July 14, 2015

Erin L. Thompson on “But We Didn’t Steal It:” Collectors’ Justifications for Purchasing Looted Antiquities" in the Spring 2015 issue of The Journal of Art Crime

Erin L. Thompson discusses “But We Didn’t Steal It:” Collectors’ Justifications for Purchasing Looted Antiquities in the Spring 2015 issue of The Journal of Art Crimeedited by Noah Charney (with Marc Balcells and Christos Tsirogiannis) and published by ARCA:
This article looks at beliefs of collectors about archaeology and antiquities in order to explain why modern collectors are willing to tolerate a certain amount of illegality in the process of getting antiquities from the ground to their collections. These justifications for purchasing potentially looted artifacts work by providing reasons to explain why the collector is a better owner for the antiquity than the government of its country of origin. The justifications fall into two main strands: first, that the country of origin does not deserve to own the antiquity; and second, that the collector possesses some special power of understanding of the object that gives him or her the right to own it.
Erin Thompson is Assistant Professor of Art Crime at John Jay College of Law. Her research focuses on the damage done to humanity’s shared heritage by the looting and smuggling of antiquities and other instances of the deliberate destruction of art. In addition to her traditional scholarly production during her time as a faculty member, she has published two editorials in the New York Times: “Restrict Imports of Antiquities from Syria to Cut Down on Looting” (October 9, 2014) and “Egypt’s Looted Antiquities” (May 30, 2014), as well as one in the Los Angeles Times: “To protect Syria’s antiquities, don’t buy them” (September29, 2013). She has responded to requests for background information on art crime from 60 Minutes, CBS Evening News, and NewsHour (PBS), and has been interviewed on Public Radio International’s The Takeaway and Al Jazeera America’s evening news. She has also appeared on the Freakonomics podcast, which has 3 million listeners per episode, to discuss the economic paradoxes of museum security. 

Here's a link to ARCA's website about access to The Journal of Art Crime.