Showing posts with label ICOM. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ICOM. Show all posts

October 28, 2015

Wednesday, October 28, 2015 - ,,, No comments

Reporting from UNESCO ICOM COMCOL 2015 Annual Conference in Soul, Korea

COMCOL is the International Committee for Collecting of the International Council of Museums (ICOM) which aims to deepen discussions, and share knowledge on the practice, theory and ethics of collecting and collections development.


This year ICOM Council on Museum Collecting (COMCOL) is hosted by the National Folk Museum in Seoul, Korea.  


Speakers participating in this conference have gathered from as far away as the Netherlands, Zambia, Brazil, England and myself, from the United States.

On our first day of this conference, we toured the Gyeongbokgung Palace, and were welcomed by an extremely knowledgeable docent at the National Folk Museum in the same complex as the Palace before beginning our conference schedule for the day.  The group also received the Gyeonggido Dodanggut, which is a shamanic ritual of community, designated as Korea’s Important Intangible Heritage #98, held in Suwon, Incheon and other areas of Gyeonggi provence to wish for the well-being and prosperity of a village.  This particular ritual consists of two parts: telling the origin and history of village guardians and praying for safety and longevity of the village and its residents.

The President of COMCOL, Léontine Meijer-van Mench (Germany) , Deputy Director at Museum Europäischer Kulturen (Museum of European Cultures) Staatliche Museen zu Berlin - Preußischer Kulturbesitz initiated session one with a presentation, “What does sustainability mean for institutional collecting?” 

Keynote speaker Kidong Bae (Korea), ICOM chair of the National Committee of Koreaand former President of the Korean Museum Association; now, Professor of Archaeology in the Department of Anthropology, Hanyang University and Director of the Jeongok Prehistory Museum, Gyounggy Province; Seoul spoke about the History of Collections and Museum Development in Korea.

In the afternoon session Yukiko Shirahara (Japan) Chief curator at the Nezu Museum presented a thought provoking paper on “Addressing the Dilemma of Sustaining Museums and Collections in an Economic Downturn”. The final paper presented by Ho Seon Riw (Korea) concerned the “Future-Oriented Collecting Policy of the National Hangeul Museum.  “Hangeoul” is the unique writing style of Korea.

In the closing of the first day of the conference, students of “Gayatori” performed Gayageum byeonchang, folk songs accompanied by the traditional Korean zither-like instrument the Gayageum.  These students are officially appointed to maintain this important intangible cultural property.  Maintenance of “intangible cultural property” is ICOM’s priority #23.  Gayatori plays Korean traditional musical instrument which includes both 12 stringed and 25 strings in performance, accompanied by flute and choral voices of the players.

This reporter will present in the next day’s session a paper titled, “Renaissance at the Academy: The Rebirth of Connoisseurship and the Examination of the Object”  

December 5, 2014

Conference Diary: COMCOL's "Collections and Collecting in Times of War or Social and Political Change" Conference in Celje, Slovenia

By Virginia M. Curry

The Third Annual UNESCO ICOM Conference on Collecting (COMCOL) opened December 4 in the jewel-like Slovenian town of Celje.
 
This is the third conference on collecting held by UNESCO ICOM; the first was held in Capetown, and the second in Rio de Janiero. The theme of this year’s conference is “Collections and Collecting in Times of War or Social and Political Change”.

I am surprised to be the sole American participant in the program since it is UNESCO ICOM’s sole annual conference related to museums and their collections.  However, my fellow presenters from as far away as South Korea share a communal joy of museums and the exhibition of both “Tangible” and “Intangible” collections.  As you might have guessed, the “intangible” collections are those of music, such as the literal dumpster recovery of folk and classical recordings from the collection of Swiss broadcaster, Fritz Dur for the Swiss International Radio and an examination of the socio-political metamorphosis of the City of Birmingham in England in response to a changed demographic.

The organizers of this conference accepted my paper, “Re-Inventing the Museum in the Twenty-First Century” which focused on some of the major challenges to curators and some success stories, including but not limited to war loot; theft by organized criminal gangs who steal art from museums and private collections; internal thefts; and vandalism.

