Showing posts with label armed conflict. Show all posts
Showing posts with label armed conflict. Show all posts

February 20, 2019

Interview with open source intelligence analyst Sam Hardy


By Edgar Tijhuis

This year, the ARCA Postgraduate Program in Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection will be held from May 30 through August 15, 2019 in the beautiful heart of Umbria in Amelia, Italy. In the months leading up to the start of the program, I'm speaking with all course professors on the program as well as those who are guest lecturers or researching at ARCA. This week I speak with archaeologist and Open source intelligence analyst Sam Hardy, one of the trainers on the Countering Antiquities Trafficking in the Mashreq program in the Middle East, in which ARCA worked with UNESCO and other UNESCO partners to train heritage specialists working in the Middle East.


Can you tell us something about your background and work?

I did a BA in Archaeology and Prehistory at the University of Sheffield, where I developed an interest in the relationship between archaeological practice and human rights in general and the past and present of South-Eastern Europe in particular. Then I did an MA in Cultural Heritage Studies at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London, where I started to focus on the treatment of cultural property during crisis and conflict.

During my MSc-DPhil at the University of Sussex, a series of accidents led me from attempting to explore peace education at historic sites in first Kosovo then Cyprus, to exploring destruction and propaganda and, since the crimes were interconnected, looting in Cyprus. As open-source research into destruction - like that done by Bellingcat - and particularly into trafficking is still an emerging field, there was no career path to follow, at least not one that was defined.

Still, I developed a specialism in open-source research (that pieces together new understandings from disparate, publicly-accessible sources), focused on conflict antiquities trafficking (trafficking of, and other profiteering from, cultural goods that finance political violence), connected with ARCA - and collaborated with Lynda Albertson in checking claims of damage to sites in Syria and Iraq - then got contracts from the American University of Rome, Global Witness, UNESCO and ICOM followed by fellowships from Koç University in Turkey and UCL Qatar.

I would like to note, it was only thanks to the support of friends from the Institute of Archaeology, and the women who've been my bosses throughout my career, that I managed to stay in the profession. For women who are considering a career in this field, they should know that they would be joining a rich history of "trowelblazers", are the majority in archaeology and heritage and are earning the same as men.

All of this has somehow led me to the dream job that I'm about to start at the Norwegian Institute in Rome, within the Heritage Experience Initiative of the University of Oslo, where I'm going to be the Post-Doctoral Research Fellow in Cultural Heritage and Conflicts. Over the next three years, I'm going to explore the relationship between antiquities trafficking and political violence in the Mediterranean and the Middle East, from the politics of policing, to the involvement of organised criminals and armed groups (including state forces), to the exploitation of the refugee crisis, and to the deployment of propaganda.

What do you do at ARCA?

I've been fortunate enough to work with ARCA on the Countering Antiquities Trafficking in the Mashreq training through UNESCO for cultural heritage professionals and law enforcement agents from Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Turkey, which has helped local efforts to combat trafficking across the region. I also co-taught one of the courses in 2018 on open source research methods.  When I'm not indulging my interest in the most bizarre features of the subject, like Russian propaganda, I've also been able to collaborate with others in and through ARCA to find and check evidence in ongoing research.

In anticipation of the ARCA program, what book, article, or movie would you recommend to participants?

One academic article I'd recommend is "uncovering the illicit traffic of Russian ancient icons from Russia to Germany" by Laure Coupillaud Szustakowski, who took the ARCA programme and whose paper I first heard at the ARCA conference. Some of my work depends on risky journalism. I would recommend Özgen Acar and Melik Kaylan's investigations into organised crime in Turkey and beyond from 1988 and 1990 (in English), which I still use now, but they're only really accessible as difficult-to-read archive copies. More recent investigations include those by Esther Saoub and her colleagues on looting in Syria (in German), by Mike Giglio and Munzer al-Awad on trafficking out of Syria (in English), by Benoit Faucon and his colleagues on dealing in antiquities from Syria (in English) and by Frédéric Loore on the ransoming of stolen works of art by the terrorists who attacked Paris and Brussels (in French).

Which course in the program would you love to follow yourself and why?

I've had the chance to listen and learn when Dick Drent and Dick Ellis co-taught during the ARCA-UNESCO training with me. Despite focusing on different parts of the trade in different countries and using different methods, Christos Tsirogiannis and I have developed a common interest in certain shady characters, so it'd be great to hear him explain the intricacies of his work.

Is there anything you can recommend for future participants to do in Amelia or Umbria? 

Amelia is a foodie treat for me and I'm not even a foodie. Not eating dairy can really limit your options, especially in Italy, but the Amerini (the name for local town folk) make allergy-friendly food that tastes great - and I once got to be the sous-chef for a Syrian-Iraqi feast. I'd get in trouble with one friend or another for suggesting Spritz, either because it's from Venice or because it dilutes Prosecco, but I can safely and sincerely recommend the local wines.

What is your experience with the yearly ARCA conference in June. 

There's always interesting research, new contacts and old friends - I look forward to it every year.


For a detailed prospectus and application materials or for general questions about this postgraduate program please contact us at education@artcrimeresearch.org


Edgar Tijhuis serves as the Academic Director at ARCA and is a visiting scholar at the Institute of Criminology in Ljubljana. He is responsible for the postgraduate certificate program in the study of art crime and cultural heritage protection and since 2009, has taught criminology modules within the ARCA program.

February 8, 2019

Judge Tompkins returns to Amelia to this summer to teach "Art Crime in War” at ARCA's Postgraduate Program in Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection

By Edgar Tijhuis


This year, the ARCA Postgraduate Program in Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection will be held from May 30 through August 14, 2019 in the beautiful heart of Umbria in Amelia, Italy. In the months leading up to the start of the program, this year’s professors will be interviewed. In this one, I am speaking with Arthur Tompkins from New Zealand, a judge and specialist on art crimes during war.



Can you tell us something about your background and work?

