Tuesday 18 November 2014

The Dugup Artefact Market Needs a New Mentality

The onslaught of the German public media on the no-questions-asked antiquities market continues with a new report from DW which contains what look like out-takes from the Plundered Heritage video discussed here a few days ago. This report by M. Matthaus and S. Strong "Spolis of War" presents a strong case to be answered. Here's a few quotable quotes in case the video itself disappears:

Spoils of War (DW)

 "There appear to be willing buyers all over the world, demand for these blood antiquities is blooming"

"The true origin of antiquities is often disguised, so might dealers be unaware of the illicit nature of what they are trading? Veteran Swiss art dealer Christophe Léon dismisses the idea of ignorance and innocence, "You have to assume that any art dealer who manages to survive in the business knows exactly where these items originate. It's a system with incredibly precise organization down to the last detail, from the excavator to the buyer. The people in Munich and elsewhere have their connections and they all know where these things come from". That also includes public museums in Germany and elsewhere which have now stopped buying antiquities from Iraq and Syria. The same cannot be said about private players on the market where greed comes before ethical considerations".

Palmyra figurine going cheap, where is it from?

"Germany's Federal Criminal Investigation Agency has a team working on the issue, it says that just one in one thousand sales of ancient artefacts from the region is legal".

"Increasing media coverage is forcing the German government to take action. In 2016 Berlin plans to introduce new legislation that will clamp down on looted art. While that would require items to have a clean bill of origin, experts such as Michael Muller Karpe say a new mentality is just as important. "If we really want to protect archaeological sites effectively, we have to begin in the West . It's all about supply and demand. The people buying these objects should be left in no doubt that a lot of them are blood-stained".

"The ongoing pillage of Syria's cultural treasures is fuelling the advance of Islamic State on an illicit market that is also exploited for profit by art dealers and collectors that don't appear to care ".
And the British media? Is there any reason why such a film cannot be made in Britain? I can see it now, Roger Bland instead of Muller Karpe, Detective "Eagle 1" instead of Silverlie Karfeld... It's not going to happen, is it? But at the moment, it is not Britain leading the way in the European heritage debate. Not by a long way, Britain is dragging along behind, not really in any position to join in at all.

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