Showing posts with label cultural property. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cultural property. Show all posts

September 8, 2015

Destroying and Protecting the World’s Shared Cultural Heritage: Iconoclasm and Psychological Warfare

By Dr. Joris D. Kila
Heritage Researcher,  Lt. Col. (retired), International Military Cultural Resources Working Group and Senior Researcher, Centre for Cultural Heritage Protection, University of Vienna
The Hague, Netherlands

The world’s shared cultural heritage is under threat. Substantial damage has already been inflicted during armed conflicts that have taken place or are still ongoing, especially in parts of Africa and the Middle East.  To protect the world's heritage, it is important to gain knowledge about key concepts and mechanisms that underpin heritage destruction and protection including new phenomena, stakeholders and concepts such as urbicide (a term which literally translates as "violence against the city."), the military roll in heritage destruction and or preservation and the psychological warfare of heritage destruction.

Libya Appolonia artifacts hidden during the revolution November 2011
(c) photo Joris Kila
‘Cultural property’ that is, the legal term used  to describe the world's cultural heritage, is currently not only threatened by time, nature, and man-made development, but increasingly by armed conflicts and upheavals. In this context we see the return of iconoclasm driven and legitimised as an excuse for eliminating perceptions of heresy as well as the ‘’recycling’’ of antique monuments originally built as defence works like the Crusader castle, Krak de Chevaliers, Palmyra’s Fakhr-al-Din al-Ma'ani Castle or the now destroyed Temple of Bel in Palmyra which the Burids transformed into a citadel in 1132.

But Iconoclasm is not only directed at immovable heritage, it also aimed at written heritage making manuscripts and books equally at risk. The majority of today's warring parties are guilty of abuse and destruction whether intentionally or by accident, disregarding that cultural property is ‘’protected’’ under (inter)national laws. To make matters worse there has been an increase in the looting and illicit traffic of artefacts, the revenues of which are used to finance, and thus extend conflicts.

A museum guard displays a manuscript burnt by fleeing occupation forces
 at the Ahmed Baba Institute in Mali.
Photograph: Benoit Tessier/Reuters © The Guardian
There is a distinction between material and non-material heritage. Materials are, for instance, sculptures and paintings but also libraries, archives, monuments and archaeological sites. Immaterial, also referred to as intangible heritage, includes languages, national anthems, and historic traditions. All heritage is strongly connected with identities and therefore potentially politically and socially sensitive especially in connection with conflict and disputes.

Within this framework, written heritage has a dual status: libraries, archives and manuscripts are material cultural properties but simultaneously carriers of intangible heritage like ideas and by extension, identity. Dualism can be seen too in overlaps between cultural and natural heritage, such as cultural landscapes like Ayers Rock and in ivory that is often smuggled.

In general terms books and documents can be considered to be containers of identity. Simultaneously the material manifestation of a book or manuscript can be an artifact or a sacred and thus religiously sensitive object. Specifically, archives can contain cultural heritage for a national society or smaller community as well as information that makes them strategic targets for the warring parties e.g. working archives can hold tactical information about persons and political issues. Military experts connect this information with military intelligence.  Additionally, libraries and archives themselves can be historic monuments.

Apart from the fragile characteristics there are many more issues within the realms of heritage. They include shifting insights on conservation, restoration, authentication (forgeries) and developments concerning digitization, manipulation, political propaganda, illicit trafficking, and legislation. Current attacks on cultural heritage show elements of psychological warfare, cultural genocide and, as acknowledged by the United Nations, war crimes.

This makes Cultural Property Protection (CPP) a complicated multi-disciplinary topic with stakeholders that include the military, police, diplomats, legal specialists, auctioneers, antique dealers, and religious experts to name a few, all of which represent and defend their own interests. Transnational crime is also present, not to mention collateral damage inflicted during battle.

Considering the complexity and the seriousness of today’s heritage conditions it seems fair to acknowledge that safeguarding issues cannot be taken care of by only as small number of cultural experts or enthusiasts who are not afraid to be pro-active and often need to act as private individuals. The main concern is that there is presently no operational protection concept being implemented based on international cooperation and coordination. Legal obligations and sanctions are not sufficiently implemented and enforced – for instance,  some cultural war crimes could and should be prosecuted by the International Criminal Court.

