Sep 24, 2008

Antiquities Seized in Macedonia

The AP is reporting on a seizure of "dozens" of antiquities yesterday in Macedonia:

SKOPJE, Macedonia (AP) — Authorities have seized dozens of stolen ancient artifacts after raiding the homes of two suspected antiquities smugglers in southern Macedonia.

Police confiscated about 70 archaeological items, including coins, terracotta figurines, pieces of silver and bronze jewelry and amphora dating from the Hellenistic and Roman periods in the 4th and 3rd centuries B.C., police spokesman Ivo Kotevski said Wednesday.

They are believed to have been stolen from Isar, one of Macedonia's largest archaeological sites in the south...

Macedonia has some 6,000 registered archaeological sites. Experts warn that since the country gained independence from Yugoslavia 17 years ago, the antiquities have become increasingly vulnerable to looters who use sophisticated navigation and excavating equipment.


I think the interesting aspect may be the difficulty the new Macedonian republic has had policing its archaeological sites. These former Yugoslav republics have had to dramatically ramp up their heritage protection after their independence. One wonders perhaps if they might begin to make calls for repatriation of objects?

Sep 23, 2008

Wang on the Waverley System for Art Export in the UK

Vivian Wang has written an article "Whose Responsibility? The Waverley System, Past and Present"($) in the most recent issue of the International Journal of Cultural Property:

This article explores the history and present operation of the Waverley system, the United Kingdom's art export policy established in 1952. A key component of the article is its attempt to illuminate the little-known story surrounding the birth of the system, which has been pieced together using treasury and Board of Trade papers held in the National Archives. The article then examines, both qualitatively and quantitatively, how responsibility for the system has evolved. The main pattern that emerges is the progressive detachment of the treasury: Although it spearheaded the formation of the Waverley system in 1952, today it is much more removed, in terms of administration and attitude, from the system.

Sep 15, 2008

AP: Antiquities Trade "Growing problem at US Ports"

Tamara Lush has an overview of antiquities coming through US ports:

_ On Monday, federal authorities will repatriate some 1,000 items, including a rare temple marker worth $100,000, to Iraq. On June 7, 2001, ICE agents in New York received information from the Art Loss Register that a Sumerian Foundation Cone, buried under a Babylonian temple, was being sold by auction at Christie's New York. ICE New York agents seized the artifact from Christie's and discovered that it, and several other items in the U.S., had been stolen from the Baghdad Museum and other locations at the end of the first Gulf War.

_ In May, four tons of fossils from Argentina — including 200-million-year-old dinosaur eggs, egg shell fragments, petrified pine cones and fossilized prehistoric crabs — were seized by federal agents in Tucson, Ariz. Authorities said a corporation based in Argentina had brought the fossils into the country. No arrests have been made, but the fossils were repatriated.

_ In February, an Army pilot was arrested and charged with stealing 370 pre-dynastic artifacts from the Ma'adi Museum near Cairo, Egypt, and selling them to an art dealer in Texas for $20,000. The artifacts, dating to 3000 B.C. and earlier, were originally discovered during excavations in Egypt in the 1920s and 1930s. The pilot, Edward George Johnson, pleaded guilty in June and is awaiting sentencing.

Lush does not follow her argument to its logical extension though. She notes the new AAM and AAMD guidelines, as well as the difficulty ICE agents and others have in establishing criminal wrongdoing. She fails to note looted antiquities can still slip through this patchwork regulatory framework because of the paucity of accurate provenance information given in antiquities transactions.

Sep 13, 2008

Complex Profile of Roxanna Brown


The LA Times Jason Felch has written a fascinating series on Roxanna Brown, the expert in Asian pottery who died in federal custody. She was the first person arrested in the massive searches in Southern California early this year.

These are highly-recommended for anyone interested in this investigation and the antiquities trade generally:

Part 1: a passion for art, a perilous pursuit

Part 2: Her career revived, scholar turns tipster

Part 3: Once an aid in a federal probe, antiquities scholar becomes a key target

It's a nuanced picture of a complicated life which met a tragic end. A couple of things will jump out when you read the series. First, it seems she aided the initial stages of the federal investigation. However she wasn't entirely forthright and it soon became clear that she was complicit in the criminal activity as well:

In an e-mail dated April 2002 that bears her name, she confirmed that she had received $14,000 in cash from Olson for a prehistoric bronze. Two months later, another e-mail from Brown advised Olson's grandson of a Thai bank account to which additional money could be sent.

