April 24, 2015

Stolen Treasures Mysteriously and Anonymously Returned

By: Judge Arthur Tompkins

Te Papa Tongarewa National Museum, Wellington, New Zealand
A week ago, 14 Maori taonga [treasures], dating from the 1800s and which were in the care of a local resident in their home, were stolen during a house burglary of a rural property near to the Hawke's Bay town of Hastings, in the eastern part of the North Island of New Zealand.

Included in the haul were a number of items registered with New Zealand's Natonal Musuem, Te Papa Tongarewa, and thus protected from export under New Zealand law.

The stolen pieces included a number of greenstone (the New Zealand indigenous jade, also known as pounamu) ceremonial mere, including the two shown here, a closely-related patu [club] made from whalebone, and a ceremonial adze with a pounamu blade.

Ceremonial Mere I

Ceremonial Mere II



















"The thieves will be aware of both of these things.  We appeal to the people who took these items to return them immediately so they can be cared for by their proper guardians and remain in their turangawaewae [resting place]."
Yesterday, Friday NZ time, all the items taken were handed anonymously back to Te Papa Tongarewa.  No other details of the return have been released, apart from the fact that the items were seemingly undamaged both during their theft and during their transport down to Wellington, the nation's capital.

Police are continuing their investigation.

April 12, 2015

An Updated Analysis of What Remains of Nimrud's NorthWest Palace of Ashurnasirpal II


Photo by Mustafa Al Najjar
As news of the Nimrud explosion video produced by Daash, ISIL, Deash, ISIS, Daaesh, Islamic State gets press time.  Rearchers and journalists are beginning to comment on the missing chunks and slices of the Assyrian reliefs seen from the video's imagery of the North-West Palace of Ashurnasirpal II.  Social Media has been abuzz with speculation that these pieces may have been removed in advance of the explosion, for sale on the illicit antiquities market.   While this might partially prove to be  true, it is premature to speculate on this before cross referencing and doing so just adds to the shock and horror propaganda the militants want to demonstrate.

Sam Hardy has excellent Day One analysis of the attack on Nimrud as does Paul Barford who asks when this video was made.

A new PDF report analyzing relief and object damage was published by Simone Mühlon on April 15, 2015 and can be downloaded here

Assyrian reliefs, stone slaps and epigraphic remains in the form of cuneiform texts can also be found in private and museum collections throughout the world.  ARCA has listed a fairly comprehensive listing of the 76 known public collections and 6 private collections which contain material culture from this archaeological site.
  
 Museums

Abegg Foundation, Bern
Amherst College, Amherst
Archäologisches Institut und Archäologische Sammlung der Universität Zürich, Zurich
The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago
Arts & Culture Centre, Memorial University
Arkeoloji Müzeleri, Istanbul
The Art Museum, Princeton University
Ashmolean Museum, Oxford
Bhau Daji Lad Museum, Mumbay, India (formerly Victoria and Albert Museum)
Bowdoin College, Brunswick, Maine
The British Museum, London
Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn,
Burrell Collection. Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow
Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, Mumbay, India (formerly Prince of Wales Museum of Western India)
Christ Church College, Oxford
Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk
Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati
Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit
Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge
Fleming Museum, University of Vermont
Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University
Glencairn Museum, Academy of the New Church, Bryn Athyn
Hood Museum, Dartmouth College
Idemitsu Museum of Arts, Tokyo
Kalamazoo Valley Museum, Michigan
Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth
Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), Los Angeles
Louvre Museum, Paris
Magdalen College, Oxford
Manchester University, Museum, Manchester
Memorial Art Gallery, University of Rochester
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
M.H. De Young Museum, San Francisco
Miho Museum, Kyoto
Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis
Mosul Museum, Mosul, Iraq (Condition unknown)
Middlebury College, Middlebury
Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley
Museo Civico di Archeologia Ligure, Genoa
Museo Barracco, Rome
Museo Gregoriano Egizio, Rome
Musées royaux d’Art et d’Histoire, Brussels
Musei Vaticani, Rome
Museum and Art Gallery, Bristol
Museum Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisbon
Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg
Museum of Art, Cleveland
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Narodowe w Warszawie, Warsaw
National Car Museum of Iran, Tehran, Iran
National Museum of Iraq, Baghdad (Condition unknown)
Nationalmuseet, Copenhagen
National Museums Scotland, Edinburgh
Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen
Oriental Institute, University of Chicago
Royal Ontario Museum of Archaeology, Toronto
Saint Louis Art Museum, St. Louis
Skulpturensammlung, Dresden
Staatliches Museum Ägyptischer Kunst, Munich
State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg
Swedish National Museum, Stockholm
Tyndale House, Cambridge
University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Philadelphia
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond
Virginia Protestant Episcopal Theological Seminary, Alexandria
Vorderasiatisches Museum, Berlin
Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford
Walters Art Museum, Baltimore
William Rockhill Nelson Gallery of Art, Kansas City
Williams College Museum of Art, Williamstown
Weingreen Museum of Biblical Antiquities, Trinity College
Worcester Art Museum, Worcester
Yale University, New Haven

Private Collections:
Anonymous (3)
Fred Elghanayan, New York,
Collection Merrin, New York
Collection Samuel Josefowitz, Lausanne

A joint project of the University of California, Los Angeles, the University of Oxford, and the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin has completed a comprehensive list of the known collection items with corresponding drawings to the Assyrian reliefs where information has been available.  This online reference may be useful in determining more details of what was gone before vs. what might have been cut away for illicit sales prior to the site's detonation.

