Subscribe to our Newsletter

Commentary

commentaryIn depth discussion of important cultural policy and arts issues affecting museums, collectors, the art trade and the public.

Celebrating 15 Years of Import Restrictions?

Posted by on Aug 30, 2016 in Commentary | Comments Off on Celebrating 15 Years of Import Restrictions?

Celebrating 15 Years of Import Restrictions?

August 30, 2016. It is shocking to see the website of the Department of State’s Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs announce a “celebration” of the 15th anniversary of the the bilateral agreement banning the importation of ancient art from Italy. Since when are continuing restrictions on the free flow of art into the US regarded as cause for celebration?

Congress recognized that import restrictions are a loss to the US public’s interest in a free trade in art. Under the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act (CCPIA), signed into law in 1983, agreements with foreign nations restricting the importation of antique and ethnological material are a special and drastic remedy to be applied in situations of looting that place a foreign nation’s cultural heritage at risk.

According to Congress, import restrictions are not to be undertaken lightly. By law, agreements restricting trade in art are to be put in place only when absolutely necessary to protect a foreign nation’s patrimony, only when other nations also establish similar restrictions, and only when the source nation takes meaningful steps to protect its own archaeological resources.

As Mark B. Feldman, the key State Department negotiator in the drafting of the CCPIA, wrote in comments prepared for a CCP-sponsored Symposium at Cardozo Law School in April 2014, “The purpose of the program is not to keep art at home, but to help protect archeological resources from pillage; the findings required by the CCPIA were established for that purpose.

CCP recommends re-reading Feldman’s important Commentary here.

In “celebrating” the Italian renewal, at least the State Department is being frank, for once, and acknowledged that it is not a neutral administrator of the law: its goals are diametrically opposed to those expressed by Congress: to encourage restrictive policies in foreign nations, to promote repatriation over preservation, and to eventually end the global trade in ancient art.

In 2000, the Department of State secured the administration of the CCPIA. Since then, the department has fulfilled the worst fears of Congress when in 1983, the legislation originally placed the CCPIA’s administration outside it in order to keep art from becoming a diplomatic Band-Aid or a trade-off for concessions in other areas.

The Italian renewal of import restrictions took place this year after fifteen years in which the Italian carabinieri have made very significant inroads into illegal activity involving antiquities in that nation. Yet Italian authorities remain firmly opposed to establishing an export regime in which permitted antiquities could be lawfully traded.

Italy is not alone is asking the US to permanently limit the American public’s access to art. Virtually every agreement signed by the US restricting importation of ancient art is now an agreement-in-perpetuity; some now stand at almost thirty years. They are supposed to last for five.

What does a 30-year import restriction mean, besides that the agreement was not effective in stopping looting, or that it did not convince a nation to protect its own archaeological resources? It shows that Congress and the US public are not paying sufficient attention, and that neither realizes what the nation and its cultural resources have lost. Is that really something to celebrate?

The Cultural Property Advisory Committee has tentatively scheduled a date for review of the US bilateral cultural property agreements with Cyprus (since 1999) and Peru (since 1990) for October 25-27, 2016. The final schedule will appear in the Federal Register and its date will be updated on this blog on order to inform the public of any opportunity to comment.

Image: https://eca.state.gov/highlight/united-states-and-italy-mark-fifteenth-anniversary-memorandum-protect-italian-cultural

Italian Cultural Property

Collecting ancient art, an old tradition under attack.

Posted by on Jul 30, 2016 in ArtNews, Commentary | Comments Off on Collecting ancient art, an old tradition under attack.

Collecting ancient art, an old tradition under attack.

Updated, July 30, 2016.  Vincent Geerling, Chairman of the Board of the International Association of Dealers in Ancient Art (IADAA), granted CCP permission to print his text (below) and link to the video of his presentation, “Collecting ancient art, an old tradition under attack.  Mr. Geerling lectured at the ArtConnoisseurs 2016 series, held in conjunction with Cultures – The World Arts Fair in Brussels in June 2016. The presentation sheds new light on the history of the legal antiquities trade, the actual size of the antiquities market, and the supposed ISIS/antiquities connection.  Mr. Geerling began collecting ancient art 40 years ago. In 1995, he made his personal hobby his career and founded Archea Ancient Art in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Mr. Geerling has been a board member of the IADAA for many years and has served as its Chairman since 2013.

Collecting Ancient Art, an old tradition under attack, Vincent Geerling, Chairman, International Association of Dealers in Ancient Art, June 10, 2016 Video

Ladies and gentlemen: First I would like to thank Art Connoisseurs for inviting me as chairman of IADAA to contribute to this program. This is a nice opportunity for me to talk about collecting antiquities. I have learned that there is a lot of misunderstanding about collectors of ancient art and the legitimate trade, so I will use the opportunity to clarify some major issues. The second part of my presentation will cover the way the media have reported the current conflict in the near east, especially illegal digging, smuggling and the alleged sale of illegal antiquities as source of terror financing.

But before I start, let me first make it perfectly clear that,

  • The trade is as horrified by the destruction and iconoclasm as anyone else and we share a common cause in wishing to defeat it.
  • The trade has more incentive than anyone else to stop the crooks because of the damage they are causing to the reputation of the legitimate trade.
  • We will not find a workable solution unless all parties to the debate work together, including the trade.

Unfounded stories

Over the past couple of years, a lot of unfounded stories and mind-bending but groundless figures have dominated the media coverage of the current disaster in the near east. Newspapers and news aggregation websites copying each other without investigating properly, TV reporters neglecting to check facts, and a small but dedicated group of archaeologists and bloggers cynically exploiting this international tragedy have all helped misinformation and propaganda go viral on the internet and shape the debate.

Some campaigners’ livelihoods appear to depend on funding to further these aims and what now some openly state as their ultimate goal: a total ban on the legitimate trade in antiquities.

We the legitimate trade are expected to provide full provenance information on the objects we sell. The same rules should apply to every participant in the debate: show us the primary source of what you tell us, or be silent. Everything I am going to tell you today is documented, so feel free to get in touch with me after the meeting and I can give you the primary source of anything I have said today. In the debate we expect nothing less from our adversaries. Vague phrases like “ experts tell us”, “it is believed” or “there are indications” etc. are not good enough anymore. Who is the expert? And where do your indications come from? In other words: in the debate we expect to see facts based on evidence (as accepted by the law) and not stories based on speculation.

A short history of collecting of antiquities

Antiquities have been collected for thousands of years. The Romans were keen collectors of Greek sculpture, shipping Greek marble and bronze statues by the thousands to Rome.
One of the first great collectors and one of the fathers of archaeology was Sir William Hamilton, British ambassador to the Kingdom of Naples in the 18th century. During his first three years in Naples he collected 3000 painted Greek vases, sometimes directly from where they were found, but also in local antiquities shops like this shop in Naples. In 1772 he sold a collection of 1000 painted Greek vases for 8000 pounds to the British Museum, where it is still the core of their Greek Collection.

During the era of the Grand Tour, from the 17th till the end of the 19th century, hundreds of young men went yearly to a region that we now know as Italy and later also to Greece, at the time part of the Ottoman empire, to admire the remains of ancient cultures. Many of them brought back examples of ancient art that they purchased from local dealers or just were offered alongside the road. At the time there were no laws in this respect. In 1734 the Society of Dilettanti was founded in London, for those who had been at the Grand Tour. The impression is that they were equally interested in culture and alcohol.

Just to give you an idea on what scale archaeological items were collected in those early years, I will give you some more examples. One of the many Greek sanctuaries excavated in Sicily in the 1800s produced over 30,000 terracotta statues, (produced from moulds in antiquity) the majority of which was sold to dealers and collectors. In the last quarter of the 19th century, Lady Meux traveled with a manservant on a steamer to Egypt in order to collect antiquities. She brought home a collection of 1,700 objects, (enough to fill today five galleries with ancient art). After her death the objects were sold at auction.

Export licences

In Egypt, in 1912 a law was issued that permitted licensed dealers to trade and export antiquities. From old invoices with export permits, we know that at least 120 licensed dealers were active in Egypt between 1912 and 1979. In room 56 of the national museum in Cairo, “the saleroom”, one could buy authentic antiquities, with an export licence. Over 67 years, the export of antiquities was a major source of income for Egypt.

So all Egyptian objects exported under licence do have an iron-clad provenance, don’t they? “Show me the corresponding licence: problem solved.”

Unfortunately it is not as easy as that. Here you see an invoice from licensed dealer Nr 116 for an unknown number of antiquities exported to France. The stamps and signatures show the export tax has been paid. However, the description is limited to “antiquities over 100 years old”. These 120 or so dealers were allowed to export as long as they paid the corresponding tax. To be able to control that, it was the number of cases for the transport that was important, not the exact content. That is why today, hardly any of the objects exported under licence over almost 70 years can be individually distinguished. The Nestor of our trade, Dr. Jerome Eisenberg from Royal Athena galleries, told me that between 1947 and 1983 he alone imported from Egypt under licence 24,000 objects.
If we are offered today an object from a private collection, we try to establish if it was exported before 1983. If so, one can assume that it would have been exported under licence at the time.
One of the countries in the Near East that allowed the export of antiquities until 1988 was Lebanon. This invoice from the Asfan Brothers, members of the Lebanese antique dealers association, has descriptions, but, from the 1,000 objects, not one can be identified.
Also in Syria the export of important ancient objects from Syria was possible until the law of 1963, according to Professor Abdulkarim, the head of the Syrian antiquities authorities. But after that date, many minor objects have been exported from Syria with the consent of the Syrian customs authorities, many thousands of them as souvenirs, bought in antique shops in Damascus and Aleppo. Were these objects the products of looting? Probably not, more likely they were mainly chance finds, uncovered during agricultural labour or during building activities. When poor people pick these minor objects up and sell them, they save them from destruction. The antique shops sell them to interested foreign visitors, who cherish these little treasures in their collections.

The source of our objects

Over the past three centuries, thousands of private collections of ancient art have been formed in Europe and the USA. Some of those are now the nucleus of the collections of major museums outside the source countries. Private collectors have donated thousands of objects to these museums for centuries. The number of objects from ancient civilizations harboured in private collections today is many hundreds of thousands if not millions.

There is a rule of thumb that objects from private collections become available every 40-50 years, since even collectors are mortal. These collections are the source of the objects we want to trade in, also in future. Many of these objects have been repeatedly sold at public auction and have been through the hands of dealers. Do these objects have provenance? Yes they have. Is it demonstrable? No, it is unfortunately not in most cases. So what can we dealers do to avoid buying freshly looted objects?

Art dealers have to make their own judgment when they are offered objects from old (often inherited) collections, where the paperwork is missing. We all live in countries where laws are based on the principle of good faith (good faith is assumed, bad faith has to be proven).
We verify the identity of the seller and ask for the history of the piece. If the history is credible, we will put it in writing in a provenance statement and have it signed by the seller. We pay at least a part of our purchase by bank, thus creating a paper trail, which adds to the ongoing provenance.

These are just some of IADAA’s due diligence guidelines that members of our organization have to abide by. (In some countries this is now even compulsory under law.) If one is lucky, purchasing invoices have survived, but unfortunately, more often than not, invoices have disappeared over the years.

How many of you in this room can say, hand on heart, that you have a receipt for every item of value you have at home? If you have inherited an heirloom such as a clock or piece of jewellery from a parent or grandparent, do you have the paperwork going back to its original purchase, showing the legitimate trail back to its manufacture? What about your wedding ring? How would you feel if, unable to provide such paperwork, your possessions were confiscated and handed to the company that made them? Ridiculous? Well that is what dealers and collectors in ancient art face now.

International Association of Dealers in Ancient Art

Let me now please enlighten you a bit about IADAA:

Ladies and gentlemen, the past is a funny place, they do things differently there.

In the 1960s and ’70s, “the old days”, not all dealers in ancient art behaved like virtuous schoolboys, but those who founded the International Association of Dealers in Ancient Art in 1993 understood that a different attitude was vital and acted on the UNESCO 1970 Convention even before their respective governments did.

IADAA introduced a strict code of ethics and later formulated due diligence guidelines that I already mentioned, to serve not only the interests of clients but also the integrity of the objects themselves. At present, 30 members from eight countries belong to IADAA. Membership is highly sought after but hard to achieve; applications are rigorously vetted. Since 1996, each member of IADAA has been required to check all objects with a resale value of more than €5,000 with the Art Loss Register (ALR) – this now includes searching the Interpol database – as part of the IADAA due diligence procedure.

The current debate

One of the crucial distinctions so often overlooked in this heated recent public debate is the difference between the legitimate trade and the illicit trade. The failure to distinguish between the two has already led to poorly framed policy and regulation by NGOs and governments as the authorities react in haste to unsubstantiated speculation, rumour and propaganda in the wider media.

The most bizarre figures about the size of the illicit market are taken for granted and quoted by government officials without even thinking critically about their validity. What is worse, these false figures form the basis of draconian measures against “the trade” and result in the misdirection of the limited resources of law enforcement agencies such as yourselves.

This “multibillion illegal trade” with its “invisible mafia structures” has to be halted, officials shout from the rooftops. The urgency is underlined by the alleged size of the illicit market: Claims of $2-3 billion followed by $6-8 billion have done the rounds, while the winner is der Spiegel, who in August 2015 claimed $7-15 billion, quoting UNESCO as the source for their fake figures in order to give them credibility.

The truth is that nobody knows the size of the illicit market. So IADAA asked Ivan Macquisten, a journalist, to find the primary source of the $2 billion.

He initially traced it back to a 2000 report by Brodie, Watson and Dooley, “Stealing History: The Illicit Trade in Cultural Material”, which quoted the figure and gave as its source an article in The Independent newspaper, “Great sale of the century”, by Geraldine Norman dating back to November 24, 1990. However, Ivan has now secured a copy of that article and it gives no figure at all. Brodie now publicly regrets ever quoting the (non-existent) figure, which may well be the source for the FBI’s figures.

So nobody knows the size of the illicit market, yet senior politicians in the United States continue to quote discredited figures in the hundreds of millions for the value of the trade in looted Syrian objects as justification for introducing news laws banning the import of even legitimate items and calling for further measures.

Just after the signing in the USA of such a new law, The Protect and Preserve Cultural Property Act, Dr. Fiona Rose Greenland from University of Chicago, principal investigator for MANTIS (Modelling the antiquities trade in Iraq & Syria) published the results of her research. In her article of May 30th, ‘Inside ISIS’ looted antiquities trade’, she concludes: “ISIS is likely to have earned several million dollars in profit since launching its looting program… that is a far cry from $ 7 billion”.

She looks for an explanation and I quote her again: “And yet, patchy data and methodology challenges do not fully explain why 7 billion fell to 4 million in public discussions about the Isis antiquities trade. What’s really going on here, I think, can be explained in two ways. First, there is an over active collective imagination about how much art is actually worth… This, in turn, motivates governments and other groups opposing Islamic state to describe their actions in attention grabbing terms. It is a lot easier to call for action against a 7 billion crime then a 4 million crime. While market mystique and over the top lines are fine for Hollywood films and adventure novels, it is no way to understand terrorist finance. And without that understanding we are unlikely to arrive at genuine and lasting solutions.”

So we have established that an illicit market of several billions is nonsense as we, the trade, have said all along. How could we know that without researching it like Dr. Greenland? The answer is simple, common sense, because we know what it takes to sell antiquities: well-provenanced antiquities in glossy catalogues, posh galleries and expensive art fairs. We have no idea about the real size of the illicit market, but what we do know is the size of the legitimate market. IADAA carried out research on the size of the market of 2013; the combined sales figures of dealers and auction houses in the entire western world The result is a reliable figure of €150 – 200 million. So where do the billions come from? No one can say.

