Showing posts with label 1970 Convention. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1970 Convention. Show all posts

November 13, 2014

Professor Duncan Chappell appointed to the National Cultural Heritage Committee in Australia

Professor Duncan Chappell at ARCA conference in Amelia
ARCA Lecturer Professor Duncan Chappell has been appointed to the National Cultural Heritage Committee which supports the operation of the Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act 1986 which gave UNESCO's 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property "force" in Australian law.

The committee advises the Minister for the Arts on the maintenance of the National Cultural Heritage Control List and the operation of the National Cultural Heritage Account.

Professor Chappell is an Adjunct Professor in the Faculty of Law at the University of Sydney, and one of Australia's pre-eminent experts in the field of illicit trafficking in cultural property. A former Director of the Australian Institute of Criminology, he has published widely on art crime and the illicit trade in cultural property. In 2013, Professor Chappell was awarded the Eleanor and Anthony Vallombroso Award for Art Crime Scholarship by the Association for Research into Crimes against Art.

Dr. J. Patrick Greene OBE was appointed as chair of the committee. Other members appointed: Mr. Joseph Eisenberg, Professor Marett Lieboff, Ms. Tina Baum and Dr. Graeme Were.

July 9, 2012

"Princeton and Recently Surfaced Antiquities" in David Gill's column "Context Matters" for Spring/Summer 2012 issue of The Journal of Art Crime

In the column "Context Matters", David Gill writes on "Princeton and Recently Surfaced Antiquities" in the Spring/Summer 2012 issue of The Journal of Art Crime.
In 1983 the USA ratified the 1970 Unesco Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property (Paris, 14 November 1970). Article 7 includes the statement,
To take the necessary measures, consistent with national legislation, to prevent museums and similar institutions within their territories from acquiring cultural property originating in another State Party which has been illegally exported after entry into force of this Convention, in the States concerned.
In 2002 the Princeton University Art Museum agreed to return the fragmentary pediment of a Roman funerary relief that it had acquired in 1985 from New York dealer Peter Sharrer with funds provided by Mr. and Mrs. Leon Levy (inv. 85-34: Princeton University Art Museum 1986, 38, 39 [ill.]; Padgett 2001b, 47-51, no. 11). It turned out that the fragment had been discovered in 1981-82 at Colle Tasso near Tivoli and had been published by Zaccaria Mari. Michael Padgett, the then curator at Princeton and who was preparing a catalogue of the Roman sculptures, notified the museum’s acting director who in turn contacted the Italian authorities (Anon. 2002). Susan M. Taylor, the museum’s newly appointed director, was quoted in the press release about the return: “We are proud to be an active partner in the ongoing international effort to resolve ownership claims for stolen objects and in discouraging the illegal trade of art and cultural artifacts.” 
This was not to be the end of the museum’s return of antiquities.
Dr. Gill is Head of the Division of Humanities and Professor of Archaeological Heritage at University Campus Suffolk, at Ipswich, Suffolk, England. He is the author of 2011 book, "Sifting the soil of Greece: the early years of the British School at Athens (1886-1919)".

June 21, 2012

UNESCO promotes public awareness of illicit trafficking of cultural property with 2011 Documentary "Stealing the Past"

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

Here’s a link to the website and video for “Stealing the Past”, co-produced by; One Planet Pictures; and the Swiss Confederation.  This English language documentary is intended to create public awareness about the illicit trafficking of cultural property worldwide.  This program spotlights Italy, Colombia and the United Kingdom to see ‘what police, museums and auction houses are doing to tackle’ looting of heritage.

"Stealing the Past" has Gihane Zaki, Eyptian Ministry of Culture, talking about how people 'rallied' to protect the collection of the Museum of Antiquities in Cairo during the Arab Spring Uprising in early 2011.  "When they heard in the media that the museum was looted, they went directly there and it was really fantastic to see all of the young people gather around the museum to prevent more looting." The museum reported only 18 items stolen, according to the documentary.

From Iraq, up to 7,000 ancient objects were "still at large" from the archaeological museum.  An art dealer in California was found last year trying to sell 25 of them, according to the film's narrator.

Others included in this program: Karl-Heinz Kind, Interpol Criminal Organisations & Drugs Unit; Jane Levine, Director of Compliance for Sotheby's; Irena Bokova, Director General, UNESCO; Rita Cosentino, Director, Etruscan National Museum; Sir Mark Jones, Director, Victoria and Albert Museum; Colonel Raffaele Mancino of the Carabinieri Heritage Unit; Diego Herrera, Director General, Colombian Institute of Anthropology; Captain Erica Correa Bustos, Colombian National Police; Carlos Emilio Piazzini, Deputy Director, Colombian Institute of Anthropology; Dr. Andrew Richardson, Canterbury Archaeological Trust; Mark Harrison, Chief Superintendent, Kent Police; Maurice Worsley, Kent Amateur Metal Detecting Support Unit;

“Stealing the Past” includes a statement from the March 2011 commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the 1970 Convention.

"One-hundred twenty countries have signed a convention which has no teeth,” Irena Bokova, Director General, UNESCO told the participants at the Paris meeting.  “This is one of the specific conventions which doesn't have a specific enforcing mechanism."
Other highlights:

UNESCO works closely with INTERPOL, the international policing agency that maintains a database of stolen items totaling around 40,000 as of last year. According to UNESCO, Italy is 'home' to 60% of the world's art treasures. The Carabinieri Heritage Unit has a stolen art database of more than 1.5 million objects. "Cerveteri is known throughout the world for the activity of illegal excavation," said Rita Cosentino, Director of the Etruscan National Museum. "These activities have been devastating for a site like Cerveteri." The Carabinieri conduct frequent investigations into the area of Cerveteri aimed at finding illegal excavations, finding the thieves, and seizing any stolen objects, according to the documentary's narrator. The crew was 'given permission to follow one such operation' of 'ten officers, four cars, and four horses' with a helicopter surveying the targeted area from above for 'illegal excavations taking place'. When the road runs out, the horses are at an advantage over 'rough terrain' in the event of a chase. A Carabinieri officer climbs into a looted tomb and finds a 3rd century BC cup. "There are sporadic incidents," Cosentino says. "But the majority these days are done by amateurs. On the whole, the phenomenon of looting, thanks to the Carabinieri, has practically been defeated."

“The threats we need to combat are those criminal offences that pose a danger to Italian cultural heritage,” says Colonel Raffaele Mancino of the Carabinieri Heritage Unit. “From theft, to robbery, to vandalism. To support our work we have a number of legislative tools for the safeguarding of cultural goods and above all to combat the illicit trafficking of cultural goods. In recent years criminal organizations at the international level have become interested in this traffic as a way of laundering money from other criminal activities. We have found Italian artworks all over the world. But I have to say that with high-level government collaboration we have been able to bring back to Italy thousands and thousands of works of art.”

From inside the Carabinieri Heritage Units warehouse, Colonel Mancino points out a headless statue of Zeus stolen some years ago from the Norwegian Institute of Culture in Rome and a Greek-style vase intercepted by custom officials at an airport.

The Colombian Ministry of Culture estimates that 10,000 archaeological treasures are smuggled out of the country every year and less than 1% of these artworks are recovered. In 2007, the Colombian police created a special unit to deal with the illegal trafficking of the country’s heritage. The unit works in collaboration with the Institute of Anthropology. It has three offices.