Although there are moral and legal obligations, funding is not in place for CPP training, education, research, and the deployment of ‘’new’’ stakeholders like the military who are equipped to operate in war zones.  Most contemporary asymmetric conflicts in which (written) heritage is endangered take place in the Muslim World. A lot of the world’s heritage from antiquity is located there but it is also critical to pay special attention to protection and restoration of Islamic heritage before the cultural and historical memory rooted in these regions is erased from the world’s common consciousness and lost to future generations.

To meet some of these challenges, the Islamic Manuscript Association in partnership with the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) has organised a course this coming October entitled Manuscript Collections in Conflict Zones: Safeguarding Written Heritage. This multidisciplinary course will also gives a general introduction about Cultural Property Protection and destruction in the event of conflict. The course will take place October 5th, 6th, and 7th at the Royal United Services Institute in Whitehall, London.

Confirmed speakers include:

Colonel Matthew Bogdanos,
Assistant District Attorney in Manhattan

Mr. Marco Di Bella,
Freelance Book and Manuscript Conservator and UNESCO Consultant

Mr. Karl von Habsburg-Lothringen,
President of the Association of National Committees of the Blue Shield

Dr. Joris Kila, Chairman,
International Military Cultural Resources Working Group

Professor Roger O’Keefe,
Chair of Public International Law, University College London

Mr András Riedlmayer,
Bibliographer in Islamic Art and Architecture, Harvard University

Professor Franck Salameh,
Associate Professor of Near Eastern Studies, Boston College

Dr Christos Tsirogiannis,
Research Assistant, Trafficking Culture Team, University of Glasgow

Dr Hafed Walda,
(Pending) Deputy Ambassador to the permanent Libyan delegation at UNESCO

Dr James Zeidler,
Associate Director for Cultural Resources, Colorado State University

For information about course lecturers and how to register to attend, please contact the Islamic Manuscript Association linked here

September 17, 2013

DePaul University College of Law in Chicago to host "Restitution and Repatriation: The Return of Cultural Objects Symposium" on November 13, 2013

Restitution and Repatriation: The Return of Cultural Objects Symposium will be held at DePaul University College of Law in Chicago on Thursday, November 14, 2013. The program will address the underlying legal, ethical and moral reasons and policies behind the return of cultural objects. Panels will discuss provenance research, museum acquisitions, historical appropriations, and the ethical issues that come into play when requests for repatriation are made.

Our Featured Lecturer will be Jack Trope, Executive Director of the Association on American Indian Affairs. Other speakers include: Lori Breslauer, Acting General Counsel of the Field Museum of Natural History; Steve Nash, Chair of the Department of Anthropology and Curator of Archaeology at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science; Rebecca Tsosie, a Willard H. Pedrick Distinguished Research Scholar and Professor of Law at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University; Richard M. Leventhal, the Director of the Penn Cultural Heritage Center; Charles Brian Rose, a James B. Pritchard Professor of Mediterranean Archaeology in the Department of Classical Studies and Curator-in-Charge of the Mediterranean Section of the Penn Museum; Marc-André Renold, Director of the Art-Law Centre at the University of Geneva; Frank Lord, an associate at Herrick Feinstein LLP; Thomas R. Kline, Of Counsel in the Washington, D.C. office of Andrews Kurth LLP; and Simon Frankel, a partner at Covington & Burling LLP, as well as several other leaders in the art, museum, and cultural heritage fields.

The symposium has been approved for 7.75 CLE credits, including 1.5 Ethics credits (pending Ethics Board approval). To register for the symposium, or for additional information, please visit: http://law.depaul.edu/centers_institutes/art_museum/archaeological/default.asp.”

August 12, 2013

Steven D. Feldman on "Highlights of Selected Criminal Cases Involving Art & Cultural Objects: 2012" (The Journal of Art Crime, Spring 2013)

Steven D. Feldman, a partner at Herrick, Feinstein LLP, highlights three cases involving art and cultural objects in 2012 in the Spring 2013 issue of The Journal of Art Crime:

In the United States, the year 2012 was notable for the intersection of criminal cases, and the art and cultural property world. Rather than a year limited to more routine cases of stolen art, fraudulent paintings, or the theft of proceeds from gallery sales, the criminal art and cultural object disputes included a constellation of fascinating cases covering a wide breadth of subjects and issues. The cases were investigated and prosecuted by a number of different agencies illustrating the variety of law enforcement entities interested in and committed to protecting art and cultural items, and their respective markets.

