Saturday 23 April 2022

British Haven for Antiquities Dealers

     Purchased by "English Collector"      
in some unidentified auction
|or Art Gallery during 1970s -
 1980s (Bertolami Fine Art)

In an open access collectors' discussion group near you, "Stephen Stromberg" has a problem ( Steve Apr 9 #96506):
Hi Folks -- Does anyone have any experience or impressions of Bertolami Fine Art? I'm interested in bidding on this kylix, coming up at their London auction site, but the provenance seems sketchy: Thanks in advance! Steve
Sketchy is one word for it: "Provenance. English private collection, purchased in some unidentified auction or Art Gallery during 1970s - 1980s".

Member Roberto Fanone (Apr 10 #96508) hastens to reassure him:
Bertolami fine arts is the best italian auction house. I was working with them and i am friend with Andrea Pancotti, uno of most well known italian archeologosts and director of archeology department of BFA. I have bought many items also and i know friends of deutsch and english galleries buying from BFA. So, in my opinion, You can buy absolutely safe. Best regards Roberto Fanone
It is interesting to ponder what Mr Fanone considers one would be "absolutely safe" from. I have a suspicion that, like the vast majority of antiquities collectors, what he's reassuring Steve about is that BFA sells only real, pukka stuff. They've got an archaeologist after all (though Academia suggests he's a numismatist, rather). I also suspect that "Steve" was concerned about something else.

Another member then asks (kyrikmk Apr 11 #96511) "If they are based in Italy why are they selling the pieces in London?" The answer is both surprising and unsurprising. Quick as a flash, Roberto Fanone (Apr 11 #96512) responds:
They are beginning to sell the pieces in London because law about antiquities It has started to be very restrictive lately. It is a big problem at the moment to sell antiquities in Italy. The culture minister is changed and the actual one is enemy of collectors.
This is a typical playing-the-victim whine of these people: "enemy of collectors". The Minister of Culture has the job of preserving culture, and where there are laws doing that, creating the environment for the enforcement of those laws. What is there not to understand here? Somebody selling an ancient artefact (most likely removed from a grave or tomb somewhere that has laws regulating such acts and the export of material) is clearly unable to account for where it came from and whether or not it was legally obtained. Bertoli Fine Arts has this thing on their hands (why?) and is simply trying a number like this: "Ah, yeah, um... yeah, well, we got it from somebody in England, actually, who - uh... yeah, told us they'd, uh... bought it, er, in some auction or art gallery somewhere, about the 1970s, or it might have been the 1980s, not really sure, that's all I know". What on earth possessed Bertoli Fine Arts (a reputable auction house, we are told, with an archaeologist watching over it all) to let the consigner walk out of their shop without the vase they brought in with such a vague back-story? The only reason I can think of is that the person accepting the consignment has at the back of their well-groomed head "yeah, might be dodgy, I guess, sounds a bit fishy really, but let anyone who wants to say it was illegally obtained prove it!" (this is of course the dealers' problem with the existence of the Medici photos).

But what? The "law has started to be restrictive in Italy"? No, it has not changed, what's changing is that the laws are being more strictly enforced all over the EU. So what do dealers do? Ship the stuff to England, London. No archaeologists there to look over a dealer's shoulder and ask him about what they are doing, are there? It's a total free-for-all now they've abandoned the new regulations the EU adopted.

The provenance-free kylix sold for £3,000.00

[The current Minister of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism in Italy is Dario Franceschini (February 2014 to June 2018 and 5 September 2019 to today)].

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