Metal detecting in the UK has turned into a ‘thriving’ hobby (as has ‘night hawking’ the term for illegally using metal detectors at night on archaeological sites). The British government is willing to purchase ancient items found in the ground. “There is more political will on the part of the governments to stop this illicit trade,” Irena Bokova said in the television show.

June 20, 2012

Wednesday, June 20, 2012 - , No comments

UNESCO'S Headquarters in Paris Hosts Second Meeting of States Parties to the 1970 Convention (June 20 & 21)

UNESCO'S Picasso Mural "The Fall of Icarus" 1958
by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

UNESCO Headquarters in Paris is hosting the Second Meeting of States Parties to the 1970 Convention today and tomorrow to optimize the international agreement's "implementation, appraise its effectiveness with particular regard to new trends in trafficking in cultural property, and formulate strategies geared primarily to improve its application".

This meeting is a follow-up to the March 2011 meeting in Paris which commemorated the 40th anniversary of the legal instrument designed to promote international cooperation to stopping the illicit looting of archaeological sites by limited the flow of ancient objects across borders.  The ARCA blog covered the 2011 event here; Mexicans and Canadians attend; Mexico's plea; Turkey's statement; and the speakers including Jane Levine of Sotheby's.

"The meeting will examine in depth the status of this indispensable legal instrument in the fight against the illicit traffic of cultural property and its relevance to the needs of the international community," writes UNESCO.

The proposed agenda includes a 2007-2011 analysis of the implementation of the 1970 Convention by States Parties; regional reports on the implementation and the evolution of the art market at the regional level; and proposals concerning follow-up on the implementation of the 1970 Convention.

From 2007 to 2012, 12 countries signed  the 1970 UNESCO Convention bringing the total number to 122 states which have ratified the treaty on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property.  UNESCO and its partners created "legal, practical and awareness-raising tools" (Report of the Secretariat on its Activities) to facilitate and implementation of the 1970 Convention: 1) UNESCO's Database of National Cultural Heritage Laws; 2) basic measures concerning cultural items offered for sale on the Internet (proposed by INTERPOL and ICOM; 3) model export certificate for cultural objects developed jointly by the UNESCO and World Customs Organizations; 4) the publication of "Witnesses to History - Documents and writings on the return of cultural objects; 5) public awareness video materials and co-production of a documentary "Stealing the Past"; 6) continuing distance education ( for French-speaking countries; 7) model provisions on state ownership of undiscovered cultural objects; and 8) cultural heritage protection handbook No. 6 securing religious heritage.  Training workshops have been held regionally.

Five members of the European region who have not yet signed the 1970 convention (Austria, Ireland, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta and Monaco) will be targeted by UNESCO for 'awareness-raising, information and training actions in conjunction with the authorities of these countries and art market stakeholders where relevant (UNESCO).

June 19, 2012

Tuesday, June 19, 2012 - , No comments

Opening a new classical art museum in the post-1970 Convention Era

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin,  ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

Last April British business Christian Levett opened a museum to display the more than 700 pieces of art and antiquties he has purchased over the past seven years, reports Dayla Alberge for The Guardian.  The article does not refer to the collecting history of these ancient Roman, Greek and Egyptian objects. Compare this to tomorrow's opening of the Second Meeting of States Parties to the 1970 Convention, which more than 40 years ago was designed to fight against the illicit traffic of cultural property.  How are ancient artefacts marketed, sold and displayed in this post-1970 Convention era?

The Mougins Museum of Classic Art ("Musee d'art classique de Mougins") is located northeast of Cannes in the South of France.  Its website contains images of the objects but no reference to the collecting history.

Levett is the owner of the archaeology magazine Minerva.  Last November he received the Ashmolean Museum Fellowship Award in Oxford.  One of the rooms in the Ashmoleans new Egyptian galleries is named after Mr. Levett and his family.

Alberge describes Levett's Mougin collection as 'ranging from Egyptian reliefs to masterpieces by Rubens and Picasso" of 'approximately 700 works spanning 5,000 years' with such 'jewels' as 'exquisite 1st-century Roman statues of Hadrian and the empress Domitia'.

Dr. David Gill, author of the blog Looting Matters, wrote more than a year ago about the history of a Greek Apulian hydria. Dr. Gill reports that Levett/Mougins Museum of Classical Art purchased some objects from the Royal-Athena Galleries and that some of the objects were from the collection of Patricia Kluge (see Dr. Gill's comments on an article by Italian journalist Fabio Isman).

Also a year ago, PHDIVA blogger Dorothy King wrote that she understands that "the Museum has a strict policy of 20 to 25 years' provenance for lesser items and 40+ years' provenance for more important antiquities."

If any of our readers are in the South of France this summer, maybe they would report back on the ARCA blog as to whether or not the museum provides additional information to visitors about the history of the objects on display.

May 2, 2012

BOOK REVIEW: Joshua Knelman's Hot Art: Chasing Thieves and Detectives Through the Secret World of Stolen Art

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

Interpol and UNESCO listed art theft as the fourth-largest black market in the world (after drugs, money-laundering, and weapons).  But what did that mean? After I’d been following [Bonnie] Czegledi’s career for several years, one point was clear: don't look at the Hollywood versions of an art thief -- the Myth.  This is a bigger game, with more players, and the legitimate business of art is directly implicated.  A lot of the crimes are hidden in the open.  Stealing art is just the beginning.  Then the art is laundered up into the legitimate market, into private collections, into the world's most renowned museums.
 -- Joshua Knelman, author of Hot Art

Toronto journalist Joshua Knelman, author of Hot Art: Chasing Thieves and Detectives Through the Secret World of Stolen Art (Tin House Books, 2012), introduces to the general reader the international problem of art crime and the limited resources of legal authorities in fighting this problem in the first decade of the 21st century.

In 2003, Knelman was just a 26-year-old researcher for the Canadian magazine Walrus when he stumbled down the rabbit hole of art theft and recovery.  A gallery owner hesitant to speak about the theft of $250,000 worth of photographs stolen two years earlier opens up to Knelman after police recover part of the stolen artwork.  Knelman eventually contacts the suspect’s lawyer, and that leads to a midnight phone call from the thief who has been investigating Knelman. The two meet in a café in Toronto.  The aspiring reporter is physically threatened, given stolen art, and then lectured by the thief about how the secretive business practices in the legitimate art market actually supports art crime.  Thus begins Knelman’s adventures through the world of thieves and investigators of looted art.

The journalist befriends Bonnie Czegledi, a Toronto attorney specializing in art crime, who educates Knelman about the types of stolen art and cultural property: missing Holocaust-looted artworks; pillaging of antiquities from source countries such as Egypt, Afghanistan, and Turkey; multi-million dollar thefts from museums worldwide; and unreported thefts from galleries and residences.  Knelman writes:
The world’s cultural heritage had become one big department store, and thieves of all kinds, at all levels, were shoplifting with impunity, as if the one security guard on duty was out on a smoke break.
Stolen art can be laundered through auction houses and art dealers; police aren’t trained to investigate art theft; and lawyers aren’t trained to prosecute them.  “Meanwhile, the criminal network is international, sophisticated and organized,” Czegledi says.

