Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Yemeni Objects on the market: Far More Transparency Needed

The way their minds work
In the light of the destruction and disruptrion caused by the war in Yemen, dealers and collectors should obviously be exercising caution in the acquisition of material freshly surfacing ('from underground?') on the market. To help them identify the sort of things that might be involved, ICOM has produced a helpful Red List France Desmarais of ICOM suggests "We are now strongly advising collectors to avoid the objects on the list altogether, or at least to be extra cautious and thoroughly check the legality of provenance”. And quelle surprise the dealers handling those items are not best pleased by this. Peter Tompa, paid lobbyist for several antiquities trade associations says, miising the point entirely:
Only the Yemeni government is authorised to issue documents for the export and import of cultural goods, so how likely is it that collectors will be able to obtain such licences?
The point is that collectors should avoid buying anything from dealers that has no paperwork demonstrating legal origins. As Ms Desmarais says:
“It is important to respect the sovereignty of nations, so if it is required by law, we must abide.” 
- a point obviously lost on many dealers who simply offer stuff with a fob-off provenance ('from an old collection'). They are apparently livid that somebody is attempting to get their clients to ask questions on their comfortably-traditionally no-questions-asked market. So they are out to get the lists and their authors, and what is better for their purpose than a good-old traditional conspiracy theory?   So we find their lobbyist busy at it ('ICOM Red Lists-- Far More Transparency Needed (sic)', Monday 12th Feb 2018)
Given the stated intent of such lists, their proliferation and their US Government funding, there needs to be far more transparency about how these lists are created, who creates them, their funding, and how they relate to US law which reserves US "independent judgment" in such matters.
And no doubt also their connection with George Soros and International Jewry. The intent of the lists is to awaken awareness, why would that arouse the ire of anyone but crooks trying to hide the origin of the goods they handle are from? Since Mr Tompa has decided that the Red Lists are funded by the US gubn'mint, then why does he want their funding to be scrutinized? Since the 'I' in ICOM actually refers to the notion of 'international' (you know, collaborative) efforts, who actually gives a tinkers about what the US dealers and their creepy lobbyists think about this? If the US funded UNESCO, they could have a voice in the international debate, but since they do not, let them buzz off and leave the rest of us to make the decisions without them.

As for the trade's 'Safe haven' red herring, if there were no dealers trying to bring paperless stuff into the US to pollute the market there with items of unproven licitness,then there would be nothing for US Customs authorities to seize and then courts to decide what to do with. the fact that these dilemmas appear are entirely due to US dealers trying to do a dirty trade in the hope that they'll not get caught out.

Quite obviously what the dealers represented by Peter Tompa and the legal firm that employ him do not want being voiced is that it is the international market of artefacts from or potentially from war zones like Yemen that need to be transparent. What has the truly responsible trade to fear about that?

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