Certainly! I am a Judge in New Zealand, based in Wellington. In my day job I try both criminal and civil cases, plus I sit on the NZ Parole Board. I have been a judge for over 20 years now, and I still enjoy my job. I like the variety, the unexpectedness of each day, and the interaction with the whole cross-section of the community I serve.

I have been coming to teach Art in War, at Amelia, since 2010. I first visited in 2009, when the first ARCA program was underway, to present at the Art Crime Conference, Noah Charney asked me to come back the next year to teach my course, and the rest is history...

What do you feel is the most relevant part of your course? 

I like to think that over the five days of my course - first the historical survey when we cover 25 centuries of armed conflict, from the Classical World through to Iraq and Syria, and many conflicts in between, and then the response of the international and private legal systems to what has occurred - discerning the common features of the arc of art crime in war are very relevant. The ways in which, during war, art is displaced, lost, destroyed, stolen, and sometimes saved, vary enormously in their individual circumstances, but underlying the variety is the sameness of it: the intensely symbolic way in which art is viewed by combatants, who seek to use (or destroy) art to serve their wider purpose. So, despite the variation of circumstances, there are common features which happen over and over again - hence the need to learn the lessons of history, and to protect the art anew in the face of every new conflict.

What do you hope participants will get out of your course? 

I hope that by the end of the course the participants will have an appreciation both of the wide sweep of human history, as manifested by humankind's many conflicts, and against that backdrop the way that humankind's great art has been fought over, pursued, made vulnerable, and (perhaps not as often as we would like) made secure so that it survives the tempest swirling around it. And I hope that, when faced with the outbreak of a new conflict, thy will come to realise that the inevitable threat to the art caught up by the red-hot rake of the battle-line is not new, that there are valuable lessons to be learned from past mistakes, and that the art can, with effort and determination and will, be protected despite the clash of arms surrounding it.

What would a typical day be like in your classroom? 

We gather in the lecture hall at the start time of the day, usually with copious bottles of water and perhaps a coffee or two, and embark on a close look at whatever part of human history we have reached that day. This will usually be done via illustrated lectures from me, interspersed with short student presentations about a number of the major art works we encounter during the day. A week or so before my class starts, I ask each participant to sign up to talk to the class about one or two artworks that we will touch on or discuss during the course. Sometimes the participants will already know about the work, perhaps they have seen it, or have some personal connection to it, other times they will come to it completely fresh. Their presentations usually summarise the history of the work and the artist, perhaps talking a bit about the place the work has in the artist's oeuvre, and what happened to it during the war that engulfed it.

We have five hours of class time each day, with that being broken up by coffee (or gelato) breaks, and a long lunch break in the heat of the middle of the day. So, although it is an intense few days, we enjoy frequent time out to recharge! During the course, each participant completes a short essay, on some aspect of art crime during war. The last part of the course is then taken up with individual students giving slightly longer presentations to the class when they talk about the essay they submitted, the art work or works, the fate of the works during war, the story of their survival, or whatever it might be. I am constantly fascinated by the wide variety of subjects they come up with each year, to research and write about.

While each year participants are very enthusiastic about your course, is there anything you learn from them in class?

The most valuable thing is that I learn to look at art with new eyes, especially during the participant presentations. Often these will cover aspects of art crime during war that we do not have time to cover in class, or only touch upon very briefly. I learn a lot during these presentations, and come away with a fresh respect for the research skills and breadth of experience of ARCA's attendees!

In anticipation of your courses, what book, article, or movie would you recommend to participants?

There have been two high-profile movies in the last few years which have been based squarely on the fate of art in war. Both are worth watching before taking my course, but for different reasons. George Clooney's Monuments Men got most of the art right, but a lot of the rest of the always fascinating story of the Monuments Men (and Women) mostly wrong. Helen Mirren's Woman in Gold did much better - getting both the art, and the surrounding tragedy of the very human story of the painting's fate (within the inevitable constraints of a two hour movie), right.

What makes the yearly ARCA program so unique? 

There are a number of aspects, I think, that make the ARCA course unique. First, the setting - the wonderful ancient town of Amelia, slightly isolated because of the absence of a railway station, is the perfect setting for a summer programme - small enough to get to know very quickly, but with a labyrinthine Old Town that constantly surprising no matter how often you have walked its twisting and turning streets and alleys and tunnels and stairs. There is always something fresh and surprising around the next corner! The town has a rhythm to its daily life that quickly propels both those involved in the ARCA program into the centre of Italian town life - the casual friendliness of the locals, the evening passeggiata, the always-open (or so its seems) cafes and bars that are so central to the community's life, and the beauty of the ancient surroundings.

Then there is the multidisciplinary faculty, drawn from a very wide spectrum of disciplines and areas of expertise, who bring decades of experience and wisdom to their respective courses. And finally there is the distilling of what, in any other setting, might be a year or more of classes, into an intense and concentrated period of time spent in Amelia - where everyone in the course is there because they really want to be there, sharing a common fascination with art and the crimes committed against it, and where everyone you meet is happy to share and to learn.

Which other course in the program would you love to follow yourself and why? 

Personally, I would be fascinated by the Museum Security course - one of the by-products of teaching art crime is that you can't just visit a museum or a gallery or an exhibition without thinking about what might happen if someone else took it into their heads to commit a crime against the art you are enjoying - a theft or an attack or some other misguided venture. So I often wonder about the unseen protections that (I hope) carefully guard the art work...and the striking of the difficult balance between accessibility - making the art open and accessible and able to be enjoyed by many visitors - and protection, which often means compelling visitors to step back and not enjoy the up-close-and-personal experience of the art that might otherwise be possible, is a dynamic and ever-changing challenge that I would love to know more about.

Is there anything you can recommend for future participants to do in Amelia or Umbria? 

Learn at least some rudimentary Italian before you arrive, enough to say hello and good morning and good evening, and to order coffee and gelato and pizza! And use that to get to know some of the locals, and experience something of their lives. I now have friends who live in Amelia, and catching up with them is one of the annual joys of my visits back to Amelia.