It gets worse; despite all of this, campaigners still quote the ridiculous billions figure, making false comparisons with drugs trafficking, the illegal weapons trade and even human trafficking. This is done deliberately to make it look like a huge problem. In Germany the minister of culture Monika Grütters repeatedly stated for the past two years that the worldwide illegal trade in cultural property comes third in value after drugs and weapons. And she called for urgent action. However, if we check the facts in the yearly report about Illicit Trade from the World Customs Organisation, which is full of figures about drugs, weapons, cigarettes, alcohol and fake medicines to name just a few, no mention whatsoever is made about cultural property. The same minister Grütters is quoted in the newspapers over and over again, stating that Germany is becoming the hub of illegal trade in cultural property and that new stricter laws are needed to combat this terrible problem. Checking the facts, with the most recent statistics of the German customs, again, cultural property is not even mentioned in their 2014 and 2015 reports. The German newspaper Wirtschaftswoche specifically asked the ministry of finance on December 17th, 2015, about this, and the answer was: “Customs has no information about illicit imports of cultural property into Germany or other EU countries, coming from museums, private collections or illicit excavations in the so-called IS controlled areas, especially Syria or Iraq.”

Now in France, the same bogus billions and claims of massive trafficking have been incorporated in the 120-page report to President Hollande by Mr. Martinez, director of the Louvre. This will lead again to calls for action, wasting precious resources.
In Germany it has led to a research programme to do “dark field research” – no, not by the police, but headed by Professor Hilgert, an archaeologist and museum director. The program, called ILLICID, started in March 2015, receiving a grant of €1.2 million to unravel these alleged “invisible mafia like structures” in the huge illegal trade in antiquities. The interim report promised for March this year has not yet appeared…

At the end of last month in London, the Metropolitan Police’s specialist Art & Antiques Unit reported that they had had “no referrals to support the claim that the London art market is experiencing an upsurge in artefacts emanating from conflict zones in Syria and Iraq”.

The same statement went on to say: “It is often experts and practitioners from London museums and members of the London art market community who bring to our attention their concerns about particular artefacts.”

Ladies and gentlemen, I repeat: while the authorities, archaeologists and journalists demand from us dealers detailed documentary evidence for every artefact traded, they appear to feel no obligation to apply similar standards to the arbitrary claims and accusations they make regarding looted antiquities and the trade, thus criminalizing, without a shred of evidence, a large group of innocent people who cannot defend themselves. Collectors are people like you and me, but also artists, doctors and lawyers who spend money from their salaries to buy objects for their collection, to cherish and care for. As I have shown you, there are plenty of objects circulating in the legitimate market to serve collectors. These people, and I know a few, would never knowingly buy freshly looted objects. They would not touch such material without any provenance, because that’s what we are talking about, stolen objects without any market value and not “priceless treasures” as the media likes to publish. Please don’t get me wrong, as in all fields of economic activity, the trade in ancient art also has its crooks; we acknowledge that. But it is important that we gain an accurate picture of the problem so that the authorities can act appropriately and not waste the precious time and resources of law enforcement agencies.

Damaging of sites by authorities

Strangely enough, the press seems not in the least upset by the destruction taking place in the same areas, not by looters, but by the authorities themselves. This satellite picture shows the Syrian army digging in five army tanks into an excavation (as the US army has done in Baghdad during the second gulf war). There are also many cases of urban expansion into archaeological sites. In Egypt, many sites remain unprotected. Here you see an excavation area in Heliopolis, Egypt, where every morning the archaeologists have to start shoveling garbage before they can resume excavating. When they returned the following year, they found this construction in an as-yet unexcavated temple area.

Protection of cultural property seems to have two standards: The police and art dealers are expected to act on every single insignificant object, whereas in the source countries themselves highly important ancient remains are just shoveled away, before archaeologists have had a chance to excavate.

Financing terror?

It is gradually becoming clear that the financing of terror with antiquities has been grossly exaggerated. None of these claims has a good provenance. IADAA has spent a lot of effort in researching these claims back to their source only to find that there was no source, or the source has been misinterpreted.
It started June 15th 2014 with an article in the Guardian, about the USB sticks confiscated during a raid on IS leader Abu al-Bilawi. Reportedly, they mentioned antiquities worth $36 million from the al-Nabuk region alone. This was presented as the proof of financing of IS with antiquities. Later research, however, showed that the documents’ translation was incorrect; it did not mention antiquities at all. But the word was out.

On December 5th, 2015 the New Yorker published a well-researched article about the raid in May 2015 on Abu Sayyaf, a high level commander of IS who had a senior role in overseeing the gas and oil operations, a key source of the group’s revenue. The journalist Ben Taub asked Professor Rachael Goldman to appraise the confiscated antiquities. She responded,: “…. What you are showing is sort of, like, junk.” This was corroborated by a curator of ancient art from a prominent museum. It will not surprise you that I can confirm this as well. Nevertheless this junk was published as a major haul of looted antiquities by the authorities. Documents found during the same raid, show that the income from the sale of looted antiquities is at most just a drop in the IS bucket. Dr Neil Brodie, a well-known opponent of the trade, estimates, after thorough analysing the Abu Sayyaf documents, that it is at most 0.8% of total IS income.

And how about the museums in Syria that have been robbed and their content sold at the black market, as we read in papers? In some museums thefts have occurred, but according to Maamoun Abdulkarim, the head of the Syrian antiquities service, he and his team managed to evacuate all local archaeological museums, sometimes even with the help of local insurgents. They brought their content of 300,000 objects to a safe place in Damascus. I heard Mr. Abdulkarim say, during a conference in Berlin December 2014: “If you see pictures of museums presented as robbed and empty, it is not true; it was us. 99% of the objects are safe.” This slide is from his presentation in London, April 2015. I have not read a word about this in the papers. On a question about smuggling, he answered that he was not worried because the majority of smuggled items were insignificant minor objects. Important objects could be returned anyway. On May 13, Mr. Abdulkarim was also reported as attributing the absence of looted material in traditional market centres such as Paris, Brussels or London to “a greater sensitivity to stolen artefacts in the international community since the experience with Iraq in the past decade, and to the realization that many of these may be fakes”.

Let there be no doubt, we also see the satellite photos with holes dug by looters; the horrible destruction is obvious. According to Jesse Casana of the university of Arkansas, who studied satellite imagery from 1,300 of the 20,000 Syrian archaeological sites, there is definitely digging going on by all parties in the conflict. However, “digging is not finding”, as my daughter, who is an archaeologist, has experienced. A group of 50 professionals can excavate a site for a whole summer and find nothing of museum quality. One wonders how many of the holes we see in these pictures were actually empty? My personal speculation is that 98% of the holes did not contain any saleable objects. An expert in near Eastern archaeology, Dr Lucas Petit, recently confirmed that people will keep digging, even if they don’t find anything, because they hope to find gold one day. He has witnessed people digging all season directly next to his own excavation, in an area where they could expect to find nothing. Could that be a reason why no objects are offered to us?

No objects offered to us

Over the past two years, IADAA has checked several times with every member to see if they have been offered anything from the troubled areas, and they reported back: no, not a single questionable Syrian or Iraqi object had been offered to any of our members.

Against the expectations of many, neither in Europe nor in the USA has anything of significance been found or offered for sale. One expert who is not surprised by this is James McAndrew, who spent 27 years as a Senior Special Agent working at US Customs and the Department of Homeland Security where he set up and developed the antiquities division, developing and implementing the national investigations training programme titled “Fighting Illicit Traffic in Cultural Property at US Ports of Entry”. From him we know that in the odd 10 years following the first and second gulf wars, only three cases of confiscation of antiquities took place, all of them minor. You will know when looted Syrian and Iraqi items are seized in the US, he says, because the authorities will go out of their way to give the seizures maximum publicity. So far, though, the media has been silent on this.

In September last year in the USA the Secretary of State authorized a reward of up to $5 million for information leading to the significant disruption of the sale and/or trade of oil and antiquities by, for, on behalf of, or to benefit ISIL, also known as DAESH. Now, 8 months later, the deafening silence on this issue begs the question as to whether anyone at all has come forward to claim the reward or even part of it. I tried to get an answer to this question from the FBI representative Bonnie Magness-Gardiner, who was present at a meeting on May 25th at EUROPOL headquarters in the Hague, where I made a similar presentation as this one. Her answer was: “The reward is a state department project, of which I have no knowledge.” And she refused to talk about it further. I believe that if anyone had come forward with information, the FBI would need to follow it up, so I have concluded that no one has come forward.

During the same Europol conference, I became aware of an alarming fact. Following a presentation from Dr. Saskia Hufnagel ;”Financing terrorism b.m.o. looted artefacts”, the question was asked: What sources of information did you use? The answer was, let’s put it mildly: surprising: one of her sources was the National Geographic magazine….

In the UK in April, the reporter in a Channel 4 documentary titled “ISIS and the Missing Treasures” told how he had worked on the investigation for over a year to expose the illicit trade in ISIS-linked looted artefacts in London, including eight months undercover, supported by what he described as a “crack team of modern day Monuments Men and Women”, expert archaeologists and academics, at least one of whom is a publicly avowed opponent of the trade. The filming and the editing process went out of its way to link every item shown to ISIS, and despite creating the impression throughout that this was so, in the end the programme had to admit that it was unable to show a single object that could be linked to ISIS. Nevertheless, the reporter went on to the BBC the following day and claimed that the illicit trade in ISIS-linked artefacts did exist in London, although he could not show any evidence to support this claim.

As noted above, the Metropolitan Police confirmed that they had had “no referrals” to support the claims. If the reporter had the evidence, would he not have shouted it from the rooftops?

The programme is now the subject of a formal complaint to the broadcasters.

Ladies and gentlemen, I now come to the end of my presentation.

Yes, destruction is happening; yes, there is illicit digging; yes, there is smuggling over the borders of Turkey and Lebanon. However, in the past three years no proof has been presented that Islamic State is substantially financed with looted antiquities, as I have demonstrated. A draconian law on cultural property may be passed in Germany soon, because even governments act on tabloid stories without fact checking. This will damage the old tradition of collecting, without solving the problem of looting at all.

Protecting the sites “in situ”

We do believe that the only effective action against looting is protection of the sites ‘in situ’ that is an important obligation formulated 45 years ago by UNESCO in article 5. For archaeology it is vital that excavations can be done in undisturbed soil. Only then can invaluable context information be obtained. That is the reason why the protection of archaeological sites is so important. Archaeologists and dealers agree that it is vital to prevent illicit excavations. It is obvious that this is problematic in Syria at the moment, but elsewhere it can and has to be done. And if appropriate publicity is given to thefts from museums and storage facilities, (as also obliged by article 5) we, the legitimate trade, will be happy to help recover these stolen objects if and when they are offered to us. In the past years we have helped to recover various objects stolen from museums. One of our members has returned an object that was stolen in the 1920s. We maintain good relations with the police in the UK, France and the Netherlands, but unfortunately not in some other countries. IADAA is able and willing to help. As soon as we receive photos of stolen objects, we inform our members and put the information on our website. Art dealers have a visual memory, so in case we are offered these objects, we will recognise them and inform the police. We are also willing to share our expertise to assess quickly whether an object is fake or authentic.

I conclude for today: Let’s all work together.

  • The trade is as horrified by the destruction and iconoclasm as anyone else and we share a common cause in wishing to defeat it.
  • The trade has more incentive than anyone else to stop the crooks because of the damage they are causing the reputation of the legitimate trade.
  • We will not find a workable solution unless all parties to the debate work together, including the trade. (Law enforcement, Politicians, Academics, Archaeologists, Curators).

Thank you for your attention.

VG June 10, 2016

The Committee for Cultural Policy is grateful to Vincent Geerling, Chairman of the Board of the International Association of Dealers in Ancient Art (IADAA), for granting permission to link to the video of his presentation, “Collecting ancient art, an old tradition under attack.  Mr. Geerling lectured at the ArtConnoisseurs 2016 series, held in conjunction with Cultures – The World Arts Fair in Brussels in June 2016.

Image: Vincent Geerling, presenting at ArtConnoisseurs 2016 in Brussels.

Vincent Geerling Lecture

Transcript “Rethinking Antiquities: Restitution and Collecting in the Time of ISIS”

Posted by on Mar 10, 2016 in Commentary, Events & Publications | Comments Off on Transcript “Rethinking Antiquities: Restitution and Collecting in the Time of ISIS”

Transcript “Rethinking Antiquities: Restitution and Collecting in the Time of ISIS”

Transcription of Rethinking Antiquities: Restitution and Collecting in the Time of ISIS, Tuesday, March 1st, 2016.

Sponsored by the Cardozo Law FAME Center and the Committee for Cultural Policy, Inc. The program was moderated by Judith H. Dobrzynski, an independent journalist who writes for many publications including the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times; formerly a reporter and editor at The New York Times; senior editor and writer for Business Week; and a former executive editor of CNBC. Panelists were Randall Hixenbaugh, owner of Hixenbaugh Ancient Art New York-based antiquities dealer and member of the International Association of Dealers in Ancient Art, James McAndrew, Forensic Specialist, Grunfeld, Desiderio, Lebowitz, Silverman & Klestadt LLP; Former Head of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, International Art and Antiquity Theft Investigations Program; subject matter expert in international art theft and international trade matters, William Pearlstein, of Pearlstein & McCulIough LLP, a New York-based art law firm, and author of “White Paper: A Proposal to Reform U.S. Law and Policy Relating to the International Exchange of Cultural Property,” and Gary Vikan, former director of The Walters Art Museum; Clinton appointee to the President’s Cultural Property Advisory Committee; former Senior Associate for Byzantine Art, Dumbarton Oaks.

Welcoming Remarks by Barbara Kolsun:

I’m Professor Barbara Kolsun, and I am a co-director of the Fame program here at Cardozo, one of the sponsors of this wonderful event. The Fame Center- which stands for Fashion, Arts, Media, and Entertainment- through its unique access to companies and professionals, provides unprecedented training and development opportunities relating to the representation of businesses driven by the creative process, including art. We have at Cardozo, for many years, had an absolutely extraordinary art law program, and we have a fashion law program that is quite robust, and media, entertainment, sports, etc.

Welcome to this really interesting event! I was on the subway this morning reading this month’s issue of the Smithsonian Magazine, which has an article called “Murdering History,” which we’re going to really be talking about today. It was so depressing, I missed my stop.

Anyway, I want to introduce the student who really is responsible for organizing this program, Samantha Anderson, who graduated from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, with a Masters in Art History and Social Anthropology, she interned at Christie’s in both the legal department and the restitution department, as well as in the art law group at Herrick Feinstein. She’s been a volunteer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art for the past three and a half years, a member of the Art Law Committee of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, she’s the managing and business editor of the Cardozo Journal of International and Comparative Law, and her note on cultural property repatriation will be published through April.

How is that for a Cardozo student?

That is a perfect example of why our Fame program is so amazing, because this is the kind of graduates that are here, and this is a young woman who walked into my office at the beginning of the year, and I just grabbed her and said, “Help, we’ve got to start marketing these extraordinary programs.”

Opening Remarks by Samantha Anderson:

Thank you so much, Barbara, and thank you to Professor Jeanne Schroeder as well for organizing this, and for putting in all the time and effort.

Two years ago, Cardozo hosted a panel on recent developments in cultural property. It was sponsored by the Cardozo Arts and Entertainment Law Journal and the Committee for Cultural Policy. That panel discussed the issues raised in William Pearlstein’s White Paper, a proposal to reform US law and policy relating to the international exchange of cultural property. As anyone familiar with these issues knows, the landscape is constantly changing.

