Subscribe to our Newsletter

July 2017 – Newsletter of the Committee for Cultural Policy

Our July Newsletter stories are about more than a misleading Met seizure, or how a blockade on Libyan art will destroy Jewish history.

We hope our readers will think hard about the cultural policy failures and ‘fake news’ that lie beneath the EU’s draconian new regulations or India’s decision to build elevated highways next to major monuments, or why Congress had to demand accountability from the Cultural Property Advisory Committee.

Our approach to cultural policy is all about access to information and the facts. Every article in the newsletter is linked to a much longer article with more links to sources. You can’t make good law or good policy without the facts, and these days, when a small organization like ours is standing up to much better funded groups with international outreach, we count on influencers like teachers and museum trustees and investigative journalists to dig deeper and to share this crucial information with students, museum-goers and the public.

Go to our searchable website with over 600 articles on cultural policy-related news and events and exhibitions. Help us by helping yourselves and others to a bigger world. And support us!

Committee for Cultural Policy POB 4881 Santa Fe NM 87502

info@committeeforculturalpolicy.org  917-546-6724

Repatriation Interruptus: Met’s Good Faith Attempt to Work with Italy Stymied By Seizure

July 31, 2017.  ANTIQUITIES HUNTER AND ZEALOUS PROSECUTORS SPIN A LOOTED ART STORY

Today’s announcement of the seizure of an ancient Greek vase from the Metropolitan Museum in New York is an example of how prosecutors and a self-styled artifacts hunter can make hay with claims that were already being dealt with in good faith between a museum and a source country government. The real story is that a major museum bought an artwork in 1989, exhibited it for decades, was denied access to information about it for more than 25 years, and is now attacked for holding “loot.”

Dr. Christos Tsirogiannis claims the credit for discovering a looted object, by using decades-old photographs and records the Italian government supplied to him – but which Italy has NOT made available to museums.

Tsirogiannis matched images in the archive of Giacomo Medici to a vase that has been on public exhibit at the Met for decades. He claims the Met never responded to his 2014 inquiries, so he went to the police this year. The Met says that they reached out to the Italian Government in 2014, but got no response. Finally, the Met sent the Italian Culture Ministry a formal request in December 2016, asking the case to be resolved, and was still waiting for guidance from the Italians when NY prosecutors contacted the museum in June 2017.

The Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) has spoken out in the past about Italy’s refusal to make the archives available to museums and the the general public  The AAMD stated that it was an impossible situation for museums, “to be blamed by Italy, the press and others for owning objects with provenance issues, while simultaneously denied the ability to confirm whether those objects passed through the hands of these dealers.”  Read more

Congress Holds CPAC Accountable

July 25, 2017.   CONGRESSIONAL APPROPRIATORS NOW REQUIRING STATE DEPARTMENT TO REPORT ON SELF-HELP MEASURES TAKEN BY COUNTRIES SEEKING U.S. GOVERNMENT ASSISTANCE

Congress has finally taken steps to ensure that the Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC) actually documents the effort (or lack of it) that art-source countries make on their own behalf to inventory and protect sites and museums. The law that CPAC operates under requires that a country requesting import restrictions has taken measures consistent with the UNESCO Convention to protect its cultural patrimony.  The Cultural Property Advisory Committee has often been accused of ignoring this requirement; this author recalls it recommending an MOU when the only step taken by the source country was to put a couple of posters up at the airport.  Read more

Art Professionals Oppose Draconian EU Proposal

July 28, 2017.  EU REGULATION IS BASED ON FAKE NEWS & BAD FACTS

A European Union proposal to “regulate” the ancient art market is on a fast track to destroy it. Arts organizations such as the International Association of Dealers in Ancient Art (IADAA) say that the European Commission’s regulation is based upon its unquestioning acceptance of fake news and phony numbers. They say that the EU Commission failed to consult market experts, and that the Commission’s lack of the most basic understanding of how the art trade works will result in destroying the legitimate trade. The proposal for an EU Regulation is presently being submitted to the European Parliament and the Council of the EU.  Read more