Judge Arthur Tompkins' writing on the
Four Horses of the Basilica of San Marco
made its way into Dan Brown's bestseller, Inferno.
Are there any funny or interesting things you experienced in Italy, outside class? 

The Italian railway system is a constant source of enjoyment, frustration, annoyance, wonder and humour, that almost never disappoints! And a visit to Venice, whilst we still can, is high on my list of recommendations - it is such an irrational and unexpected place, that should not exist, but defiantly does, and it hides a multitude of joys. Not the least of which are the Four Horses of the Basilica of San Marco, the artwork with the longest history of crimes being committed against them (roughly 2500 years, give or take a few centuries). Come take my course to learn their fascinating story!  Venice was also the home of the largest stolen painting on public display anywhere in the world - Veronese's Wedding at Cana, taken from the refectory of the Benedictine monastery on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore by Napoleon, transported to the Louvre (after being cut into several pieces), and hung there, up until recently, opposite the Mona Lisa, where it used to get overlooked by thousands every day!

What is your experience with the yearly ARCA conference in June?

I can't always get to the conference, but when I do the sheer breadth of experience and knowledge on display year after year is wonderful - ARCA does a great job of gathering together the foremost specialists in the fight against art crime from around the world, and provides a forum for both specialist presentations, and the free exchange of information, of views, of contacts, and renewing and making friendships. And because the conference is based in Amelia, the warmth of the welcome from the town is an added highlight - and introducing newcomers to the joys of Amelia, and discovering new joys in the process, is always memorable!


For a detailed prospectus and application materials or for general questions about this postgraduate program please contact us at education@artcrimeresearch.org


Edgar Tijhuis serves as the Academic Director at ARCA and is a visiting scholar at the Institute of Criminology in Ljubljana. He is responsible for the postgraduate certificate program in the study of art crime and cultural heritage protection and since 2009, has taught criminology modules within the ARCA program.

May 19, 2017

Look into my eyes, but also into my collection history.

Collecting ancient art can be an extension of a personal passion, a status symbol or a piece of cultural currency but it also serves as a defacto calling card for the current-day purchaser's own collecting ethics.

As this new video, produced by the UNESCO Beirut Office in the framework of the Emergency Safeguarding of the Syrian Cultural Heritage project, underscores, conscientious and ethical antiquities collectors can and should demand that their source dealer or auction house provide a full and complete provenance record before making a purchase. 


UNESCO reminds collectors to keep an eye out for these red flags:

- Is there dirt on the object? 
- Does the object seem like a broken fragment of what could be a larger artifact? 
- Is there a reference number painted on the base of the object that could indicate it was looted from a museum? 
- Does the object's price seem too good to be true?

and finally...
- Can the seller provide you with the object’s provenance paperwork?

Likewise, ARCA reminds its readership that an object's reported collection history as reported by a dealer or auction house should not always be taken as complete or accurate.  Collection histories can, and often are, faked.

As this blog has reported frequently, many consignors and auction houses omit passages that sometimes reflect irregularities in acquisition or fail to advise would-be purchasers that an antiquity they wish to purchase has passed through the hands of a tainted individual or art dealer already known to have a reputation for illicit trafficking in the antiquities art market. 

The art market’s appetite for antiquities, and the profits to be had from this appetite, will always be a motivation for others to loot them.

It is ultimately up to the collector to demand ethical selling practices from the dealers or collectors they purchase antiquities from.  Prospective buyers should demand to see import and export licenses for the object they are considering and they should require the seller/consignor/auction house make those documents available.

The prudent purchaser should vet the trophy works that they purchase for their collections, cross checking all of the accompanying documentation.  Is there an export license? Does that document look authentic? Has the license been falsified?  Has the country of origin been falsified? Does the country of export match with the country of the object's origin?  Does the object have a find spot?   How far back does the chain of ownership go? and are there any other red flags like "property of an anonymous collector"?

Collectors should not discount the unacceptable buying and selling habits of those profiting from the ancient art market and they should especially be careful when purchasing antiquities from regions of conflict.

Just as property investors thoroughly vet the status and ownership of a property they are interested in, before entering into a business transaction, so should art collectors remember that it is their responsibility to conduct adequate due diligence on the artworks they purchase. 

September 30, 2015

Highlights from “Conflict Antiquities: Forging a Public/Private Response to Save Iraq and Syria's Endangered Cultural Heritage”


In an awareness raising initiative to highlight the ongoing upheaval and destruction of cultural heritage in Iraq and Syria, the Metropolitan Museum and the US State Department jointly held an event yesterday titled, “Conflict Antiquities: Forging a Public/Private Response to Save Iraq and Syria's Endangered Cultural Heritage” in New York City.

Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken highlighted one example of a looted and not destroyed antiquity that is known to have passed through the hands of ISIS operatives.  The object, a 9th century B.C.E: ivory plaque, decorated with a procession of Assyrian officials and foreign tributaries was excavated at the ancient Assyrian capital of Nimrud by a team from the British Museum in 1989.  The plaque was recovered by U.S. special operations forces during a tactical raid that killed a key ISIS commander, identified by his nom de guerre Abu Sayyaf, last May in al-Omar in eastern Syria.

This ancient object is known to have been looted from the Mosul Museum (Iraq) and underscores what many following illicit antiquities trafficking have already concluded, that the Islamic State not only destroys objects it find religiously offensive or useful for its public propaganda but also has been known to plunder antiquities for some level of financial gain or as war booty when opportunity knocks. 

Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Andrew Keller added that "newly declassified evidence" seized when American Delta Force commandos took out Abu Sayyaf and twelve other Islamic State of Iraq and Syria fighters included receipts collecting taxes from looters as well as written edicts that threatened punishment for those caught looting antiquities without formal Islamic State permission. 

While some of this information appears to be newly declassified, conflict antiquities archaeologist Dr. Sam Hardy released a lengthy analysis of the heritage hoard seized during the Abu Sayyaf raid when details of the cache were released by the State Department in July 2015.  That analysis has been available for two months and can be reviewed here.  

