Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Looted Byzantine mosaic goes on display at Cyprus museum

 Ioannis Eliades Director of the Cyprus
 Byzantine Museum in Nicosia shows the 
mosaic NICOSIA (AFP)
A Byzantine mosaic of Saint Mark looted from the church of Panayia Kanakaria in northern Cyprus following the Turkish invasion in 1974 has gone on display at a Cyprus museum. It was "violently detached and stolen from the church, between 1977-79 by the Turkish looter and art dealer Aydin Dikmen" along with other mosaics. For now, the museum plans to reunite it with the 11 other apostles  that it has, some of them as a result of other recent repatriatons ('Looted Byzantine mosaic goes on display at Cyprus museum' France 24, 21 November 2018).  Dutch art investigator Arthur Brand had located the mosaic in Monaco in the possession of a British family who had bought it "in good faith more than four decades ago". The family agreed to give it back without asking for money or making problems and having any legal action taking years.
Eliades said the museum plans to restore the two newly returned mosaics and to put them on a reconstructed apse of the Panayia Kanakaria church by May next year. Eventually, he hopes Cyprus will be reunited and all of the recovered artefacts will be returned to the churches they originally came from in the north of the island.  
The stolen mosaic of St. Andrew from this church was repatriated earlier in 2018 through the agency of Roys Poyiadjis, Maria Paphiti, and Dr. Andreas Pittas  ('Ceremony to greet return of priceless looted Kanakaria mosaic'Cyprus Mail. 2nd April 2018. 

Now, here's a question for dealers and buyers, tell me, how can one possibly buy an object that comes onto the market in precisely such a form "in good faith"? Honestly? What a joke. 


Arthur said...

Gee, I already wondered how you could give this a negative spin. You could not critisize me, so now you attack the buyers...

Paul, in the seventies there was no internet. Nobody really cared about what was looted or not. Not museums, not collectors, not dealers, not the public... Nobody gave a shit. And as said, it was not easy to find out whether a piece was legal or not, even if you wanted to. If a dealer told you back in the days that a piece was legal you either believed him or walked away. Buying antiquities in those days meant trusting the dealer...

Talk about things you do know, whatever that may be...

Let's see whether you post this :-))))))))))))))

Paul Barford said...

Why would I not "publish this"? Paranoid, Arthur? Crazy.

Anyway, as I wrote, I am concerned about what this object looks like, it is not a fragment of floor mosaic that has survived later pit digging, it very clearly is a patch of a mosaic CUT from a larger one, framing the subject's head. There is no doubt - just looking at it - about how it has been removed from its original support.

The Panayia Kanakaria mosaics are early in style - some say resembling those of Ravenna, so pretty rare survivals of the period of Iconoclasm. So not the kind of thing that is present in any old church acrosss Christendom.

The object was bought by someone some time after the invasion of Cyprus by the Turks - Cyprus where precisely such items can be expected, the looting of sites and churches was publicised quite early on after the invasion.

It is simply not true to say that in the 1970s when this would have come onto the market nobody was talking about these issues ("museums, collectors, dealers, the public"). The 1970 UNESCO Convention did not fall from the trees and was not written for no reason, and that reason is the public discussion that had been going on since the 1950s of the effects of artefact trafficking on the heritage.

You do not need any internet to alert you the fact that the smooth-talking guy is offering you a fragment cut out and remounted from a monument that had decoration of a rare type - and a type that occurs only in limited quantities in specific regions.

I think it is entirely fair to criticise buyers of such things that not only did they not walk away, but somebody had this thing hanging on their wall (or whatever) through the eighties, nineties and first two decades of this century (when you cannot say there was "no discussion" of such issues and that Internet you mention can bring it into every home in Europe). Despite this, somebody had this obviously looted object still had it on their wall and were apparently not concerned about where it had come from enough to actually look into it. Especially if they had bought it from a man named Aydin Dikmen.

Yet according to the press, after all this time when they did nothing, it was you that had to track them down, and not they who came to you - or anyone else - with their concerns.

It is precisely the issue I am addressing that "nobody really cared about what was looted or not... nobody gave a shit". Buyers showed a lack of due diligence when they bought a obviously cut-out fragment of mosaic, and they did not give a shit over the decades that it was in a private collection.

Yes, walking away always was an option, if more buyers had walked away in the 'seventies, dealers would not have carried on behaving like they were still living in the world of colonial appropriations and Victorian collecting attitudes - as they still do in general today.

So, I think rather than thanking people like this, in order to fight this problem, we need to be scaring the shit out of such collectors and dealers.

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