Ten years ago when Knelman first met Czegledi, tools to recover stolen art included Interpol’s stolen art database; the International Council of Museum’s guidelines for the buying practices of museums; the International Foundation for Art Research; and the Art Loss Register.

For example, Knelman relates that a curator at the Royal Ontario Museum was offered the chance to buy some Iraqi antiquities (the institution declined).  This was after the National Museum of Iraq was looted in 2003 and about 25 years after Canada had signed the 1970 Convention barring importing stolen artwork across international borders.

Knelman points out that only a handful of detectives worldwide have the expertise and training to investigate art thefts – from the pairs of police officers located in Montreal and Los Angeles to the larger European squads in England and Italy.

In 2005, Knelman’s published an article in The Walrus, “Artful Crimes” which highlights art crime in Canada against an increasingly global and transnational problem.  But he wasn’t done with the story.  Two years later, Knelman paid his own way to join cultural attorney Czegledi at the International Ccouncil of Museum’s conference in Cairo.  American prosecutor Rick St. Hilaire guides him through Egyptian history of ancient art crimes and summarizes the problem of smuggling of antiquities today which Knelman smartly summarizes in his book.  Knelman also meets Alain Lacoursière, the police officer that initiated the study of art crime in Quebec, while dodging an Egyptian conference organizer who demands the journalist pay a higher rate on his hotel room – Knelman sleeps on the floor in another room to avoid paying the organizer his cut.

By 2008, Knelman has a contract to write an investigative book on the mysterious and increasingly violent black market for stolen art.  He goes online to find an art thief interviewed by the magazine Foreign Policy.  He tracks down Paul Hendry, a Brighton knocker who graduated to handling millions of dollars in stolen paintings and antiques.  “We struck up what turned out to be a three-year conversation,” Knelman writes.  “We started to talk once, twice, sometimes three times a week.”

“It was easy to make a living from stealing art, according to Paul, if a thief made intelligent choices, if he stayed below a certain value mark – about $100,000.  Less was better.  Don’t steal a van Gogh.  To someone who knew how to work the system, the legitimate business of fine art became a giant laundry machine for stolen art.  You could steal a piece and sell it back into the system without anyone being the wiser.”
“It’s called ‘pass the hot potato,’” Paul told me.  “A dealer sells it on to the next dealer, and the next, until nobody knows where it came from.  It’s a fantastic system!  And that system is the same wherever you are.  It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about London, New York or New Delhi,” he explained.  “Art is something you have to think about as a commodity that goes round in circles.  The only time it appears in the open is when someone tries to filter it into the legitimate art market – auctions, art fairs, gallery sales, dealers.  Otherwise it’s hidden away inside someone’s home.”

Hendry grew up in Brighton and learned his outlaw trade as a “Knocker” who talked elderly residents out of their art and antiques.  Since 1965 Sussex Police had been responding to a high number of residential burglaries and created England’s first Art and Antiques Squad that operated until 1989.

According to Paul, in the 1960s Brighton closed down a large open-air market and built a huge shopping mall, Churchill Square.  Produce vendors started going door to door, which created opportunities to buy “good junk.”  They became known as “knockers”.

Knockers sold “junk” to antique dealers at a price higher than they had paid for it.  Knocking turned into a devious game that allowed thieves to peek at the inventory inside the houses of the upper middle class.’

Hendry tells Knelman of his poor and chaotic childhood, his training on the streets of crime, and how he hires local men from the neighborhood bar to break into homes and steal family treasures that Hendry can then sell.

The second part of this book review continues tomorrow.

November 5, 2011

Link to Tom Flynn's blog: Auction house to offer rare Chinese Qing dynasty Imperial gilt metal box looted from Beijing Summer Palace

Chinese gilt metal box
Tom Flynn, a London-based journalist and art historian, writes with passion about the business of selling art. Recently on his blog, artknows, a post titled "More 'loot' from the Beijing Summer Palace at Salisbury auction in November' was distributed by the Museum Security Network (MSN) and caught my interest as we had recently at the ARCA blog run posts about auction catalogues and provenance descriptions.

Dr. Flynn, who has taught "Art History and the Art World" at ARCA's Postgraduate Certificate Program in International Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection Studies, discusses the item in his latest post and what Chinese and Asian buyers may spend to recover this and other items:
The fine and rare Chinese Qing dynasty Imperial gilt metal box appearing at Wooley & Wallis's November 16 sale of Asian Art bears an inscription - "Loot from the Summer Palace, Pekin, Oct. 1860. Capt. James Gunter, King's Dragoon Guards."
There are no international treaty's or agreements that would return this item to China as UNESCO's 1970 convention does not apply to items stolen prior to 51 years ago.

October 7, 2011

An online review of Christie’s sale of "Antiquities" in London on October 6

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

This week my attention was drawn to Christie’s sale of “Antiquities” on October 6 when a friend told me that she had seen ‘Germanicus’ at the preview in South Kensington, London. Since I am writing an art crime mystery about the fictional theft of a bronze Germanicus from Amelia, Umbria, Italy, I was curious about which ‘Germancius’ was for sale.

Christie’s online catalogue describes “A Roman Marble Portrait Head of Germanicus”, dated circa 10-19 AD, as:
His head inclined to the right, with strong features, prominent chin and aquiline nose, his narrow lips bowed, his hair spiraling from the crown and falling onto his forehead in thick pincered waves. 12¾ in. (32.4 cm.) high
Under “Provenance” the information is provided as follows:
Marie Ghiringelli collection, Monte Carlo, 1920s-1950s; thence by descent to Mr. G. Huguenin, Switzerland, 1955.
I did a simple Google search for “Marie Ghiringelli, Monte Carolo” and found an “Antonio” who had been involved with opera and “G. Huguenin, Switzerland” appeared to possibly be a gallery of sorts in Switzerland. I am not an expert in this kind of thing and I emailed Christie’s for more information but you can imagine that on the eve of a big auction that they were really busy.

The price for Germanicus, estimated at 200,000 to 300,000 British pounds was out of my budget, but if I had been a prospective buyer, I would look for information that this object was in compliance with the 1970 Convention. Information that it had been in two collections, as long as this information was true, would have given me as a buyer some comfort. I certainly wouldn’t want to spend 300,000 British pounds just to find out I’d supported a network promoting organized crime. You might say, why buy it then? Well, I have spent years studying Germanicus and this object would just be too tempting for me. However, one of the questions that would remain unanswered is, where did this object come from? Did it sit in Nero’s seaside villa in Anzio (Nero was Germanicus’ grandson) or did it belong to Caligula (Germanicus’ son and the ill-fated emperor?)