When we began to organize this panel, we originally planned to present an update of sorts: to look at the current state of cultural property both from the collecting and restitution perspective, and examine what advances or changes had been made.

Then the destruction and looting of ISIS caught the attention of the media, Congress, and the world. With that, cultural property was at the forefront of current events and suddenly these issues were being examined by people who ordinarily would not have been aware of them. The looting and trafficking of antiquities by ISIS has been the focus of two bills in Congress and of multiple conferences and articles. It has concerned art historians, archaeologists, museums, collectors, lawyers, lawmakers, law enforcement, and the public in general.

Our goal for this panel was to bring together those different voices and opinions and have a constructive conversation that includes all those perspectives. I have no doubt that our panelists will illustrate how these many views can find common ground, but also differ in how to address this problem. More importantly, we hope this panel will highlight how this conversation must continue, and must take into account here differing points of view.

I’ll turn it over now to our moderator, Judith Dobrzynski, a veteran reporter who has written about these issues over the years.

Remarks by Judith Dobrzynski:

Thank you, Samantha.

Good evening. As Samantha indicated, the title of this evening’s panel, “Rethinking Antiquities, Restitution, and Collecting in the Time of ISIS,” is a charged one. It is both fraught and full of potential. It’s fraught, of course, because the subject of antiquities collecting causes emotions to run high. Over the past few decades an activity that was once valued as honoring the ancients and preserving our past has instead become increasingly associated with looting and the destruction of archaeological context. Since ISIS raised its ugly head a few years ago, antiquities collecting has become even more deplored, fingered as a source of funding for terrorism. In January, the New York Times asserted that, and I quote, “the trafficking of antiquities is a crime that reached new levels as the Islamic State militant group took control of new parts of Syria and Iraq and destroyed and looted ancient sites.” It added that, “the booming trade in antiquities is estimated to be worth billions of dollars a year.”

The Guardian, CBS News, National Geographic, and other media outlets have also published articles that make similar statements with similar numbers, many of which seem to have been plucked from thin air. The demand for all kinds of antiquities, not just those from the Middle East, in the legitimate markets, appears to be much lower. Even if you inflate those totals by multiples, it would be hard to put the volume in one year anywhere close to a billion dollars, let alone billions of dollars, year after year. Still, at one forum I attended on the subject last fall, an archaeologist went so far as to propose a ban on all antiquities trading, no matter when or where the objects were excavated, or what their provenance was. Others have, to the astonishment of many, said that looting was a bigger problem than the outright destruction of cultural heritage.

And yet the subject is full of potential as well. Because of the great deal of misinformation circulating about looted antiquities, we sometimes find this bad information leading to bad policy, or not allowing us to correct what bad policy exists. If experts like our panelists tonight can help set the record straight, with facts and not opinions- and these are the standards I’m holding you to- and clear, well-argued solutions, perhaps we can change the thinking about the collecting and restituting of antiquities. For example, is the idea of safe haven, in which museums stash in their storage antiquities from conflict zones, until they can be repatriated, a good thing? Or not? Does the current political situation in the Middle East, which shows little sign of a near-term resolution, suggest that spreading culture among museums worldwide should be seen as a good thing?

I recall a trip that I made to Japan two years ago, where I saw in its National Museum many ancient objects on view that were labeled as gifts of the Iraqi government, gifts of the Egyptian government. Should we share more now, because of ISIS? Should we distribute objects around the world as insurance that some of them, at least, are preserved? When is collecting appropriate, and when not? What should be restituted, and when?

We have on our panel tonight four people who can answer those and other questions. They are, loosely speaking, a cop, a dealer, a museum director, and a lawyer. Who else do you need to solve problems? Their biographies are listed in your programs, so I won’t read them all to you, I will simply tell you who is who up here, and in what order they will speak. Each will talk for ten minutes, and then we’ll have a discussion and some questions. Our speakers are, from left to right, James McAndrew, a forensic specialist who previously headed the Department of Homeland Security’s International Art and Antiquities Theft Investigation Program, Randall Hixenbaugh, a New York-based antiquities dealer and member of the International Association of Dealers in Ancient Art, Gary Vikan, a former director of the Walters Art Museum, former member of the US Cultural Property Advisory Committee, and an expert in Byzantine Art, and William Pearlstein, a founder of a New York-based art law firm, and the author of the White Paper, ”A Proposal to Reform U.S. Law and Policy Relating to the International Exchange of Cultural Property,”

Let us now begin.

Remarks by James McAndrew:

Hello! I have all the answers. You don’t need the rest of these panelists, just listen right here. Ten minutes, it’ll all be cured.

Thank you very much for the introduction; I want to thank the Cardozo Law School, and Fame, and all you here who took time out of your schedule to come and listen. I think we’re in a really pivotal, transitional, but also very positive space right now. Back in 2000, I took over the International Art Theft Program, actually ran and developed it for the Department of Homeland Security. I trained over four hundred agents in art theft, I travelled the world as a government spokesman and expert in the field, and I dealt with countries all around the world on six continents, helping them understand what US law enforcement and US law need in order to help a foreign country claim a looted or stolen work of art or antiquity.

It was great experience, it put this whole thing on the map for the United States, because there were no other agencies in our country that were doing this kind of work. You know the FBI have an art crime team; they didn’t start that until 2004. I always say that was on the heels of them being jealous of all the success that we had at Homeland Security. That being said, I love that art crime team as well, and have worked some cases with them collectively. You see, what was happening from 2000 on, what gave me my first job was working with the Italian Carabinieri against the Gianfranco Becchina case that you all probably know about. They put this on the map, along with their investigation of the Medici conspiracy case: the claim of provenance. We all know how historically, even though that was a requirement, it wasn’t really a requirement. Even now, our laws don’t say you have to have provenance; it’s not a legal requirement. The substance of the documents and information is important, and it also helps up the value, but it’s still not on the books as a legal requirement.

Moving forward from the days of the Italian case and the Carabinieri, I put together the art theft program. I was telling my agency at the time that this is more than just a niche little area for one agent with five years left to retire, who’ll walk up and down Park Avenue his last few days, collecting and recovering works of art once in a while. In fact, when I thought back to my days working narcotics investigations, money-laundering investigations, terrorism investigations, weapons investigations, all the times I had search warrants and arrest warrants, I had groups doing the work with me. When we went into someone’s house, someone’s office or business or storage facility, looking for guns, weapons, and drugs, I probably walked by a hundred, or maybe a thousand, five million dollar paintings. Never thought to even look at the wall, take it off the wall and seize it, because it was probably bought with the illicit proceeds.

So it was a big light-bulb moment for myself. I went back to Washington, D.C., told them my story, and they understood what I was saying. Unfortunately, 9/11 happened. There was a lot of talk about Muhammad Atta – although it’s not a true story, I found out after the fact – but there was all this in the news about Muhammad Atta asking to sell antiquities to fund the purchase of an airplane. This was reported by some German media outlet, and so on and so forth.

What you see from that point forward, I would say, was the art world in a state of transition, and as we speak today, it still is. It’s good: here we are, with this organization, talking to you about our experiences. There used to be polarization between collecting antiquities and the archaeologists, anti-collecting. But really we need to get the parties together. What we see happening now, one way and the other – we’re like a child just starting to walk- is that no one can do it alone. Law enforcement can’t do it alone, the laws definitely can’t do it alone, the governments can’t do it alone. You need the collective efforts of everybody in the trade: the dealers, the museums, the institutions, the auction houses, the scholars, the academics, the law enforcement, and the governments. That’s what we see happening: as we speak, there’s a case being brought into the International Court in the Hague against a gentleman from Mali for looting and destroying archaeological objects, and that particular case they’re going to try as a war crime. That’s a monumental step that wasn’t even thought of two years ago, let alone today. That’s an example of where this is all heading, and would give countries more power and more reason to collaborate in this area and be more successful in trying to identify the illicit networks involved in the theft of archaeological objects or paintings and bring them to justice.

Another example I want to talk to you about is a recent article, dated February 26th, from the Guardian, called “How Western Art Collectors Are Helping to Fund ISIS.” I’m sure most of you read this in the paper- they think their own position is pretty strong. I’m not going to comment further on that, it’s their prerogative, it’s fine. Then you have the Art Newspaper, today, March 1st, “What do we really know about Islamic State’s role in illicit antiquities trade?” This type of articles that comes out in the news just helps to foster more thought, more decision, more communication, more arguments, more people jockeying for positions or just trying to figure out what’s going on.

I know I have just a few moments, but let me talk about what I know. I know that the numbers are greatly inflated, as far as how much looting is going on. Back in 2000 when I took over the program I first heard- at a conference at Interpol, in France, in front of thirty or forty countries talking about antiquities theft and investigation- someone put out there that it’s a six billion dollar trade. That number had carried on since then, to today. I did some research on that and found out that during an ICOM, (International Council of Museums,) convention in the late 80s, one of the officials involved in the conference happened to use that six billion dollar number to make a point. That number wasn’t based on hard data or fact or information or anything like that. It was put out there as a sound bite, to put his point across, and people jumped on it. On the heels of the Carabinieri’s success with the Medici case, all of a sudden the idea of looting and archaeological site destruction came on the front lines.

The six billion dollar number is not an accurate number. Other numbers you hear about lately are the import statistics: that there are gross increases in the import of Syrian and Iraqi objects in the last five years into the United States. I am a legacy US Customs Agent, I know Customs extremely well. The importation of artworks, and the harmonized numbers – each item imported into the United States is given a harmonized number- that system is not tailored specifically for antiquities. They say antiques, they say gold, silver, other, or personal effects; those are the categories. As a journalist, if you want to you can manipulate those numbers any way you would like to, and say that the amount of imports have increased. They probably have increased; that doesn’t say that the objects in those imports are antiquities, let alone looted antiquities. They could be other objects. That kind of analysis has to be drilled down further; it’s possible, but it’s a daunting task for people to take on. What you seen in the press now – these numbers of antiquities coming in – it’s not accurate.

When I was responsible for the art program – during the two Gulf Wars against Iraq – I saw the same kind of comments and frenzy, saying that boatloads and boatloads of artifacts were going to leave Iraq, heading right for London and right for the United States. “They’re heading to New York – get ready for containers to open up, they’re gonna fill up Park Avenue, Madison Avenue, they’re going to fill up their coffers.”

One of the tools that law enforcement uses very well is the press. Every time we made a seizure in a criminal case we did a press release. Any investigation made during my ten years, especially during the Iraq War, any time there was a seizure or enforcement action, it came to my attention. In ten years of the Iraq war, we had a total of three seizures. The seizures were Fedex packages containing small level, cylinder seals, cuneiform tablets, and foundation cones. They weren’t the fifteen foot lamassus, or the stone statues, or the huge steles. We would have loved to have them, to have made those seizures. We would love to get that and give it back. But that didn’t happen. I’m not saying pieces didn’t come here or don’t come here on some level; but realistically, not in the monumental numbers that are out there in the press. The dealers and collectors learnt that lesson during the Iraq Gulf Wars. You think they’re going to ignore that, and hope more boatloads come in from Syria and Iraq from ISIS and ISIL? They’re smarter than that.

There will be some, I’m sure, but paranoia just inflames a discussion that doesn’t need to be, because it’s not happening. The proof is in the pudding: if there were seizures and arrests, objects coming from Syria and Iraq, during the time of ISIL, law enforcement agencies would boast, would advertise them in press releases.

I guess my time is up – thank you very much.

Remarks by Randall Hixenbaugh:

I am Randall Hixenbaugh, an ancient art dealer specializing in the art of the ancient world, particularly the objects we find in the Mediterranean and Near East. I have a gallery in New York dealing in antiquities; I’m one of the few remaining antiquities dealers that is even active in this trade. I am also an appraiser: I’ve performed appraisals of antiquities for US court cases, US customs seizures, and for a number of US museums. As such, I’m pleased to have been invited to this conference, because the antiquities trade, although much maligned and much spoken of, is very often not given any voice whatsoever in this debate.

Of course, as a dealer, I am deeply concerned with the ongoing destruction of our shared ancient past in the Middle East, in countries like Syria, Iraq, and Egypt. I am at the same time astounded and confused by the media portrayals of this situation and the outlandish claims that Judith and James have already mentioned. I am hoping to, in my few moments here, demystify the antiquities trade.

The antiquities trade is certainly one of the smallest sectors of the overall art market. It is also perhaps the most heavily scrutinized and heavily regulated. The antiquities trade has never exceeded, in the licit, known market that one can research, 200 million dollars in sales annually. That would count all of the major auction sales, all of the art fair sales, private sales, Internet sales, combined: 200 million dollars. That’s a good year for the antiquities trade. It is a secondary market; it’s not that much different to dealing in antiques or Old Master paintings. We’re buying from old collections, that’s what our clients are looking for, that’s what the market demands, that’s what museums at the end of the day, if they are to buy themselves or accept as donations, are looking for as well. The sources of the materials that interest the market are the many objects that, for instance, Christie’s and Sotheby’s sold at auction right here in New York and in London in the last hundred years. There are quite a lot of antiquities out there. Hundreds of thousands of antiquities, in fact, millions, if we talk about ancient coins, are legally available and accessible in the Western marketplace.

Provenance is of extreme importance when valuing antiquities. Nobody is going to spend a large sum of money on a piece that they feel they would not have clear title to. We can see this just by analyzing the auction market: objects with good provenance that were published decades ago will sell for much higher prices than similar objects, and in fact objects with dubious provenances often do not sell at all.

There was an auction in Los Angeles today that I briefly looked at online, with a number of antiquities that were poorly catalogued – there were fakes and there were real objects – virtually fifty percent of those objects didn’t sell, and the ones that did sell sold for a fraction of their asking price. Objects that are not offered in a proper market with proper provenance are not what collectors or dealers are looking for.

I’d like to speak a little bit about the evidence for these vigorous unsupported claims that both Judith and James have already mentioned, the “billion dollar trade in antiquities.” There is no established correlation between the destruction, the looting, and the iconoclasm that we’re seeing in countries like Syria and the demand in the antiquities trade. The antiquities trade simply could not absorb masses and masses of low-level, unimportant antiquities. They’re already available: Israel, for instance, has a perfectly legal trade in antiquities. A tourist can walk into a shop in Jerusalem any day, and buy antiquities like we are being told ISIS is making billions of dollars off of. The market demand is simply insufficient to explain the rampant looting and destruction.

We’ve seen claims in the press in the last year or two, beginning with two billions dollars, getting up to four billion dollars. Just last fall, at an event here in New York, a leading proponent of an anti-antiquities trade group held an event at the Asia Society, where when pressed for a number a spokesperson from this group said, offhandedly, six billion dollars is the amount that’s left Syria.

To put that in perspective, the International Association of Dealers in Ancient Art did real market research in 2013, collected all of the sales results from all of the major and minor auctions, all of the dealer sales, all of the art fair sales, and came up with a total of 150 million euros changing hands in the antiquities trade in 2013. Those numbers were rounded up. If we allow for the exchange rate and round those numbers up yet again in case we missed something, we could arrive at 200 million for a very good year in the antiquities trade. To put that in perspective, the 6 billion dollar number that’s been bandied about would represent the total take of the last fifty years of the antiquities trade worldwide. It is simply absurd, and laughable. Unfortunately, it’s what brought us all to this room, and it’s what’s driving public opinion and public policy about this.