Another excellent research project for review materials is the  "Materialities of Assyrian Knowledge Production: Object Biographies of Inscribed Artefacts from Nimrud for Museums and Mobiles".   Funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council (AH/K003089/1) it was based at the Department of History and Philosophy of Science (HPS), University of Cambridge, UCL, the British Museum's Department of the Middle East, and the Babylonian Section of Penn Museum

In final comment, this might be an opportune time to underscore that the site does live on, primarily in the hearts and souls of the people of Iraq, but also tangibly, albeit widely dispersed. 

By Lynda Albertson







April 11, 2015

Update: Christie's Withdraws Antiquities Lots from April 15, 2015 Sale

Christie's has pulled the following antiquities from its upcoming April 15th sale:



















SALE 10372 Lot 83 Property of a Gentlemen
Provenance: Private collection, Japan, acquired prior to 1980s.
Anonymous sale; Christies, New York, 12 December 2002, lot 16.
Private collection, New York, acquired at the above sale with Charles Ede Ltd, London, from whom acquired by the present owner in 2006.
Beazley archive no. 26090.

SALE 10372 Lot 102 Property from a London Collection
Provenance:   Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, London, 9 December 1985, lot 273, when acquired by the present owner.  

SALE 10372 Lot 108 Property from a London Collection
Provenance: Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, London, 8 December 1986, lot 183, when acquired by the present owner.

SALE 10372 Lot 113: Property from a Private Collection, Canada
Provenance with Petit Musée, Montreal, from whom acquired by the present owner in 1998.

By clicking on each object's details readers will see under the Saleroom Notice section: "This Lot is Withdrawn" 

Sir, how much is that (2nd Century B.C.E.) Vase in the Window? Part III

Antiquities trafficking continues to make headlines in multiple countries in 2015.  In this last of a three part series, ARCA explores one final art trafficking network that underscores that the ownership and commodification of the past continues long after the traffickers have been identified.

August 31, 1995
Europa Paestan red-figure Asteas signed calyx-krater
In a fluke summer accident, Pasquale Camera, a former captain of the Guardia di Finanza turned middle-man art dealer, lost control of his car on Italy’s Autostrada del Sole, Italy's north-south motorway, as he approached the exit for Cassino, a small town an hour and a half south of Rome.  Smashing into a guardrail and flipping his Renault on its roof, Camera’s automobile accident not only ended his life but set into motion a chain reaction that resulted in a major law enforcement breakthrough that disrupted one of Italy’s largest antiquities trafficking networks.

While the fatal traffic accident fell under the jurisdiction of Italy’s Polizia Stradale, the Commander of the Carabinieri in Cassino was also called to the scene.  The investigating officers had found numerous photographs in Camera's vehicle which substantiated what investigators had already suspected, that the objects depicted in the photos had been illegally-excavated and that Camera had been actively dealing in looted antiquities.
Tombarolo holding Asteas signed calyx-krater

The images in the car were of a hodgepodge of ancient art.  Two that stood out in particular were of a statue in the image of Artemis against the backdrop of home furnishings and a Paestan red-figure calyx-krater, signed by Asteas in what looked to be someone's garage.  

Having been previously assigned to the Comando Carabinieri Tutela Patrimonio Culturale, the  Commander from Cassino called the TPC’s Division General, Roberto Conforti, who requested a warrant be issued to search the premises of Camera’s apartment in Rome, near Piazza Bologna.

Investigators who carried out the search of Pasquale Camera's personal possessions discovered hundreds of photographs, fake and genuine antiquities,  reams of documentation and the now famous Medici organagram.  This org chart revealed Giacomo Medici’s central position in the organization of the antiquities trade out of Italy.  Interestingly, the wallpaper in Cameria's apartment also matched the background of the photo of the Artemide Marciante found in Camera's vehicle. 

Subsistance Looter to Middle Man

Another photo, of Antimo Cacciapuoti, showed the tombarolo holding the freshly-looted Asteas-signed Europa krater.  A copy of this photo was provided by journalist Fabio Isman for the purpose of this article.  Isman confirmed that this image was one of the Polaroids found in Camera's Renault and went on to add that during later negotiations Cacciapuoti would confess to having been paid 1 million lire plus "a suckling pig" for his work in supplying the krater.

One of the links in Italy's largest known trafficking chain had begun to crack.

Medici Organagram
As the investigation progressed authorities went on to raid Giacomo Medici’s warehouse at the Geneva Freeport in September 1995 and recovered 3,800 objects and another 4,000 photographs of ancient art that had, at one time or another, passed through Medici’s network.

1998  Identifications

Matching seized photos to looted works of art is a laborious process.  Three years after the start of the investigation Daniela Rizzo and Maurizio Pellegrini from the Soprintendenza per i Beni Archeologici dell'Etruria meridionale at the Villa Giulia, working with the Procura della Repubblica (the state prosecutor's office) and the Court of Rome on this case, identified the Artemide Marciante from the photo found at the scene of Camera's fatal auto accident.  The photo of the statue matched another found in a June 1998 issue of House and Garden Magazine and another photo seized from Giacomo Medici which showed the object unrestored and with dirt still on it.  This statue was ultimately recovered from Frieda Tchacos.