This is the information that Christie’s did provide to prospective buyers:
Germanicus Julius Caesar, (15 B.C.-A.D. 19) was the son of Drusus Major and Antonia Minor and the brother of Claudius, who later became emperor. Tiberius (reigned A.D. 14-37) was his uncle and adoptive father. Germanicus' military career was distinguished; he commanded the eight Roman legions on the Rhine frontier, recovering two of the legionary standards lost after a military disaster in the Teutoberg forest (A.D. 9). He became immensely popular among the people of Rome, who celebrated his military victories. The Roman biographer Suetonius in hisLife of Caligula, III, describes Germanicus' "... unexampled kindliness, and a remarkable desire and capacity for winning men's regard and inspiring their affection." Following his untimely death through illness at Antioch at the age of thirty-four, he was elevated to god-like status. 
This portrait was probably set up high and near a wall or in a niche because of the low relief carving of the locks of hair at the back of the head. Based on the fringe over the forehead and physiognomy, the present portrait is likely to belong to a group of portraits known as the Beziers type which originate with a head from Beziers, now in Toulouse. Cf. F. Johansen, Roman Portraits I, Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen, 1994, pp. 126-7, no. 51. For the typology, cf. H. Jucker, Die Prinzen auf dem Augustus-relief in Ravenna. Mélanges d'histoire ancienne et d'archéologie offerts à Paul Collart, Lausanne, 1976, p. 254, no. 91.
The ‘collecting history’ of this piece is minimal and the actual information of where this object came from is not mentioned – all we are told is that it ‘was probably set up high and near a wall or in a niche because of the low relief carving … likely to belong to a group of portraits known as the Béziers type which originate with a head from Béziers, now in Toulouse.”

What and where is Béziers? It’s an ancient town in the southeast of France in Languedoc (I stayed there in Vergeze for two weeks in 2006), a former Roman town known as Baeterrae. The Romans apparently, according to Wikipedia my go-to-classical history guide, colonized it in 36/35 BC. I was not able to find information about the heads of Béziers that are now in Toulouse (another city I’ve stayed in). But my guess from exploring this information is that they are first century Roman marbles that were displayed in a small town in the southeast of France. However, just visiting those areas years ago didn’t give me any additional information – I mostly remember vineyards and a great science museum.

Did this marble head of Germanicus sell at Christie’s on Thursday?

Christie’s has a magnificent website that provides ‘Auction Results’ on the items sold. The sale in South Kensington of ‘antiquities’ totaled 3,491,862 British pounds. Christie’s provides a list of the sales price for each item.  In looking through the 251 items offered for sale, 20% of the items did not sell. When I sorted the lots by “estimate (high to low)”, I found that two highly valued items that did not sell.

An Attic red-figured pointed neck-Emphora”, attributed to Skyriskos, circa 475-450, valued at 250,000 to 350,000 British pounds, was not sold according to Christie’s online auction results. The “provenance” on this item was from a private German collection and acquired in Switzerland in the 1960s. It was labeled “Beazley Archive no: 30676”. This information shows ownership prior to 1970, the agreed upon date by UNESCO members desiring to create an international treaty to stop the looting of archaeological sites and the sale of stolen antiquities. That information might provide me with some comfort that it had not been recently dug up.

The second most expensive object in the auction, my Germanicus marbel head, did not sell.

Neither did the 3rd century BC “Greek Parcel Gilt Silver Phiale” estimated at 100,000 to 150,000 British pounds.  Its “Provenance” is identified as from a private London collection in the 1980s; a private collection in Switzerland; and acquired by the current owner on the ‘Swiss art market’ in 1993. 

Are buyers also sensitive to objects that appear not to be in compliance with the 1970 Convention? If items are not selling, will Christie’s auction house provide more detailed information about the ownership or collecting history of these objects in order to facilitate a sale? Are they already thinking that they should do more to reassure their clients that the objects are not looted? After all, a company such as Christie’s which is providing all this information on the Internet for everyone – museum officials, archaeologists, academics and law enforcement to see – and enabling buyers worldwide to purchase the objects online – would be unlikely to engage in selling stolen property, eh?

What did sell at Christie’s London auction of ‘Antiquities'

The most expensive item that did sell at Christie’s London October 6 auction was “A Roman Bronze Portrait Head of a Man”, circa second quarter of the 3rd century AD, for 457,250 British pounds (US$705,080). The stated “Provenance” of this object is from a private collection in Germany in the 1980 and acquired by the current owner in 2001. This information might not satisfy a buyer’s question as to whether or not this item had been smuggled out of Italy or possibly even Bubon in southwestern Turkey.   The “Lot Notes” on this item, which sold for almost $1 million, does not indicate where this object came from, only that it was from the period of the Soldier Emperors (235-284 AD).

A Greek Marble Head of Young Girl” sold for 313,250 British pounds or US$483,032. The “Provenance” states that it was owned by "P. Vérité in Paris in the 1920s" and passed on to "C. Vérité of France". As a buyer, I might feel more comfortable purchasing this antiquity and less concerned that someone would claim that it had been found in the ground in the last four decades.

Looking at the auction results from the Kensington sale at Christie’s, approximately 55 or about 20% of the items didn’t sell. Although the auction results state the “price realized”, the buyers are not named and these items will not be able to be publicly tracked. If you contact Christie’s, you will likely be told that the information of the purchasers is private. Of course, would every Porsche owner want his or her name publicized when a vehicle is purchased? But this gets into the whole debate of who owns cultural property. Where did these objects come from and how did they get to the auction house in London? Where will they be going now? These artifacts are the collective memory of human history; each item commemorates an aspect of being human and provides historical perspective, possibly understanding of current society.

For all UNESCO’s efforts to stop the trafficking of looted antiquities, what are the auction houses doing to reassure buyers that the items were legally obtained? These objects are so beautiful that if I had the money to purchase them, I would like to feel comfortable with the investment. Or will the purchase of antiquities go the way of fur coats?

Christie’s does have another way of communicating with prospective buyers about the auction through an easily accessible e-catalogue. The pages are beautifully displayed and contain much of the same information as the website.  Page 41 introduces the “Property from the Collection of the Late Gabrielle Keiller (1908-1995).  Her third husband, archaeologist Alexander Keiller and ‘sole heir to a Dundee marmalade firm’, opened a museum in Avebury and contributed to ‘one of the most important prehistoric archaeological collections in Britain’ (English Heritage).  Mrs. Keiller collected modern art and bequeathed her 20th century collection to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art.  According to the catalogue, Gabrielle Keiller purchased three Cycladic works up for sale at the auction in 1981 from B. C. Holland Inc. in Chicago in 1981.  However, there is no information as to when B. C. Holland came into possession of the objects.

On page 43 of the catalogue is an object, Lot #61 titled “An East Greek Bronze Griffin Protome” whose “Provenance” is described as being “with Robin Symes London; with Royal-Athena Galleries, New York, 1988; and the Morven Collection of Ancient Art.  I don’t know what that means.  When did Robin Symes have this 6th century BC object? Sometimes “East Greek” means the land known as “Asia Minor” which is now the Republic of Turkey.  I just finished reading a few articles from Turkish journalist Özgen Acar which describes the smuggling ring of antiquities where Robin Symes intersects.  Symes is a former antiquities dealer who went to prison for in 2005 and whose activities are documented in Peter Watson and Cecilia Todeschini’s 2006 The Medici Conspiracy, the Illicit Journey of Looted Antiquities from Italy’s Tomb Raiders to the World’s Greatest Museums.”  I am willing to believe that Christie’s auction house would not trade in illegal antiquities but I don’t know what I am to understand from this information as it is stated here.