I’d like to address the actual evidence that we’ve seen emerge in the press and various sources. In May 2015, the Abu Sayyaf raid: this was a US military operation that raided the compound of an individual that was thought to be the head of the antiquities racket in Syria. What we found here were a number of ludicrous tourist fakes that would never be described as forgeries, just things that weren’t antiquities at all, a lot of broken pot sherds and minor terra-cotta objects, bronze bracelets, some late Roman coins and some Islamic silver coins. If we total up the value of that – and again, I’d like to point out those objects that were actually antiquities could be bought any day of the week in Israel, a country that neighbors Syria and has a perfectly legal and legitimate antiquities trade up to the present day – if we totaled all that together and rounded it up, and said retail rather than fair market value, there was maybe ten thousand dollars’ worth of objects recovered in the Abu Sayyaf raid. And they were still in Syria, not in the Western marketplace.

That shows me that if this is the leadership for the antiquities racket, we don’t have anything to worry about; these people are completely inept.

The next piece of evidence that came forth was an investigative journalistic piece by CBS news, where they sent a female journalist to Turkey to pose as an American collector looking to buy Syrian objects – which is a little ridiculous, because American collectors buy in a legitimate marketplace, they don’t run around Istanbul looking for objects. She was shown seventeen objects, all of which were ludicrous forgeries, things that, as an appraiser and as an art dealer, we would never have even suspected to be real objects once we actually saw photographs of them. There was one object, a mosaic, and this journalist was at a Met event last fall and spoke a little but about this particular mosaic, which was shown to her by the dealers, they rolled it out onto the floor (I don’t understand how you can roll a mosaic out on the floor). She said something to the effect that this was a hundred thousand dollar piece. Within a few moments, the price dropped to ten thousand dollars, and she was contacted months later by these dealers still trying to sell her this piece. So clearly there’s not a rampant trade in this sort of thing.

The last one that we saw came to light in March 2015 in a raid on a Bulgarian forger’s workshop near Shumen, Bulgaria. This raid produced an amount of Roman fakes and a fake of a Sumerian relief. As an appraiser and a dealer I could say that this was clearly copying the Standard of Ur, which is in the British museum. They also brought in some stylistic elements from a piece which is in the Iraq Museum in Baghdad, as well. This was dismissed as a forgery back in March 2015. The New York Times re-ran a photo of this piece on January 9th, 2016, and had it captioned, “if authentic, if genuine, this is part of the billion dollar trade.“

The object is not authentic and it’s not genuine and it’s not worth anything. It was never in Iraq. It was made in a shed in Bulgaria, I think.

That’s all of our evidence; that’s it, out of all of the thousands and thousands of objects that have changed hands in public auctions, gone through hands in passport controls in any number of countries, (and I can tell you, as an antiquities dealer, it is very difficult to import Near Eastern antiquities). I have essentially stopped buying, legally, in the European market, Near Eastern antiquities, because I can’t pay for the litigation to prove to US customs when they come in that I acquired the object legally.

Those three pieces of information represent all that we have seen. Total value, maybe ten thousand dollars at best, a far cry from the six billion that we’re often talking about. As far as the market is concerned, Syrian objects are not typically in high demand. Syria was a center of ancient glassmaking; ancient glass is common, found all over the place. It’s not site-specific to Syria even if it was made in Syria in antiquity. For an instance of how weak the market is for this sort of thing, I have had a Syrian glass bottle on my website and my gallery on 23rd street today, that I bought from a New York institution that had it donated them in 1910 – it was acquired in the 1890s in Syria – a Roman glass cosmetic bottle of Al-Samaria, or unguentarium, with provenance, it left Syria in the 1890s. It’s been on my website for ten years. It’s five hundred dollars – it’s still available, if anybody’s interested.

You literally cannot give this stuff to US museums. As an appraiser, I have found this unfortunate circumstance many times, that people who lovingly put together a collection on their travels in the Middle East in the late 1950s and 1960s who would now like to donate the collection to their alma mater, or to a museum, are turned away. That’s not going to happen now, they are turned away, even regardless of provenance; museums simply do not want to see Near Eastern objects. It’s bad press for them.

One last thing: as far as the situation on the ground in Syria, we are seeing holes in the ground. I will admit to that, there is definitely digging going on. Digging does not mean finding. I worked as an archaeologist for years in Tunisia in the 1990s. A group of fifty people can excavate a site for an entire summer and find nothing of value. The sites that we’re talking about: Apamea, Dura-Europos, Tell Halaf, Tell Brak, Palmyra, these sites were heavily excavated, beginning a hundred years ago. All the goodies are out, they’re in Damascus, they’re in Western museums now. There really is not that much left to find there, except that these ancient necropolis will yield gold: little gold wire earrings, precious metals. Those objects we know ISIS is looking for because they’re looking to start forming a currency. They are not going to come to the Western trade. Gold has intrinsic bullion value, it can be melted down and sold in any market.

From the antiquities trade looking out, that’s the evidence, and I find it not very strong.

Remarks by Gary Vikan:

Thank you very much. My name is Gary Vikan, and I am going to show some pictures, with any luck, and you’re going to tell me if you see them up there.

I am going to be talking about two things, one is safe haven and the other is orphans. The puzzle I feel is the puzzle that arises from the core of my book, called Sacred and Stolen, that will be out in the fall. It tells the backstory of my life as an art museum director, and much of it has to do with loot than came out of Northern Cyprus after the invasion by the Turkish army in the summer of 1974. That’s kind of a benchmark by which I see what’s going on now in Syria. I’ll use two flagship or star examples: Kanakaria, which was a mediocre church from the beginning – both of these monuments are from about AD 500 – Kanakaria was a second or third-tier Byzantine church that happened to keep its mosaics by virtue of the fact that the caliphate was co-sovereign with Cyrpus during the last great iconoclastic period, which was Christians destroying Christian art. The irony of that is wonderful to me.

St. Simon is a much more significant Byzantine monument, again, around AD 500, huge church, floor plan as large as Hagia Sofia, a pilgrimage shrine at the heart of the Massif Calcaire. This is an area of Northern Syria that was populated by Byzantine villages that produced olive oil. It was immensely prosperous from the fourth to the seventh century, then gradually abandoned. You can walk among these villages and see all of the shops, all of the churches and even the hotels (or versions of hotels) still intact. One wonders what is going on there; I have no idea, I cannot get an answer as to what the present state is of Massif Calcaire, the forty villages, and the Shrine of St. Simeon.

This is Michel van Rijn, he’s holding a bit of the Kanakaria mosaics, he’s looking very crafty. The little red arrow shows where is came from. He was offering this for sale in Amsterdam in the summer of 1988. I ponder why that came to the market so fast, why the price was what it was, and what the equivalent market is right now, and where anything is going: both the supply side, and the demand side, and what the nature of the market is itself, and how different it seems to be, now, from what it was at that time.

If you can, imagine that mosaic being sold in July of 1988 – actually four mosaics – for 350,000 to the middle man, one million to the American buyer, a five million dollar appraisal, and then being offered legitimately, and openly, to the Getty museum the following October. A series of markups: three-fifty, one million, five million, twenty million. That tells you something about the nature of the market, but it also tells you that in 1988 a major museum could consider seriously the prospect of buying the inside of a Byzantine church that was stolen, and published by Dumbarton Oaks. Very different from now.

The other thing to keep in mind are two truths: one, that there is an active trade out of Northern Syria, of Byzantine Syria, that preceded the civil war, that preceded ISIS. Near twins to the two objects you see here: the one at the top is from Dumbarton Oaks, they bought it in Beirut in 1946, the one at the bottom was looted in Northern Syria in 1908, Henry Walters bought it as a large set of Byzantine silver in 1929 – near twins to these two objects have been in circulation in the last ten or fifteen years. There is an active, small trade out of Northern Syria that preceded the civil war and has nothing at all to do with ISIS.

I think this is a very interesting map, because it shows you that section that I am preoccupied with, that part of Byzantine Northern Syria where so much of this material comes from – and by the way, a stone sculpture lying on the ground is heavy, but it can be picked up. They don’t have to dig a hole to get it. You see that blue circle there? That is part of rebel territory, it has nothing to do with ISIS. When you begin to consider who is in control of that area, and the prospect of things coming out from that area, as opposed to the project of those objects being destroyed by ISIS, it raises the level of thinking about the prospect of safe haven.

An example: Dominique de Menil, in the summer of 1983, dealt directly with a Turkish smuggler, and she bought the entire fresco interior of a Byzantine church of the 14th century, a small chapel just outside the town of Lisi. She sent thirty seven fragments of the fresco to London, and over a period of four years they were restored, at a cost of nearly four million dollars. She then brought the frescos down to Houston. By the way, here she is with Aydin Dikman for reasons I can’t explain, Aydin Dikman, his name is so well known, but there is no photograph of him on the internet actually looking into the camera. Very clever guy. This wonderfully gentle, bright woman bought these frescos, restored the frescos, brought them to Houston and put them in a modernist chapel, which was actually consecrated. They stayed there for fourteen years, then went back, finally, and that;s the picture you see on your right, with the two ecclesiastics, to Nicosia. An example of a private individual, with her own money, dealing directly in that case with the government of Nicosia, buying looted antiquities directly from a smuggler, restoring them at her own expense and brining them back.

Shifting gears slightly: on my coffee table at home is a book called Ancient West Mexico: Unknown Past, and on the upper left corner of the cover of that book is a Jalisco ball player. That sculpture, which made the cover of the 1998 exhibition in Chicago, is on the living room table of a close friend less than a mile from my house. By the current guidelines of the Association of Art Museum Directors, she and her husband cannot give that, better yet, an affiliated director of a museum – a director who is a member of the AAMD – cannot take that object in to the collection, because it doesn’t have paper trail back to before 1970. Now, if you read the nuanced letter of the revised AAMD guidelines of 2013, it allows for a way of thinking about accepting objects like this with the notion that there may be overriding circumstances that would allow you to accept the work. Has it been published? Has it been exhibited? Is it on the internet? Have you talked to the country of origin?

I think what you’ll hear from Bill, after me, is that thee is one overriding value that needs to be focused on, and that’s transparency. The extent that objects in the trade without provenance and without documentation are part of the public domain- in so far as they are on the internet, countries of origin are made aware of the fact that they’re on the internet, and potential claims can be made at any time – in so far as that transparency is an integral part of the relations between collectors and museums – that will lead, I think, to a solution for these orphans. But we have to take seriously the notion that that transparency deserves some reward: and that would be repose of title. Thank you.

Remarks by William Pearlstein:

My name is William Pearlstein; I’m a partner in Pearlstein and McCullough, a specialized art law firm in New York. I’ve been practicing in the international art trade for almost twenty years. I’d like to talk a little about context, about the context in which these issues have developed in Washington and in law.

Let’s agree that archaeological looting is bad, that’s where the discussion begins, it’s not where it ends. There are five basic points of view.

Cultural nationalists say that artifact-rich nations have the right to nationalize every cultural object within their borders, in or out of the ground. Most source nations have some sort of national patrimony law. In general, constructive ownership and theft are created by legislative decree and not by taking an object from an owner’s physical possession.

Cultural internationalists say that the lawful circulation of objects among nations serves a universal educational and civilizing purpose. Should this circulation be limited to government loans to museums or should it also promote private ownership and a legal market among dealers, collectors and auction houses.

Archaeologists say that the preservation of archaeological context should be the preeminent policy goal. Only objects discovered in undisturbed stratigraphic context preserve the full spectrum of information for scientific analysis. Objects without context are stripped of meaning and devoid of content. Unprovenanced antiquities are inherently suspect, presumably looted and must be shunned. The archaeological goal is to reduce demand by enforcing the national retention of cultural materials. The most militant archaeologists seem to advocate an “ivory crush” for unprovenanced materials.

The late Andrew Emmerich, an important art dealer, expressed a free market position. He said that whoever is willing to pay the most for an object should own it. In this view, the preservation of the object is paramount and context is secondary. Emmerich wrote that multiple finds often yield redundant objects and repetitive, duplicative context. The archaeologist shudders but is Emmerich wrong? The view that an object’s esthetic quality and art historical value are preeminent probably prevailed through the early 1980s. Only thereafter did the view come to prevail that objects should be valued foremost in context as scientific data points.

Finally, there’s a middle way that tries to balance the competing demands of cultural nationalism, cultural internationalism, archaeology, and private ownership.

The US started down this middle path. The US sent a distinguished Delegation to Paris to negotiate the 1970 UNESCO Convention; it included Paul Bator, a prominent Harvard Law School professor, and Mark Feldman, then a young State Department lawyer. UNESCO is heavily weighted towards cultural nationalism. Archaeology is hardly mentioned. UNESCO does not contemplate universal national retention. Instead it focuses on a subset of objects that are important to the national heritage and it contemplates private ownership and export markets. Nevertheless, the US Delegation did not allow the US to hand a “blank check” to foreign nations and automatically enforce over broad patrimony laws.

Implementing UNESCO into US law took 13 years. This process pitted the State Department against the cultural internationalists, led by New York Senator Daniel Moynihan, Professor Bator and a New York-based dealers group, including Emmerich. The internationalists were concerned that, without meaningful checks and balances, State Department would trade import restrictions on cultural objects for concessions on other foreign policy issues.

When Congress passed the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act in ’83, the internationalists thought they had won. The US would not hand a blank check to foreign nations. The CPIA’s concept of stolen property is limited to theft from inventory, not theft by decree. The US would reserve judgment on foreign requests for import restrictions. US import restrictions would be limited to “culturally significant” archaeological objects and “unique” ethnological materials that are “first discovered” in and “subject to export control” by a particular country. An 11 person Presidential Advisory Council, representing dealers, archaeologists, museums and the public, must make threshold determinations as to Pillage, Self-Help, Concerted International Response, Mitigation, and International Exchange. Under the CP1A, a plain reading, import restrictions are supposed to act as a selective filter, specific to the facts and circumstances, focused and finite. Importantly, repose is conferred on objects that have been published and exhibited by US museums or long-held in private collections.

While Congress was enacting an internationalist policy, US Federal Courts were enabling cultural nationalism. Under the McClain cases, a holder can be liable under US criminal law if he knows that an object was exported in violation of a foreign ownership law. That is the “blank check” rule rejected by the US Delegation to UNESCO.

In 1985, Senator Moynihan proposed S.605, a bill that would have limited liability under US criminal law to theft from possession and not by decree. A looting crIsis would be addressed by import restrictions under the CPIA and not by general criminal laws. Professor Bator testified in favor of the bill but State and Justice testified against. Justice stressed the need to preserve a wide scope for enforcement and gave assurances that the need to prove criminal intent would protect the innocent. The bill failed. In consequence, two theories can now govern the legality of importing the same object, and criminal liability can be triggered by imports that are expressly permitted by the CPIA. This makes no sense. Yet in the Schultz case, a Federal Court of Appeals declined to resolve the tension between the conflicting theories and was content to let general criminal remedies override the CPIA, with its well-considered customs procedures, carve-outs and safe-harbors. Principles of comity ought to inform a US court’s decision whether to enforce foreign laws, with the fundamental question being whether enforcement would be consistent with US policy. But again, the US has two inconsistent policies governing the importation of unprovenanced cultural material: the Congressional policy, adopted after careful consideration, that seeks to balance the interests of cultural exchange, national heritage and archaeology, and the Judicial policy, which is an ad hoc extension of general criminal law, and tests only whether a defendant knew that the country of export claimed ownership.

Today, the pendulum has swung in favor of cultural nationalism, national retention, restitution and repatriation. The centrist, international legacy of Moynihan, Bator and Feldman is dead. The worst fears of the internationalists have come true. US import restrictions have become blanket embargoes on anything old. State Department responds to demands from its foreign clientele. State’s bias against American collectors is overt. State routinely restricts imports of material that is privately-owned and freely traded in countries like Italy and China.