Robert A. Hartung, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Diplomatic Affairs announced a new initiative within their "Rewards for Justice" program,  an incentive established by the 1984 Act to Combat International Terrorism, Public Law 98-533.   The program is administered by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security and announced yesterday that they are set to 


Hartuung emphasized that the Rewards for Justice incentive is not a buyback program, but reward for help in identifying and catching smugglers linked to ISIS.  At present this reward appears to be restricted solely to the Islamic State and does not appear to be not available for information leading to the disruption of the sale of illicit antiquities by other armed groups or other non political traffickers profiting from the absence of controls during the ongoing war.

Another panel discussion highlighted the work of the US government-sponsored organisation currently tasked with ground-based observations of cultural heritage incidents in Syria and Iraq. Michael Danti, from the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR), who’s group has just been allocated a second tranche of federal funding totalling $900,000 in an extension to their previous $600,000 one-year cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of State spoke on his organization's work continues to document the current condition of cultural heritage sites in Syria and portions of Iraq.   While useful in its own right, ASOR's federally-funded initiative often draws upon the research and analysis of other conflict antiquities researchers, some of whom consistently work below the funding radar, within this sector of expertise on a voluntary basis and without the benefit of funding from governmental or academic bodies. 

Wolfgang Weber, ‎Head of Global Regulatory Policy at eBay, spoke about the due diligence of the web-based auction powerhouse that handles 800 million online auctions a year.  Sales of illicit objects online are a known and ongoing problem where illicit antiquities are concerned and attempts to prevent such illegal activity via large auction sites such as eBay are a work in progress.  Judging from their ability to monitor other areas of illicit activity, many believe that eBay's efforts in policing their online marketplace have largely been ineffective or fallen short of desirable outcomes. 

Weber's presence on the panel underscores that the internet is being harnessed to provide valuable tools for traffickers, who exploit weaknesses in online marketplaces, making the illicit trafficking of cultural property faster, easier and ever more difficult for authorities to fight.

During his presentation Weber stated that his team's task is to identify illegal items & remove them from the online marketplace but he added that eBay does not have the capacity to check individual items, only their sales conduit.  This means that the auction site's contribution to stopping illegal sales is limited to preventing sellers from listing items of concern or in some cases removing listings before a sale can be made.  

eBay relies heavily on key word searches and external reports by individuals who inform the company when an object has been identified which is of dubious origin or legality.  Private citizens and researchers connected to small NGOs are hampered from stopping the online trafficking of items as they can only flag up what’s known to be illegal or looks that way to eBay. Those monitoring the online auction site cannot procure hard evidence by buying the actual contraband as they would then be in violation of national and international laws and treaties themselves. 

Lev Kubiak, ICE Assistant Director for International Operations spoke on US Immigration and Customs Enforcements roll in cultural property, art and antiquities investigations highlighting their 
"Operation Mummy’s Curse,” a five-year investigation carried out by ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) that targeting an international criminal network that illegally smuggled and imported more than 7,000 cultural items from around the world and resulted in at least two convictions. 

Sharon Cott, Senior Vice President, Secretary & General Counsel at the Metropolitan Museum, spoke in support of AAMD member museums who apply ethical principles to safeguard against purchasing blood antiquities and to the roll of museums should play as safe havens for objects during times of unrest. 

Dr. Markus Hilgert, a professor of ancient Near-Eastern studies and Director of the Vorderasiatisches Museum im Pergamonmuseum - Staatliche Museen zu Berlin spoke about his newly funded trans-disciplinary research project on the illicit trade, ILLICID, with partners in customs and law enforcement, the German Federal Foreign Office, Federal Commissioner for Culture and Media, German Commission for UNESCO and ICOM. The ILLICID project is financed via the German Federal Ministry for Education.

Hilgert stressed the need to identify and develop criminological methods for in-depth analysis of illicit trafficking, stressing the need for more information on object types, turnover, networks, and various modus operandi.  He further underscored the need to adequately assess the various dimensions of money laundering and terrorist financing that may be being derived from heritage trafficking.  In conclusion he emphasized that trafficking is the number one threat to the world's cultural patrimony - more than destruction. 

ARCA would like to thank all those who were present in the room and who live-tweeted the conference and took detailed notes allowing those of us in Europe to listen in, even if it was way past our bedtimes.

A list of those folks who lent a hand are:
@cwjones89
@vagabondslog
@keridouglas
@AWOL_tweets
@mokersel
@adreinhard
@mokersel
@HeritageAtState
@ChasingAphrodit
@metmuseum
@jstpwalsh
@LarryCoben
@InventorLogan

There was a lot of ground covered and more still that needs to be covered.

by Lynda Albertson

July 1, 2015

Islamic Manuscript Collections in Conflict Zones: Safeguarding Written Heritage, hosted by the University of Cambridge from 5 to 7 October 2015

Dear Colleagues,

The Islamic Manuscript Association, in cooperation with the Thesaurus Islamicus Foundation and the University of Cambridge and with the support of Harvard University, is pleased to announce an inaugural short course entitled Islamic Manuscript Collections in Conflict Zones: Safeguarding Written Heritage, hosted by the University of Cambridge from 5 to 7 October 2015.

This intensive, three-day course is intended for academics, policy makers, cultural experts, lawyers and military experts, and will also be of interest to conservators, librarians, art historians, and other researchers working with Islamic manuscripts and documentary heritage in conflict areas. Ten speakers will introduce the concepts and mechanisms that underpin cultural property protection in the present day and educate participants in best practices of managing, protecting, and preserving manuscript collections at risk. Individual case studies will concentrate on Bosnia, Iraq, Libya, and Mali, while presentations and roundtables will be structured around the themes of the legal aspects of cultural property protection, military involvement in cultural property protection, and the destruction of memory.

To register your interest, please fill the application form found at: goo.gl/qBDlIK.

Scholarship Opportunity: The Islamic Manuscript Association is also pleased to offer a scholarship for a place on the course. Sponsored by the Barakat Trust, this scholarship will enable a senior conservator, codicologist, librarian, art historian, curator, researcher, or any other scholar or specialist of Islamic manuscripts who resides in the Islamic world to attend the full course.

