Tuesday, 26 June 2018

How to Buy Pukka Antiquities

Philip Hewat-Jaboor
As Masterpiece London prepares to open its doors, its chairman reveals the secrets of collecting ancient antiquities ( Andrew Baker, 'As Masterpiece London prepares to open its doors, its chairman reveals the secrets of collecting ancient antiquities', Telegraph 25 June 2018) Philip Hewat-Jaboor, the chairman of Masterpiece London, talks to Andrew Baker about how one can begin collecting antiquities... he says there is a very wide range of portable antiquities items legally available to amateur collectors in this area of interest. These include 'seals, intaglios, pottery, glass and bronzes'. Prices are 'often very modest ranging from as little as a few hundred pounds for an intaglio or a piece of Roman glass'. Now, if that really were the case and there was a lot of legal items, why on earth would hardened criminals think they can make money by trying to penetrate such a market with illicit items? Something here does not make sense, either the mafiamen are crazy in the head, or that market does not actually look like it is being painted here. Apparently the way to 'be sure that they are buying items that have been properly obtained' is (of course):
Go to a reputable dealer, ideally a member of The International Association of Dealers in Ancient Art or The Antiquities Dealers Association and to visit their websites to look at the codes of conduct. 
Here is the first discussed by me and here they are on due diligence. Would you buy a used car from them? What precisely is this reputation and on what is it based? Hewat-Jaboor goes on:
My advice is to ask the dealer about the provenance of the piece with supporting evidence. For objects in excess of €5000, dealers will check against a stolen art register such as the Art Loss Register. 
Fat lot of good that will do... it's not so much the provenance (where it came from) that is as important as the collection history, how it was collected/left teh ground-monument, how it came on the market, how it left the source country and through whose hands it passed (in other words, what kinds of activity the profit from its sale was financing)...

And of course the would-be collector is told that 'buying through a reputable dealer' will help you steer clear of replicas and fakes. Yes, except where the dealer has bought a fake artefact and cannot tell the difference because the objects he'd compare them with are also ungrounded fakes of unclear origins. The annals of collecting are full of this kind of thing, like those indicated by Muscarella, a whole series of small items coming out of Bulgaria and so on.

Masterpiece London 2018 sponsored by Royal Bank of Canada* will take place from 28 June – 4 July (preview 27 June) at Royal Hospital Chelsea, London; masterpiecefair.com

* which is odd to mention in the context of the antiquities trade, RBC is committed to supporting strategic initiatives that make a measurable impact on society, the environment and the economy.What, like collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record?

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