Friday 1 January 2021

American Council for the Preservation of Cultural Property

The New York Times reports on the antiquities dealers that oppose legislative attempts to make financial transactions in the antiquities trade more transparent. In the report there is mention of:

One dealer, Randall A. Hixenbaugh, the president of a nonprofit organization called the American Council for the Preservation of Cultural Property, has called statistics on the illicit trade unfounded and argued against the new regulations.

Look at this, another ephemera group of the same people trying to appear as some kind of "institute", "advisory body" or the suchlike, all focussed on the same issues.  They all have naff website design, with weird logos, the last one (The Global Heritage Alliance) had a dead chicken, this one has a patrioto-phallic logo. They also all contain the same self-serving whining that collectors are the victims of some great conspiracy against them. So a logo that looks like a giant prick is quite appropriate.

They give their address as "845 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10022" which is a business centre that offers virtual office space

To go with the logo, the background image of part of their website is the cluttered 'Masculine Interior' of Sigmund Freud's study at Berggasse 19 Vienna, ostensibly as he left it in 1938. The choice of that photo probably speaks volumes for the motivations of the collectors that the ACPCP represents. 

Let's just set on record what they say about themselves,

The American Council for the Preservation of Cultural Property’s express mission is to represent and promote the rights of individuals, dealers and institutions to collect, trade, acquire and exhibit cultural property, and to maintain the integrity of the legitimate trade in cultural property, fostering the licit dissemination of cultural artifacts to the betterment of humanity’s understanding of ourselves and our cultures, past and present Our Mission:
To represent and defend those who cherish, possess, collect, inherit, sell, study, acquire and exhibit objects of cultural property.
To ensure national laws and international agreements of the United States government sufficiently protect dealers and collectors of cultural property against frivolous and unsubstantiated foreign claims.
To revise, amend and propose legislation to codify clear and unambiguous definitions of the terms “provenance,” “cultural significance,” “national importance,” and other such discretionary terms.
To educate and inform both government officials and the public of the significant philanthropic benefits of the long-standing legal art trade, including the protection, preservation, exhibition and study of ancient works of art.
To mentor and offer advice and service to the United States Government in its efforts to assist foreign nations in developing effective methods to prevent the destruction and loss of cultural property.
To recognize the misconstrued meaning of the term “provenance.” To replace such term, in legal context, with the IRS preferred term of “record keeping,” as it relates to the possession, sale, trade and transfer of cultural property.
To establish a consistent workable standard by which dealers, collectors, and museums can establish clear legal title to their collections and have this acknowledged in perpetuity by the international community.
To support the preservation and protection of cultural property around the globe. We also strongly support any effort by source countries to digitize and make publicly available, inventories and archives of all such objects known to exist within their modern day boundaries.
Further in they have an object-centred section called 'Background' and 'The Current situation'. Perhaps I'll discuss those later (they present rather a warped picture), suffice just to give this sample:
Moving forward, the ACPCP, seeks a voice in the debate over the preservation of cultural property. We would be happy to provide expert opinions from academics, appraisers, lawyers, and law enforcement officials based on facts on the ancient art trade to the press and to lawmakers, before more outlandish allegations lead to further unnecessary legislation threatening the cultural institution which is the art trade.  

One of our esteemed spokesmen, James McAndrew, retired U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agent, founder and former head of their International Art and Antiquity Theft Investigations Program, has been very active in combating the rising tide of misinformation regarding the scale of the illicit trade and the lack of evidence tying the legitimate antiquities trade to the deliberate destruction of cultural property in the Middle East today.
and the piece of deliberate misinformation in that text just there is nobody has said that the US trade in illicit antiquities is the cause of the "deliberate destruction of cultural property in the Middle East today", by which they mean the taking of hammers to statues and dynamite to throne rooms. When are the antiquities trade lobbyists going to stop their lies and distortions? Still having them under a big stripey prick puts them in a good Trumpist context. 

I personally would put another emphasis on the issue of the role and agency of the USA in the preservation of cultural property - including their own custodianship of the ancient cultural property on US territory.  Their partner organization History in your hands sees ancient stone tools as part of the animal world, along with trilobites and  plesiosaurs (and it's not a "hand axe", wannabe educators). As far as I am concerned, artefact hunting and the ignorance of collectors damages the cultural property that is the archaeological record that forms archaeological sites.

The ACPCP webpage contains an odd selection of "news" items, and then sets out who its "partners" are: IADAA (International Association of Dealers in Ancient Art), The ADCAEA (moribund 'Association of Dealers and Collectors of Ancient and Ethnographic Art'), the ACCG (infamous 'Ancient Coin Collectors Guild') and something called 'History in Your Hands' ('provide teachers and their students with historical treasures from our past, in an effort to help foster a more enriched learning experience') based in Chicago and which looks rather like some form of tax-dodge.

Note the total absence of any information who's in this "Council" and who mans the Third Avenue office. The NYT tells us Mr "incantation bowls" Hixenbaugh is its "president" and James McAndrew is an "esteemed spokesman". And the rest? Who else has a 'ACPCP Stripy Prick' bumper sticker on their car? 


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