The conference meets again tomorrow to discuss: “Reflecting and Using Collections to Memorialize War”. There will also be sessions which focus on  confronting collections in the change of paradigm  from socialism and later in the afternoon a visit to the Museum of Recent History of Celje.

Ms. Curry is a retired FBI agent, a licensed private investigator, and an art historian.

August 10, 2013

Noah Charney on "New "Intelligence" Body Will Monitor Illegal Traffic in Cultural Property" in Lessons from the History of Art Crime (The Journal of Art Crime, Spring 2013)

In the column “Lessons from the History of Art Crime” in the Spring 2013 issue of The Journal of Art Crime, Noah Charney discusses the new “Intelligence” body founded by the International Council of Museums (ICOM) to monitor illegal traffic in cultural property.

This new group will be called the International Observatory on Illicit Traffic in Cultural Goods. It will work as a bridge between UNESCO, Interpol, and its constituent policing agencies, as well as other research institutions in the field. The “Observatory” is now awaiting formal funding approval from the European Commission.

The story of this group was first broken by Ian Johnston of NBC News. An ICOM official who spoke to Mr. Johnston, but asked not to be named, discussed how traffic in cultural property is “much worse” than other types of theft. The contact went on: “ICOM felt it needed a lot more reliable information and recent analyses of trends, what one would call the need for ‘intelligence’ when fighting organized criminal activity.”

It has long been known that art crime is a funding source for organized crime, from small local gangs to large international syndicates, but the true extent remains uncertain. Until the US Department of Justice recently remade their website, they stated clearly that art crime is the third-highest-grossing criminal trade worldwide, behind only the drug and arms trades, and that it is a major funding source for organized crime and even terrorism (the new website design no longer has a page dedicated to cultural property crimes). Interpol has, in the past, reiterated this information, but currently states that while experts have made such claims, it simply does not have enough information to confirm or deny them.


The ninth issue of The Journal of Art Crime, edited by ARCA Founder Noah Charney, is available electronically (pdf) and in print via subscription and Amazon.com. Associate Editor Marc Balcells (ARCA '11) is a Graduate Teaching Fellow at the Department of Political Science, John Jay College of Criminal Justice -- The City University of New York.

December 5, 2012

Georges Okello Abungu at Forum d'Avignon (Part I of III)

Georges Abungu, Vice President of the International Council of Museums (ICOM) was among delegates participating at Forum d’Avignon, the international think-tank that convenes in the southern French city every year to discuss urgent issues in the realms of culture, media, digital innovation, and economics. London arts journalist Tom Flynn spoke to Dr Abungu about museums, cultural heritage disputes, underwater archaeology, and the role culture should play in the future development of Africa.
 
TF — Dr Abungu, you were one of the few museum specialists who dared to speak out against the ‘Declaration on the Importance and Value of Universal Museums’ issued by the directors of European and North American Encyclopedic Museums and which continues to be a source of controversy as repatriation requests mount. How do you see the future of the Encyclopedic Museum as it is currently being articulated by leading museum directors?

GA — I’m very much a believer in museums that are relevant to communities, museums that stimulate curiosity but which also address human needs, that involve communities in the interpretation of their collections. The model I am describing is divorced from the old notion of the temple, it is a museum that is much more open to the public and to questioning; it is a place the curator is not the holder of all the answers. Now when you talk about Universal Museums, I have no problem with museum directors branding their museums in whatever way they wish, but I felt that the whole concept of the Universal Museum as it was being revived was not in good faith. One of the intentions of the Declaration seemed to be to try and do away with the discussions on the role of these collections, the positions of these collections, on the ownership of these collections. So the driving force behind that [Declaration] was to do away with questions that were emerging by branding themselves as universal and above questioning. I think the intention was not good, and that’s why I questioned it. And what about the other museums? What are they? I can give some examples of equally big museums that had big collections that were probably matching these Universal ones. Why weren’t they not also universal? Why were we trying to grade ourselves into different pedigrees? I thought it was going to bring divisions between museums where some are going to be more important than others. The word universal in this context struck a very bad kind of intention when I heard it and that was why I was against it. I think the British Museum, the Metropolitan Museum, the Louvre, and all these big museums, they have a real role to play. They are wonders of the world and they have collections that apply to humanity but I think there is no need to try to grade themselves as much more superior than others and to degrade the others as not so important or as universal as them. So that was an important principle — it was questioning the intention and to me it was this hidden agenda that struck me very strongly.