UNESCO Declares Tomb of the Patriarchs/Al Haram Al-Ibrahimi to be Endangered Palestinian World Heritage Site

July 18, 2017.  UNESCO SAYS SITE OF THE BURIAL OF ABRAHAM, ISSAC and JACOB IS IN DANGER FROM ISRAELI “VANDALISM”

On July 7, UNESCO declared the core of the Old City of Hebron to be a Palestinian World Heritage site. UNESCO also added it to the World Heritage in Danger List, specifically naming as at risk, the burial place of the biblical patriarch Abraham along with his son Isaac and grandson Jacob. This site is holy to Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Muslims refer to the site as Al-Haram Al-Ibrahimi or the Ibrahimi Mosque, while for Jews, it is the Tomb of the Patriarchs.

Palestinian representatives to UNESCO had sought to fast-track a motion to declare the World Heritage site in danger, asserting that Israel was responsible for damage and vandalism at the site. Security had to be called when tempers flared at the UNESCO committee meeting.  Read more

Hobby Lobby Breaks the Rules

July 20, 2017. CORPORATION GOES FOREIGN TO BUY ANTIQUITIES

A large US corporation, Hobby Lobby, appears to have dismissed red flags and warnings regarding acquiring antiquities overseas, and reaped the consequences. Ignoring instructions can be dangerous, especially when they could be paraphrased as “DO NOT remove Tablets A from Foreign State B or insert into United States!”

According to a civil action filed by the U.S. government in early July, Hobby Lobby did not follow the law despite warnings from US art experts that they consulted prior to making purchases overseas.  The in rem complaint (filed against 450 cuneiform tablets and 3000 clay bullae, not against the corporation) was settled in early July.  Read more

Indian Monuments Threatened By Removal of Legal Protections

July 24, 2017.   ALARM SOUNDED ON GOVERNMENT CORRUPTION, INDIFFERENCE, AND NEGLECT

Will the next Indian elevated highway be built in front of the Tomb of Akbar in Agra? An opinion piece in The Hindu newspaper, Making of a Monumental Crisis, spotlights how Indian legislation on monuments has been undermined by government policies that favor development above preservation. History professor Nayajot Lahiri of Ashoka University writes that the latest government proposal – to strip away the narrow protections of a 1959 law prohibiting construction immediately next to a national monument – will be disastrous for India’s already endangered heritage.

According to Professor Lahiri, recent Cabinet notes show that the Ministry of Culture is now effectively acting as a clearinghouse for the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways. The Cabinet claims that amendment is necessary, in part because an elevated road should be built in Agra in front of the tomb of the Emperor Akbar. Read more

Libya Claims Jewish Heritage is Libyan Patrimony

July 12, 2017.  EXPANSIVE LIBYAN EMBARGO DEMANDS JEWISH ARTIFACTS.

It is the longstanding policy of the Department of State that people do not have legitimate claims to their history or their art; only governments have claims to art and history.

A request to block all art and artifacts from Libya up to 1911 from entering the United States appears to be the next step in a movement to bar entry of all art from the Middle East to the US. The Libyan Request for a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) under the Cultural Property Implementation Act (CPIA) will limit access of all Libyan-Americans to their heritage, regardless of their religious or ethnic background, will prevent US museums from acquiring representative examples of Libya’s place in world art history, and is a slap in the face to Jewish citizens whose families were forced to leave Libya, abandoning all they had. Read more

Tuareg Art and Crafts May Be Next on US Embargo List

July 11, 2017.   ETHNIC ART OF NOMADIC TUAREG ON CHOPPING BLOCK? 

A popular type of ethnographic art may soon be subject to a US embargo, if Libya has its way. A Libyan Request to halt imports of tribal Tuareg art is a further expansion of the already very broad restrictions on importation of global art into the US.

Tribal and ethnographic art professional and collector group ATADA has submitted a highly critical response to Libya’s demand for US import restrictions to be imposed on ethnographic art up to 1911 from the Tuareg and Berber people of Libya.