Christie’s does have a paragraph on page 170 at the back of the brochure, which I presume is fairly standard:

(c) Attribution etc Any statements made by Christie’s about any lot, whether orally or in writing, concerning attribution to, for example, an artist, school, or country of origin, or history or provenance, or any date or period, are expressions of our opinion or belief.  Our opinions and beliefs have been formed honestly and in accordance with the standard of care reasonably to be expected of an auction house of Christie’s standing, due regard having been had to the estimated value of the item and the nature of the auction in which it is included.  It must be clearly understood, however, that due to the nature of the auction process, we are unable to carry out exhaustive research of the kind undertaken by professional historians and scholars, and also that, as research develops and scholarship and expertise evolve, opinions on these matters may change.  We therefore recommend that, particularly in the case of any item of significant value, you seek advice on such matters from your own professional advisers.” 
Christie’s catalog also states that it is an agent and that all transactions are between the seller and the buyer, yet the names of sellers are not identified in most cases.  Who is really putting these items up for sale?

While many items require a major investment, other objects are for sale for thousands of US dollars or British pounds. It seems that even though I could conveniently see this auction and view real-time results on my iPhone or iPod Touch (as touted by Christie's), I’ll need a lot more than money before I feel comfortable purchasing an object of antiquity at auction.

August 7, 2011

Keynote Panel: 40-year Anniversary of the 1970 UNESCO Convention Features Chris Marinello of the Art Loss Register

Paolo Ferri and Chris Marinello
By Mark Durney, Founder of Art Theft Central

Chris Marinello, Executive Director & General Counsel of the Art Loss Register, delivered a lecture on the role of private and public stolen art databases in the recovery of lost art. In March 2011, Marinello along with ARCA’s Catherine Sezgin attended the 40th Anniversary of the 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property held at UNESCO’s headquarters in Paris France.

As of 2011, the ALR’s database contained over 300,000 stolen works of art. The ALR offers its registration services on a pro bono basis to countries that are currently engaged in armed conflict or that have endured through natural disasters. For example, upon hearing news of the looting and theft of objects from sites and institutions across Egypt, the ALR reached out to Zahi Hawass to assist in the swift recovery of its missing objects.

Marinello continued with a discussion of a number of the more intriguing recoveries the ALR had made in recent years. For example, in cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the ALR returned a portrait of a young girl by famous Belgian artist Antoine (Anto) Carte to its owner 69 years after it was stolen by the Nazis. During the World War II, the work’s original owners fled their Brussels home and the Nazis eventually confiscated their art. In November 2008, the ALR notified ICE and the U.S. Attorney's Office that a Long Island art gallery had possession of the work. Fortunately, in this case owner forfeited the painting upon hearing that it had been stolen during the war. However, as Marinello alluded to, few cases are resolved as quickly. As illustrated in the Carte case, the ALR frequently works closely with domestic and international law enforcement agencies including the FBI, Scotland Yard, the Carabinieri, and Interpol.

Upon conclusion of Marinello’s lecture, former Italian state prosecutor Paolo Ferri, provided a few insights into the Carabinieri’s lost art database, which now contains over a million registered objects.

Keynote Panel: 40-year Anniversary of the 1970 UNESCO Convention

Catherine Schofield Sezgin reports on her participation at the 40th anniversary of the 1970 UNESCO convention at the at ARCA’s International Conference in the Study of Art Crime, in Amelia, Italy July 10

by Jessica Nielsen, ARCA Intern

November 14, 2010 marked the 40th anniversary of the 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. ARCA blog editor-in-chief, Catherine Sezgin, reported on her participation in a celebration of the 40th anniversary held in Paris last March from her notes on the event. She mentioned that she had seen Annika Kuhn and Prosecutor Paolo Ferri at the event and invited them and many of her other fellow presenters at the ARCA conference (who she deferred to as having greater knowledge of the history and successes of the treaty), to engage in a lively discussion following her presentation.

"The Fight against the Illicit Traffic of Cultural Property: The 1970 Convention: Past and Future" The conference was an opportunity for UNESCO to look at the history of the Convention, evaluate its accomplishments, strengths and weaknesses and examine its main challenges. Sezgin noted that there was a speaker who brought up the similarities in the implementation of the 1970 Convention of UNESCO on illicit traffic to the experiences of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna 1973 (CITES). She also sat in on a public debate covering various issues among representatives from “source and destination” countries, the art market, museums and international organizations. Sezgin was most impressed by the Mexican representative, Dr. Jorge A. Sánchez Cordero, Director of the Mexican Center of Uniform Law; who spoke about Mexico’s active participation in the forming of the treaty and that it was the eighth country to ratify it. Mr. Cordero said:
We are in a situation that we cannot tolerate. Many countries are being plundered through clandestine excavations. Despite all our efforts, criminals operate on sites and in the trafficking of cultural and archeological objects.
Dr. Sanchez-Codero also talked about the ‘international community experiencing a rise of a new consciousness regarding the need of protecting cultural heritage, which is not linked to cultural nationalism, but rather to the need of safeguarding universal knowledge.’ Sezgin reported that he urged UNESCO to ‘play a prominent role in the new cultural order' and said that the convention 'only protects objects placed on an inventory list,’ this was a perfect introduction to the next speaker at the ARCA conference, Chris Marinello, from the Art Loss Registry, who described his company’s database.

More from Sezgin’s report on the event can be read on the ARCA blog here and here.

Catherine Schofield Sezgin received her Postgraduate certificate in ARCA’s International Art Crimes Studies Program in 2009. She has written about the efforts of law enforcement to stop the trafficking of stolen antiquities on the blog and in The Journal of Art Crime. She has worked as the editor-in-chief of ARCA’s blog since 2010.

July 13, 2011

July 8, 2011

Art Loss Register's Chris Marinello Will Lead Keynote Panel on the 40th Anniversary of the 1970 Convention at ARCA's Third Annual Art Crime Conference on Sunday July 10

The 40th Anniversary of the 1970 UNESCO Convention will be the subject of the keynote panel at ARCA's third annual International Art Crime Conference on Sunday, July 10th in Amelia.

Both Chris Marinello, Executive Director and General Counsel for the Art Loss Register, and Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-chief, attended the UNESCO meeting in March 2011 in Paris to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the 1970 Convention, an international treaty designed to promote cooperation between countries to stop the sale of illicit cultural property which was increasing the illegal excavating or plundering of archaeological sites.
Last March in Paris, UNESCO commemorated the 40th anniversary of the 1970 Convention which was a landmark treaty negotiated to define illegal trafficking of cultural property for the international community and provide policies for nations to adopt to stem the demand and sale of cultural property. Subjects covered included legal instruments employed for the fight against illicit trafficking of archaeological objects. The 1970 Convention has been ratified by 120 Member States and is seeking ratification by 80 more. After 40 years, effective has the 1970 convention been in the fight against the illicit trafficking of cultural property?
In 2010, Christopher Marinello was appointed Worldwide Recoveries Manager for his success management of recoveries in North America. Before joining the Art Loss Register, Marinello worked as a litigator in the realm of the arts with clients such as museums and collectors.

Catherine Schofield Sezgin received her Postgraduate Certificate in ARCA's International Art Crimes Studies Program in 2009. She has written about the efforts of law enforcement to stop trafficking of stolen antiquities on the blog and in the Journal of Art Crime. In the past two decades Catherine has also traveled extensively to ancient sites in modern day Turkey. Since October 2010 Catherine has worked as the editor-in-chief of ARCA’s Blog.