Rizzo and Pellegrini also identified the location of the Paestan red-figure calyx krater, painted and signed by Asteas.  It had been sold by the dealer Gianfranco Becchina to the John Paul Getty Museum in 1981.
2001-2005 More Seizures

In the early years of the new century law enforcement authorities investigating this trafficking cell widened their attention on Gianfranco Becchina, whose name was listed on  the organagram, placing him as head of a cordata and as a primary supplier to Robert Hecht.  This important lead convinced investigators to explore Becchina's suspected involvement in this trafficking cell. 

As the investigation continued authorities seized 140 binders containing 13,000 more documents, 8,000 additional photographs of suspect objects and 6,315 artworks from Becchina's storage facilities and gallery.

But the purpose of this article is not to rehash a 19-year old story already detailed in “The Medici Conspiracy” by Peter Watson and Cecilia Todeschini.    It is now fairly common knowledge that an estimated 1.5 million items have been looted from Italy's myriad archaeological sites during the past four decades and a surprising number of these illicit objects have ended up in some of the world's most prestigious museums via ancient art dealers passing through the hands of Giacomo Medici, Gianfranco Becchina, Robert Emanuel Hecht Jr., and Robin Symes.

Instead, this article focuses on what is happening in the present and serves to demonstrate that despite the nearly two decades that have past since Pasquale Camera's car veered off Italy's A-1 autostrada, suspect illicit antiquities, traceable to this network, continue to be sold, often openly, on the lucrative licit art market.

To underscore the conundrum of looted to legitimate Dr. Christos Tsirogiannis a Research Assistant with the Trafficking Culture Project, housed in the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research at the University of Glasgow has highlighted four objects for sale at Christie’s upcoming antiquities auction in London, on Wednesday, 15 April 2015.  For the last eight years (2007-present), Tsirogiannis has been identifying looted and ‘toxic’ antiquities as they come up for sale from photographic evidence he was given by authorities from the three primary dossiers of photographs derived from the property seizures in these cases.

Each of these four objects listed below have been identified by Tsirogiannis as having corresponding photos in these archives, something potential purchasers may want to consider when bidding on antiquities that, at face value, are reported to have legitimate collection histories.

SALE 10372 Lot 83 Property of a Gentlemen
Provenance: Private collection, Japan, acquired prior to 1980s.
Anonymous sale; Christies, New York, 12 December 2002, lot 16.
Private collection, New York, acquired at the above sale with Charles Ede Ltd, London, from whom acquired by the present owner in 2006.
Beazley archive no. 26090. 

SALE 10372 Lot 102 Property from a London Collection
Provenance:   Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, London, 9 December 1985, lot 273, when acquired by the present owner.  

SALE 10372 Lot 108 Property from a London Collection
Provenance: Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, London, 8 December 1986, lot 183, when acquired by the present owner.

SALE 10372 Lot 113: Property from a Private Collection, Canada
Provenance with Petit Musée, Montreal, from whom acquired by the present owner in 1998.

At first blush, review of Christie's sales notes on these objects seems to demonstrate a modicum of collecting history pedigree which normally would serve to comfort potential buyers.  None of the auction lot however go on to reveal where these objects were found, or whether their excavation and exportation from their country of origin were legal.  

This should be the first alarm bell to any informed collector considering a purchase on the licit antiquities market.  ARCA reminds its readers and buyers of art works that lack of this information in an object's collection history should be a strong signal that the object may be suspect and that it is better to walk away from a beautiful antiquity than purchase an object that quite possibly may have been looted or illegally exported.

Extracts from Notes by Dr. Tsirogiannis on the Christie's Auction Lots

Regarding Lot 83
Christie's catalogue does not include any collecting history of this Greek amphora before its appearance in Japan in the 1980's. Documentation in the Becchina archive links Becchina to three German professors regarding the examination of the amphora in the 1970's.

Regarding Lot 102 
From Watson's and Todeschini's book, we know that in the 1980's Medici used to consign antiquities to Sotheby's in London, through various companies and individuals.  Why does the Christies auction not include any collecting history before the 1985 Sotheby's auction.

Regarding Lot 108

Again, Christie's advertise their due diligence, but the catalogue does not include any collecting history of this antiquity before the 1986 Sotheby's auction.

Regarding Lot 113
Again, Christie's advertise their due diligence, but the catalogue is not precise about the collecting history of this antiquity prior to 1998.

Are these Notifications Helpful?

In the past, when Dr. Tsirogiannis or Dr. David Gill have pointed out objects with tainted collection histories, dealer association members and private collectors have countered by screaming foul. They have asked,
Others have criticized this practice saying that by outing sellers and auction houses on their tainted inventory, the objects simply get pulled from auction and proceed underground.  Detractors believe that this leaves dealers to trade illicit objects in more discreet circles, where screenshots and image capture are less accessible to investigators and researchers and where the change of hands from one collector to another adds a future layer of authenticity, especially where private collections in remote location buyers are less likely to be questioned.

I would counter these concerns by saying that researchers working on this case diligently work to not impede ongoing investigations by the Comando Carabinieri Tutela Patrimonio Culturale and Italy's Procura della Repubblica and to notify the appropriate legal authorities in the countries where these auctions take place.   In the case of these four antiquities INTERPOL, the Metropolitan Police and the Italian Carabinieri have been notified.

But police officers and dedicated researchers only have so many sets of eyes and the prosecution of art crime requires dedicated investigators and court hours not often available to the degree to which this complex problem warrants.   To mitigate that, it is time that we dedicate more time educating the opposite end of the looting food chain; the buyer.

