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August 2014 – Newsletter of the Committee for Cultural Policy

This month’s free digital newsletter from the Committee for Cultural Policy, Inc. features dramatic changes to policies on antique ivory that threaten millions of objects in American collections, discoveries in art and archeology, museum news and more.

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Collectors, Congressmen, Museums and Musicians Challenge Ban on Antique Ivory

July 31, 2014.  A mid-May modification of endangered species regulations by the US Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has done little to limit the ban on the possession, trade and transportation of antique ivory. Excessive documentation requirements to show that an object is antique in the latest Director’s Order 210 Appendix A may make almost all trade in antique and ancient ivory unlawful. Newly introduced bills known as the Lawful Ivory Protection Act (H.R. 5052 and S. 2587) would remove the regulations imposed in 2014 if passed by Congress.

USFWS responded to widespread criticism by collectors, museums, the antique trade, and numerous musician organizations in recent months by changing the applicable dates of some of the new rules rather than addressing the underlying problems in the regulations. Even if artworks and instruments are truly antique, they can no longer be legally traded unless they have the required documentation regardless of how long they have been in the U.S. Observers have stated that USFWS’s proposed scientific testing and detailed appraisals cannot reasonably be undertaken for hundreds of thousands of ordinary ivory objects, leaving them in legal limbo.

Representatives of cultural organizations have spoken out against the new rules, saying they continue to cause serious damage to musicians, orchestras and museums which own antique objects made of or including ivory. Small amounts of ivory were frequently used in the construction of older string, wind, and percussion instruments and bows, including many fine instruments less than 100 years old. The U.S. musical community is likely to see more incidents such as the June 2014 seizure and eventual release of seven violin bows belonging to the Budapest Festival Orchestra en route to concerts at Lincoln Center – requiring the musicians to borrow unfamiliar bows from U.S. musicians and to pay $525 in fines.   Read more…

Detroit Institute of Arts: The Battle of the Appraisals Continues

July 30, 2014.  A City of Detroit creditor, Financial Guaranty Insurance Company, a bond insurer with hundreds of millions of dollars at stake in the city’s bankruptcy announced on July 28 that it had compiled an independent appraisal valuing the collection of the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) at $8.5 billion. The new appraisal, conducted by Victor Wiener Associates, is the third major appraisal of the collection of the museum, which Financial Guaranty believes should be sold to pay the city’s pensioners.  Read more…

On July 16, the DIA announced that a number of major corporations had pledged an additional 26.8 million toward the city’s ‘grand bargain’ – bringing to $80 million the total pledged so far on the promise by DIA to raise $100 million to enable payments of $800 million over twenty years to pensioners. Read more…

Richard III – Dynasty, Death and Discovery Center Opens

July 29, 2014  Leicester, England celebrated the opening of a new visitor center focused on the life and death of Richard III on July 26. The infamous king’s remains were discovered in a hidden grave under a parking lot in 2012. Richard III died in battle nearby in 1485. His death hastened the conclusion of the War of the Roses between the houses of Lancaster and York and led to the decisive rise of the Tudor dynasty after 1487.   Read more…

Pericles’ Wine Cup Found

July 30, 2014  A wine cup, plain except for inscribed names of drinkers, and likely a memento from a traditional ‘symposium,’ the Hellenic social institution at which men drank, debated, and celebrated with song and poetry has been found in an ancient pauper’s tomb, in Kifisia, northern Athens, Greece. The cup was found in twelve pieces during the construction of a new building. Archeologists who pieced it together found six names crudely inscribed under the handle, including those of Pericles and Ariphron. Read more…

‘Islamic State’ Defends Destruction of Mosul Shrines

The jihadist ‘Islamic State’, known as IS, which captured Mosul in June, continue the destruction of revered Islamic shrines and mosques there. The group claims that building a mosque or shrine to honor a religious leader’s grave is tantamount to idolatry. IS announced that, “There is no debate on the legitimacy of demolishing or removing those graves and shrines.”