US enforcement agencies have come to rely on civil forfeiture, a process under which objects can be forfeited and restituted without any proof of critical facts, foreign law or the importer’s knowledge. The high burden of proof and the bar to prosecutorial abuse stressed by Justice at the Hearings on S.605 have disappeared.

Yet the impulse of US enforcement agencies to restitute has nothing to do with the best interests of the object, the preservation of context or the protection of national cultural heritage. It’s simply a reflex to send putatively “stolen” property back to the putative owner.

The AAMD’s 1970 Rule has made orphans of hundreds of thousands of under-provenanced objects. It was disingenuous of AAMD in 2008 to retroactively require documentation of ownership to 1970 for personal property that was never previously documented. Should we now try to restore legitimacy to these objects by adopting a web-based system of publication and registration? Maybe, but not unless transparency is rewarded with repose and a fair dispute resolution process. Do we restrict orphaned objects solely to the private market and lose the benefits afforded by wider publication and exhibition? Or should we simply crush them?

The state of affairs is troubling.

US law and policy currently favors cultural nationalism over international exchange and places objects at risk without protecting context. This is not where we were headed in 1983. So I leave you with the question: is this where we should be now?

Thank you.

Further Remarks by Judith Dobrzynski:

Thank you all, that was great. If I had to link all of your presentations, I would say that each of you wanted to debunk a few things that were out there in the media and elsewhere – but you can’t blame the media because they don’t make it up, right? We have our sources, maybe not always the best sources, but they don’t make it up. I’m going to ask a few other questions that maybe you want to debunk or maybe you want to say they’re correct.

Another proposition the circulates a lot is that organized crime is involved with the sale of these artifacts dug up by states like ISIS and the Kurds and elsewhere. James, would you comment on that? What do we know about the involvement of organized crime?

James McAndrew:

You mean traditional organized crime in the United States? The Mafia, for example?

Judith Dobrzynski:

That’s what some people think!

James McAndrew:

I don’t think there’s any information out there saying that they are involved, but no one knows if they are or they aren’t. I don’t think anyone’s given them a clean slate, necessarily, but there’s no one that I know of that has any information that connects organized crime or the Mafia in the United States.

Judith Dobrzynski:

Or anywhere else? Interpol must get involved with this.

James McAndrew:

Organized crime is in use as a very broad-based term. What is organized crime? What is a conspiracy- what defines that? You’re going to find people working together: the looters, the middle man, someone has to get the piece out of the country, whether it’s India, China, Iraq, Greece, anyplace. Is that an organized crime syndicate? By one definition, probably yes. Are we talking about Hollywood organized crime, or just organized groups?

Judith Dobrzynski:

We don’t know too much, basically.

James McAndrew:

I think a lot of the information is derived from the source country, with US law enforcement assisting with that as best it could. Since the matter primarily happens within the source country, US law enforcement is going to rely on the information and the intelligence that comes out of that country, and then they can build on it from there.

Judith Dobrzynski:

Randall, I have a question for you. As I mentioned in the introduction, archaeologists, some of them, at least, would like if not a total ban, a moratorium on trading. Would you talk about the ramifications of that? What would happen if we had a total ban on trading?

Randall Hixenbaugh:

First off, in the case of this ISIS issue, if we were to make it illegal to buy, sell, appreciate, or even look at Near Eastern antiquities, right here today in the United States, tomorrow morning the backhoes, and the bulldozers, and the trucks full of men with shovels would be right back at it. As I say, I don’t see a correlation between the desperate subsistence digging we’re seeing in not just Syria, but Iraq and Egypt, and market demand. It’s just too difficult to get objects to market, and they wouldn’t be sought after anyway. What I think archaeologists are forgetting is that there are hundreds of thousands of objects; guys like Edgar Banks, who was a dealer in the turn of the the century, 1910s, who was going to the Ottoman Empire and buying crate loads of cuneiform tablets and cylinder seals, to come back and sell to theological seminaries in the Midwest, and museums, private collectors, travelling shows. Those objects keep emerging in the market. It’s not unusual for me, as an appraiser and a dealer, to go examine a collection, and while talking to the heir of the collectors, or the widow or widower, and be told, “Oh, we bought these on a trip to Beirut, a trip to Cairo in the 1950s.” There’s no documents for these objects. These objects are not illicit; they were bought in a completely legal, transparent marketplace in countries that had legal trades at the time.

That type of ban would be an absolute disaster. We can’t bury our heads in the sand. I’m alway puzzled by why archaeologists, who are academics, want to bury their heads in the sand and not look at material. Archaeology is only one way to study the ancient past. There’s art history, there’s philology, from which most of our information comes, the study of ancient texts themselves, epigraphy. Philologists and epigraphers and numismatists and art historians can derive enormous amounts of information from an object that has no context whatsoever. A Greek vase, we can tell you exactly who painted it, where and when, regardless of what Etruscan tomb it came out of. That’s certainly true of a Roman coin as well, it’s true of a cuneiform tablet as well. Very often the information is intrinsic and contained on the object.

A blanket ban would serve absolutely nobody, and I think it would have a terrible effect on a number of people that lovingly formed important collections that they intended to donate to their alma mater or a university or a museum. It’s completely a step in the wrong direction to advocate anything as draconian as that.

Judith Dobrzynski:

Gary, I would guess that your views are not typical of most museum directors, but would you talk a little about the dynamic within the Association of Art Museum Directors, and how they’ve come to where they are.

Gary Vikan:

I think it’s fair to say that museum directors are cautious by nature. They tend to be the hedgehogs of the world, and not the foxes, if that means anything to you. One of the last things I did as director was to accept two collections of unprovenanced pre-Columbian works. It was totally a coincidence that the contacts came my way exactly six months after the AAMD changed its policy, to make 1970 a kind of bright point. I thought to myself, I’ve been involved in this business for thirty years now, doing things in a way that I find appropriate for the public good, and I decided I wasn’t going to change my mode of behavior simply because the rules around me were being changed. What I did was to develop a three-part approach. One is due diligence, we needed to find out everything we could about the object. Two, and this is the most important part, transparency. There were four hundred objects in all. We put them on the internet, on the Walters site, immediately. The third is good faith engagement. That was tested fairly quickly, because the government of Peru put a claim on a magnificent gold monkey head from Sipan. No question, the thing was looted, and no question, it was a significant object that had meaning for Peru. The cultural attache for Peru came along with the FBI guy to the Walters, and we had a wonderful little talk, and I said to the Peruvian attache, would you like to look around the museum? He said yes, and I took him into storage and I took him into conservation, where he had the opportunity to see, “oh, that’s from Peru, isn’t it?” He saw all of the objects that we had, and in to the extent that that has value it has it in laying it open.

If someone has a claim, do it. Let it go back, if it needs to, but be open about it. What I dislike immensely about the old rules of the AAMD was, “we shall not knowingly acquire works of art that are exported from their country of origin in violation of their laws.”

I mean, when we’re graduate students, we go to college to learn how to know stuff, and put a premium on not knowing stuff. To the extent that I am an outlier and have been an outlier in the museum community, it’s in that candor and that approach to transparency. I would love to see more museum directors and trustees do it, because all it takes is a little bit of courage. I think we’ve moved the needle forward.

Judith Dobrzynski:

We’ll go to the audience in a bit, but I want to ask another question that maybe, William, you want to answer. Seems to me that the United States is doing a lot of this in isolation, in our laws, and obviously we can’t have extraterritoriality, but there’s little attempt to coordinate with places like Russia or Israel or China perhaps. What good does it do for us to have these laws, when it seems to just drive the trade to other parts of the world where things just go underground.

Gary Vikan:

I think Bill described the intent of the legislation of 1983 as a kind of middle ground – if we followed the rules of the Cultural Property Implementation Act, in CPAC, we would be in the right place. The third determination out of four is that we should not interdict or restrict the activities of American citizens who are in the business of trading art unless there is some salutary outcome. An outcome can only be good if we act in concert with other countries. It’s fine if we put import restrictions on things from Guatemala, but they’re being traded instead, and more actively, in Brussels, London, and Paris, then we’ve done nothing for Guatemala. In the meantime, we’ve deprived American citizens of the right to conduct their own business.

Judith Dobrzynski:

William, do you want to take off on that subject too?

William Pearlstein:

The concerted international response is probably one of the most contentious of the understandable determinations that the CPAC is required to make. I’ve heard from one of the past presidents – who’s not supposed to talk to outsiders, I guess – that the committee members want to do the right thing, they want to act, but they can’t, if they’re required to find a concerted international response and there never is one. In a plain reading, it’s wrong to say, well, somebody signed UNESCO. That’s kid stuff, it’s a shallow response. You’ve got to get a concerted international response read: reasonably similar customs barriers at the border, making reasonable allowances for national material. There should be different national processes, procedures, and laws, but there’s got to be a consistent international net or filter blocking the same materials.

Judith Dobrzynski:

There doesn’t seem to be any mechanism that’s working on that right now.

William Pearlstein:

I had a funny discussion with the New York City Bar Art Association: one of the speakers said there are currently restrictions on seventeen countries, I said fifteen. He said, does anyone here know how many countries are restricted? I’m sort of in the trade, so I said fifteen. He said, you’re wrong, it went up, now there are eighteen.

Judith Dobrzynski:

And there are a hundred and ninety plus countries in the world.

William Pearlstein:

Right! The State Department is active in creating requests for import restrictions. China has them, Iraq has them, Syria has them. They’re deserved, in many of these cases. Emergency restrictions are unquestioned, in a crisis. The question is, what is the rest of the world doing about it? Should we be acting unilaterally? In certain cases yes, in certain cases, no.

As Gary said, if the ’83 act were followed to its letter and its spirit, we’d be in a lot better place. Instead, I think what’s happened is that State has tried to cram a very aggressive, radical agenda into the confines of a centrist statute. And it doesn’t hold up under scrutiny. That’s the one thing I did, as a lawyer, I looked at the import restrictions, I went back to the legislative history, I went back to the diplomatic history of UNESCO, and where we are now does not –

Judith Dobrzynskl:

– match up.

Gary Vikan:

Let me add that a lot of this takes place within the context of the operation of the Committee on Cultural Property, the President’s Advisory Committee, to the extent that that operated as it was intended to operate, things would work better. It does not.

Judith Dobrzynskl:

And why doesn’t it?

Gary Vikan:

Because it’s being manipulated by a strong point of view. I’ve sat in those rooms and I know exactly what’s going on.

Judith Dobrzynski:

Okay, we’ll take a few questions, but no speeches. [Laughter] So who has a question? Georgina?

Q: [inaudible]

Judith Dobrzynski:

Did everybody hear that? I’ll try to repeat it. Is the black market absorbing all these?

Randall Hixenbaugh:

We hear these outlandish claims, and there’s often a refusal to ask the actual marketplace the auctioneers, the dealers, what the numbers are. In the same conversation it’s often mentioned that we can’t know the black market. We can sort of know some bits of information about the black market: it is surely smaller, much smaller, than the licit market. Art collectors in general are savvy people. When I sell a piece to somebody, they want import documents, export documents, Art Loss Register documents, full proof of provenance. It’s a trade in which I actually have to show somebody, very often, exactly where I bought an object, exactly what I paid for it, and how long ago, when I sell it to them. They know exactly how much money I made off of the transaction. There’s not a whole lot of trades like that.

The idea that there’s a nefarious group of collectors out there, which I have never come into contact with, that are looking for objects that have no paper trail, no import documentation, and on top of that are willing to pay top dollar for it, seems ludicrous to me. I wish that the market was that voracious. I wish we had people coming in and saying, I love it, I’ll take it, I don’t care about the paperwork. But it simply doesn’t happen. Maybe twenty, thirty years ago it was like that. But I think the anti-antiquities trade advocates are fighting a battle that they won, back in 1970.

I’ll concede that there is probably an illicit trade somewhere, certainly, but it’s very difficult to import antiquities legally. When I jump through all of the hoops it takes to buy a piece at auction at Christie’s London and get it to New York, it’s often five, six months later, it’s Art Loss Register, import-export documents – triple jeopardy.

The piece was put in a public auction. Those catalogues are sent to the Carabinieri, they’re sent to the Supreme Council of Antiquities in Egypt, so that they can pull pieces that they find are suspect. That’s the first chance. Then it has to get an export license, that’s the second chance. At US customs, it’s looked at again, and it’s shown to the Egyptians and the Italians and whoever else. I just can’t imagine that anybody could buy important, valuable objects in an illicit marketplace, and collect that way.

Judith Dobrzynski:

Talking about the United States, there have certainly been a lot of, at least rumors, that Belgium, Switzerland, are places where you can get illegal antiquities.

James McAndrew:

I’m glad you brought that up, because it goes back to an article that I wrote in 2014 for The Art Newspaper. What we perceive as a black market, the rest of the world might not see that way.

For example, do the countries in the Middle East consider the exchange and trade and sale of pieces coming out of Syria and Iraq, even in the time of ISIL, do they consider that and illegal transaction? Of course, now they’re coming on board a little bit, but not much. Does Iran really care? Does Saudi Arabia really care? Israel has an open trade.

We put this clout on the black market. Obviously pieces are going somewhere, those that are not being destroyed, but we haven’t seen them to the levels that the media and the people who are anti-trade think they are coming to the market countries: the United States, the UK in particular. Do the Emirates care? My intelligence, that I’ve heard for ages and ages, until today, is that a lot of the primary pieces, like those in the Baghdad museum, remain in the Middle East.

I did an undercover operation where I recovered the statue of Entemena stolen from the Baghdad Museum. It was a covert operation, run in the Middle East, and it was being hidden in a farm in Syria. It never left the Middle East.

When you hear the term “black market,” that’s a targeted comment on the market of that country. Which is fine, we don’t want that to happen, we don’t want a black market, and you heard a dealer saying no one’s interested in getting involved in those kinds of pieces. The pieces, when they wind up on other continents, in other parts of the world, do they perceive it the same way? That’s a question you have to ask, and I think, culturally, the answer is more than likely not. It’s not the same level of priority as we’re giving it.

You look at where the United States is, compared to where the conflict areas are – we’re on the other side of the world. We’re so removed from it. All the talk of legislation aside, all these wonderful things the US government is trying to show – they want to be in the game, and show that they’re trying to do something – we’re so far removed that there’s really not much we can do.

The attention has to happen at the neighboring countries’ borders in the Middle East where the conflict is happening, in order to slow down the movement of goods, and to identify the networks involved. They have to get that information to US law enforcement, to European law enforcement; that’s really wonderful to have. I don’t see that information – I’m not an agent anymore, I retired five years ago, but that being said – that information would be wonderful to have if it did come. But that’s found in theatre, the only place it can be found is in theatre.

Q: [inaudible] [the question was about antiquities that are sold with fake provenance papers, and how to account for them]

Judith Dobrzynski:

I was about to say that’s true, but I don’t know it’s true. It’s certainly something I’ve heard for the last thirty years: various antiquities are always being sold by a Lebanese family that’s had it in their family for a hundred years. So yes, please do address the issue of fake provenance.

Gary Vikan:

I have to think that there are a lot of made-up stories. And I’ve heard plenty of them. But you don’t buy the story, you buy the thing. That’s what due diligence is all about: finding out for yourself.

Randall Hixenbaugh:

I would have to say the criteria is really rather high for provenance right now. Unfortunately, with the masses of antiquities that tend to be minor objects that do emerge from private collections, the paperwork is very minimal. What I’ve taken to doing is saying, do you have some old family photographs? Was this on the mantel at Christmastime, in the background? Receipts are gone. Accountants tell people to shred their paperwork every five years or so, let alone twenty or thirty years. In a lot of these purchases, even if you were buying from a perfectly legal, established antiquity dealer in Egypt or Beirut or Syria in the 1970s, there often was no paperwork. I’ve seen the paperwork: in fact, I recently bought a collection of Cypriot pieces from the wife of a former US ambassador to Cyprus, and she had all the purchase receipts. They contain almost no information whatsoever. It was a list: fifty vases bought on this day, fifty ancient terracottas bought on this day. There’s very little to go on, there.