Best wishes,

Armin


------
Armin Yavari
Assistant Director
The Islamic Manuscript Association
c/o 33 Trumpington Street
Cambridge CB2 1QY
United Kingdom
T: +44 (0)1223 303 177
F: +44 (0)1223 302 218
E: armin@islamicmanuscript.org
W: www.islamicmanuscript.org

December 4, 2014

Review: Ai Weiwei “Zodiac” sculptures on tour to promote awareness of contested cultural heritage

By Hal Johnson, 2014 ARCA student and DNA Consultant

Few contemporary artists are more socially and politically conscious than Chinese dissident Ai Weiwei. His world views are often expressed in his work, which has become his most powerful means of communication now that the Chinese government has curtailed his attempts at free speech. He was once a celebrated artist and architect in his country and arguably still is. However, he ran afoul of authorities after criticizing the government’s handling of the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the massive earthquakes in Sichuan Province that same year. He was an outspoken blogger – the forum where he expressed many of his frank political opinions – until it was shut down by the state. In 2011 he was detained for 81 days; upon his release his passport was revoked and he was slapped with charges of tax evasion. Undeterred, Mr. Ai continues to speak out whenever possible and has an active role in the exhibition of his work abroad. His sculpture group “Circle of Animals / Zodiac Heads” is on tour to raise awareness of contested cultural heritage.

The twelve animal heads are inspired by similar bronze sculptures that originally adorned a fountain at the Old Summer Palace in Beijing. In 1860, the fountain heads were looted during the Second Opium War when the palace was sacked by British and French troops. Over the years the heads ended up in several private collections. The two most famous pieces were the Rat and the Rabbit, which were owned by Yves Saint Laurent. After the fashion icon’s death in 2008, they went up for sale at Christie’s along with the rest of his art collection. Their status as war loot was common knowledge and the auction proceeded despite protests from China. Chinese bidder Cai Mingchao staged his own protest by winning the heads (with a bid of $19 million each) and then refusing to pay. They were later repatriated to China in 2013 by billionaire François Pinault. Several more heads from the old fountain remain in private hands outside of China.

Ai Weiwei is well aware of the history of the zodiac heads and that they have become a figurehead for contested cultural property. But true to form, his tour is also meant to highlight the inconsistency, even hypocrisy, of China’s efforts to reacquire its heritage: “They never really care about culture. This is the nature of a communist, to destroy the old world, to rebuild the new one. We’re not clear about what is most important in those so-called traditional classics. The Zodiac is a perfect example to show their ignorance on this matter.” Indeed, countless Chinese cultural property was wantonly destroyed by the Chinese themselves during the Cultural Revolution of the late 1960’s. How much more has been sacrificed by China in its transformation into an economic superpower?

Mr. Ai’s “Circle of Animals / Zodiac Heads” is actually several sculpture groups on separate tours – the 3-meter tall freestanding Bronze Series and the much smaller Gold Series. One of the Bronze Series is currently on display in Chicago. I visited them earlier this fall (see photos). They are aptly placed facing the Adler Planetarium on Chicago’s scenic lakefront, where they will remain on display until April 2015. A Gold Series is currently part of a large Ai Weiwei retrospective exhibit at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, UK. For more information on the “Circle of Animals / Zodiac Heads” tour and the artist himself, please visit the following link: http://www.zodiacheads.com/index.html.

November 6, 2014

Editorial Essay: “I'm not upset that you lied to me, I'm upset that from now on I can't believe you.”

By Lynda Albertson

“I'm not upset that you lied to me, I'm upset that from now on I can't believe you.” 

--attributed to Friedrich Nietzsche in a million places, but as the experts will tell you, it's not true.

I open this blog post with this pseudo quote from Nietzsche because it makes both my point and captures my feelings when I open a newspaper or turn to the Web for updates on conflict antiquities. In the rush to publish about atrocities to cultural heritage during war, some media outlets, possibly too eager to report the news first, do not take the time to verify facts, defaulting to simplistic headlines. This may be born out of a need to assuage their readership in a highly competitive and financially stretched market. Journalists are often pressured to churn out reports too quickly. But it times of conflict, this can be a deadly mistake. We don't need sensationalism or propaganda.  We need truth in journalism.

Yesterday I came across CNN’s Style page's photomontage of what it called “The greatest buildings you'll never see: 19 priceless monuments lost in battle”.  This photo report can be found under the slightly misleading URL descriptor "precious-monuments-lost-in-middle-east-conflicts".

I selected this article not because it is any worse than any other article being published by other news organization but because it had so many short "facts" that the average Joe citizen might assume as truth.  

My problem with many of the images and their accompanying descriptive texts in this, and other similarly-styled cultural heritage news reports, is that they represent information that is not wholly accurate or worse, for the sake of brevity, leave out important key components -- details that with a little more patience on the part of the green-lighting editors could have easily changed this from a  sensationalistic read-and-move-on piece into one that gives the reader more knowledge. Many people have a desire to know what nations in conflict zones are up against when wars are fought where the world's cultural heritage is at risk.

If harried journalists would consult experts, or at least take the time to data-mine the Web for collaborating imagery, we might have more knowledge about what is and isn't happening. I shouldn't have to read a news article and ask myself "did this really happen?".  Maybe in the case of conflict antiquities and heritage issues during war, we all should be reminded that that is, in fact, exactly what we should be saying to ourselves.

With the help of many, here is a bit more comprehensive information on the 19 images reported in the CNN article.  Feel free to write to me via ARCA's Facebook feed or my Twitter account if any of you have corrections or additional information to report.  I am not an expert on the Middle East so if there's something that needs tightening up, let me know. 

