Thursday 18 December 2014

Stemming a Tide of Cultural Theft

Another report on the Berlin conference (Alison Smale, 'Stemming a Tide of Cultural Theft' New York Times Dec. 17, 2014).
After a decade of turmoil, and a longer stretch of wilful destruction, the world’s antiquities are in such jeopardy that preservationists are sounding a screeching alarm.[...] while the fighting in the region has been devastating to scores of heritage sites — decay, negligence and religious fervor also have taken a heavy toll — the destruction is also driven by the persistent demand for looted goods, European experts said. Many participants called for tightening laws to make it more difficult for the very wealthy to acquire tangible bits of world history.[...] Over all, many experts blame illicit cultural deals on the desire of wealthy people to have an ancient piece of culture to boast about.“There is no business if there are no buyers,” said France Desmarais, a Canadian expert with the International Museum Conference in Paris, which has 33,000 members worldwide. “Don’t buy this stuff!”

There is now:
 a proposal for what experts say would be the most far-reaching laws regulating the booming market in cultural property. Ms. Grütters outlined plans for a new law that would require documented provenance for any object entering or leaving Germany, long among the laxest of regulators of the art market. Among other measures, dealers would be required to show a valid export permit from the source of the piece’s origins when entering Germany. Countries like Switzerland, and European Union members like France, Italy and Britain, have in recent years considerably tightened their rules, and are now re-examining them. [...] the German proposal could be “a big step,” said Neil Brodie "[...] "the Germans are now looking to go one step further,” he said. “You don’t just have to prove something is not guilty, but show that it is innocent.”
Vincent Geerling, chairman of the International Association of Dealers in ancient art, insisted that “we don’t need an extra German law.” Museums and serious collectors can police themselves, he suggested.
Yeah, right, like they've all been doing since 1970.

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