William Pearlstein:

Good and bad provenance is not an issue that’s limited to the antiquities market. You just had this huge scandal in the contemporary art market. Jasper John’s assistant was pilfering dozen’s of objects. The art world: the ancient art world, the contemporary art world, is rife with the same issues – fake stories, and it’s the job of the historian, the dealer, the specialist, to sift through the evidence, and see whether the story makes sense.

Gary Vikan:

There’s always a shortcut here. I’m sorry for interrupting, but you can go directly to the country of origin: walk into the embassy. We did that with the embassy of Yemen, with a bunch of pieces, two of which were actually on national postage stamps. We walked in and showed him, and I knew the story, which happened to be true, but fantastic. Whether true or not, I didn’t want any problem, so we went right to the source, showed him what we had, and he was very happy for us, and was proud that a museum in a nearby city was going to show works of ancient Yemen.

James McAndrew:

A gentleman in the audience was talking to me about law enforcement, and I won’t mention the name of the gentleman, but he was trying to understand what law enforcement can or cannot do better, and this is a perfect example of that. When I was an agent, I couldn’t stand those provenance affidavits. Grandmas’ collections in the attic since 1902 in Germany, Switzerland, China, you pick it, but US law is fact-based, not arbitrary, so I had to establish whether in fact that provenance is right. The first thing I would do is send a collateral lead out to the US embassy in that source country, and ask the locals to do an investigation. But when you have so many cases and investigations you’re working on, establishing provenance and claims of looted art from foreign countries, you keep sending these collateral requests out to the embassy. The embassy has one agent or two agents, and a lot of times the agents aren’t allowed to leave the embassy, so they have to forward the lead out to the locals and let them do the investigation. The locals don’t want anything to do with those investigations: “I’m not chasing down another piece of paper, I’m not going to another grandma’s attic, I’m not going to look at this post office box,” they just don’t want to be bothered with it. It’s not strong enough information, and they have their own issues internally. In a large respect, a lot of times, those investigations at the earliest juncture die on the vine.

Q: [inaudible]

Judith Dobrzynski:

The essence of that question is: are all objects equal in provenance? Especially for coins, because they are different from other objects in the antiquities area; they were meant to circulate, they tend to travel. You’re talking about collections that were taken from Afghanistan, and a lot of the context was lost in the transfer into the market. Are all objects equal in terms of what provenance is required and should be established? And in terms of rules which need to be reconsidered?

James McAndrew:

US law – Bill, you should speak on this more than me – bottom line, US law is fact-based. First of all, you can’t tell a source country that one item is worth more of an effort than another. They don’t want you to set a value on it. We all know that it exists, but when you’re dealing with a claimant country, they want their cylinder seal, even though you could find one on eBay for two hundred bucks. They don’t care; to them its the best thing since sliced bread. In order to take an enforcement action to seize an object, you have to have the requisite evidence and information, whether it’s a coin or the statue of David.

Judith Dobrzynski:

Are there any coin dealers here? I think coin dealers would argue that provenance should be treated differently for coins. Am I right?

Comment from the audience: [inaudible]

Judith Dobrzynski:

Ok. Question there, and then there.

Q: [inaudible] [question was something about addressing the supply side of the trade]

Randall Hixenbaugh:

I think that’s a good point. We’re doing very little on the supply side. In fact, the demand side has shunned this material so much that it’s surprising that it’s still being dug up and looted. Really, the only concern is on the supply side, and nobody really wants to talk about it, for various reasons. Archaeologists need their excavation permits, so they’re not going to cause a stink in Egypt and places where they’re excavating. Even though you have a government in Egypt that seized power in a coup-d’état, that is utterly negligent. You’ve got these people studying satellite images in Egypt, this isn’t Syria, this is Egypt, where there’s a government in place with an incredibly strong security apparatus, that can’t seem to stop people digging with backhoes and bulldozers on site. That’s where the whole problem lies.

Unfortunately, it gets muddled, because you have relationships with these foreign governments, where archaeologists and other professionals have to look the other way. Then foreign governments say that this is a problem of demand when it is clearly not a problem of demand – all the evidence shows us this is a problem of supply. People continue to turn up antiquities that there is no market for in the West. I would say that it’s entirely a supply side issue.

Q: [inaudible]

Randall Hixenbaugh:

Again, this is probably an issue for law enforcement, for the legal side, but I can point to one example of many where the system works. I write appraisals for US customs, so I see objects that are detained. I think they’re doing a pretty good job. We had collector in the United States a few years who purchased a dubious Egyptian piece that caused a major case. The right thing happened: the collector was lied to, the chain of dealers told half-truths, and the object at the end of the day was repatriated and went back, so I would say generally the system works. Collectors want to do the right thing but they are occasionally duped, and hopefully the system sorts that out

Judith Dobrzynski:

James, I know you ran the program for a while, but do you think that customs officials are well enough trained to recognize illicit antiquities at our borders?

James McAndrew:

The answer is absolutely, and I’ll tell you why. Training 101 in law enforcement is know what you don’t know, know your limitations. A customs agent and a customs inspector is told from day one, you are not an archaeologist, you are not an art historian, you don’t even know any genre of art. You just know how to look for it, how to investigate it, but most importantly, you have to know where to go: to guys like Randall, to the Smithsonian museum, to the curators and experts at a government museum, to people who have the expertise. You can also have scientific testing done on a piece, to see if it’s a fake or not, that’s most important. As far as identifying shipments, the movement of goods, and how to target and profile certain investigative avenues for the art market, I think they’re top notch. They’ve come a long way, and so has the international law enforcement community. Most importantly, they would never make that decision.

Judith Dobrzynski:

Is that the product, to a certain degree, of a red list that has been created, or is that country specific?

James McAndrew:

The red lists are a wonderful facet, but that’s an aside. It’s really how law enforcement over the last fifteen years has spent a lot of time together, at Interpol conferences in particular, I was in Egypt with Dr. Hawas, for example – having these different conferences on different continents, meeting with the locals, sitting down and spending a lot of time together on how to put things together.

Gary Vikan:

One second there – I disagree with you. I disagree with you to the extent that there are eighteen memoranda of understandings that are in place, and these are modern border definitions, and ancient cultures do not behave by that. If Peru has no memoranda of understanding, and Bolivia does, and there’s an item that happens to be made on both sides of the border that it identical, there is no way that a customs agent can distinguish one from the other. This means that the country that has not signed a memorandum of understanding is being cheated and the dealers in that material are not getting equal protection under the law.

James McAndrew:

I’m saying law enforcement are doing as good as they can do: I’m not saying if they’re successful or not.

Gary Vikan:

In that case, there is no answer.

James McAndrew:

That might be the case.

Gary Vikan:

No amount of specialists are going to get you anywhere.

James McAndrew:

But the ability of law enforcement from country to country to collaborate fairly quickly, and to know what each on needs to attempt to make a successful investigation, is in place, that apparatus.

Judith Dobrzynski:

I think you guys can continue this at the reception. I’m going to hand this back to Samantha.

Samantha Anderson:

Thank you so much for attending, and we want to thank the Committee for Cultural Policy and FAME for sponsoring our reception that will be happening outside this door. Thank you so much again to our panelists and to our moderator.

[Applause]

Commentary: Sarah Parcak’s TED Prize – Can International Crowdsourcing Replace Source Country Commitment?

Posted by on Feb 24, 2016 in ArtNews, Commentary, Science & Discoveries | Comments Off on Commentary: Sarah Parcak’s TED Prize – Can International Crowdsourcing Replace Source Country Commitment?

Commentary: Sarah Parcak’s TED Prize – Can International Crowdsourcing Replace Source Country Commitment?

February 24, 2016.  By Kate Fitz Gibbon.   Speaking in Vancouver on February 16, Dr. Sarah Parcak proposed using her $1 million TED Prize to build an online “interactive citizen science program” to engage the public in monitoring archaeological sites and to share the information gathered with archaeologists and local authorities. Parcak, an Egyptologist, is known as a “space archaeologist” because she uses infra-red imaging techniques on NASA and commercial satellite images to identify potential archaeological sites on the ground. Chemical changes on the ground surfaces that are visible at infra-red light levels show that there are man-made objects and structures buried underground.

Dr. Parcak now wishes to share the millions of global satellite images available with the public and to use international volunteers to identify possible sites. The result could be an incredibly detailed archaeological “map” of the world. The proposal, generously funded by Dr. Parcak, is being organized and is expected to debut this summer.

Her project, however valuable its contribution to archaeological studies, also points to the fatal weakness in nationalist claims that art and archaeology are best protected when they are exclusively controlled by the governments of modern nations where art is found. As other posts this month on Egypt make clear, there is rampant government corruption in Cairo and elsewhere, and blatant indifference to flawed management in the museum hierarchy. The cultural sector appears to be valued most for its usefulness as propaganda and to promote tourism. The same government that demands the right to repatriation of all the art ever made in Egypt is busy crushing democracy, arresting and torturing journalists, and sentencing people to death by the hundreds in sham trials. Egypt’s government seems much more concerned about artifacts found in the ground than it is about putting innocent people into it.

Dr. Parcak’s Egyptian archaeologist colleagues undoubtedly share her selfless commitment to science. She probably shares many of their frustrations with the Egyptian government and its entrenched bureaucracy. Perhaps she can shame Egyptian officials into protecting archaeological sites by enlisting a corps of international volunteers to document them and make their preservation an issue on the Internet. But one has to ask – when a government is using archaeology to promote cultural nationalist propaganda, is there a point when an archaeologist has to stand up and say, “What this government is doing is wrong. I have to speak up.”

In order to truly benefit from Dr. Parcak’s proposal, even on purely archaeological matters, source nations will  have to commit significant resources to protect and excavate the archaeological sites identified through her program. Most archeologically rich nations have consistently failed to adequately fund scientific research or site protection. Government neglect of cultural heritage sites and the priority given to infrastructure development has been a primary cause of archaeological site loss worldwide.

Dr. Parcak is undoubtedly correct in believing that public education about heritage protection is one of the most effective means of halting looting. Unfortunately, like others in the archaeological field, although she acknowledges that endemic poverty and government inertia account for some digging in search of artifacts, she also links the current destruction in the Middle East to a supposedly huge market demand from the West for looted artifacts.  The evidence of attempted looting is real enough, as shown in the thousands of tiny pits shown on satellite images. There is no empirical evidence for the supposed billion dollar market.

At the same time that scientific research and detailed analysis enables discovery of ancient sites, shouldn’t scientists use real data to identify the economic and other local factors that cause looting in the first place? Currently available technology could enable both documentation of artifacts and a traceable, legitimate trade, and would be of inestimable value to researchers. A serious commitment to determine the realities of the art market is a necessary part of finding a solution to looting. So is a serious analysis of the flaws of the ‘repatriation over all’ approach to preserving global human heritage.

 

Note: In a parallel exercise of archival research, for the last two years, the Smithsonian Institution has opened the Smithsonian Transcription Center  to public access and has enlisted volunteers from around the world to review and transcribe diaries, field notes, specimen labels, logbooks and more from the Smithsonian archives. Volunteers can contribute anonymously or create an account to track their work. Once volunteers have an account, they may review the work of others and make edits where necessary. Each week, new projects are added, and the Smithsonian accepts public input on the collections next to be transcribed.

The Aerial Archaeology Research Group (AARG), founded in 1983, is just one of many entities coordinating archaeological research from the air. Identifying archaeological sites from the air is a technique that has been utilized for many decades and has provided the key information in major discoveries. For example, Russian archaeologist Victor Sarianidi used helicopters from the Turkmenistan army in the 1980s to overfly the vast Karakum desert, pinpointing the location of close to 30 hitherto unknown Bronze Age sites from the slight unnatural variations in the landscape below perceptible with the human eye.

Image: Dr. Sarah Parcak, author Joi Ito, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license, https://www.flickr.com/photos/joi/15028192448/

2015’s Top 5 Questionable Claims on ISIS and Syrian Antiquities: To Hopes for More Accuracy and Less Hype in 2016

Posted by on Jan 10, 2016 in Commentary | Comments Off on 2015’s Top 5 Questionable Claims on ISIS and Syrian Antiquities: To Hopes for More Accuracy and Less Hype in 2016

2015’s Top 5 Questionable Claims on ISIS and Syrian Antiquities: To Hopes for More Accuracy and Less Hype in 2016

By Peter K. Tompa

Reprinted with permission of the author from the Cultural Property Observer (CPO), published January 6, 2016.

Knowledgeable cultural property observers have been frustrated that questionable claims about Syria, ISIS and antiquities trade continue to be actively promoted as part of the archaeological lobby’s campaign in support of H.R. 1493/S. 1887,  problematic legislation that purports to address protecting cultural property in times of war and civil strife.

In honor of the New Year, CPO counts down the top five (5) dubious claims made in 2015 in support of this legislation that would create a new State Department coordination and enforcement bureaucracy and place what amounts to permanent import restrictions on Syrian cultural goods.

Hopefully, questions about the accuracy of these claims will also lead to questions about the wisdom of  the Senate passing H.R. 1493/S. 1887 in its current form.  While this legislation was no doubt introduced with the best of intentions, it suffers because its sponsors failed to consult with all stakeholders before its introduction and have relied on incomplete, misleading or false information to justify its approach to the issue of cultural heritage preservation.

5. The Claim:  Trade data helps prove there has been an upsurge in stolen Syrian antiquities on the market.

The Source:  “Cultural Heritage Lawyer” Rick St. Hilaire and “Red Arch” Cultural Heritage Law Policy Research” have heavily promoted this idea on St. Hilaire’s blog.  See most recently, Rick St. Hilaire, “Antiques from Syria: U.S. Cultural Property Import Stats Raise Suspicion,” Cultural Heritage Lawyer Blog (December 29, 2015).

The Reality:  Mr. St. Hilaire and his blog are associated with the archaeological lobby and its anti-trade and anti-collecting views.  As such, his interpretation of trade data should be viewed as that of an advocate for a position and not that of an unbiased researcher. With regard to his work, at the outset, there appears to be a serious misconception about the nature of the figures themselves.  St. Hilaire at least implies the figures reflect the values for artifacts exported from Syria in 2014 rather than a “country of origin” or “country of manufacture” of Syria and exported from elsewhere to the United States.  In fact, due to massive confusion in the trade and a lack of guidance from U.S. and foreign Customs, it is likely that the figures include values for both artifacts manufactured in Syria (perhaps thousands of years ago) and exported to the U.S. from elsewhere along with artifacts directly exported from Syria itself.  Thus, artifacts that were manufactured in Syria but have been out of Syria for decades are likely included (and indeed may represent the bulk of the material that has been imported.)  In any event, the values cited are modest (particularly compared to wild claims for the values of looted Syrian antiquities (see Claim No. 2 below)), and it would be interesting to compare them with figures for antiquities imports with a country of origin of Syria over time.

4.  The Claim:  There must be storehouses full of valuable stolen Syrian antiquities.

The Source:  In 2002 and 2005, Swiss police raided warehouses that were used to house antiquities illicitly excavated in Italy and Greece over the past decades.   See David Gill, “Warehouses, Antiquities and Basel,” Looting Matters Blog (November 7, 2008).  Of course, Switzerland is an exceptionally stable country that at the time was also known for its strong privacy laws.  What better a place to store valuable antiquities?

