Monday, 27 June 2016

What Germany’s tough new law could mean for the antiquities market

The subtitle basically says it all: Catherine Hickley, '', The Art Newspaper 27 June 2016 "Warning that the world’s most stringent trade rules could see dealers moving abroad". Well, they won't be moving to London now it's going to be outside the EU with the problems of moving artefacts across that border too. Poor dealers, eh? I guess they'll just have to try and sell stuff they can actually show is licitly on the market. What a shame eh? Those who can't do that will just have to close up shop. But then pushing the no-questions-asked dealers out to clean up the German market is the whole idea of the legislation. So there will be no kiddie porn, illegal narcotics, black market guns or grey market antiquities.
The primary aims of the law are to stop illegal trafficking in looted antiquities and to ensure that works of art with national significance do not leave Germany. It has been warmly greeted by those whose heritage has suffered most from antiquities theft and smuggling. [...] The main bones of contention are requirements for export and import licences for cultural objects above a certain value, even within the European Union. The rules for archaeological assets, defined as objects found in the soil or water, are particularly stringent. The law would demand an export licence from the country of origin for any item offered for sale. [...]  The antiquities trade in Germany has been in decline in recent years, with many dealers shutting up shop altogether in the face of increasing regulation or retirement. Few young dealers have entered the trade in the country, which Geerling estimates to be worth only around €15m a year.
Just as if to show how the act is needed the article explains to circumvent the bit about its function to ensure that works of art with national significance do not leave Germany, we are told about German dealers who moved their stock outside the country to prevent them being affected. I think them spiriting away heritage like that says all you need to know about "art dealers" and why they are still trying to block this legislation.
Anyway, their potential moves are limited, it is reported that France will also have similar legislation soon. Perhaps they should just clean up their act.

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