Great Mosque of Samarra, Iraq

CNN:

"Once the largest mosque in the world, built in the 9th century on the Tigris River north of Baghdad. The mosque is famous for the Malwiya Tower, a 52-meter minaret with spiraling ramps for worshipers to climb. Among Iraq's most important sites, it even featured on banknotes. The site was bombed in 2005, in an insurgent attack on a NATO position, destroying the top of the minaret and surrounding walls."
The Malwiya Minaret is perhaps the most famous and intriguing piece of architecture in Iraq but it was not destroyed. The pinnacle of the minaret was damaged during the explosion which rained debris on the minaret's ramp but overall the minaret sustained limited damage.  What the article doesn’t mention is that US troops used the summit of the heritage site as a sniper's vantage post from September 2004 until March 2005, only vacating the monument when ordered to do so by Iraqi antiquities officials. Insurgents bombed the minaret one month later. Military forces have also rethought their policies on using high heritage structures for vantage points.

The Buddhas of Bamiyan, Afghanistan

CNN:

"The Buddhas of Bamyan, Afghanistan - The most spectacular legacy of Buddhism in the war-torn country, among the tallest standing Buddhas in the world -- the larger at 53 meters, the other 35 -- had survived over 1,500 years since being carved out of sandstone. The Taliban considered the monuments idolatrous and destroyed them with dynamite."

Bamyan? Bamian? or Bamiyan?  CNN's fact checkers chose to go with "Bamyan" as the spelling for the Bamiyan valley in central Afghanistan.   In terms of accuracy I think it may have been better for the news agencies to refer to the site by the name utilized by UNESCO when describing the cultural Landscape and archaeological remains of the Bamiyan Valley.  Also the Buddhas popularly referred to as the "Solsol" and the "Shahmama" aren't buildings as the opening headline for the photomontage describes.  They are in fact monuments so lets give this one a pass as the descriptive content is otherwise accurate.

The ancient city of Bosra, Syria

CNN:

"Continually inhabited for 2,500 years, and became the capital of the Romans' Arabian empire. The centerpiece is a magnificent Roman theater dating back to the second century that survived intact until the current conflict. Archaeologists have revealed the site is now severely damaged from mortar shelling."

While the town located in Southern Syria's Da’ara governorate itself has sustained significant war damage, including mortar impacts near the ancient Roman theater, the theater itself appears to be ok. Satellite imagery analyzed for an April 2014 report conducted by the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology’s Penn Cultural Heritage Center (PennCHC) and the Smithsonian Institution, and in cooperation with the Syrian Heritage Task Force, the Geospatial Technologies and Human Rights Project of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) showed that there are no visible signs of damage aside from an earthen ramp constructed over a staircase located at the theater's Eastern entrance.

The Great Mosque of Aleppo, Syria

CNN:

"A world heritage site originally built in 715 by the Umayyad dynasty, ranking it among the oldest mosques in the world. The epic structure evolved through successive eras, gaining its famous minaret in the late 11th century. This was reduced to rubble in the Syrian civil war in 2013, along with serious damage to the walls and courtyard, which historians have described as the worst ever damage to Syrian heritage."

By "this" we can assume CNN meant the minaret and not the entire site.  Images of the mosque's courtyard have been widely circulated in the press.  Heritage for Peace gives a breakdown of the reported damages as "Minaret destroyed, al-Warka library burned, damage to the shrine of Zachariah, extensive damage to courtyard and some galleries".   While significant, I wouldn't say that one site realistically reflects the worse damage to Syrian heritage. 

Norias of Hama, Syria

CNN:


"These 20-meter wide water wheels were first documented in the 5th century, representing an ingenious early irrigation system. Seventeen of the wooden norias (a machine for lifting water into an aqueduct) survived to present day and became Hama's primary tourist attraction, noted for their groaning sounds as they turned. Heritage experts documented several wheels being burned by fighters in 2014."

Information from Hama indicates that one of the 17 Norias has been damaged, the Noria-Ga’bariyya, which had been previously rehabilitated in 2010 by Hama’s Archeological Authority.  According to the DGAM the restored modern wood wheel was heavily damaged at the top, but the original stone base remains intact. The full report is available in English here, and more completely in Arabic here.

Citadel of Aleppo, Syria

CNN:

"The fortress spans at least four millennia, from the days of Alexander the Great, through Roman, Mongol, and Ottoman rule. The site has barely changed since the 16th century and is one of Syria's most popular World Heritage sites. The citadel has been used as an army base in recent fighting and several of its historic buildings have been destroyed."
 
While a missile attack on August 11, 2012 damaged the citadel’s massive gate and destroyed the iron doors I found no collaborating information that its historic buildings inside -- the Ayyubid palace (built in 1230 and destroyed by the Mongols in 1400), two mosques, a hammam and a rebuilt Mamluk -- have suffered damages.

However, according to the AAAS report, significant damage has occurred south of Aleppo's citadel, the location of many historical government buildings. Structures near the citadel such as the city's Khusriwiye Mosque were demolished and the Grand Serail - the former seat of the Aleppo governor -- was heavily damaged.  In addition, the dome of the 15th Century Hammam Yalbougha an-Nasry was destroyed.

Aleppo Souk, Syria

CNN:

"The covered markets in the Old City are a famous trade center for the region's finest produce, with dedicated sub-souks for fabrics, food, or accessories. The tunnels became the scene of fierce fighting and many of the oldest are now damaged beyond recognition, which Unesco has described as a tragedy."

Aleppo’s sprawling Souq al-Madina, as the souks of Old Aleppo are known collectively, is purported to be the largest covered souq in the world.  It also hasn't gotten a break in this conflict. 


Thanks to a German posting in Wikipedia I have included their photo of a model that shows how substantial the Aleppo souq  which may help explain why knowing the exact number of losses is hard to estimate from the safe confines of our respective computers.  The labyrinthine souks stretches for eight kilometers an the number of quoted shops it held varies enormously and I have seen  numbers as high as 1550.  If anyone has any concrete data, I am happy to list it here as well as evidence of how much of the combined souqs have been damaged.


Deir Ez-zor bridge, Syria

CNN:

“This French-built suspension bridge was a popular pedestrian crossing and vantage point for its views of the Euphrates River. It became a key supply line in a battle for the city, and collapsed under shelling. Deir Ez-zor's Siyasiyeh Bridge was also destroyed.”

