Friday 27 May 2016

European Union licences plan ‘could hit London art market’

Britain's Portable Antiquities heritage in all its crass antipreservationist glory (Nicholas Cecil, 'EU licences plan ‘could hit London art market’...', Evening Standard Friday 27 May 2016)
Arts chiefs today raised fears that London’s market in high-value works could be hit by a “damaging” new EU import licence system. Their concerns were sparked by a survey ordered by the European Commission as part of efforts to fight the illicit trafficking of stolen antiquities and masterpieces, originating from war-torn countries such as Syria and Iraq. It asked for views on “mechanisms” to tackle this including an “import licence system on the demand side (ie EU-side).”
Jolly good job too. Let's have some initiatives getting some mechanisms to keep stolen and looted blood antiquities off the EU market. Not everybody is happy about the prospect of a market free of such dirty art. Anthony Browne, chairman of the British Art Market Federation, told the Standard
“Our big concern is that an import licence system applying to everything covered by the EU existing cultural regulations would impose a new and very damaging burden on the British art market which is heavily dependent on cross-border trading. London’s principal art market competitors are outside the EU - New York, Switzerland and Hong Kong - and would not of course be affected by this initiative from the European Commission.”
He also stressed that gangs dealing in stolen cultural works were unlikely to apply for an import licence. Wow, there's a sharp intellect at work there. An art market so very dependent at the moment on no-questions-asked cross-border trading is just ripe for exploitation by those very same gangs. Alleging that those "market competitors" are not affected by measures to clean up the market (really? and the CCPIA of the US?)  is simply a two wrongs argument. In any case buying EU, if the material on the market is properly vetted and policed is a way of ensuring kosher artefacts, who is going to buy from those competing markets with the Dirty Art, Mr Browne? Are they clients of yours?

Daniel Hannan
Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan accused Brussels chiefs of holding back the proposed licensing regime, together with “so many other nasties”, until after the EU referendum on June 23. He added: “London is the only international arts centre in the EU. People come here from all over the world to buy and sell, from Russia, China, India, South America. If they have to start messing around with import licences, with all the associated costs and time-wasting, they’ll take their business elsewhere, to New York or Geneva.”

Where they can buy Dirty Art, which is then freely exported from this hub to Russia, China, India and South America?
The UK, mainly London, accounts for two thirds of the EU’s entire art market by value, Mr Browne said. He added that the UK was already acting to stop national treasures in conflict zones being stolen and destroyed, including with the Dealing in Cultural Objects (Offences) Act 2003 and the Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Bill going through Parliament. A Culture Department spokesman said the UK “has effective laws in place to prevent the illicit trade of cultural goods and antiquities”  
1954, Roger Bannister runs
the first sub-four minute
mile in Oxford, England.

That's a joke, isn't it? But not a very funny one. The "Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Bill going through Parliament" is the one that puts into action the Hague Convention, you know the May NINETEEN FIFTY-FOUR Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, . How many of my readers even remember 1954? And all this time Britain has NOT been acting to stop national treasures in conflict zones being stolen and destroyed under it for the simple reason that the UK has not yet signed the thing. Pull the other one Mr Browne.

As for the claim that a law passed in THIRTEEN YEARS AGO was "already acting to stop national treasures in conflict zones being stolen and destroyed", that is just a lie since we are told that the Dealing in Cultural Objects (Offences) Act 2003 was used for the first time ever just a few weeks ago to prosecute the church thief in R v Christopher Cooper (g in Tainted Cultural Objects (Jeanette Oldham 'Crooked amateur antiques dealer who stole 'priceless' religious relics from churches across UK jailed' 6 May 2016). That is thirteen years when the UK antiquities market has been chugging along regardless and nothing at all has been stopped. Nothing Mr Browne. Yet this blog  has reported among others of numerous sightings of dodgy artefacts on the London market from conflict regions (including Syria), as have others. So what good to any of us is this pathetically inadequate legislation a Culture Department spokesman too ashamed to give his name said comprises “effective laws in place to prevent the illicit trade of cultural goods and antiquities”. In fact, is it not the case that (as is implied by the concerns of the people represented by Browne and Hannan) the fact that the laws are so useless at actually stopping anything at all going on, that the UK market is as big as it is?   

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