Museums are places of dialogue, places of questions, and some of this dialogue can involve furious discussion, even on origins and acquisition policies and even on thefts, and collections that might have suspect origins and I think this is part of the richness of museums. I’ve seen this taking place. There have been returns, there have been museums that originally had collections that were questioned but some of these collections had been given by the source communities to these museums on the condition that originally they belonged to these communities and that they are now given on permanent loans or that they are given as gifts. To me that is the way forward rather than re-branding and segregating.

TF — Today, the requests by smaller nations and source communities for repatriation of objects are often criticised by some leading museum directors as a form of nationalism, on the grounds that all cultures are essentially hybrid and “mongrel” and that those calling for return are failing to understand the cosmopolitan nature of culture. What is your response to that?

GA — Well, I’ve heard that argument and I’ve written about returns and I’m one person who doesn’t believe in mass returns. I don’t think it makes sense, especially for collections that have been in these museums for hundreds of years. Unless they are human remains. In those cases I really have no short cut. I think if the source communities want them back, they should go back. But I believe that we should not shut doors and claim that these cultural objects are cosmopolitan. They must have origins and if those origins can be traced they must be returned to those places. There are materials, of course, that have origins in Britain, others that have origins in the USA, or in Germany, or in France, and if they can prove that, why not ask for them? I think the same applies to other parts of the world, to Asia, to the Pacific, to Australia, Africa, South America. The most important thing is not to hide behind terminologies...the whole concept of urbanism, metropolitanism, and all these things. The important thing is to sit down and create dialogue with those who are claiming, and not to take cover under the big name of Universality and then say ‘There are no more questions, we cannot discuss’. However, I also believe this issue of calling for mass repatriation of materials from museums taken from one place or another many years ago is also irresponsible. I’ve always been very categorical when it comes to the solutions. I think we need negotiation and ICOM has set up a structure where people can negotiate and agree. I personally believe very much in permanent loaning but I also believe that museums that have these collections, where there are have arguments about them, or claims behind them, they need to sit down and negotiate without dismissing these claims as cosmopolitan, as cross-cultural, and that they cannot be discussed. They need to engage in dialogue so that discussion can prevail at the end of the day. But as I’ve also said, I don’t believe in mass transfer of material from museums back to source communities just because they can show it was theirs... unless it is human remains. With that one it becomes very tricky. And also certain religious paraphernalia that can be proved to be still relevant to those particular communities.

Dr. Flynn is a lecturer at ARCA and author of The Universal Museum

Part two of this article will be published tomorrow.

March 14, 2012

Joshua Knelman Launching "Hot Art" at The Flag Art Foundation in New York on March 22

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? ... one point was clear: don't look at the Hollywood versions of art theft -- 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." -- excerpt from Joshua Knelman's Hot Art

Toronto journalist Joshua Knelman, author of Hot Art: Chasing Thieves and Detective Through the Secret World of Stolen Art (Tin House Books, 2012), will launch the American Trade Paper version of his  book from 6 to 8 p.m. on March 22 at The Flag Art Foundation in New York.

Knelman’s four year investigation of stolen art began with a local story about a burglary at a gallery in Toronto and ended with an international perspective. His nonfiction book begins in Hollywood in 2008 with the Art Theft Detail of the Los Angeles Police Department in a ride along with Detectives Don Hrycyk and Stephanie Lazarus who are investigating the robbery of an antiques store on La Cienega Boulevard.  Knelman immediately contrasts the meticulous and steady work of the police (he describes Hrycyk working art theft cases "with the patience of a scientist") with the images of glamorous heist movies such as The Thomas Crown Affair (1999).