June 15, 2011

Government of Canada Returns Its Largest Ever Seizure of Cultural Property to the Republic of Bulgaria

Press Release from the Office of the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages

GATINEAU, June 10, 2011 – The Government of Canada today returned to the Republic of Bulgaria 21,000 coins, pieces of jewellery, and other objects that were illegally imported to Canada and seized by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The cultural artifacts were returned today at a ceremony at the Canadian Museum of Civilization by Royal Galipeau, Member of Parliament (Ottawa–Orléans), on behalf of the Honourable James Moore, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages.

"Today marks Canada's largest ever return of illegally imported cultural property, and we are pleased to return these 21,000 precious artifacts to the Republic of Bulgaria," said Minister Moore. "This return of items to their country of origin demonstrates Canada's commitment to stopping the trafficking in cultural property and recover illegally imported goods."

"The Government of Canada is taking action to prevent the illicit traffic of cultural property," said Mr. Galipeau "I would like to commend the work of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Canada Border Services Agency, whose efforts led to the successful seizure and return of these rare antiquities."

"The RCMP is pleased with this successful outcome. Our team in Montréal has worked long hours to investigate, locate, and retrieve these Bulgarian artifacts," said Bob Paulson, RCMP Deputy Commissioner. "Together, with our government and law enforcement partners, we monitor and identify any illegal smuggling of valuable cultural objects and ensure their safe return to the rightful owners."

In 2007, Canada Border Services Agency officials detained two imports of cultural property sent by mail from Bulgaria. These imports were referred to Canadian Heritage for further assessment, and the RCMP was asked to investigate. As a result of its investigation, the RCMP seized about 21,000 ancient coins, pieces of jewellery, and other objects in November 2008. In January 2011, the importer formally abandoned the cultural property, clearing the way for the Court of Quebec to rule under the Criminal Code for the return of the seized antiquities to the Republic of Bulgaria.

These objects, many of which were illegally excavated, cover more than 2600 years of the history of Bulgaria. This collection includes more than 18,000 coins, as well as a number of artifacts including bronze eagles, rings, pendants, belt buckles, arrows and spearheads, and bone sewing needles. They represent a mix of Hellenistic, Roman, Macedonian, Byzantine, Bulgarian, and Ottoman cultural heritage.

His Excellency Mr. Vezhdi Rashidov, Minister of Culture of the Republic of Bulgaria, was present to accept the artifacts from the Government of Canada at today's ceremony. Madame Irina Bokova, Director General of UNESCO, was also present.

"I would like to express our sincere gratitude to the Department of Canadian Heritage and personally to Minister James Moore, to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, to the investigative departments, as well as to all Canadian institutions who contributed to the resolution of this case," said Mr. Rashidov.

Canada and Bulgaria are signatories to the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Cultural Property, under which participating states agree to assist each other in the recovery of illegally exported and stolen cultural property. In Canada, the Convention is implemented through the Cultural Property Export and Import Act, administered by the Department of Canadian Heritage. The Department works closely with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Canada Border Services Agency to enforce and administer the Act and combat the illicit traffic of cultural property.

You may find this press release on the website of Canadian Heritage here.

March 23, 2011

Wednesday, March 23, 2011 - ,,, No comments

UNESCO 1970 Convention Today: Last week's conference

Dr. Jorge Sánchez-Cordero speaking at the public debate.
by Catherine Schofield, Editor

Home from Paris, I will continue coverage of the UNESCO meeting on the commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the 1970 Convention, the still to be ratified by one-third of the signatories of an international effort to stop the illicit trafficking of cultural property, as does the looting of archaeological sites all over the world.

The 1970 Convention, formerly known as the Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property 1970, can be read here on UNESCO's website.

On March 15, in one of the auditoriums at the UNESCO building in the 7th arrondissement of Paris just a few minutes walk from Napoleon's Tomb, the meeting, "The 1970 Convention: Past and Future", began with a public debate moderated by journalist Louis Laforge. The speakers included Irina Bokova, Director-General, UNESCO; Bernd Rossbach, Director, Specialized Crimes and Analysis, INTERPOL; Dr. Jorge A. Sánchez Cordero, Director of the Mexican Center of Uniform Law; Stéphane Martin, President, Musée du Quai Branly; and Jane Levine, Worldwide Compliance Director and Senior Vice President, Sotheby's Auction House.

One of the scheduled speakers, Dr. Zahi Hawass, Egyptian's brief former Minister of Culture, was 'unable to leave Cairo' to attend the meeting. Instead, he sent a message that said he supported the fight against the illicit theft of cultural property and asked that people help Egypt find the items recently stolen from the Cairo museum.

"The art market is sometimes painted as the enemy," Jane Levine, a former American prosecutor said, after UNESCO's introductor remarks. Her job at Sotheby's, she said, is to train staff on how to ask questions about the provenance of objects. She works with a full-time department of lawyers and admits that her appointment is a change in the market's "new attitude" of focusing on the due diligence aspect of archaeological objects.

Mr. Rossbach told the audience that INTERPOL is a "crucial partner with UNESCO" in fighting the illicit trafficking in art and cultural objects. INTERPOL seeks the cooperation of specialized organizations like UNESCO and stressed the importance of training. INTERPOL released a summary of his statements on the group's website here.

Mr. Sanchez-Cordero said in Spanish, according to UNESCO's English translator, that the 1970 Convention 'has to play a prominent role in the new cultural order'. He said that the convention 'only protects objects placed on an inventory list, a problem in implementing the 'effectiveness' of tackling this problem and one that 'runs counter to archaeological sites and is a problem for countries of origin.' Another shortfall, he said, was that it was just not enough to adopt the international convention. "We shouldn't stop at that but follow-up and give countries of origin (of cultural objects) a system to follow up the convention and to take remedial action.'

Mr. Martin said in French, and I also paraphrase him through UNESCO's English translator, that French museums will not complete collections with objects that unlawfully entered the market. 'Most objects in museums haven't been created to be in a museum,' he said, 'so the wish to place them there doesn't fit in with all cultures, such as placing a religious object outside of a church. What is La Jaconde? Is it an Italian object because Leonardo da Vinci painted it? Or French because François I purchased it? Or is it Japanese because it's viewed by the Japanese?' It's a fascinating and complex issue. Everyone rejects a nationalistic view of the world. It's a cultural issue for everyone and counter to trade.'

UNESCO's Director-General, Madame Irina Bokova, said that she wanted to "ring the bell of the alarm" and find out how to "strengthen and implement" the 1970 Convention, mentioning that there was a "new conscience" in the past 40 years that supports cultural exchange, diversity, knowledge and art, but is against the "pillaging" of archaeological sites, the trafficking of illicit cultural objects which is "robbing" people of their identity, rights, and destroying archaeological sites and excavations. She commended the countries of Belgium, The Netherlands, and Switzerland who recently signed the convention. "Without international cooperation, it would be difficult to curb this trade."

Mr. Laforge asked INTERPOL's Rossbach if there are any major routes for illegal trafficking of cultural objects. "There is always a reaction and an action," Rossback said. "We cannot be fixed on one route. We are working with partners to identify those gaps."

Interpol has opened a new office in Singapore, Laforge asked as translated from French to English, is this indicative of a new market? "Yes," Rossbach answered. "Singapore is a sign."