The Reality:  Though warehouses full of illicitly excavated antiquities were found in Switzerland, is it also likely that similar storehouses also exist in unstable Middle Eastern countries?  One would not necessarily think so, but the archaeological lobby has nonetheless promoted the idea. Why?  After the Second Gulf War, there were also claims that material looted from archaeological sites in Iraq would be reaching the market in quantity.  When this never materialized, the archaeological lobby then explained away the issue by claiming that the material was being stockpiled.  See Guy Gugliata, “Looted Iraqi Relics Slow to Surface,” The Washington Post (November 8, 2005)   Now, given the dearth of fresh Syrian material on the market, the same claim is again being used to explain away suspicions that efforts to loot archaeological sites (as evidenced by what appear to be holes in the ground in satellite photography) may not be anywhere near as successful as has been maintained.  (Apparently, no one has seriously (or at least publicly) considered the possibility that many of these holes were “dry” or at least some of these “looter’s holes” were actually “fox holes” dug for military purposes.) But what of the recent seizure from an ISIS financier? On May 15, 2015, U.S. Special Operations personnel removed a cache of hundreds of artifacts from the home of ISIS Financier Abu Sayyaf.  According to the State Department, “The cache represents significant primary evidence of looting at archaeological sites in Syria and Iraq, theft from regional museums, and the stockpiling of these spoils for likely sale on the international market.” See  “ISIL Leaders Loot,” U.S. State Department Cultural Heritage Center Website (undated).  So far, this is the only storehouse full of “valuable” ISIS loot that has come to light.  However, an experienced dealer who looked at images of the coins found in the group valued them at perhaps $40,000 retail and $8,000 wholesale.  Indeed, the cache looked more like the modest stock of a small dealer in Middle Eastern antiquities than a storehouse for a fabulous cache of valuable Syrian antiquities.

3.  The Claim:  Only ISIS is benefiting from sales of illicit antiquities.

The Sources:  Back in 2014, Secretary of State Kerry highlighted the looting and destruction of cultural  sites in Syria  at an event at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.  See Secretary of State John Kerry, Remarks at Threats to Cultural Heritage in Iraq and Syria Event (September 22, 2014).  Kerry evidently illustrated his talk with satellite imagery showing severe damage to Apamea, an important classical site in Syria.  CBS News and other news outlets then ascribed the damage at Apamea to ISIS even though Apamea appears to have been in government hands since the beginning of the Civil War.  It is unclear whether the archaeological lobby purposefully perpetuated this deception, but it is clear that CBS and other news sources have relied exclusively on State Department and archaeological lobby sources for their reporting.  See “The Perils of Limited Sourcing,” Cultural Property Observer Blog (September 9, 2015).

The Reality:  A Dartmouth College study has confirmed that all participants in the Syrian civil war have taken part in looting Syrian archaeological sites. See “Dartmouth Led Study Shows ISIS Not Only Culprit in War Related Looting in Syria,” Dartmouth Press Release (October 21, 2015).  As the press release states, “One of the most well-known incidents of looting occurred at Apamea, a massive Roman city in western Syria. The satellite images indicate that looting began in the start of 2012, after Syrian forces invaded the area, and continued during the Syrian occupation of the site through at least the fall of 2013. However, the most extreme phase of looting was conducted in the government-administered portion of the site with privately held fields remaining untouched until several months later when looting holes made by heavy machinery encroached into nearby areas on a systematic block by block basis with Syrian soldiers only 200 meters away.”  Id.

2.  The Claim:  ISIS has made $10 s of millions or $100 s of millions from stolen antiquities.

The Sources:  The “tens of millions” figure ultimately derives from an erroneous claim that ISIS had stolen $36 million in antiquities from one on area in Syria alone.   See Heather Pringle, “ISIS Cashing in on Looted Antiquities to Fuel Iraq Insurgency,” National Geographic, June 27, 2014.  The report was later found to refer to money made from all types of looting in the al-Nabuk region of Syria, not only the looting of archaeological material.  (SeeNew Documents Prove ISIS Heavily Involved in Antiquities Trafficking,’ Gates of Nineveh Blog (September 30, 2015). The $100 million figure has been cited in a “Fact Sheet” to justify support for H.R. 1493/S.1887, but it appears even less grounded in fact.  See “Fact Sheet: Deny ISIS Funding & Save Syria’s Antiquities,”  United States House of Representatives, Committee on Foreign Affairs, Elliot L. Engel, Democrats (October 28, 2015).  Instead, it traces back to an unsupported claim made by Iraq’s UN Ambassador at a time the U.N. was considering a resolution condemning the terrorist group’s destruction and looting of cultural sites in Iraq.  See Rick Gladstone, “U.N. Resolves to Combat Plundering of Antiquities by ISIS,” The New York Times, May 28, 2015.

The Reality:  Provable amounts that ISIS has made from antiquities sales are far smaller, ranging from several hundreds of thousands of dollars to several millions.  See Derek Fincham, “Leaked Records Hint at How Much ISIS Makes on Antiquities,” Illicit Cultural Property Blog.  See also Kate Fitz Gibbon, “Debunking the ISIS Antiquities Funding Myth,’ Committee for Cultural Policy Blog (December 6, 2015).  These figures are a drop in the bucket compared to ISIS estimated take of at least $1 billion.

1.  The Claim:  Import restrictions will “save” Syrian cultural property.

The Sources:  The archaeological lobby claims that embargoes on cultural goods will “save” Syrian cultural property, act as to disincentive looting, and damage terrorist financing.  See Erin Thompson, “Restrict Imports of Antiquities from Syria to Cut Down on Looting,” The New York Times (January 21, 2015), and Heather Lee, “Heritage Crisis in Syria; a Call for a Moratorium on the Antiquities Trade,” Saving Antiquities for Everyone Blog (September 3, 2014).

The Reality:  As applied by U.S. Customs, import restrictions are grossly over broad because they relate to where artifacts are made instead of where and when they were found.  Under the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act (“CPIA”), the law governing import restrictions on cultural goods, the Government bears the initial burden to establish: (1) the item is of a type that appears on the designated list; (2) the item was first discovered within and subject to the export control of the country for which restrictions were granted; and (3) that it was illegally removed from the country for which import restrictions were granted after the applicable date.  (Under the CPIA, this is the date restrictions were imposed; here the date proposed under H.R. 1403/S.1887 is March 15, 2011.)  Thus, under H.R. 1493/S.1887, the Government should be required to establish that (1) the item is of a type that appears on the designated list of Syrian artifacts that will be created; (2) the item was “first discovered within” Syria and was subject to Syrian export control; and (3) the item was illegally removed from Syria after March 15, 2011.

Unfortunately, history shows that the State Department and U.S. Customs put expedience first.  Despite the CPIA’s plain meaning, the applicable regulation, 12 C.F.R. § 12.104 (a), ignores these requirements.  See Ancient Coin Collectors Guild v. U.S. Customs and Border Protection, 801 F. Supp. 2d 383, 407 n. 25 (D. Md. 2011) (“Congress only authorized the imposition of import restrictions on objects that were ‘first discovered within, and [are] subject to the export control by the State Party.’ Under the regulations, that requirement seems to apply only to the importation of a ‘fragment or part’ of an object of archaeological or ethnological interest.  This appears to have been an oversight in the drafting, or codification, of the original regulations in 1985, and has persisted in the C.F.R. ever since.”), aff’d,  698 F.3d 171 (4th Cir. 2012).  Accordingly, collectors are rightly concerned that following standard operating procedure,  the Government will argue that it need only establish the first element of its burden, i.e. that the object is “of archaeological interest” with a “country of origin” or manufacture of “Syria.”  For coins (one of the most common ancient artifacts), the practical result will thus be to give CBP license to “scoop up” all historical coins minted in Syria over the centuries even though such coins circulated far from Syria in ancient times as items of commerce and in more modern times as collectibles.  This, of course, will do little or nothing to “save” Syrian cultural property, disincentivize looting, and damage terrorist financing, but will do much to harm the legitimate trade in ancient art and the cultural understanding it brings.

And what will happen to any antiquities and coins that are swept up in the dragnet?  The CPIA assumes that they will be repatriated to Syria, something not changed in H.R. 1493/S. 1887.  This, of course, raises pertinent questions.  Can artifacts be saved if they are returned to a war zone?  And is it morally justifiable to give them to the Assad regime, which has done its own share of looting and which has also intentionally destroyed cultural sites with its barrel bombs and artillery?

Debunking the ISIS Antiquities Funding Myth

Posted by on Dec 6, 2015 in ArtNews, Commentary | Comments Off on Debunking the ISIS Antiquities Funding Myth

Debunking the ISIS Antiquities Funding Myth

Commentary by Kate Fitz Gibbon, December 6, 2015.  Ben Taub’s New Yorker article, The Real Value of the ISIS Antiquities Trade, blows apart the State Department, Department of Justice, and Antiquities Coalition claims that ISIS is raking in tens and even hundreds of millions of dollars from the sale of antiquities.

Some archaeologists and cultural heritage specialists have spoken out to agree with Taub: Neil Brodie and Derek Fincham have disowned the ludicrously exaggerated numbers claimed by federal agencies and appear ready to abandon the claim that ISIS is receiving significant funding from looted antiquities.

Why promote this phony story in the first place? One obvious answer is that much ISIS funding is coming from illegal oil sales from captured infrastructure laundered through Turkey; distracting attention from ISIS’ illegal oil sales suits US officials concerned about diplomatic and military relationships in the region. Another reason is that it is expedient for anti-art trade activists to associate art dealers and collectors – and even museums – with the horrors of ISIS’ terrorist activities.

Both Fincham and Brodie refer to using phony numbers to influence public and government opinion. Fincham’s post entitled, Inflated estimates bring bad attention too, states: “These large estimates, which are perhaps meant to shift the needle of public action, may induce some to loot, thinking wrongly that there is a much bigger reward based on these reports. One hopes this would give pause to even the hackiest of art crime scholars.”

Brodie too acknowledges that the archaeological lobby has spun their tale of ISIS financing to further an anti-trade agenda:

“There is an opinion within the archaeological community that highlighting the financial importance to ISIL of the antiquities trade will make it an issue of national security and ensure a strong government response.”

(Brodie’s and Fincham’s comments about false appearances and overvalued antiquities echo what the Committee for Cultural Policy has been saying since last April. See, for example, Masterpiece Theater: Homeland Security Returns Antiquities to Iraq, April 1, 2015))

Other interests are certainly served by promoting a Big Lie. Archaeological hardliners such as the Antiquities Coalition have used the phony narrative about a 100 million to multi-billion antiquities trade to promote passage of H.R. 1493/S.1887, the Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act. ISIS is a handy excuse for encouraging passage of this law that creates a new and unnecessary bureaucracy. The new committee could place blanket import restrictions on art from any country where there was civil unrest without input from all stakeholders. Although ostensibly proposed in response to looting in Syria, a draft law to create this new cultural committee was in the works before ISIS began its destructive campaign.

Why are State Department careerists and the Department of Justice so willing to promote the ISIS/antiquities myth? Why give potential aid to the enemy by distracting the press and the public from the real sources of ISIS funding? Brodie’s statement above is the key: “…highlighting the financial importance to ISIL of the antiquities trade will make it an issue of national security and ensure a strong government response.”

There is a long history of bizarrely exaggerated claims against the art trade, going back more than a decade. The media has failed again and again to question these dangerous fallacies, as Ivan Macquisten pointed out in his article Less box ticking, more research – the survey and statistics crisis. Macquisten uses the example of phony claims about a multi-billion dollar illegal antiquities trade to illustrate his article, saying that “Questionable survey marketing and lazy journalism threaten the media, public debate and the legitimate art and antiques trade.”

There is a hidden agenda behind adoption of a story that promotes the Big Lie of ISIS’ funding through antiquities – the denigration and destruction of the legitimate international trade in art. US energies should not be wasted against ephemeral enemies.  We should aim – swiftly – against the real targets who are providing funding for ISIS.

Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act, H.R. 1493/S.1887: Saving Syrian Antiquities or Crushing the Legitimate Art Trade?

Posted by on Nov 30, 2015 in ArtNews, Commentary | Comments Off on Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act, H.R. 1493/S.1887: Saving Syrian Antiquities or Crushing the Legitimate Art Trade?

Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act, H.R. 1493/S.1887:  Saving Syrian Antiquities or Crushing the Legitimate Art Trade?

Commentary by Peter Tompa and Kate Fitz Gibbon

November 30, 2015. The Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act, which purports to “protect and preserve” antiquities in regions of crises, needs serious reworking before the Senate takes up the measure. As it is written, the bill does not have a firm factual basis for its assumptions – and without the real facts it will never be able to achieve its worthy goals. In short, by accepting without question the media hyperbole and discredited, phony numbers for ISIS’ trade in looted art – Congress will let slip the opportunity to focus on the true funding sources for terrorism.

H.R. 1493/S.1887 opens the door to a one-sided US policy that ignores the needs of US museums, collectors, and small businessmen and women. It will encourage anti-art trade activists to make every political upheaval around the globe into an excuse to stop the trade in cultural goods. As written, the proposed legislation is simply a recipe for dismantling the lawful trade in antique, ethnographic, and ancient art.

 The bill creates a new Coordinating Committee on International Cultural Property Protection, staffed without guaranteed representation of all stakeholders, which supplants the existing mechanisms already in place to combat the entry of looted materials into the US. Existing regulatory and enforcement mechanisms, both at the Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC) at the Department of State and in Customs, have already shown bias against both private and public museum collecting through a focus on forfeiture and the routine renewals of agreements halting the trade for fifteen and twenty years at a time. Congressional attempts at oversight have been sporadic and met with stonewalling; complaints have had little effect, despite statements by the State Department’s former Deputy Legal Adviser as well as statements of former CPAC members expressing concerns about how the State Department is handling its administration of the Cultural Property Implementation Act (CPIA).

H.R. 1493/S.1887 should be “tweaked” so the new State Department bureaucracy that is proposed is more inclusive.

When the CPIA was promulgated, It was thought that it would be highly unlikely that common artifacts, especially those widely distributed across major regions of the globe such as coins, would be subject to import restrictions, but because the Department of State has ignored the law, what was thought “unlikely” has now become commonplace; (2) Customs acting in concert with the Department of State has also ignored the plain meaning of the burden of proof language in the CPIA in favor of expediency; (3) the new bureaucracy envisioned by H.R. 1493/S.1887 will just aggrandize the same State Department office that has mal-administered the CPIA, and will allow it to act without input from stakeholders in the trade and public or transparency about what it is doing; and (4) the proposed new Syrian import restrictions bypass current procedures under the CPIA and will give the same State Department office and Customs virtually complete discretion in applying the broadest restrictions to all artifacts they deem “Syrian.”  They are then authorized to ultimately repatriate them to Syria even if it is still controlled by the Assad regime. Yet the Assad regime is itself actively involved in bombing and looting of major Syrian sites.

Since H.R. 1493/S.1887 will ramp up enforcement, Congress should consider applying CAFRA’s* protections to cultural property seizures under the CPIA and other customs laws and also consider language that expands the allowable documentation for legal import.  This would help Customs concentrate better on what should matter rather than on material that has already been vetted by another UNESCO member state.

Placing the following language into the record would make clear that H.R. 1493/S.1887 is truly an anti-looting measure directed against ISIS, not a sneak attack against the legitimate trade in cultural goods:

“While protecting Syrian cultural artifacts from looting is important, it’s also important that we stay true to our own values.  Our tradition of due process requires that the Government meet its burden of proof before private property is seized and forfeited.  The current legislation does not change the burden placed on the government under the CPIA.  Here, as under the CPIA, the Government must establish: (1) the item is of a type that appears on the designated list of Syrian artifacts that will be created; (2) the item was “first discovered” in Syria and was subject to Syrian export control; and (3) the item was illegally removed from Syria after the effective date of the restrictions, here March 15, 2011.  The fact that an object’s “country of origin” or manufacture may be “Syria” cannot form the sole basis for it being seized and forfeited.”

