Friday 13 November 2020

Swiss Action on Stolen Art

VIDEO November 12, 2020 
"Switzerland was once a hot destination for stolen cultural artefacts. But now it’s working closely with the Italian authorities to secure the return of treasures. The latest handover was in October: the Swiss gave the Italian embassy in Bern 27 objects of huge historic and artistic value. These included 26 Etruscan artefacts from a private collection and a 2,000-year-old marble bust, found at the Geneva free port. The illicit trafficking of cultural artefacts is the world’s third-largest illegal market, after drugs and weapons. Countries such as Italy, which has a rich cultural heritage, have been working hard for decades to stop it. As the Lugano lawyer and expert in art law Dario Jucker explains, stolen cultural property represents a vast illegal market". 
Leaving aside that contentious claim about "third-largest", I include a rather primitive draft map from a work-in-progress (it's provisional at the moment). It came to my notice that on collectors' forums several people had pinched my "list of serious dealers" from a decade ago (which in turn was derived and adapted from other sources including an earlier list by Ernie Krumbein) and were presenting it as their own list of "recommended dealers" sometimes without acknowledgement. The joke is on them, because since then several dealers on that list have died or gone out of business (none in jail yet) and at least two of the names inherited from the earlier lists turn out not to have been dealers at all. I also made it clear that these dealers were not listed as having authentic artefacts, as some have IMO some pretty dodgy-looking bits. Anyway, on the margins of another writing project I am doing at the moment under lockdown, I have been updating that list. So that's what this map is about.

What I find intriguing is the distribution. Obviously this may be an artefact of where I gathered the information and criteria of selection, but it's still thought-provoking. Why is it like that? To some (and only some) extent this represents the distribution of wealth, but other - perhaps historical - factors might be involved. Worth looking into. I'd love to know what the map would have looked like in the nineteenth century. 


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