Again, not a building but it could be considered a monument.  Facts check out. In September 2014 Syria's state-run television said government forces were responsible for blowing up the al-Siyasiyeh Bridge over the Euphrates river.

Nimrud, Iraq

CNN

“The ancient Assyrian city around Nineveh Province, Iraq was home to countless treasures of the empire, including statues, monuments and jewels. Following the 2003 invasion the site has been devastated by looting, with many of the stolen pieces finding homes in museums abroad.”

To quote Dr. Donna Yates, a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research at the University of Glasgow's Trafficking Culture “Iraq's 'Nimrud Treasure', 613 pieces that made Tut's tomb, look like Walmart”, survived '03 looting in a bank vault.

While some objects originating from Nimrod (Kalhu) went missing from the Iraqi capital during the first conflict, we haven't much cultural heritage trafficking information from the actual zone itself. While the area is famous for depicting reliefs purported to show the first documented handshake in human history, recent clashes with ISIS in Nineveh left the Police Director of Nimrud and his son dead.

Despite media reports that looters have used chain saws to carve reliefs depicting scenes from daily life from the walls of the palace and selling pieces on the black market neither Paul Barford in his article "UNESCO on What is happening at Nimrud" or others seem to have come across photographic evidence to support those claims.  That’s not to say many important museums around the world don't have substantial collection pieces from Nimrud taken over a hundred years ago as well as pieces looted before the NATO invasion.  Science magazine also did some sleuthing reporting on the sale of trafficked Nineveh (Nimrud?) fragments in 2001.

Crac des Chevaliers, Syria

CNN

“The Crusader castle from the 11th century survived centuries of battles and natural disasters, becoming a World Heritage site in 2006 along with the adjacent castle of Qal'at Salah El-Din. The walls were severely damaged by regime airstrikes and artillery in 2013, and rebels took positions within it.”

Crac des Chevaliers castle, shows ”moderate structural damage" and the AAAS report describes  damage to a 6 meter gash in its southeast tower and three visible craters to the northern part of the castle.

Jonah's Tomb, Iraq

CNN

“It was entirely blown up by ISIS militants in 2014 as part of their campaign against perceived apostasy.”

This one is confirmed via  Dr. Sam Hardy’s detailed reporting on this the event as the confirmation of and destruction to the Shrine of Jonah/Mosque of Yunus were unfolding. If you are interested in conflict archaeology, I recommend following Hardy's academic website Conflict Antiquities.   If he posts something as fact, it's been checked and crossed checked.



In July 2014 Hardy reported that "it still was not clear how much damage has been done to Jonah’s Mound (Nebi Younis), the archaeological remains on top of which Jonah’s Tomb and the Mosque of Jonah were built." 

Khaled Ibn Walid Mosque, Syria

CNN

“The sacred mausoleum has been completely destroyed, and much of the interiors burned.”


Thanks to Heritage for Peace for pointing me to video footage of the mosque posted by the Association for the protection of Syrian archaeology. It shows that the Khaled Ibn Walid has been significantly damaged but doesn't reflect seem to reflect total destruction.

Northern Roman Necropolis, Palmyra


Palmyra, Syria

CNN

“It is feared that Palmyra has now been devastated by looting.”


How does "it is feared"  equate to the photo-montage's header of buildings or monuments lost in battle?  How about talking about the fact that the Northern Roman Necropolis in Palmyra has been damaged by road construction and the many earthen berms built to provide cover for opposing forces?

Armenian genocide museum, Syria

CNN

“The complex was destroyed by ISIS in 2014.”


Portions of the structure, although receiving damage remain.  A breakdown of the events leading to the damage can be found on the Conflict Antiquities website here.

Cyrene, Libya

CNN

“in the wake of Libya's revolution, vast tracts have been bulldozed including its unique necropolis complex.”

Many would argue that Libya isn’t in the Middle East but I will leave the politics of geography aside given Libya's ongoing conflict and cultural significance.  I have to say though that the photo chosen is misleadingly dramatic in terms of visuals even if the historic significance of the actual site damage can be seen here on the Archaeology News Network.   CNN would have done better to use The Art Newspaper's approach which specified that a mile-long section of the necropolis was flattened "in the hope of selling 500 sq. m parcels to real estate developers."


Museum of Islamic Art, Egypt

CNN

“Shortly after re-opening, a car bomb targeting a nearby police building caused catastrophic damage and forced the museum to close again.”

I wish news sites and even people like myself would try to avoid using unquantifiable terms like “catastrophic” or "significant" or "substantial" and simply list actual damages like UNESCO has in this report on the MIA’s hit.  It would give credit to the reader’s ability to discern for themselves what is or isn’t “catastrophic” though in this case, I agree.

Quaid e Azam residency, Pakistan

CNN

“The residency was attacked with rocket fire by a separatist group in 2013, and almost completely demolished. A new structure is being built on the site.”

The photomontage doesn’t make clear that the “new structure” is a rebuilt version of the Ziarat residency, restored to its original form under the directives of Pakistan's prime minister and the chief minister Balochistan at the cost of Rs 150 million.

Al- Omari Mosque, Gaza

CNN

“The walls, dome and roof were destroyed by Israeli airstrikes during the recent fighting in Gaza”

Some walls and roofing still standing as these photos attest though significant damage was sustained. 

'Old Beirut', Lebanon

CNN

“officials say just 400 of 1200 protected historic buildings remain.”


Thought this was a good image slide to conclude on.  By the time the Ta’if Accords were signed more than 150,000 Lebanese had died and 1 million individuals had been displaced or had fled the country.

In August 2014 the United Nations reported a chilling figure in the Syrian conflict listing 191,369 men, women and children reported as killed between March 2011 and the end of April 2014.  

Accuracy in journalism is important.  Monuments and cultural heritage and objects from our past are important, but people are the most important.