Brown's role in the alleged scheme had continued even after she had helped investigators uncover it, the correspondence suggests.

Perhaps most disturbing though is the account of her federal detention, and her serious illness which perhaps could have been prevented with proper emergency care. In response Brown's family has filed a lawsuit.

What emerges is one complicated story. Brown is a sympathetic figure in many ways, immersing herself in Asian culture and Buddhism; studying ancient ceramics, and becoming one of the World's experts on the subject. But there are a number of indications that she violated the law, and was an active participant in smuggling and in the laundering of illicit antiquities.

The question I'm left with is: what training are antiquities experts given on the ethical obligations they have when they appraise and do scholarly work. Are there professional standards for antiquities experts outside the general AAMD or AAM guidelines?

In the legal profession, we are constantly reminded of our ethical obligations and the consequences for violating those rules. If lawyers violate them, they are sanctioned and if they violations are serious enough they are removed from the profession.

Brown did her graduate work when she was in her fifties at UCLA. Are there programs to instill ethical rules in these experts? I'd be very grateful if folks would drop me an email or leave a comment if these do exist, and if they don't whether they should.

"The Contentious Museum" Aberdeen, UK Nov. 20-21

The biennial University Museums in Scotland conference will be taking place at my old school, the University of Aberdeen in November:

The 6th biennial University Museums in Scotland conference Museums have become increasingly contentious places, engaging with debates on issues such as repatriation, genocide, slavery, censorship, power and the treatment of human remains. This conference will discuss how responding to such challenges can enable museums to depart from tradition and embrace different ways of thinking, working and developing new audiences. One session will focus on challenges to the display and curation of human remains, which will contribute to the development of the ‘Guidelines for the Care of Human Remains in Scottish Museum Collections’ as well as wider thinking and practice. The legacy of empire and slavery will include a focus on an assessment of museum presentations celebrating the bicentenary of the 1807 abolition of the slave trade alongside similar issues relating to empire and racism. The second day will consider how the often conflicting demands of different interests affect museum practice with a focus on current negotiations with relevant communities and the legacy of previous practices that continue to be contentious. Four keynote papers will give further depth to these themes, while there will also be poster presentations to expand on some of the issues raised by speakers and by others who have already expressed an interest in the conference. A discussion panel towards the end of the conference will debate whether museums should aim to be contentious and what the impacts are of doing so. Selected papers are to be published in a special issue of Museum Management and Curatorship. ‘the international forum for museum professionals’, edited by Robert Janes and published by Taylor and Francis. ‘The Contentious Museum’ conference is the sixth biennial University Museums in Scotland conference, drawing together a variety of people with professional, academic and community interests in museums in Scotland and elsewhere.

Sep 12, 2008

Antiquities Seized in Peru


Authorities in Peru have seized 740 pre-Columbian antiquities which were being sold in a souvenir shop in Cuzco. The antiquities shop was located across the street from Cuzco's Incan Museum. This would seem to be the kind of thing Peruvian officials should be monitoring, and perhaps they were. However it seems it was actually an international news agency which reportedly spotted a promotional video, and the Peruvian Foreign Affairs Ministry was notified about the objects.

Sep 11, 2008

"Acquiring and Maintaining Collections of Cultural Objects: Challenges Confronting American Museums in the 21st Century" Chicago

Forthcoming Symposium at De Paul in October:

8th Annual Symposium
Acquiring and Maintaining Collections of Cultural Objects: Challenges
Confronting American Museums in the 21st Century

Museums face increasingly difficult challenges in collecting cultural
objects-challenges that must be dealt with in ways that are consistent
with best practices. On October 16, 2008, DePaul University College of
Law will hold a major conference where leading experts will examine the
basic rules of nonprofit museum governance and how those rules apply to
the growing challenge of collecting cultural property in light of new
laws, court decisions and professional ethical guidelines; evolving
museum practices and standards in collecting antiquities; sovereign
immunity and immunity of art works; and the need for further standards
for donor/collector museum relationships.

