Legal Theories Cultural Heritage Lawyer Rick St. Hilaire blog, Thursday, September 12, 2013. Worth a read in its entirity. A pretty amazing turn of events.

This story would make a really great book, lots of juicy characters: priceless art, exotic locations, brutal war, glitzy art galleries, the Consigner, the auction house staff (all of them), the Collector, the Expert, the London firm that sold them, the Jungle, a decaying time-lost temple hidden in it, the crow-bar wielding looters and the lorry driver who smuggled them out of the country. Then the galleries and collectors that have the other statues from the group. Please Jason Felch, it could even become a really exciting criminal-adventure film.

The New York Times has picked up the story too. Tom Masberg, 'Legal Tussle Over Statue Turns Nasty', NYT Sept 13th 2013. He specifically mentions accusations levelled at a member of Sotheby's staff without adding that she sits, or perhaps sat, on the CPAC (has she resigned to avoid conflict of interest? She is still on the list of current members).

What is actually nasty, in the extreme, about this is that nobody is in any doubt at all what will happen and why if (when) the US government gets its hands on this hunk of stone.  Since we all know why it will be on a plane back to Cambodia, why the charade? Why are the tradesmen so anxious to kick - and so publicly - against what the rest of us can see is the only right thing to do?Where are the feet of this "masterpiece"? Why does "protecting the art" NOT consist of putting it back on the feet from which it was snapped off by blokes hacking away at it with crowbars? Just who do these people think they are?

The "tussle" has not turned nasty, it has been nasty all along, and now in a US court defenders of what the rest of us can see is indefensible are determined to ramp up the nastiness. Stop this now. 

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