February 1, 2014

Introducing Sam Hardy and "Conflict Antiquities" -- the blog that aims to track the use of antiquities to fund war

In Vernon Silver's article "The Apollo of Gaza: Hamas's Ancient Bronze Statue" in Bloomberg Businesweek, Sam Hardy is quoted as to the complications of the discovery:
In the hands of the Hamas government, the bronze is worth more than just money. The most valuable reward would be recognition of any kind by U.S. or European institutions and governments. Even the slightest cooperation, say, over restoration, sale, or loan of the statue, could open the diplomatic door a crack. “This case is fiendishly difficult,” says Sam Hardy, a British archaeologist whose Conflict Antiquities website tracks the use of looted artifacts to fund war. “National and international laws make it difficult to assist the administration in the West Bank, let alone that in the Gaza Strip. Indeed, any sale or leasing of the statue might normalize looting of antiquities as a funding stream for Hamas.”
We've added Hardy's blog "Conflict Antiquities" to ARCA's "Related Blogs" on the right side of our website.

August 27, 2013

ARCA's Fifth Annual International Art Crime Conference: Third Panel featured Nicholas M. O’Donnell, Jerker Rydén, Joris Kila

Judge Tompkins (left) with Nicholas O'Donnell, Jerker
Rydén, and Joris Kila (right)
by Sophia Kisielewska, ARCA Intern

After a delicious lunch served by the staff of La Locanda in the beautiful chiostro everyone settled back into their seats to listen to Panel Three. Moderating the panel was Judge Arthur Tompkins, a District Court Judge in New Zealand and a professor on ARCA’s Postgraduate Certificate program.

The first panelist was Nicholas M. O’Donnell, a litigation partner with Sullivan & Worcester LLP in Boston and New York, whose practice focuses primarily on complex civil litigation, representing collectors, dealers, artists and museums. O'Donnell is also the editor of The Art LawReport. O’Donnell’s presentation, “American Wartime Art Restitution Litigation in the 1990s and Beyond—Has it All Been Worth It?” looked at the difficult subject of art restitution, specifically its reception in America since the 1998 Washington Conference, when awareness of the problem was ignited.

O'Donnell used a number of case studies to understand if there has been a shift in how restitution cases are being addressed in courts. He said that the Portrait of Wally affair, and the case of Maria Atlmann and her claim of five paintings by Gustav Klimt, seemed to infer that a change had occurred, however the use of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act and the fact that courts are regularly dismissing claims based on statutes of limitations seems to indicate that courts are still very much against the claimants in art restitution cases.

O’Donnell emphasized that in almost all cases the battleground is the statute of limitations but he also pointed out that the FSIA has its own issues. To demonstrate his point he spoke of the Chabad Lubavitch library dispute. Currently Russia is being fined $50,000 for every day it defies the judgment held by US District Court for the District of Columbia on January 16 2013. Charges will be halted once Russia returns thelibrary of the late Menachem Schneerson to the plaintiffs, the current leadership of the worldwide Chabad Lubavitch movement, which they seem unlikely to do. O’Donnell spoke of the impact of this case on international relations and the art world and in his closing slides he reviewed what the future litigation, legislation, and diplomacy in cases of wartime restitution in the United States might consequently look like.

The second presentation was given by Jerker Rydén, the Senior Legal Advisor of the Royal Library of Sweden. Rydén has worked as a judge, a lawyer in private practice, and a national delegate to international copyright proceedings as well as senior legal advisor of the National Heritage Board of Sweden. In the recent past he has worked closely with assistant United States attorney Sharon Cohen Levin of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to help track and recover unique and valuable historical works that had been stolen from the library collections. In his presentation, “Skullduggery in the Stacks: Recovering stolen books for the Royal Library of Sweden” he discussed the legal and practical issues that faces the Royal Library of Sweden as it attempts to recover the 62 books that were stolen by Anders Burius, a former director of the Royal Library Manuscript Department, who was arrested in 2004 and who later committed suicide. [More details provided here by A.M.C. Knutsson]

Rydén used this case to explain the many techniques that are used by book thieves, such as breaking books into sub-parts and stealing and erasing finding aides (i.e., card catalogue entries) which means that such thefts can go undiscovered for decades. He spoke of the role of auction houses and booksellers in aiding book thieves by not doing their due diligence on the sellers and by not asking for provenance on the items. He went on to describe the book recovery efforts of the law enforcement in the United States and in Europe and the recovery efforts of industry organisations, such as international databases. At the end of his presentation Rydén made a point of saying that the effects of such thefts can damage the collective memory of a nation, which he described as ‘just like permanent brain damage’. 

The panel was brought to a close with a presentation by Joris Kila who is a senior researcher at the University of Vienna and reserve Lieutenant Colonel in the Dutch army. He is board member of the World Association for the Protection of Tangible and Intangible Cultural Heritage in Times of Armed Conflict in Rome, chairman of the International Cultural Resources Working Group and a member of the Research Forum on the Law of Armed Conflict and Peace Operations in the Netherlands as well as being a guest lecturer and researcher at the Netherlands and Austrian Defense Academies.

Dr. Kila's presentation, “An update on Armed Conflict and Heritage”, focused on the status of cultural property in recent areas of conflict. He described how cultural heritage has always been available for damage and manipulation thanks to its place in museums and other public spaces and its incontestable link to glorified and idealized pasts and as such it will continue to be heavily disputed and contested in future wartime conflicts as well as in pre- and post conflict phases. The damaging or destruction of cultural property is attacking the identity of the opponent while at the same time looting of cultural objects can be beneficial for the opposing forces such as insurgents for financial reasons thus generating a security issue to be taken into account by military organizations. Because of these issues it is clear that cultural property needs protecting in areas of conflict. Kila pointed out that research into current conflict and heritage aspects is lacking and is in desperate need of funding.

Dr. Kila's presentation covered a number of new developments and dilemmas in the international heritage discourse such as heritage and identity, trauma scapes, issues of increasing iconoclasm and debates about selecting what to preserve. Finally he spoke of today's situations in Egypt, Libya and Syria, as he has experienced and witnessed it in person, and emphasized that the situations in these war zones must be factored into these discussions.