One case featured stolen historical documents:

In June 2012, Barry H. Landau, a famous collector of presidential memorabilia, was sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment for stealing valuable historical documents from museums and historical societies in Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York and Connecticut, then selling selected documents for profit. Mr. Landau and a young colleague, Jason Savedoff were prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland. Both men pleaded guilty. The scheme may have included more than 10,000 stolen items.

Another case targeted fake looted Greek coins:

In July 2012, Dr. Arnold-Peter Weiss – a prominent Rhode Island hand surgeon, professor of orthopedics at Brown University School of Medicine, and dealer in ancient coins – pleaded guilty in New York State court to three misdemeanor counts of attempted criminal possession of stolen property, specifically three ancient coins he believed had been recently looted from Italy. Dr. Weiss was prosecuted by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office. Pursuant to a plea agreement, Dr. Weiss was sentenced to 70 hours of community service (providing medical care to disadvantaged patients in Rhode Island), was ordered to pay a $1,000 fine for each of the three coins in the case, and forfeited an additional 23 ancient coins that were seized from him at the time of his arrest. The court also ordered Dr. Weiss to write an article for publication in a coin collecting magazine or journal warning of the risks of dealing in coins of unknown or looted provenance.

And the third case was about dinosaur fossils:
On December 27, 2012, Eric Prokopi, a self-described “commercial paleontologist,” pled guilty to engaging in a scheme to illegally import the fossilized remains of numerous dinosaurs that had been taken out of their native countries illegally and smuggled into the United States. Specifically, Mr. Prokopi pled guilty to a three-count criminal information: Count One charged conspiracy to smuggle illegal goods and make false statements with respect to a Chinese Microraptor fling dinosaur; Count Two charged entry of goods by means of false statements with respect to two Mongolian dinosaur fossils; and Count Three charged interstate and foreign transportation of goods converted and taken by fraud.
Steven D. Feldman heads Herrick's White Collar Litigation practice. He is also a member of Herrick's Art Law Group where he represents individuals and entities in criminal-art related matters. Prior to joining Herrick, Steven spent more than six years as a federal prosecutor at the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York.

Mr. Feldman's article is featured in the ninth issue of The Journal of Art Crime, edited by ARCA Founder Noah Charney. The Journal is available electronically (pdf) and in print via subscription and Amazon.com. The 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.

August 11, 2013

Enez: Bulgaria - Turkey IPA Cross-Border Program Highlights Multicultural History of Castle Ruins in Northern Aegean Beach Town

Enez Castle (Acropolis) - Restored by Turkish Ministery of
Culture and the Department of Cultural Assets & Museums 
by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

ENEZ, Turkey – The tiny town of Enez, with its long sandy beaches and view of the Greek mainland, has a big summer population and an even grander history hidden in the ancient ruins of its castle. Recently the Bulgaria – Turkey IPA Cross-Border Program has replaced the old Turkish signs with bilingual placards telling of the site’s history as the ancient city of “Ainos” where the river Meriç (“Hebros”) meets the sea:

Herodotus mentioned that Ainos was first founded during the 7th century B.C. by Aeois, as a colony of those Aeols, who settled North of Izmir. On the other hand, we learn from other ancient written sources, that before this period, in Ainos there were cities or villages named Poltyobria and Apsinthos, founded by Thracian tribes.

Numerous people and rulers came and left Ainos before turning it over to Ottoman rule: the Persian Kings Darius and Xerces from 513-480 BC; Macedonians in the 4th century; Romans beginning in the 2nd century; and during the final era of the Byzantine Empire, the Genoans under the sovereignty of the Gattelusi and Doria families. After the death in 1455 of the Ainos ruler Palmede (of the Dorian family), an ‘internal struggled started for the rule of the city’ and ‘when the administration stopped paying the yearly tribute to the Ottoman Empire’, the citizens ‘handed the keys to the city’ to Mehmet the Conquerer when his Navy besieged the city (Bulgaria-Turkey IPA Cross-Border Program).

