Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Sam Hardy Speaks at UNESCO HQ

"Effective legislation and effective law enforcement
are necessary, but supply chain due diligence and market
transparency are critical".

On 30th March 2016, Sam Hardy will participate at a round table on the art market and the fight against the illicit trafficking of cultural property held at UNESCO Headquarters.  In connection with this, see the accompanying text: 'Samuel Andrew Hardy: archaeomafias traffic antiquities as well as drugs' UNESCO 28th March 2016 which is a brilliant succinct exposition of the main problems with the current form of the international antiquities market citing many relevant cases, some well-known others less widely-discussed, as examples.

Hardy starts by describing the scale of the problem, then discusses what types of sites are targeted and what kind of pieces buyers are interested in. He describes the methods those engaged in collection-driven exploitation (unusually for a British-based academic, rightly linking the deeds of 'metal detectorists' with the rest). He discusses the main routes and destinations of the looted artefacts, online trafficking, the involvement of organized crime in the 'grey' trade in antiquities. He then passes to the question of how artefacts 'surface' on the market without any real paperwork:
There are forms of false provenance, which are a joke amongst looters and collectors as well as cultural heritage professionals, but which are still used, such as the “grandfather clause” that an object was inherited from a dead relative or bought from the collection of an “anonymous gentleman” before unscientific excavation or unlicensed export was criminalised in the country of origin. Dealers and collectors can simply ‘obscure’ suspect collecting histories by withholding evidence. However, criminals can also physically produce all sorts of fake provenance documentation, from falsely reassuring labels, which attribute objects to certain cultures or guarantee authenticity but do not guarantee legality, to false declarations on customs documents.
Hardy concludes that ultimately, “autoregulation” and self-regulation of the antiquities market do not work.
Effective legislation and effective law enforcement are necessary, but supply chain due diligence and market transparency are critical.

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