Thursday 13 September 2018

Antiquities, Respectability? A Collector, a Dealer and Some MeToo Allegations

The Steinhardts
Readers of this blog will be aware that I do not consider collectors of portable antiquities and those who trade in them to be likely to be people with much of a conscience or sensitive to the feelings and needs of others, so I am not really surprised to read some 'MeToo' allegations about some of them (Hannah Dreyfus, 'Hillel Investigating Allegations Against Major Philanthropist', Jewish Week, September 12, 2018). The article primarily concerns allegations of unwelcome boorish sexual remarks to various women by Michael Steinhardt, but incidentally refers to allegations against a dealer that has figured a couple of times on this blog:
“‘He is very important and we must do whatever it takes to keep him happy,’” Simons claimed Aboutaam said about Steinhardt.
This comes from a complaint available online (dating to September 2013 but referring to alleged events from early 2009 to December 2012) against Hicham Aboutaam alleging sexual harrassment and unfair dismissal. The allegations were challenged, and the case was apparently dropped without resolution.

In the context of the place where the alleged occurrences are said to have taken place, it is interesting to note from the latter document that a major cause in the case not being brought to conclusion seems to have been the lack of means of verifying the documentation offered to substantiate the allegations, the plaintiff had not retained all the documentation. How one wishes that this particular dealer was as scrupulous in supplying supportive documentation to some of his own claims made about the Leutwitz Apollo and the Ka Nefer Nefer mummy mask discussed on this blog.

Another slightly earlier case involving Phoenix (dating to October 2012 and referring to contemporary alleged events, from May 2010 to May 2012, but which ultimately was never resolved either) also mentions both Steinhardt, the dealer and the other female employee who made allegations) seems to suggest not only a pretty toxic working environment, but also the kind of atmosphere that male clients of Phoenix Art were reported by two former employees to be accustomed, the plaintiff alleged (see affadavit):
8. Many times during my employment[,]  clients would come into the gallery and ask me questions about my sex life in the presence of my supervisor, Aboutaam, which would make me uncomfortable. 9. Even as early as the first week of my employment, a client made a comment about 'holding his penis' to me while Aboutaam laughed about it. 10. Aboutaam never asked the clients to stop and even joined in, laughing and condoning the harassing comments. I felt it was expected of me to entertain the clients by listening to their sexual comments and questions and to "play along" in order to keep the clients happy.
If these allegations are true and this is what work in a 'high end' and reputable antiquities dealership looks like, the mind boggles what goes on in some of the others. Is this a business that respects anything at all?

It should be noted that in both cases, the court did not determine the guilt of the employer or his clients.

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