In denouncing the practice of establishing religious edifices on or near the graves of renowned holy persons, IS follows the example set by Mohammed bin Abdel Wahhab, a founder of the ultra-conservative Wahhabist sect, who in the eighteenth century ordered the destruction of a dome erected above the tomb of warrior and brother of the Caliph Umar, Zaid ibn al-Khattab in Saudi Arabia. IS completely destroyed a number of Mosul’s most famous shrines in June, including one of the most prominent mosques of Mosul, the Nabi Yunus shrine (said to be the tomb of Jonah) and a shrine to Prophet Seth, considered in Islam, Judaism and Christianity to be Adam and Eve’s third son. Read more…

Peru Seeks Private Assistance to Conserve Monuments

July 27, 2014  Peru has joined other nations now relying on private-public partnerships to preserve cultural heritage, similar to Italy’s partnerships with fashion houses to restore important Roman monuments. In Peru’s case, the first cultural partnership is expected to be with the giant beer corporation, Backus. The Peruvian Obras por Impuestos, or projects–in-lieu-of-taxes scheme adopted under Law 29230 by the Government of Peru utilizes private monies for building and development projects across Peru. The chapel, which is located in the district of Huaro, Quispicanchi Province (Cusco), was named as a National Heritage Site in 1974, but requires significant restoration. The Government of Peru has been well-known for its sensitivity regarding involvement of outside support for museums and monument conservation in the past, but has fallen short in providing government funding for preservation.   Read more…

Greek Antiquities Police Officer Arrested for Smuggling

July 27, 2014  A police officer from Greece’s antiquities protection department has been arrested and is accused of being part of a smuggling ring that was trying to sell an ancient marble statue supposedly worth 1 million euros ($1.35 million). The officer charged with planning to smuggle the statue is alleged to be the head of the service that conducted the raids, the Internal Affairs service of the Greek police. Read more…

Sekhemka Sale Controversy: Egypt Claims Moral Right to Statue in Britain for 164 Years

July 11, 2014  Christie’s $27 million dollar sale of an Egyptian statue brought from Egypt to England in 1850 has been controversial for widely different reasons. The government of Egypt has condemned the sale of the statue of Sekhemka, a royal scribe, which left Egypt legally 164 years ago and has been in the collection of the Northampton Museum since 1880. It appears that no transfer of an Egyptian work of art is legitimate in the eyes of the Egyptian government, although two years ago, the Government of Egypt assured the seller, the Borough Council of Northampton, that it had “no right to claim the recovery of the statue.” Nonetheless, Egypt’s ambassador to Britain, Ashraf Elkholy, said on July 11 that “Sekhemka belongs to Egypt and if the Northampton borough council does not want it then it must be given back.”   Read more…

London’s Crossrail: Secrets of Bedlam

A major excavation project, part of the £14.8 billion Crossrail London underground metro construction, is being supplemented with archival records research investigating the history of London’s Bedlam Hospital from the sixteenth century plague that swept across Europe through the English Civil Wars of 1642 to 1650. Read more…

July Museum News in Brief

July 30, 2014  Cameron Kitchin to Lead Cincinnati

The Board of Trustees of the Cincinnati Art Museum announced the appointment of Cameron Kitchin as the museum’s new director. Kitchin comes to Cincinnati from the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art… read more.

July 30, 2014  Metropolitan Museum Attendance Passes 6.2 Million: Digital access? 26 Million.

New York’s Metropolitan Museum announced that more than 6.2 million people—from New York City, across the United States, and 187 foreign countries—visited the Museum during the fiscal year that ended on June 30, 2014, the highest level of visitors yet achieved. Read more…

July 25, 2014  Lord Jacob Rothschild receives J. Paul Getty Medal

Getty President and CEO James Cuno presented the third annual J. Paul Getty Medal to Lord Jacob Rothschild, who Cuno described as “the most influential volunteer cultural leader in the English-speaking world.“ Read more…

July 12, 2014  British Museum Report: Bringing Ancient Art to the Public in 2013/2014

The annual reports of the British Museum each July reveal the extraordinary national and international reach of the museum, its involvement in archeological preservation through the Portable Antiquities Scheme and its multiple educational programs involving antiquities and the ancient world. Read more…

July 11, 2014  Metropolitan Museum Acquires Superlative Porphyry Urn; Launches New Multi-lingual Interactive Website

…The urn was sold at a Paris auction in 2012 from the estate of the last owner, Patricia López-Huici de López-Willshaw of Neuilly, France, who died at age 98, where it was mislabeled as “A Porphyry Mortar, Italian, probably first half of 19th century.” Read more…

Director and CEO Thomas P. Campbell also announced the launch of One Met. Many Worlds, a new interactive feature in 11 languages that allows visitors to explore more than 500 highlights from the Museum’s encyclopedic collection in English, Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish. Read more…

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