According to UNESCO:
"The illicit trafficking of antiquities is estimated to be superior to US $6 billion per year, according to research conducted by the United Kingdom's House of Commons on July 2002.  Ten years later, the UN report on transnational crimes calculated that the world traffic in cocaine reached US $72 billion; arms, $52b; heroine, $33b; counterfeiting, $9.8B; and cybercrime, $1,253B.  Together with the trafficking in drugs and arms, the black market of antiquities and culture constitutes one of the most persistent illegal trades in the world."
We'll continue coverage of this UNESCO 1970 Convention meeting tomorrow.

March 22, 2011

Tuesday, March 22, 2011 - ,, No comments

UNESCO 1970 Convention Today: Turkey's statement to the 40th anniversary commemoration meeting last week

 Reconstructed Temple of Trajan, Pergamum, Turkey
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, Editor

By marriage, Turkey is my adopted country, so I approached one of the Turkish attendees at last week's UNESCO meeting to ask for the statement from the Turkish delegate.  Mr. Murat Suslu, Director General of Cultural Assets and Museums for the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism, delivered a prepared statement in English to UNESCO last week at the 40th anniversary commemoration of the 1970 Convention, the international agreement signed by 193 and ratified by 120 countries that promotes cooperation between states to stop the looting of archaeological sites and the trafficking of illicit cultural property. His short statement was one of many delivered by delegates on the second day. The ARCA blog invites other state delegates to also send us a copy of their statement for distribution. Many delegates stressed the importance of creating awareness of this problem on a global scale, and ARCA, a non-profit organization for research into crimes against art, can help facilitate.

According to UNESCO, at least 17,500 investigations were opened in Turkey for looting of art from 1993 to 1995.

Mr. Suslu addressed the international group in English and it was translated audibly in French and Spanish to the audience. The meeting was chaired by Dr. Davidson L. Hepburn, Chairman of the Antiquities, Monuments, and Museums Corporation of The Bahamas.
"Mr. Chairman, Turkey as a source country has had to fight very hard; both to prevent illegal trafficking of its cultural property and also for the return of its stolen objects. In fact, this struggle goes back as far as the 19th Century.

All our diplomatic efforts for return are under the framework established by the 1970 convention. We have several bilateral agreements with neighboring and market countries in line with the 1970 Convention. Last year we returned four objects to Iraq that were captured at the border from traffickers. We will continue to cooperate further with Iraq.

We show goodwill by lending cultural objects for exhibitions in other countries. We expect similar goodwill to be shown by market countries in return.

We are stıll expectıng the return of thousands of objects that were illegally exported from Turkey, rangıng from the tiles of Sultan's tombs and library to the stele of Samsat, many of you will be familiar with the case of the Boğazköy Sphinx.

There are countries ın our region which show exemplary cooperation. I would like to thank the authorities of the Republic of Serbia for returning to Turkey last month almost 2,000 archaeological objects seized at the border.

Mr. Chairman, the 1970 Convention has been of help. However, it has not fully solved outstanding issues of stolen, illegally excavated and illicitly exported properties of the past.

The convention does not cover the objects coming from clandestine excavations. So an entire sector is not covered by the convention as already mentioned by Mexico and other source country representatives.

It also does not cover those artifacts which come from regular excavations; which are stolen before they are registered and then illicitly exported.

Under the 1970 Convention, the burden of proving ownership is placed on the claiming state and not the present possessor. Thus it becomes almost impossible for the source country to obtaın the return of its cultural objects that were illicitly excavated or illegally trafficked right after excavation before being registered.

Another important issue is the application of the convention. The legal regulations of some states parties do not support the return of cultural properties to their country of origin.

Besides the ICPRCP [Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting the Return of Cultural Property to its Countries of Origin or its Restitution in Case of Illicit Appropriation], a body to facilitate returns within the framework of the 1970 Convention is also needed.

Of course, in the end, it all depends on the states parties.  Thank you."
If you would like to read more about UNESCO's 1970 Convention, you may read the column, The Secret History of Art, on by Noah Charney, founder of ARCA, the Association for Research into Crimes against Art.

March 18, 2011

Paris Diary: Mexico's Plea for UNESCO to Provide International Leadership on the 1970 Convention for Countries to Work Together to Stop the Trafficking of Illicit Cultural Objects and the Destruction of Archaeological Sites... and Revisiting Paris' Most Celebrated Stolen Art, the Mona Lisa

PARIS - Thursday morning I walked to Les Deux Magots for breakfast before heading to Le Carrousel du Louvre to purchase a 4-day museum pass. Upon arrival at the St. Germain café, I recognized Dr. Jorge Antonio Sánchez Cordero Davila, director of the Mexican Center for Uniform Law, engaged in serious conversation with two distinguished men. After indulging in a Provançal omelette, I passed them again, still talking, but this time I re-introduced myself. Dr. Sánchez-Cordero, an expert on the panels at the two-day UNESCO meeting on the 1970 Convention anniversary, immediately stood as did his companions and after his customary warm greeting and introduction to his companions (in French), then returned to English to emphasize that Mexico had been impassioned in it's plea to UNESCO to establish a leadership role on the 1970 convention. Further posts here will elaborate on his specific intent but one of the points made at the conference by another expert was that UNESCO's staff of one on the 1970 convention could not be effective by itself. Participants had almost all agreed that communication between countries, the ratification of the agreement by another 73 countries (only 120 of 193 signatories have ratified it), and subsequent awareness and training on the ways to implement ways to stop the trafficking and looting of cultural objects would require more than one UNESCO staff member.

While not everyone ignores Veronese's The Wedding at Cana, many people are just waiting to see The Mona Lisa

The crowd in front of Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa is continuous and slow as so many people want to be photographed with this centuries old celebrity.

Three paintings by Titien are on the other side of the wall of 'La Joconde'
In 1911, a former workman walked out of the Louvre with Leonardo Da Vinci's Mona Lisa, an artwork that had been owned by France since François I had purchased it after the artist had died at his court. The two-year search for the painting resulted in the fame the painting now has today. Even in March, hordes of visitors cram into one room to view 'La Jaconde' even while paintings by Titien on the other side of the wall and a wall-seize canvas of The Wedding at Cana by Veronese remain relatively ignored.

March 17, 2011

Thursday, March 17, 2011 - ,, No comments

Samuel Sidibé, Director of the National Museum of Mali, Spoke Wednesday at UNESCO in Paris about the 1970 Convention and How the Severe Problem of Looting of Archaeological Sites Was Exacerbated By Demand in the Art Market for Wooden and Ceramic Masks

Samuel Sidibé of Mali posed for photograph
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, editor

PARIS - Samuel Sidibé, the director of the National Museum of Mali, the last speaker scheduled on Tuesday, actually opened the second day of the 40th commemoration meeting at UNESCO on the 1970 Convention when time ran out on on the panel, "Illicit trafficking of archaeological objects". Attendance appeared to have thinned out and the cameras had disappeared, but when I mentioned this to Mr. Sidibé at the lunchbreak, he said, "I don't need any cameras." But I thought what he said was important enough to mention here. As one of the other delegates mentioned, Mr. Sidibé was one of the few experts from the continent of Africa to speak at the meeting, and the only one from outside of Egypt and Tunisia.

