Monday, 13 June 2016

Inigo Gilmore (National Geographic) "Blood Antiquities"

Inigo Gilmore, helped by a number of people, goes in search of artefact smugglers for National Geographic in a really slick production (which can be found here). Dealers claim that the freshly surfaced artefacts they handle come from antiquity elves deep in the heart of old Europe, investigative journalist Gilmore has a different idea:


The trouble is, as previous posts on this blog discussing the incidents used to present its case show, very little of it is actually as presented ... A lot of 'journalistic licence' has been taken here. How cynically is difficult to assess.

There is however a nice quote from Tasoula Hadjtofi (London):
"Destruction and looting of cultural heritage is something that has been happening for centuries, the issue is ... we must not buy them.  If we can make the link and we say when you buy looted art you are paying money to extremists to bomb you, perhaps the message is more clear". 

The seizure of a lintel from a Grays antique centre dealer by Scotland Yard (42:42) is described as "one small victory in this vast invisible war" (43:01). The film concludes:
I think of Amr and the 'monuments men' on the front lines  (43:10), I think of 'The Turk' and the institutional corruption that sweeps truth under the rug, this black market in looted antiquities is larger, more complex, more insidious than I ever imagined but what can we do? Sure, ISIS should be prosecuted for war crimes, but buyers and dealers need to be named and shamed too. I feel it is high time we all become culture crime watchers (because a world with no regard for its heritage is not the kind of world I want to live in). 
So what of the people who earn their living as part of this 'insidious' market. What can we think of all those sealers and collectors who willingly participate and continue fund it? Would you let your daughter marry one? As for "naming and shaming", that is something Inigo Gilmore and his team assiduously avoid throughout this film. When and how do they propose making a start?

Vignette: Antiquity elves

Hat tip Dorothy L. King who first spotted it


David Knell said...

The programme had little real content and was clearly strung out to fill out the time. Antiquities are being smuggled through Turkey? Gosh, that's a surprise! Some of them reach Europe through Bulgaria? Wow, there's a novel thought! Some officials and police in Bulgaria may be corrupt? Well, blow me down!

I sense a lot of hammy acting for dramatic effect; I'm sure a seasoned 'investigative journalist' wouldn't really be that terrified visiting a few back-street antiquities middlemen (I've been in far scarier situations in Turkey myself). Though his unfamiliarity with the famous rock gesture ('sign of the horns') used by the 'Turk' does suggest he is worryingly naive. And his embarrassing attempt to dance in the club does reinforce the impression that he doesn't get out much. Perhaps his fear was real after all! :)

The lamps shown briefly (33:45) are worth about £10 each wholesale. I'm sure the mosaic would be worth considerably more - but it's no good comparing its price to auction pieces; it's documented as looted and its price as a known hot item would be relatively limited. By the way, it would be interesting to know what site the mosaic was looted from; it would be inconvenient for the programme's theme if it did not come from ISIS territory.

And the trail to London went a bit cold, didn't it? The best they could come up with was that hackneyed lintel on the Dispatches programme - the same lintel that has already been shown to have nothing to do with ISIS.

But hey, why should a programme let facts stand in its way when it's whole purpose is to ride on the sensationalist ISIS bandwagon? I'm sure you've got the same feeling of déjà vu as me, Paul.

David Knell said...

Excellent point in your other post that "charges were dropped indicates that Bulgarian antiquities law applies to antiquities from Bulgarian soil". Not so much Bulgarian corruption as simply, like most other countries, a legal loophole.

Regarding the antiquities offered by the Gaziantep dealers, I forgot to mention that one (at least) of the lamps shown is a type typically found in northern Israel, southern Lebanon and SOUTHERN Syria. I wonder if that suggests the other antiquities offered also derived from southern Syria (and thus less likely to be in ISIS territory).

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