The academic community needs to learn to apply persuasive, not adversarial, pressure on the end customer; the buyers and custodians of objects from our collective past.  By helping buyers become better-informed and conscientious collectors we can encourage them to demand that the pieces they collect have thorough collection histories or will not be purchased.  As discerning buyers become more selective, dealers will need to change their intentionally blind-eye practice of passing off suspect antiquities with one or two lines of legitimate buyers attached to them.  

Buyers would also be wise to apply the same pressure to auction houses that they apply to dealers, persuading them to adopt more stringent policies on accepting consignments.  Auction houses in turn should inform consignors that before accepting items for consignment that have limited collection histories they will be voluntarily checking with authorities to see if these objects appear in these suspect photo dossiers.  In this way the legitimate art market would avoid the circular drama of having their auctions blemished with reports of trafficked items going up for sale to unsuspecting buyers or to having gaps in their auction schedule when auction houses are forced to withdraw items on the eve of an upcoming sale.

In April 2014 James Ede, owner of a leading London-based gallery in the field of Ancient Art and board member of the International Association of Dealers in Ancient Art wrote an article in defense of the antiquities trade in Apollo Magazine where he stated:

The IADAA's Code of Ethics states: "The members of IADAA undertake not to purchase or sell objects until they have established to the best of their ability that such objects were not stolen from excavations, architectural monuments, public institutions or private property."

In the past Mr. Ede has stated that small dealers couldn't afford to use private stolen art databases such as those at the Art Loss Register.  I would ask Mr. Ede in the alternative how many London dealers registered with the IADAA have ever picked up the phone and asked Scotland Yard's art squad to check with INTERPOL or their Italian law enforcement colleagues when accepting a consignment where the collecting histories of an object deserved a little more scrutiny? 

Or better still, should the more than 14,000 photos of objects from these dossiers ever be released, to private stolen art databases or to a wider public audience, how would the IADAA ensure that its membership actually cross-examine the entire archival record before signing off that the object is not tainted? Mr. Ede has also indicated previously that the IADAA only requires its members to do checks on objects worth more than £2000.  Items of lessor value would take too much time or prove too costly to the dealers.

In 2015 is it correct for dealers to remain this passive and wait for law enforcement to tell them something is afoot?  Would the general public accept such an attitude from used car sellers regarding stolen cars?

Given that Mr. Ede is the former chairman and board member since the founding of the IADAA, an adviser of the British Government, a valuer for the Portable Antiquities Scheme, and a member of the council of the British Art Market Federation his thoughts on this matter carry considerable weight in the UK.  As such he is scheduled to speak on April 14, 2015 at the Victoria and Albert Museum on "The Plunder: Getting a global audience involved in the story of stolen antiquities from Iraq and Syria."

I am curious how Professor Maamoun Abdulkarim, Director General Art and Museums, Syria  who is also speaking at this event would feel about low valued items being excluded from the IADAA's "clean or tainted" cross checks or if Mr. Ede has any workable suggestions that would actually begin to address this problem in an active, rather than passive way among the art dealing community.  

Will blood antiquities be held to a higher standard of evaluation given the public's interest while it remains business as usual for objects looted from source countries not involved in civil war or conflict?

By Lynda Albertson


References Used in This Article

Antoniutti, A., and C. Spada. "Fabio Isman, I predatori dell'arte perduta. Il saccheggio dell'archeologia in Italia." Economia della Cultura 19.2 (2009): 301-301.
Gill, David,   "Almagià: "It’s ridiculous Princeton didn’t do anything to fight that" Looting Matters (August 2010)

Felch, Jason, and Ralph Frammolino. "Chasing Aphrodite. The Hunt for Looted Antiquities at the World’s Richest Museum." (2001).

Isman, Fabio "Un milione di oggetti clandestini" Il Giornale di Arte, (May 2011)

Marconi, Clemente, ed. Greek Vases: Images, Contexts and Controversies; Proceedings of the Conference Sponsored by The Center for the Ancient Mediterranean at Columbia University, 23-24 March 2002. Vol. 25. Brill, 2004.
Watson, Peter, and Cecilia Todeschini. "The Medici Conspiracy: Organized Crime, Looted Antiquities, Rogue Museums." (2006).







April 4, 2015

Report from Tunisia: After the Massacre at the Bardo Museum, Women and Families show up to Show Support

Women showing support (morning)
By Rita Sumano, ARCA Alumna Class of 2015

The Bardo Massacre

Tunisia’s democratic transition has been wounded by the atrocious attack at the Bardo Museum last 18th of March. Under the machinegun fire of Qatiba Okba Ibn Nafâa, a terrorist cell linked to Al Qaeda in the Maghreb, 22 people died and more than 40 were injured.

Despite the claim of responsibility from the so called Islamic State, Tunisian authorities identified 21 individuals of Okba Ibn Nafâa split into four operative groups that carefully planned the operation (1). The role of the first group was to choose the target and make the necessary reconnaissance of the museum. The second group was responsible for the logistics, the provision of weapons, and explosives. The third group perpetrated the attack, while the fourth group taped and disseminated the images through the internet. 

Families gathering in from of the museum (morning)
The timing and venue were not casually chosen.  The complex commonly called “the Bardo” bears a deep historic and symbolic value, as it was a palace of the Beys, the former rulers of the country.  After Tunisia’s Independence, one wing was converted into a museum and the other wing turned into the Parliament, now the Assembly of the People's Representatives. The unique mosaic collection of the Bardo Museum – the largest in the world - contains mainly Roman art. In this context, the attack could be interpreted as a violent message against both democracy and any other form of non-Islamic culture.

