Tuesday 28 July 2015

The Antiquities Trade: The Virus of Denial

For the first time I can remember ACCG dealer Wayne Sayles writes (here RE: New German Legislation) more pompously than ex-ACCG Dealer Dave (Welsh). Most of what he wrote can be ignored as the usual hot air, but let us just highlight another case of dealer weaselwording:
"The ideological position that private collecting is inappropriate and anathema to the preservation of culture is both recent and (I believe) misguided. It's the most extreme form of Cultural Property Nationalism and the underlying basis for this new legislative attempt."
No. What is at the basis of this regulation is that the continued failure of the antiquities trade to do anything to exclude illicit artefacts is leading to the destruction of archaeological sites by clandestine and illegal commercial exploitation. This has nothing to do with "cultural property nationalism" (a term Sayles barely understands anyway) and everything to do with sustainable use and preservation of a fragile and finite resource. Dealers like Sayles refusing to admit that, and constantly trying to misrepresent it to their audiences as something else is the root of the problem. This is why many feel that in order to stop the haemorrhage of illicit artefacts, legislation is the only option rather than waiting any longer for the atavistic antiquities trade to develop some effective good business practices that will lead to the same end. They obviously are not going to, are fighting against the notion that they have to, pretend like twelve-year olds that the whole problem is not their fault, everyone else is to blame but them. If they feel that the measures being taken to stop their businesscauseing any more damage is "repressive", then they can only blame their own passivity as a profession (I use the term loosely) since the writing of the UNESCO 1970 Convention. Forty five years they've been ignoring it. That's 45 years too many.

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