All the evidence so far shows that looting for profit is a very minimal funding source for the ISIS terrorist regime. No evidence has been presented so far by any US enforcement agency to show that funding from art looting is coming from the US. It is inexcusable that badly researched, unsupported claims about non-existent US sales supposedly benefiting ISIS should distract Congress, the administration, and the American public from the essential task of stopping the true sources of ISIS’ income – now.

* Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 2000 (P.L. 106-185)

 

 

ISIS and Antiquities Sales: Fact or Fantasy?

Posted by on Nov 13, 2015 in ArtNews, Commentary | Comments Off on ISIS and Antiquities Sales: Fact or Fantasy?

ISIS and Antiquities Sales: Fact or Fantasy?

November 13, 2015  By Peter K. Tompa*. The archaeological lobby and the media, particularly CBS News, have pushed the story that antiquities provide a major funding source for ISIS. While ISIS is probably making at least some income from either antiquities sales or from taxing looters, the amounts that it has derived from these sources probably amount to no more than 1-2% of its estimated total funding of from $1-2 billion dollars.

A CBS News Report, “ISIS Cashing In on Selling Plundered Antiquities to Fund Terror,” CBS News, September 29, 2015, has been a major source for these claims, but the report is deeply flawed.

The report is purportedly based on documents seized from ISIS financier, Abu Sayyaf, who was killed in a special operations forces raid last May. First, the report states that documents seized from Abu Sayyaf prove that ISIS has made hundreds of millions of dollars from stolen antiquities. However, according to an article by archaeologist and researcher Christopher Jones, the documents themselves only support a far lower number, $1.25 million.

Second, the CBS story again suggests that Apamea has been looted by ISIS.  In fact, the city has been in the hands of the Assad government since the beginning of the conflict.

This is part of a pattern of other exaggerations and grossly inaccurate claims, starting with a report that ISIS had made $36 million from stolen antiquities from one area in Syria alone. However, the report was later found to refer to money made from all types of looting in the al-Nabuk region of Syria, not only the looting of archaeological material.

These inaccuracies have led other sources including ArtNet and Chasing Aphrodite to question whether looting is really a major funding source of ISIS as is claimed.

Whatever their truth, these numbers have been cited as justification for legislation aimed at staunching ISIS looting, but whose scope will likely also negatively impact the legitimate antiquities trade and the people to people contacts and appreciation of other cultures it helps stimulate. For example, a fact sheet for H.R. 1493/S.1887 cites the $100 million figure quoted above.  Additionally, Congressman Keating evidently specifically cited the $36 million figure during the mark-up of HR 1493.

While this memo focuses on inaccuracies in reporting about ISIS, policymakers should also recognize that large numbers of undocumented, minor artifacts from “the Middle East” have been widely and openly sold in Lebanon, Israel, London, and other centers for ancient art for decades. It also should be noted that both the Assad Regime and other rebel groups have been accused of looting. (The Assad Regime certainly has bombed and shelled important cultural sites including the citadel in Palmyra (after it fell to ISIS), Aleppo’s Old City and many historic Sunni mosques.) It is also possible that some Syrian cultural material that may has recently appeared on the market was previously owned by desperate Syrian refugees who were forced to sell family heirlooms in order to survive. It would be interesting to learn of any correlation between the appearance of new Syrian material on the market and the presence of Syrian refugees.

*Peter Tompa is of Counsel, Bailey & Ehrenberg, PLLC. Past Vice-Chair, ABA International Law Section, Art and Cultural Heritage Law Committee.

Additional Note from Kate Fitz Gibbon:

According to a September 30, 2105 article by Christian Dickey, ISIS Raid Netted Stolen Treasure Trove of Ancient Artifacts, in the U.S. Special Operations Forces raid on the home of ISIS chief Abu Sayyaf were “receipts for the taxes collected from looters—$265,000 worth, on artifacts with a value ISIS estimated at more than $1.3 million. There were edicts threatening punishment for those looting antiquities without permission, and there were licenses for those permitted to pillage… No official at the [Conflict Antiquities” symposium held at New York’s Metropolitan Museum in September] was able to cite a single prosecution growing out of the intelligence gathered by the Special Operations Forces that night in May. “Most of that is classified stuff,” the FBI’s Maxwell Marker told The Daily Beast during a break in the symposium… Indeed, while the looting and smuggling exist on a vast scale [Ed. note: see above for clearly exaggerated claims and lack of evidence of funding for ISIS through antiquities], by all accounts, not one looter, smuggler, middleman, money launderer, or buyer connected with the ISIS operations anywhere has been prosecuted by the United States, and if any have been arrested, U.S. officials are not saying… In fact the whole message of the symposium was that the agents of the FBI, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Department of Justice, the State Department, and the United Nations are making slow progress or none with their investigations, and thus are pleading with museum curators, collectors, and other people in the private sector to help them out.”

Image: Antiquities seized from Abu Sayyaf, Thaier Al-Sudani/Reuters, http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/09/30/isis-raid-netted-stolen-treasure-trove-of-ancient-artifacts.html

 

John Henry Merryman, 1920-2015

Posted by on Aug 20, 2015 in Commentary, Museums, Ethics, Best Practices, and Position Papers, US Law and Policy on Cultural Heritage | Comments Off on John Henry Merryman, 1920-2015

John Henry Merryman, 1920-2015

John Henry Merryman, the world’s greatest scholar of art and cultural property, died on August 3, 2015 at the age of 95.

Merryman grew up in Portland, Oregon during the Depression and entered college as a chemistry student because, he said, chemists could get jobs. He literally worked his way through the University of Portland as a jazz pianist; he arranged to give the school half of what he earned playing nights in his dance band, John Merryman and His Merry Men. He took a Master of Science at Notre Dame, then pursued a PhD in Chemistry at the University of Chicago, where he realized that he did not want to spend his life in a laboratory, and determined to take up the law. He went back to Notre Dame and taught chemistry and math while he studied in law school. Merryman accepted a teaching fellowship at NYU School of Law and took his LLM degree there at the same time.

Merryman was offered his first California job at the University of Santa Clara, where he taught for five years and also played piano professionally – as often as five nights a week. At Santa Clara, Merryman met and married his beloved wife Nancy Edwards – and was fired after the ceremony because Nancy was a divorcee and Merryman’s contract specified that he would not violate any tenet of Catholic doctrine. Merryman has described being fired by Santa Clara as the second best thing that ever happened to him, because it brought him to Stanford; the best was having married Nancy.

The law school dean at Santa Clara encouraged Stanford to find a job for Merryman. He taught legal writing at Stanford on a two-year contract, then became law librarian, where he developed a new classification system and wrote two books on library science. In 1960, Merryman was asked to join the Stanford faculty and to take on the subject of comparative law. He was sent to Italy for a year to teach and to study the Italian legal system, and on his return, authored his first major book, The Civil Law Tradition: An Introduction to the Legal Systems of Western Europe and Latin America.

Merryman’s friendship with Stanford art history professor Albert E. Elsen led to an unusual joint-effort. They created a class that explored the intersection between art and the law, covering social, historical, ethical, and property issues and invited students from the law, business, and art departments to attend. Merryman and Elsen collaborated on a book that remains the seminal work in the field of art and the law, entitled Law, Ethics, and the Visual Arts. (Co-author Stephen K. Urice revised the 5th edition and the pending 6th edition.) Now over 1300 pages, it is not only the best but also the most thoughtful and readable book in the field of art and the law.

Merryman’s wife Nancy had become an accomplished dealer in art, and through her contacts and Elsen’s, Merryman was able to bring significant works of art to Stanford. A major work by Mark di Suvero, The Sieve of Eratosthenes, standing outside of the Cantor Art Center, was dedicated in honor of his 80th birthday.

*          *          *          *           *           *

Merryman was a towering figure, both nationally and internationally, in more than one field of law. The Civil Law Tradition gave new direction to the discipline of comparative law. Merryman was the primary creator of the field of art and the law. His many books and countless papers on international cultural property continue to define the key ethical, philosophical, and practical issues for a global audience.

Throughout his life, Merryman’s work was recognized through the honors bestowed on him. At Stanford, he was the Nelson Bowman Sweitzer and Marie B. Sweitzer Professor of Law, Emeritus, and Affiliated Professor in the Department of Art, Emeritus. He was a Guggenheim Fellow and a Fulbright Research Professor at the Max Planck Institute. He was named an Italian knight — un Cavaliero della Republica Italiana – and received honorary doctorates from Aix-en-Provence, Rome (Tor Vergata), and Trieste. He was celebrated in two Festschriften: “Comparative and Private International Law: Essays in Honor of John Henry Merryman on His Seventieth Birthday” and “Legal Culture in the Age of Globalization: Latin America and Latin Europe.” Yet for all the acclaim he received, Merryman remained modest, unassuming, gracious, and accessible. For several generations of students and fellow academics, he was a mentor, friend, helper, and guide.

During the last two decades of his life, Merryman felt increasing unease regarding what he saw as an unthinking accession to harmful, anti-humanist, cultural policies in the US and abroad. He expressed these concerns succinctly in a 2010 working paper, Art Systems and Cultural Policy. In his own words, excerpted below:

“[M]ost of the current cultural property “dialogue” is actually a hermetic monologue in which source nation cultural nationalism, the single-minded pursuit of archaeologists’ professional goals, and the hostility to collectors and the art market expressed in UNESCO’s cultural program combine to support each other. In that monologue, at its worst, American collectors are vilified. Their interests, and those of our museums and art trade, are denigrated or ignored. The major players in our art system are dismissed as “self-seeking parties” whose activities are “fundamentally incompatible” with the New Cultural Policy. This will not do. The American art system is itself a cultural treasure, a great national resource, unique in the world…

[T]he government of the United States, a major market nation and the home of the world’s most private, collector-driven art system, with only minimal regulation of the domestic art trade, has become the world’s most enthusiastic enforcer of other nations’ broadly retentive anti-market legislation and its restrictive implications for American collectors and museums. Ironically, some of the foreign legislation we so enforce, if enacted in the United States, would probably violate the Fifth Amendment’s injunction against taking private property for public use without due process and just compensation…

Should we encourage the current New Cultural Policy sentiment for a world of culturally parochial, retentive nationalist art regimes in which all Greek art treasures remain in or return to Greece, Italian masterpieces and antiquities to Italy, Egyptian antiquities to Egypt, and so on and on?…

Or should we favor the more cosmopolitan world art system implied by the concept of a “cultural heritage of all mankind” and by the statement in the preamble of the 1970 UNESCO Convention that:

‘the interchange of cultural property among nations for scientific, cultural and educational purposes increases the knowledge of the civilization of Man, enriches the cultural life of all peoples and inspires mutual respect and appreciation among nations’.”

The full article may be downloaded here.

Stanford Law School’s website lists 104 results for books and articles by John Henry Merryman.

A personal note: My friendship with John Merryman began more than a dozen years ago at an inaugural meeting of the American Council on Cultural Policy (ACCP). The ACCP was the first organization to take up issues of changing US policy on antiquities. The room was filled with over a hundred scholars, museum directors and curators, academics, collectors, and yes, art dealers.

I had recently been appointed to the Cultural Property Advisory Committee. Prior to my appointment, I had no background in law or cultural policy. Consequently, I had been reading everything by Merryman I could get my hands on. I knew Merryman would be at the meeting. He was the person I most wanted to meet, but I didn’t know what he looked like. I scanned the room for the smartest-looking man, sat down next to him and introduced myself. Sure enough, it was Merryman.

In the years that followed, Merryman corresponded with me, advised, and gently critiqued my work, as he did for many other students and colleagues in the law. As the years passed, we became friends, sharing foreign detective novels and P.G. Wodehouse stories as well as articles in progress; he was a man who appreciated words and could piffle with the best. On my last visit to California, in mid-December, he told me he planned to teach “one last class,” a promise he kept to his students and colleagues at Stanford. Like all his friends, I wish I had had more time with Merryman and I miss his presence in the world. But I am deeply grateful that he has left us so many extraordinary books and that he has brought such good thought into being. There is enough there to teach me, and all others who want to learn, lifelong.

Kate Fitz Gibbon*

 

*I am grateful to Randee Fenner, whose August 4, 2015 post Rennaissance Merryman in the Stanford Lawyer brought back many of John’s stories and his way of telling them.

 

 

Destroying undocumented artifacts… What were they thinking?

Posted by on Jul 9, 2015 in Commentary | Comments Off on Destroying undocumented artifacts… What were they thinking?

Destroying undocumented artifacts… What were they thinking?
Commentary by Kate Fitz Gibbon*

The Twitter discussion linked here asks, in light of the recent Ivory Crush in Times Square, where a ton of ivory objects were fed into a wood chipper:

“Would we consider destroying undocumented artifacts to remove them from the market?”

The answers from the discussants, who included archeologists and a well-known academic specializing in cultural property issues, range from a firm “no… because any artifact is a “unique and essential source” of information, to an astonishing yes, perhaps with an out if the object merits saving,” to the national-retentionist, “reminds me of French law for destruction of fakes. Legally it’d be hard unless the country destroying was the owner.”

One has to ask, “What were they thinking?

Most of the ancient art traded over the last 500 years and more has no “provenance.” Archeological provenance was not considered important until very recently; source nations never adopted systems for lawful export and records, if they existed, were rarely kept for more than a decade. An estimated 85% of the art in our museums was donated by private collectors who purchased their art in the open market. Some hardline archeologists consider all this art “looted.” Organization such as Saving Antiquities for Everyone (SAFE) lead tours of major museums, dubbed “Stolen Art” tours. Should our museums be stripped, their collections pulverized? Should governments destroy art presently in circulation to prevent it from being donated by collectors in the future? Does the hatred of the art trade extend so far that academics would destroy art?

One hopes that many more would subscribe to the statement by Sir John Boardman:

“Objects cannot be “tainted” or “illicit”, but only be so described by scholars who do not understand them, or by legislators. Objects are testaments of antiquity, whether handled by a thief or scholar; their integrity must be respected and their safety assured. To suggest that they should even be destroyed rather than kept in a museum betrays an appalling vacuum of scholarly integrity and responsibility, even philistinism.”

J. Boardman, Archaeologists, Collectors and Museums, in: Whose Culture? The promise of Museums and the Debate over Antiquities, Ed. James Cuno, Princeton and Oxford (2009), S. 107-124, 117.

The deliberate destruction of art is never acceptable, whether a government does it for political reasons, for censorship, or in the name of religion. Some archeological organizations have long taken the position that unprovenanced material should not be published. This kind of censorship – in effect, destroying an object by removing all records of its existence –is similar to the way that individuals deemed “non-persons” were treated in the old Soviet Union.

The destruction of artifacts and monuments from ISIS has been the most painful cultural destruction the world has witnessed since China’s invasion of Tibet or Stalin’s and Hitler’s campaigns against art that was unorthodox or made by minorities.

As Metropolitan Museum director Thomas Campbell said of ISIS’ destruction of the Mosul Museum, “This mindless attack on great art, on history, and on human understanding constitutes a tragic assault not only on the Mosul Museum, but on our universal commitment to use art to unite people and promote human understanding.”

Compare Campbell’s and Boardman’s broadly-based, humanist perspectives to the narrow archeological position that only a professionally excavated object has any educational, historical, or aesthetic value. And think again.

 

Screen Shot 2015-07-10 at 10.54.55 AM

 

 

 

 

 

 

*The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Committee for Cultural Policy.