Geologist Jallouli holding a sign saying
"No to terrorism" "No fear, no panic,
Tunisia is protected by its people"
(morning) 
The attack was also timely as the National Terrorist Act was being discussed that same morning in the Parliament; children had school holidays and were present in the musuem in great numbers; and, as reported by a guide present at the scene (2), terrorists waited for the arrival of tourist buses coming from the cruise ships that dock every Wednesday at La Goulette.  Hiding machine guns in large backpacks, they had time to spread out through the Museum and wait for the visitors to arrive.  Tourists were selected as a suitable target to wreck the country’s shaken economy, highly dependent on tourism.  

As a result of this murderous attack, the lead suspect of the cell and 46 terrorists (3) have been eliminated or arrested.  Several heads of security in charge of the Bardo area, as well as six commanders of police and intelligence services have been dismissed.(4)

The Tuesday After
International media said the museum would open to the public on Tuesday 24th, but the few hundred people that showed up could only gather around the gate.  Inside, an official opening ceremony was taking place.  Security was tight, polite but tense.  Under steady rain, men, women, and children gathered to show support.  The feeling floating in the air was neither anger nor fear, but rather sadness.

I spoke to Geologist Kamal Jallouli, representative of the civil society at the National Parliament, who had been there a few hours before the attack.  Emotionally touched, he told me about his childhood when he would spend Sundays exploring the museum’s collection with his parents.  He praises the long, diverse history of the country and warns me that the investigation into the attack is still open. I knew that there would be many answers he could not provide, but I still asked the questions:

Q. Some international sources talk about the attack being initially directed at the Parliament but that ended up taking place in the museum. Nevertheless, it looked to me as if the venue was carefully selected.  Do you think the attack was initially directed to the parliament?
-“No”, he answered shortly.

Q. In that case, one might infer that the terrorists were familiar with the museum, and must have visited it many times.  Could they have been identified had the museum guards carried out effective surveillance? 
-“I guess so”

Q. Is it plausible to think of an insider providing assistance?
-“I cannot answer that question”

Q. Do you think this type of attack could escalate into plundering Tunisia’s heritage sites? 

Kamal Jallouli is confident that as we speak, security forces are being deployed to guard archeological sites, other museums and touristic spots.  He doesn’t think that this incident is part of a larger plot.

Q. A few days before the attack, downtown Tunis looked heavily guarded: police checkpoints, dogs sniffing cars, hand bags being checked and several forces being deployed. So why, in such a “hot spot” was security so lax?

–“Because we Tunisians are candid, we have no tradition of violence”, he replies with a shy smile.  

His answer is the most convincing one I have received so far.

Foreign demonstrators showing support (afternoon)
Hours passed by, and as steady rain was transformed into a downpour, a human river also flooded the streets around the Bardo Museum.  Nearly 50,000 people of all sorts and several nations participated in an inspirational, almost spontaneous, demonstration against terrorism. The museum’s gate was the final goal of the crowds taking part in the march.   The happy coincidence with the World Social Forum taking place in Tunis, engrossed the international presence and added to the feeling of solidarity.

In parallel, the deployment and weaponry of security forces was significantly heavier than in the early hours, but the ambiance was festive and police and army elements were friendly.  Participants would smile and take proud pictures with police and military… certainly not the typical interaction between security forces and demonstrators.

Under the rain, music, dance, chants and cameras show how cultural heritage could be an effective tool to build peace.  The feeling floating in the air was hope. 

Proud demonstrators
with friendly soldier
 (afternoon)
Museum Security

The Bardo attack had a triple target: it was an attack against democracy, against tourism and against culture. The Bardo Museum is not an exceptional example of how close, physically and symbolically, many museums are to power centers.  Many other cities in the world could have been victims of such an attack, and this should send a warning to all cultural institutions: to be fully prepared for this and other types of catastrophes.  

In recent years, we have witnessed how cultural heritage has been devastated due to political instability, religious fundamentalism, and armed conflicts; similar crimes, could be perpetrated in comparable places. 

Operators should engage in an active preventive role, carrying out proper selection and training of staff and making sure that the risk to visitors, personnel or the collection is minimized.  Museum security is a professional activity that should not be left to amateurs.

The accompanying photos were all taken by the author on March 24, 2015.

(1) Tunise - Attaque terroriste due Bardo: Le point sur l'enquête, in Tunisie Numérique, 25/03/2015, 11:44.

(2) Frida Dahmani. "Attentat du Bardo: l'musée de l'horreur", in Jeune Afrique, 24/03/2015, 8:28.


(4) "Attentat du Bardo: Le gouvernement Tunisien pass a l'offensive", in Jeune Afrique, 23/3/2015, 12: 35

April 2, 2015

Honolulu Museum of Art and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agents Collaborate: A model for the Repatriation of Looted Art

By Lynda Albertson

In 2014 Homeland Security Special Agent Brenton Easter, part of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, contacted the Honolulu Museum of Art having determined that a 2000-year-old terra cotta rattle may have been looted and tied to the antiquities looting case against New York art dealer Subhash Kapoor.  