In the first two chapters ("Hollywood" and "Law and Disorder") he links organized crime with art theft: the Los Angeles District Attorney's office had identified an Armenian gang for the antique-store job on La Cienega. In the second chapter, Knelman describes his coverage for The Walrus, a Canadian magazine, on a burglary at a small art gallery in 2003 and how the thief threatened him, tried to hand over stolen property to him, and then tries to educate him "about how art theft worked as an industry" as a way of distracting Knelman for the thief's own crimes:
He discussed how poor the security systems were at most of the major cultural institutions and of course at mid-sized and smaller galleries.  That made his job easier.  So there was that angle -- art galleries and museums weren't adequately protecting themselves against pros like him. 
Then he veered in another direction. 
"Okay, this is how it works," he said.  "It's like a big shell game.  All the antique and art dealers, they just pass it around from one to another."  He moved his fingers around the table in circles and then looked up.  "Do you understand?" He looked very intense, as if he had just handed me a top-secret piece of information, but I had no idea what he meant.  What did art dealers have to do with stealing art?  But our meeting was over.
Knelman published an article in The Walrus in 2005, "Artful Crimes", about international art theft.

In his book, Hot Art, Knelman meets cultural property attorney Bonnie Czegledi (author of Crimes Against Art: International Art and Cultural Heritage Law (Carswell, 2010) who introduces him to the roles of Interpol; the International Council of Museums; the International Foundation for Art Research (IFAR) and the Art Loss Register.  Knelman traveled with Czegledi to an International Council of Museums conference in Cairo, at his own expense, getting shaken down by a conference organizer for additional hotel fees above and beyond what he had agreed to pay the hotel manager.  Knelman meets Canadian police officer Alain Lacoursière and speaker Rick St. Hilaire, then a county prosecutor in New Hampshire who lectured on the impact of art theft in the United States and "knew a lot about the impact of art theft on Egypt." He visits the Egyptian Museum in Cairo with St. Hilaire and provides a great history of the collection and Napoleon's visit in the 19th century.

Knelman provides a personal account, both thrilling and dangerous, and admirable.  The book contains primary information for research into the black market of art, including a few chapters with an art thief, Paul Hendry, in England.

The book also provides a detailed profile of Don Hrycyk at the LAPD and the history of the Art Theft Detail, beginning with the work of Detective Bill Martin and includes information about Hryck's investigation of a residential art robbery in Encino in 2008; other cases ("his work was the most detailed example I found of a North American city interacting with the global black market"); a tour of the evidence warehouse which included fake art that had been the subject of a string operation into a Dr. Vilas Likhite; and an anecdote of an attempted theft at an unnamed major museum under renovation in Los Angeles.  In 2008, Knelman also interviewed artist June Wayne, founder of Tamarind Lithography Workshop (now the Tamarind Institute), who had a tapestry stolen in 1975; Leslie Sacks, owner of Leslie Sacks Fine Art in Brentwood, who discusses security measures and two burglaries; and Bob Combs, director of security at The Getty Center.

Both Hrycyk and Czegledi reference art historian Laurie Adams' book, Art Cop, about New York Police Detective Robert Volpe, the first detective in North America to investigate art theft full-time (1971 to 1983) after his role as a undercover narcotics cop in the late 1960s in a famous case memorialized in the film The French Connection about a ring of heroin dealers importing the drug from France.

Knelman also interviewed Giles Waterfield, director of the Dulwich Picture Gallery in London when a Rembrandt was stolen in 1981; Richard Ellis, founder of Scotland Yard's Art and Antiques Squad; and Robert K. Wittman, the first FBI agent to investigate art theft full-time, when Wittman was six months away from retirement; and Bonnie Magness-Gardiner from the Art Crime Team at the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and Alain Lacoursière, Montreal police officer investigating art crimes in Quebec, including the unsolved 1972 robbery of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.

The book features the anonymous blogger Art Hostage (Paul Hendry) that turns out to be Knelman's source on art theft; Jonathan Sazonoff and his website The World's Most Wanted Art; and Ton Cremers and The Museum Security Network (MSN).

Joshua Knelman will also be speaking at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 20, at Book Soup in Los Angeles.

November 3, 2010

Wednesday, November 03, 2010 - ,, No comments

ARCA Alum Julia Brennan speaks to ICOM committee


ARCA alum Julia Brennan recently spoke at a meeting at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City to members of the International Council of Museums about the role of conservators in preventing looting of antiquities in the field.

