Friday 9 October 2015

Sotheby's Sale Questioned in Washington Conference?

"The National Museum of Afghanistan in Kabul has
 been looted and is missing a great part of its collection,
 much of which has found its way into the art market".

Surely not? At the conference 'Uniting to Save World Cultures: Investigating the Attributes of Successful Emergency Cultural Heritage Protection Interventions', Fahim Rahimi (Chief Curator, National Museum of Afghanistan) showed some photos of some objects he apparently said had been "looted from Afghan museum". Coincidentally what looks awfully like one of them was sold at Sotheby's the previous day"


Arts of the Islamic World 07 October 2015
"Exhibited Islamic Calligraphy: Sacred and Secular Writings, Musée d'art et d'histoire, Geneva, 26 May-2 October 1988; The Royal Hospital Kilmainham, Dublin, 1 December 1988 - 8 January 1989; The Zamana Gallery, London, 26 January - 26 March 1989; Museum Rietberg (Haus zum Kiel), Zurich, 20 April - 31 August 1989; The Jordan National Gallery, Amman, 13 September - 11 November 1989".
What's going on? Are they the same object? If so, why does Rahimi apparently illustrate it as an object missing from his museum (looted from 1992)? In any case, where did the Sotheby's one come from before it was "exhibited" in May 1988? ("exhibition" is no collecting history). Who was the owner (a gallery") before it began its series of travels between exhibitions at the end of the 1980s? When and how did it leave the source country?

In any case, what is the point of a "red list" if examples of the sort of objects which are on it appear in reputable London auction houses with no more traces of attempts to legitimise them than "exhibited"?  



Brian Curtiss said...

Disgraceful. And the authorities will do what if this can be proven? Thanks for the quotes.

Paul Barford said...

Well, first of all, let us see the evidence Rahmini can marshal. If is quickly demonstrated that there is a case to answer, I assume that all parties would probably prefer to deal with this quietly, without the involvement of any authorities.

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