Kapoor has long been suspected of being
at the heart of an international antiquities smuggling operation which allegedly has sold illicit artifacts, either directly to or through donors, to major museums around the world.  The effect of this one trafficking network has had long-reaching impact to collections at some of the worlds greatest art museums including the Art Institute of Chicago, Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art in Australia, the Norton Simon Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Toledo Museum of Art, and now the Honolulu Museum of Art.
Proactive in his approach Honolulu Museum of Art Director Stephan Jost and his staff worked to identify seven suspect works of art from within the Hawaiian museum’s collection.  Five objects were purchased directly from Subhash Kapoor, one was given to the museum by the dealer as a gift, and the seventh piece was sold by Kapoor to a private investor who subsequently donated it to the museum's collection. 
In a taped video interview on KITV which can be found here Director Stephan Jost is heard to say They don't belong here. They're stolen,"  "On one hand I hope they find a great home someplace. On the other hand, we've had them on view here almost 25 years. Lots of people loved them. The bottom line is they don't belong here."
This quote from a museum head stands in stark contrast to recent remarks made by James Cuno, president of the J. Paul Getty Trust, which operates the Getty Museum.  Cuno has made strong statements in both the New York Times and the quarterly magazine Foreign Affairs arguing that wholesale repatriation to source countries who cannot adequately protect their heritage is not in the best interest of the public as a whole.   In the FA article Cuno stated that "Cultural property should be recognized for what it is: the legacy of humankind and not of the modern nation-state, subject to the political agenda of its current ruling elite."

In the New York Times article Mr. Cuno was interviewed to have said “Calamity can happen anywhere, but it is unlikely to happen everywhere at the same time,” “I say ‘distribute the risk,’ not ‘concentrate it.’ ” when referring to recent issues in areas impacted by Da'ish and other profiteering looters in countries plagued by civil unrest and war.

Gary Vikan, former director of the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, told the New York Times journalists that given the extent of the conflicts in places like Syria, Iraq and northern Africa museums should take on a conservative stance on repatriation, stating  “I think this will put an end to the excess piety in favor of the repatriation model.”

While the ultimate repatriation of the objects photographed here, taken by AP photographer and journalist Jennifer Sinco Kelleherbeing packed up for their departure from the Honolulu Museum of Art, are not headed to countries currently embroiled in civil war, the contrast between each of these museum director's stance on their collections is something worth underscoreing.

Should museums ethically stand behind the return of looted antiquities in their collections on a county conflict case by case basis as Mr. Cuno and Mr. Vikan believe?  

In on Op/Ed piece this week Franklin Lamb, author of "Syria's Endangered Heritage, An international Responsibility to Protect and Preserve" has said he has not seen widespread support for the delay of repatriation in cases in Syria.  He has stated that  "Syrian officials and scholars interviewed [by] me overwhelming reject this point of view as does the Syrian public. Some have noted that using the destructive frenzy by Islamic State extremists to lobby against repatriation seeks to justify discredited practices and reeks of neo-colonialism."

March 31, 2015

US Legislature calling for the protection and preservation of international cultural property at risk due to political instability, armed conflict, or natural or other disasters, and for other purposes.

by Lynda Albertson, ARCA CEO

Earlier in March 2015, Representative Eliot L Engel, [D-NY-16] introduced a Bill in the 114th Congress, First Session, -- via the House - Armed Services; Foreign Affairs; Judiciary; Ways and Means Committee and also referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs -- calling for the protection and preservation of international cultural property at risk due to political instability, armed conflict, or natural or other disasters, and for other purposes [A copy of that bill has been included in its entirety below].

In addition, four members of the US House Foreign Affairs Committee wrote a letter to Adam Szubin, Director of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC)urging the U.S. to block import of looted Syrian antiquities:
We write to urge that the Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control act quickly to promulgate regulations imposing sanctions on importers of cultural property unlawfully removed from Syria,” the letter, issued on Monday, said. “Such regulations would implement a recently adopted United Nations Security Council Resolution and would mirror regulations already established for Iraq.
The Titles for the bill introduced earlier are as follows:
  • SHORT TITLE(S) AS INTRODUCED: 
    Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act
  • OFFICIAL TITLE AS INTRODUCED: 
    To protect and preserve international cultural property at risk due to political instability, armed conflict, or natural or other disasters, and for other purposes.
On March 19, 2015 this Bill was referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs, and in addition to the Committees on Ways and Means, Armed Services, and the Judiciary, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned.

Bill text available as: PDF

114th CONGRESS
1st Session

H. R. 1493

To protect and preserve international cultural property at risk due to political instability, armed conflict, or natural or other disasters, and for other purposes.

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
March 19, 2015
Mr. Engel (for himself, Mr. Smith of New Jersey, Mr. Royce, and Mr. Keating) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs, and in addition to the Committees on Ways and Means, Armed Services, and the Judiciary, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned

A BILL
To protect and preserve international cultural property at risk due to political instability, armed conflict, or natural or other disasters, and for other purposes.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. Short title.
This Act may be cited as the “Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act”.

SEC. 2. Definition.
In this Act:

(1) APPROPRIATE CONGRESSIONAL COMMITTEES.—The term “appropriate congressional committees” means the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate.

(2) CULTURAL PROPERTY.—The term “cultural property” includes property covered under—
(A) the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, concluded at The Hague on May 14, 1954 (Treaty Doc. 106–1(A));

(B) Article 1 of the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World’s Cultural and Natural Heritage, adopted by UNESCO on November 23, 1972 (commonly referred to as the “1972 Convention”); or

(C) Article 1 of the Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export, and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, adopted by UNESCO on November 14, 1970 (commonly referred to as the “1970 UNESCO Convention”).