Brennan, a textile conservator, and Tess Davis, Executive Director of the Lawyer’s Committee for Cultural Heritage, presented a paper, “The Role of Conservators in the Illicit Art and Antiquities Trade: Responsibilities and Opportunities,” at the Interim Meeting for the Legal Issues in Conservation Working Group, International Council of Museums, Conservation Committee, (ICOM CC LIC) on October 18.

The Legal Issues in Conservation Working Group focuses on policies affecting conservation professions and wanted to listen to people who had been in the field describe to conservators what to look for when trying to spot a looted or stolen antiquity.

Ms. Brennan, a graduate of ARCA’s Postgraduate Program in International Art Crime program in 2010, has worked in the field of textile conservation for more than 25 years. Her extensive field work in Asia and Africa has included establishing textile museums, national artifact databases, and training museum staff and monk body in the protection of cultural property. The presentation elaborated on Ms. Brennan’s thesis “Deterring the Illicit Art Trade and Preserving Cultural Heritage: Redefining the Preventative Conservation Mandate”. The talk was a call to action for the conservation community, illustrated through looting case studies, and practical solutions and changes in practice for conservators, as well as professional liability.

In the presentation, Ms. Brennan acknowledged that conservators are sometimes part of the laundering of illicit antiquities, cleaning away dirt before the objects make their way through the art market.

“The trial of Marion True was a wake up call for people in the field,” Brennan said. Coincidentally, her presentation occurred the same week that the legal case against the former curator of the Getty Museum terminated. “Here was a case that heralded a change in international attitudes about museum collecting and served as a wake-up call for encyclopedic museums to cease their cavalier and illegal practices of acquiring without sound provenance.”

According to Brennan, conservators should work to write reports on objects in line with Object ID guidelines, in case something happens to a piece later, and check with looted art databases and other organizations to determine if an object has been reported stolen.

If an object looks suspicious, conservators can contact UNESCO, INTERPOL, IFAR, customs officials, and the Art Loss Register, Brennan suggested.

“Art collectors are flocking to high-end galleries and auction houses around the world and buying billions of dollars worth of antiquities each year,” Brennan wrote. “And with the passion of the serious connoisseur, they proclaim themselves preservers of the past. This is far from the truth: most antiquities have been stolen from an archaeological site at some point in history.”

Brennan discussed the conservation codes of ethics as well as the importance of ICOM’s Red List, Object ID, the Getty’s MEGA project in Jordan, AAM’s new Standards of Acquisitions, teaching proper cataloguing, outreach, and self-education.

Ms. Brennan encouraged conservators to learn about the laws, conventions, illicit trade, auction house practices, and be pro active. “The profession most intimate with artifacts’ actual materials, whether it is paintings, ceramics, bronzes, or textiles, needs to be more forensically directed, and serve as hands-on watch dogs for the world’s cultural patrimony,” she said. “Collaborating with law enforcement, ICE, FBI, insurance companies and setting up a conservator call-list was one practical suggestion like a “conservation corps” that partners with museums and other cultural institutions.

She provided several models of cross disciplinary projects where protection of cultural property overlaps with health care, environmental protection and eco tourism.

Using the notorious 1989 Indiana based AUTOCEPHALOUS GREEK-ORTHODOX CHURCH OF CYPRUS and THE REPUBLIC OF CYPRUS, Plaintiffs, v. GOLDBERG & FELDMAN FINE ARTS, INC., and PEG GOLDBERG, Defendants, Ms. Brennan analyzed the case from the role of the conservator. In examining the motivations, she pointed out that the underlying theme was greed and financial gain. The destructive restoration of the mosaics (including flattening what were curved artifacts) was irreversible. She went on to discuss the expanded role of conservators in the chain of custody of antiquities and all artifacts, and the important physical material role they play in the protection of cultural heritage both in source and market countries, the field, as well as large international museums. She emphasized that conservators hold an important card in the final ethical treatment or ‘cleansing’ of illegally gained artifacts.

Washington DC-based Ms. Brennan frequently lectures to historical societies and collectors on the care and display of textiles. She currently teaches preventative conservation workshops in Thailand.