Mali, Mr. Sidibé began, perhaps because the Niger River runs across it, has many archaeological sites. He said that problems of looting and illicit excavations peaked in the 1970s and 1980s due to the publicity of the discovery of legitimate archaeological sites and the popularity of traditional wooden masks prized on the international market. Some unscrupulous people were falsifying the wooden masks, he said through an English interpreter as he spoke in French, the discovery of ceramic masks 'sparked interest as people lost faith in wooden masks'. This led to looting in ceramic masks. 'Originally looting occurred near the site by the Niger river where the ceramic masks were discovered but demand grew and spread to an interest in pottery in prehistoric sites,' Mr. Sidibé explained. 'It is a serious problem unique to Africa because although written manuscripts have been found in the Sahil region, they are lacking for other centers so artifacts are prized. It is an unacceptable moral situation to deprive people knowledge of their history.'

'What has Mali been doing to protect it's cultural heritage?' he posed. In 1985, he said, Mali adopted strict legislation that objects from archaeological sites cannot be traded commercially or exported for sale. 'All our archeological objects found in Europe are in violation of the law in Mali,' he said.

Mali ratified the 1970 Convention as a tool for international cooperation, he said. 'Mali signed an agreement with the United States to forbid the import of objects from Mali's archaeological sites and we are in partnership with the Swiss to set up an agreement to protect our heritage.'

They have other agreements with various countries and are in consultation with France, a significant art market, he said. 'Sixteen terra cotta statutes seized by the French government were returned to the Mali museum.'

In addition to working with the International Conference of Museums and the 'red list' for stolen items, they have had training programs at the professional and technical level in the field. To create awareness of the problem, they examined 'severely looted sites' of what remained to remained to better understand their context and spoke to communities throughout Mali.

'Communities have traditionally had the concept that sites are income,' he said, 'and we have been educating them that archaeological sites are culture.' He said that they will continue with research and training programs because 'too much looting is going on the African continent.'

March 16, 2011

Wednesday, March 16, 2011 - ,, No comments

Mexico and Canada at UNESCO's meeting on the 40th anniversary of the 1970 Convention

Ambassador Carlos de Icaza and Jorge Sánchez-Cordero
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin

PARIS - I have two-days of notes on the more than 11 hours of panels and discussions that occurred over the past two days at UNESCO as attendees and experts discussed the 1970 Convention, the first international agreement that recognized that the smuggling and trade of art, antiquity objects, and the illegal excavations of archaeological sites was a global problem best attacked with international cooperation. But it is a beautiful spring evening in Paris and the Louvre is open tonight so this post features the delegates from Mexico and the anecdote of how I purchased a great cup of decaffeinated coffee as I walked away from the conference.

Carlos de Icaza, Ambassador of Mexico in France (and former Ambassador to the United States, spoke at the public debate today, moderated by the distinguished Dr. Davidson L. Hepburn, Chairman of the Antiquities, Monuments and Museums Corporation of The Bahamas. Ambassador de Icaza spoke about Mexico's history with the 1970 convention -- it was actively involved in the formulation and the eight country to ratify it. A national inventory identifies archaeological artifacts in public and private collections in Mexico. However, he said, "We are in a situation that we cannot tolerate. Many countries are being plundered through clandestine excavations. Despite all our efforts, criminals operate on sites and in the trafficking of cultural and archeological objects."

He went on to ask that UNESCO consider finding solutions to the gaps in the 1970 convention. "It is practically impossible to prove ownership from illicit excavations or from underwater sites. There is a huge illicit market today."

The Canadian delegate, Kathryn Zedde, Senior Policy Analyst for Canadian Heritage, later responded that "gaps" are in the interpreting and implementing the 1970 convention. "Canada has returned objects to ten other states including multiple groups of objects and none have been on any inventory list and almost all of them have been archaeological artifacts. Canada's legislation has prohibited the importing of any cultural property from other countries. We don't require objects to be listed as stolen from any museum."

Hours of discussion followed this subject so I'll write more about it later.

Antoine Netien and Tom Clark at Coutume
On my way home, I noticed a clean and crisp shop with a well-displayed list of coffee drinks. Approaching the bar I ordered a "latte" and was immediately busted as English-speaking by Tom Clark, who with Antoine Netien, operates Coutume (47, Rue de Babylone), a cafe specializing in high quality coffee and espresso drinks. Upon inquiry, Tom, an Australian brought up on great coffee, told me about how he graduated from law school then decided to help introduce fine coffee beans to Paris. In the back of the restaurant, Antoine was roasting beans, something he says he does from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. each day, roasting small batches at a time. The store has only been open a week, so grateful for their hospitality, I told them I'd let our readers know about a great place in the 7th arrondisement in Paris for coffee on the level of Intelligensia... and with no disrespect to our guys in Chicago and Los Angeles, I think Coutume may have a few more machines imported from Japan -- such as a 24 hour extraction that with its slow drip enhances the caffeine in the coffee. Well, I'm off to the Louvre to admire the objects Napoleon was able to keep after he plundered the best of Europe in the early 19th century. Ah the ironies...

March 5, 2011

"The 1970 Convention: Past and Future" Paris, UNESCO Headquarters, March 15 and 16, 2011

UNESCO/S. Delepierre
Catherine Schofield Sezgin, Editor

I have been invited to attend UNESCO's 40th commemoration on March 15 of the 1970 Convention which outlined UNESCO's fight against the Illicit trafficking of cultural property. One of the speakers has been featured prominently in the news recently: Dr. Zahi Hawass, Ministry of State for Antiquities of Egypt, who recently resigned his newly created post due to his professed inability to secure the museums and archaeological sites in Egypt over the past month.

In the morning, Dr. Hawass is scheduled to speak on a panel titled "Public Debate" moderated by Louis Laforge, Journalist, France télévisions with the following scheduled speakers: Irina Bokova, Director-General, UNESCO; Bernd Rossback, Director of Specialized Crimes and Analysis for Interpol; Alfonso de Maria y Campos, General Director, National Institute of Anthropology and History of Mexico; Stéphane Martin, President of Musée du Quai Branly; and Jane Levin, Worldwide Compliance Director and Senior-Vice President, Sotheby's.

In the afternoon, a seminar titled "The legal instruments employed for the fight against the illicit trafficking of cultural property", will be moderated by Francesco Bandarin, Assistant Director-General for Culture at UNESCO with these speakers: Marie Cornu, Research Director of CNRS, France; Lyndel V. Prott, Honorary Professor at the University of Queensland in Australia; Jose-Angelo Estrella Faria, Secretary General for UNIDROIT; Paolo Ferri, former prosecutor for the Republic of Italy and an international legal expert in cultural goods; Antonio Roma Valdés, Spanish prosecutor and expert in international cooperation and crimes against cultural heritage; and John Scanlon, Secretary-General of Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna.

The evening round table, "Illicit trafficking of archaeological objects", moderated by Jean-Frédéric Jauslin, director of the Federal Office of Culture in Switzerland, is scheduled to include these speakers: Maria Andreadaki-Vlazaki, General Director of Antiquities and Cultural Heritage of the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Tourism in Greece; Cecilia Bakula, former National Director of the National Institute of Culture and Ambassador of Peru; Petty Gerstenblith, Distinguished Research Professor of Law from De Paul University; Ridha Fraoua, Doctor of Law and expert in cultural heritage legislation; Sergio Mújica, Deputy Secretary General, World customs Organization; and Samuel Sidibe, Director of the National Museum of Mali.

You can read more about this commemoration here at the UNESCO website.