SEC. 3. Findings and statement of policy.

(a) Findings.—Congress finds the following:
(1) Over the years, international cultural property has been looted, trafficked, lost, damaged, or destroyed due to political instability, armed conflict, natural disasters, and other threats.

(2) During China’s Cultural Revolution, many antiques were destroyed, including a large portion of old Beijing, and Chinese authorities are now attempting to rebuild portions of China’s lost architectural heritage.

(3) In 1975, the Khmer Rouge, after seizing power in Cambodia, systematically destroyed mosques and nearly every Catholic church in the country, along with many Buddhist temples, statues, and Buddhist literature.

(4) In 2001, the Taliban destroyed the Bamiyan Buddhas, ancient statues carved into a cliffside in central Afghanistan, leading to worldwide condemnation.

(5) After the fall of Saddam Hussein, thieves looted the Iraq Museum in Baghdad, resulting in the loss of approximately 15,000 items, including ancient amulets, sculptures, ivories, and cylinder seals. Many of these items remain unrecovered.

(6) The 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami not only affected 11 countries, causing massive loss of life, but also damaged or destroyed libraries, archives, and World Heritage Sites such as the Mahabalipuram in India, the Sun Temple of Koranak on the Bay of Bengal, and the Old Town of Galle and its fortifications in Sri Lanka.

(7) In Haiti, the 2010 earthquake destroyed art, artifacts, and archives, and partially destroyed the 17th century Haitian city of Jacmel.

(8) In Mali, the Al-Qaeda affiliated terrorist group Ansar Dine destroyed tombs and shrines in the ancient city of Timbuktu—a major center for trade, scholarship, and Islam in the 15th and 16th centuries—and threatened collections of ancient manuscripts.

(9) In Egypt, recent political instability has led to the ransacking of museums, resulting in the destruction of countless ancient artifacts that will forever leave gaps in humanity’s record of the ancient Egyptian civilization.

(10) In Syria, the ongoing civil war has resulted in the shelling of medieval cities, damage to five World Heritage Sites, and the looting of museums containing artifacts that date back more than six millennia and include some of the earliest examples of writing.

(11) In Iraq and Syria, the militant group ISIL has destroyed numerous cultural sites and artifacts, such as the Tomb of Jonah in July 2014, in an effort to eradicate ethnic and religious minorities from contested territories. Concurrently, cultural antiquities that escape demolition are looted and trafficked to help fund ISIL’s militant operations.

(12) On February 12, 2015, the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2199 (2015), which “[r]eaffirms its decision in paragraph 7 of resolution 1483 (2003) and decides that all Member States shall take appropriate steps to prevent the trade in Iraqi and Syrian cultural property and other items of archaeological, historical, cultural, rare scientific, and religious importance illegally removed from Iraq since 6 August 1990 and from Syria since 15 March 2011, including by prohibiting cross-border trade in such items, thereby allowing for their eventual safe return to the Iraqi and Syrian people.”.

(13) United Nations Security Council resolution 2199 (2015) also warns that ISIL and other extremist groups are trafficking cultural heritage items from Iraq and Syria to fund their recruitment efforts and carry out terrorist attacks.

(14) Cultural property represents an irreparable loss of humanity’s common cultural heritage and is therefore a loss for all Americans.

(15) Protecting international cultural property is a vital part of United States cultural diplomacy, showing the respect of the United States for other cultures and the common heritage of humanity.

(16) The United States Armed Forces have played important roles in preserving and protecting cultural property. In 1943, President Franklin D. Roosevelt established a commission to advise the United States military on the protection of cultural property. The commission formed teams of individuals known as the “Monuments Men” who are credited with securing, cataloguing, and returning hundreds of thousands of works of art stolen by the Nazis during World War II.

(17) The Department of State, in response to the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act, noted that “the legislation is important to our foreign relations, including our international cultural relations. The expanding worldwide trade in objects of archaeological and ethnological interest has led to wholesale depredations in some countries, resulting in the mutilation of ceremonial centers and archaeological complexes of ancient civilizations and the removal of stone sculptures and reliefs.”. The Department further noted that “[t]he United States considers that on grounds of principle, good foreign relations, and concern for the preservation of the cultural heritage of mankind, it should render assistance in these situations.”.

(18) The U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield was founded in 2006 to support the implementation of the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and to coordinate with the United States military, other branches of the United States Government, and other cultural heritage nongovernmental organizations in preserving international cultural property threatened by political instability, armed conflict, or natural or other disasters.

(b) Statement of policy.—It shall be the policy of the United States to—
(1) protect and preserve international cultural property at risk of looting, trafficking, and destruction due to political instability, armed conflict, or natural or other disasters;

(2) protect international cultural property pursuant to its obligations under international treaties to which the United States is a party;

(3) prevent, in accordance with existing laws, importation of cultural property pillaged, looted, stolen, or trafficked at all times, including during political instability, armed conflict, or natural or other disasters; and

(4) ensure that existing laws and regulations, including import restrictions imposed through the Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) of the Department of the Treasury, are fully implemented to prevent trafficking in stolen or looted cultural property.