The Libyan request covers everything from the Paleolithic through the Ottoman Era (12,000 B.C.-1750 A.D.) as well as ethnological material dating from 1551 to 1911 A.D.  The request is generic and expansive, rather than specific, ignoring the requirements of the Cultural Property Implementation Act (CPIA). It would include Tuareg items of material culture made from stone, metal, ceramic and clay, wood, bone and ivory, glass, textile, basketry and rope, leather and parchment, and written materials.

Although Tuareg items are listed among those for which embargo is sought, according to a 2016 State Department Human Rights Report, the Libyan government “advocated expulsion of minority groups affiliated with political rivals on the basis they were not truly “Libyan.”  Read more

Due Diligence: Access to Databases of Stolen Antiquities Denied

July 10, 2017.  KEEPING INFORMATION SECRET HARMS MUSEUMS AND MARKETPLACE

A parade of repatriated antiquities have made their way back to Italy from the United States in the last few months, highlighting a damaging lack of information on stolen and looted art that should be publicly available. Without it, it is unnecessarily difficult for museums and the market to determine whether items in their collections are legal to possess. A U.S. library, a museum and two New York galleries have all found objects in their collections to which Italy claims possession. The problem? The current owners had no way to access the information that identified items as missing or stolen. Proper due diligence requires access to complete information for verification of provenance.

While raids and seizures are dramatic and make headlines, in reality it is usually the research done by museums, libraries, and collectors – on their own or in collaboration with source countries, that results in the discovery of items that should be repatriated.

For example, the Boston Public Library recently questioned  the provenance of three of their Italian manuscripts … Read more

Exhibition in Austin: Epic Tales from Ancient India

July 24, 2017.  PAINTINGS FROM THE BINNEY COLLECTION AT THE SAN DIEGO MUSEUM OF ART BRING INDIAN HERITAGE TO AUSTIN

The University of Texas at Austin’s Blanton Museum of Art is hosting the exhibit Epic Tales from Ancient India: Paintings from the San Diego Museum of Art through October 1, 2017. Part of the Edwin Binney 3rd Collection, this exhibit of narrative art includes 90 paintings depicting the significant cultural stories and styles from the regions of South Asia during the 16th through the 19th century. Read more

Colombia Seeks Bids for Salvage of $1Billion Shipwreck

July 14, 2017.   WILL TREASURE BUILD A FOUNDATION FOR COLOMBIAN INSTITUTIONS AND SCHOLARSHIP?

A fabled Spanish shipwreck may soon see the light, if investors are willing to engage with Colombian officials and agree on a plan to lift its treasure from the sea. Nearly a week after announcing a proposal from a private investor to bring the Spanish shipwreck, the San Jose, and its multi billion-dollar treasure to the surface, Columbian president Juan Manuel Santos Calderón opened bids from other investors willing to help with the salvage of the vessel.

The San Jose was part of the Spanish treasure fleet that carried gold and silver, mined in Peru, to Spain. It was sunk during the War of Spanish Succession in the early 18th century, off the coast of Cartagena, Colombia when the powder magazines detonated. Most of the 600 crew-members were lost in the explosion and numerous chests of gold and silver coins sank with other wreckage to the bottom of the sea.  Read more

State Department Rushes Request for Libya Embargo

July 3, 2017.  ONE WEEK NOTICE AND ONLY ONE HOUR ALLOWED FOR MUSEUM & PUBLIC COMMENT FOR FIVE YEAR IMPORT BAN.

Clearly, the State Department does not want to hear considered comment by museums, citizens of Libyan heritage, or anyone else from the public concerned about access to art from Libya or safe harbor for its threatened artifacts.

The Department of State issued a Federal Register notice on July 3, 2017, the day before a Federal holiday and in the middle of a long holiday weekend, announcing that the Cultural Property Advisory Committee will review the request by the Government of Libya for an embargo on entry of art into the U.S. for all of Libya’s archaeological and ethnological material on July 19-20. Haaretz reported on the challenges faced by American Jews of Libyan heritage to have their voices heard, and on presentations by CCP, ATADA, and others to oppose the proposed embargo.  Read more

 

Share this post:Share on FacebookTweet about this on Twitter