This gentleman talks about Enez ruins.
An older gentleman walking the un-excavated area within the castle walls said that he came to Enez in 1948 from Bulgaria and served as a guard here. The site is open and free to the public.  The population of the town increased after the 1950 when the Balkan countries and Turkey exchanged minorities. Recently a portion of the church has been restored with columns that had lain on the ground. When the wine cellars were excavated, multiple layers of the city were discovered and excavation work ceased. Over the years, he said, the bigger pieces of cultural objects were moved to the Archaeology Museum in Edirne.

According to the signage, in the trenches within the castle (acropolis), on top of the main rock, underneath a soil layer of 7.50 m, terracotta remains that date back to the 4th and 3rd millennia BC reveal that the settlement here dates back to the chalcolithic period. On top of this layer, which reveals the earliest settlement in Enez, finds that date back to the later Greek settlement period have been unearthed.... Ainos produced grain, salt and dried fish as well as oil and wine. 

Restored decorations inside collapsed church/mosque

The remains of the building known as the Fatih Mosque used to be the local Haghia Sophia Church, one of the most important domed basilicas of the Byzantine era (dating back to the 6th, 9th or 10th centuries). It was destroyed by an earthquake in 1965 and abandoned a year later.  Restoration work has been ongoing since the Ottoman years.






Ruins of an 11th century chapel
Christian symbol in basilica ruins










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.

July 19, 2013

When is restitution a bad thing? The case of Melanesian wood carvings


Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I
 by Gustav Klimt. (1907).
 Neue Galerie, New York.
Source: Verity Algar

by Verity Algar, co-posting with Plundered Art

The Holocaust Art Restitution Project and other organisations aiming to restitute Holocaust-looted art to its rightful owners justifiably propose restitution to be a positive thing in this context. However, my research has shown that not all cultural groups want to re-possess their cultural heritage.

I recently spoke at the Association of Research into Crimes Against Art’s 5th Annual Conference, where I compared these two objects: the Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I by Gustav Klimt. (1907) and Malanggan from Northern New Ireland, Papua New Guinea (collected in 1890).

Malanggan, from Northern New Ireland,
Papua New Guinea. Collected in 1890.
 Museum of Archaeology & Anthropology,
 Cambridge

Source: Verity Algar
Why would I compare a twentieth-century European painting with a nineteenth-century wood carving from Melanesia, I hear you say?! Well, by comparing these different objects, I wanted to point out that their original owners take vastly different approaches to the restitution of these objects. Let me explain.

In Jewish communities, generally, the original owners of the cultural objects and/or their heirs, feel the need to re-claim their objects in order to gain a sense of closure on a traumatic past. As the following excerpts demonstrate, the language of restitution claims suggest that the Holocaust is not truly over until looted art objects have been restituted:

“The return of stolen art may be one of the last acts of the Shoah”
(Dellheim 2000 cited in Glass 2004: 117)

“museums … are dealing with the unfinished business of the Holocaust”
(editorial, Seattle Times 16 June 1999)

“Austria will move closer to closing the book on a somber chapter in 20th-century history”
(Czernin 1998 cited in Glass 2004: 118)

The people of New Ireland in Papua New Guinea, on the other hand, do not wish for the malanggan which they themselves created, to be returned to them, despite malanggan being essential to their culture. This may initially seem puzzling because they can often take more than three months to carve (Küchler 2002: 1). Yet they are not made to be displayed, treasured and revered as much of the art confiscated by the Nazis was. Malanggan are displayed for a few hours during mortuary ceremonies, before being left to the elements to decompose (Küchler and Melion 1991: 29). As money became increasingly important in New Ireland, the sale of malanggan to Western collectors became an attractive alternative (Küchler and Melion 1991: 29). More than five thousand malanggan have been collected by Western museums (Küchler and Melion 1991: 27).  As other indigenous groups began to claim the objects that constituted their cultural memory from Western museums, the museums considered restituting the malanggan too.

This illustrates a fundamental misunderstanding of the significance of malanggan to Melanesian culture.  During the carving process, the sculpture is imbued with life force, which is “symbolically killed” when ownership of the malanggan is transferred from the deceased’s family to related kin in exchange for money (Küchler and Melion 1991: 32). The image of the malanggan, however, is preserved as cultural memory and is reproduced in future sculptures (Küchler and Melion 1991: 32). Susanne Küchler and Walter Melion refer to the conflicting status of memory surrounding malanggan practice as “strategic remembering and deliberate forgetting” (1991: 30). To restitute these objects to the people of New Ireland would be to rekindle a specific aspect of their cultural memory, thus interfering with the process of “deliberate forgetting”.