SEC. 4. United States Coordinator for International Cultural Property Protection.
The Secretary of State shall designate a Department of State employee at the Assistant Secretary level or above to serve concurrently as the United States Coordinator for International Cultural Property Protection. The Coordinator shall—

(1) coordinate and promote efforts to protect international cultural property, especially activities that involve multiple Federal agencies;

(2) act as Chair of the Coordinating Committee on International Cultural Property Protection established under section 5;

(3) resolve interagency differences;

(4) develop strategies to reduce illegal trade and trafficking in international cultural property in the United States and abroad, including by reducing consumer demand for such trade;

(5) support activities to assist countries that are the principle sources of trafficked cultural property to protect cultural heritage sites and to prevent cultural property looting and theft;

(6) work with and consult domestic and international actors such as foreign governments, intergovernmental organizations, nongovernmental organizations, museums, educational institutions, and research institutions to protect international cultural property; and

(7) submit to the appropriate congressional committees the annual report required under section 6.

SEC. 5. Coordinating Committee on International Cultural Property Protection.

(a) Establishment.—There is established a Coordinating Committee on International Cultural Property Protection (in this section referred to as the “Committee”).

(b) Functions.—The full Committee shall meet not less often than annually to coordinate and inform Federal efforts to protect international cultural property and to facilitate the work of the United States Coordinator for International Cultural Property Protection designated under section 4.

(c) Membership.—The Committee shall be composed of the United States Coordinator for International Cultural Property Protection, who shall act as Chair, and representatives of the following:
(1) The Department of State.

(2) The Department of Defense.

(3) The Department of Homeland Security, including U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

(4) The Department of the Interior.

(5) The Department of Justice, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

(6) The United States Agency for International Development.

(7) The Smithsonian Institution.

(8) The U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield.

(9) Such other entities as the Chair determines appropriate.

(d) Subcommittees.—The Committee may include such subcommittees and taskforces as the Chair determines appropriate. Such subcommittees or taskforces may be comprised of a subset of the Committee members or of such other members as the Chair determines appropriate. At the discretion of the Chair, the provisions of the Federal Advisory Committee Act (5 U.S.C. App.) and section 552b of title 5 of the United States Code (relating to open meetings) shall not apply to activities of such subcommittees or taskforces.

(e) Consultation.—The Committee shall consult with governmental and nongovernmental organizations, including museums, educational institutions, and research institutions on efforts to promote and protect international cultural property.

SEC. 6. Reports on activities to protect international cultural property.
The Secretary of State, acting through the United States Coordinator for International Cultural Property Protection, and in consultation with the Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development, the Secretary of Defense, the Attorney General, and the Secretary of Homeland Security, as appropriate, shall annually submit to the appropriate congressional committees a report that includes information on activities of—

(1) the United States Coordinator and the Coordinating Committee on International Cultural Property Protection to protect international cultural property;

(2) the Department of State to protect international cultural property, including activities undertaken pursuant to the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, and other statutes, international agreements, and policies, including—
(A) procedures the Department has instituted to protect international cultural property at risk of destruction due to political instability, armed conflict, or natural or other disasters; and

(B) actions the Department has taken to protect international cultural property in conflicts to which the United States is a party;

(3) the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to protect international cultural property, including activities and coordination with other Federal agencies, international organizations, and nongovernmental organizations regarding the protection of international cultural property at risk due to political unrest, armed conflict, natural or other disasters, and USAID development programs;

(4) the Department of Defense to protect international cultural property, including activities undertaken pursuant to the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and other cultural property protection statutes and international agreements, including—
(A) directives, policies, and regulations the Department has instituted to protect international cultural property at risk of destruction due to political instability, armed conflict, or natural or other disasters; and

(B) actions the Department has taken to avoid damage to cultural property through construction activities abroad; and

(5) the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, to protect both international cultural property abroad and international cultural property located in, or attempted to be imported into, the United States, including activities undertaken pursuant to statutes and international agreements, including—
(A) statutes and regulations the Department has employed in criminal, civil, and civil forfeiture actions to prevent and interdict trafficking in stolen and smuggled cultural property, including investigations into transnational organized crime and smuggling networks; and

(B) actions the Department has taken in order to ensure the consistent and effective application of law in cases relating to both international cultural property abroad and international cultural property located in, or attempted to be imported into, the United States.

SEC. 7. Authorization for Federal agencies to engage in international cultural property protection activities with the Smithsonian Institution.
Notwithstanding any other provision of law, any agency that is involved in international cultural property protection activities is authorized to enter into agreements or memoranda of understanding with the Smithsonian Institution to temporarily engage personnel from the Smithsonian Institution for the purposes of furthering such international cultural property protection activities.

SEC. 8. Emergency protection for Syrian cultural property.

(a) Presidential determination.—Notwithstanding subsection (b) of section 304 of the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act (19 U.S.C. 2603) (relating to a Presidential determination that an emergency condition applies with respect to any archaeological or ethnological material of any State Party to the Convention), the President shall apply the import restrictions referred to in such section 304 with respect to any archaeological or ethnological material of Syria, except that subsection (c) of such section 304 shall not apply. Such import restrictions shall take effect not later than 120 days after the date of the enactment of this Act.

(b) Definitions.—In this section—
(1) the term “archaeological or ethnological material of Syria” means cultural property of Syria and other items of archaeological, historical, cultural, rare scientific, or religious importance unlawfully removed from Syria on or after March 15, 2011; and

(2) the term “State Party” has the meaning given such term in section 302 of the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act (19 U.S.C. 2601).