Wednesday, 10 July 2019

The Role of Restoration in Making Archaeological Artefacts into Saleable Trophy Art

Two British restorers are facing charges as part of a smuggling ring in the upcoming Kapoor trial (Tom Mashberg, 'Investigators Say a Ring Smuggled $145 Million in Ancient Artifacts' New York Times 11th July 2019)
The smuggling ring harvested objects from Afghanistan, Cambodia, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Thailand, the complaint said, and it created false paper trails that gave the items a patina of legitimacy, then sold them globally for large profits to collectors, art dealers and museums.  Mr. Kapoor was charged along with seven co-conspirators, most of them overseas, who would also require extradition. Arrest warrants for all eight men were filed Monday in the Criminal Court of the City of New York, along with a painstakingly detailed complaint that reconstructed a smuggling scheme stretching back to 1986. [...] artifacts were secreted into the United States using false import documents; [...] many were then shipped to London to be cleaned and restored for sale; and [...] the conspirators created fraudulent invoices and provenance papers asserting the items had left their nations of origin legally.  Two of the accused co-conspirators were identified as restorers who enhanced the value of the pieces — often still marked by the dirt from which they had been dug up by hired thieves — and brought them back to life as treasures. 

The responsibility of the conservators that work on material coming from the international anriquities market has long been a cause for concern, this case may well prompt a new look at this.

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