Whilst it is fundamentally important that organisations such as ARCA and HARP continue to support research into Holocaust-era looted art, it is equally important that we understand why restitution can be incredibly problematic for some groups of people. Far from interrupting or countering my pro-restitution tendency, the argument against the restitution of malanggan can run alongside this tendency. As a concept, restitution is neither good nor bad. Rather, decisions about whether or not to restitute cultural objects need to be made on a culture-specific basis.

Verity Algar is a second year BA in History of Art student at University College London, where she minors in Anthropology. She recently spoke on ‘Cultural memory and the restitution of cultural property: Comparing Nazi-looted art and Melanesian malanggan’ at the Association of Research into Crimes Against Art’s 5th Annual Conference. She is hoping to complete the ARCA Postgraduate Certificate before working in a field relating to cultural heritage protection.

July 10, 2013

Fire Damage: 17th century Parisian mansion Hôtel Lambert once owned by the Czartoryski and Rothschild families burns for six hours

by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

Hazardous materials from renovation work complicated fire fighting efforts to save the Hôtel Lambert on the Île St Louis in Paris early Wednesday morning (Euronews).

Built from 1640-44 for the financier Jean-Baptiste Lambert, the mansion had been purchased in the 19th century by Polish exiles of the Czartoryski family (owners of Leonardo da Vinci's Lady with an Ermine) and purchased from the Rothschild family in 2007 by a Qatar prince. Many politicians, writers (George Sand) and musicians (Chopin) had worked or stayed at Hôtel Lambert.

Angelique Christafis of The Guardian reported more than 140 firefighters and 50 fire engines battled for six hours a blaze believed to have begun on the roof of the 17th century mansion which has been under a controversial renovation. Damage is being assessed:
The Paris fire brigade, which has not yet given a cause for the start of the fire, said work was taking place to establish the extent of fire, smoke and water damage to historic interiors and decorative artwork on walls and ceilings. 
Before the fire, many works inside the building remained in an almost pristine state, including a series of frescos in the gallery of Hercules by Charles Le Brun, the 17th-century French artist who also worked for Louis XIV.
Hôtel Lambert is included in UNESCO's World Heritage Site, "Paris, Banks of the Seine."

In February, the historic Villa Casdagli in Cairo (and former American Embassy) in also suffered extensive fire damage (here's a report by Dr. Joris Kila, Chairman of the International Cultural Resources Working Group).

March 5, 2013

ARCA Trustee Erik Nemeth on the Political Economy of Cultural Property and A Gap in Cultural Intelligence

ARCA Trustee Erik Nemeth (and a lecturer on Cultural Security during the summer program in Amelia) published two articles on the political economics of cultural property and cultural intelligence last month.

"Alternative Power: Political Economy of Cultural Property" in Columbia's Journal of International Affairs begins:
Last May, The Scream by Edvard Munch set a record for the most expensive painting sold at auction. The $120 million sale at Sotheby’s in New York illustrated a trend in record prices for artworks at auction and in private sales. At the same time, members of the al Qaeda-linked group Ansar Dine started to target mausoleums of Sufi saints in Timbuktu, Mali, and conflict in Syria continued to compromise cultural heritage with the looting of the well preserved Crusader castle, Krak des Chevaliers. The purchase of The Scream and the destruction of the historic monuments represent extremes that derive from the perceived value of art and the strategic value of cultural heritage.
"A gap in cultural intelligence" in The Providence Journal begins:
What the heck happened to cultural sensibilities last year?
 
While collectors bid up record prices for artworks at auction--Edvard Munch's "The Scream" went for $120 million in May--they were criticized for a lack of aesthetic judgment, especially at the premier U.S. fair, Art Basel Miami Beach. And cultural heritage took a turn for the worse as well. Cooperation on repatriation of antiquities was overshadowed by grim reports of wanton destruction of historic sites in Mali and Syria. With both contemporary and ancient art, the desire to collect and possess seemed to outstrip cultural appreciation.
 
High-end collectors and cultural-heritage abusers alike would benefit from a boost in cultural intelligence, or "CQ," to grasp the interrelation of art, culture, economic development, and human rights..
You may follow his studies on the blog Art World Intelligence through the online newspaper Cultural Security News.