OCTOBER 16, 2008
DePaul Center, Room 8005
1 E. Jackson Boulevard, Chicago, Illinois
8:30 AM - 5:30 PM

Registration

www.law.depaul.edu/museum <http://ciplit.cmail2.com/l/499054/615d46d4/j>

Co-sponsors

Andrews Kurth LLP <http://ciplit.cmail2.com/l/499054/615d46d4/t>
The Lawyers' Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation
<http://ciplit.cmail2.com/l/499054/615d46d4/i>
Herrick Feinstein <http://ciplit.cmail2.com/l/499054/615d46d4/d>

DePaul University College of Law is an accredited Illinois MCLE
provider. The Symposium has been approved for 6 hours of CLE credit.

Featured Speakers

Joseph Brennan
<http://www.fieldmuseum.org/museum_info/executive_profiles_brennan.htm>
, Vice President and General Counsel, Field Museum of Natural History

Patty Gerstenblith
<http://www.law.depaul.edu/faculty_staff/faculty_information.asp?id=16>
, Professor, DePaul University College of Law

Julie Getzels, Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary, Art
Institute of Chicago

Gary T. Johnson, President, Chicago Historical Society

Thomas Kline
<http://www.law.depaul.edu/centers_institutes/ciplit/museum/kline.asp> ,
Partner, Andrews Kurth LLP

Stephen J. Knerly, Jr. Esq., Hahn Loeser & Parks LLP

Jennifer Kreder
<http://www.law.depaul.edu/centers_institutes/ciplit/museum/kreder.asp>
, Professor, Northern Kentucky University Chase College of Law

Richard Leventhal
<http://www.law.depaul.edu/centers_institutes/ciplit/museum/leventhal.as
p> , Professor, University of Pennsylvania

Jane Levine, Senior Vice President and Worldwide Director of Compliance,
Sotheby's

Louise Lincoln, Director, DePaul University Art Museum

Dan Monroe
<http://www.law.depaul.edu/centers_institutes/ciplit/museum/monroe.asp>
, Director, Peabody Essex Museum

Rhoda Rosen, Director, Spertus Museum

John Russell, Professor, Massachusetts College of Art and Design

Howard Spiegler, Partner, Herrick Feinstein, New York

Martin Sullivan, Director, Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery

Susan M. Taylor, Former Director, Princeton University Art Museum

Stephen Urice, Professor, University of Miami School of Law

Laina Lopez, Attorney, Berliner Corcoran & Rowe

------------------------------------------------------------------------
-----------

Program starts at 8:30 a.m. and reception will follow at 4:30 p.m.

For more information go to www.law.depaul.edu/museum
<http://ciplit.cmail2.com/l/499054/615d46d4/1> or contact:

Ellen Gutiontov, Esq., Associate Director CIPLIT
eguti...@depaul.edu or (312) 362-5124

Vadim Shifrin, Assistant Director, CIPLIT
vshif...@depaul.edu or (312) 362-8415

DePaul University College of Law
<http://ciplit.cmail2.com/l/499054/615d46d4/h>
25 East Jackson Boulevard * Chicago * Illinois * 60604 * 312.362.8701

UNESCO Takes UK to Task

Severin Carrell has an interesting story in the Guardian on UNESCO's concerns over how the UK is protecting and preserving these ancient sites:

Edinburgh
Site The "remarkable" medieval Old Town and Georgian New Town of central Edinburgh [Pictured Above] were listed in 1995.
Problem Unesco fears several building projects in the city centre and Leith docks will damage the site's architectural heritage. It "deeply regrets" the city has approved a hotel, office and housing complex by the Royal Mile, and is sending inspectors to visit.

Stonehenge and Avebury
Site The neolithic stone circle and avenues, and the associated megalith circles at Avebury, were listed in 1986.
Problem A cause of anxiety for 22 years, Unesco is angry that plans to reroute the A344 with a tunnel and build an offsite visitors' centre have again been scrapped. It "regrets" the continued delays and "urges" ministers to act quickly.

Neolithic ruins, Orkney
Site Skara Brae, Maeshowe and the Ring of Brodgar were among the ancient sites listed in 1999.
Problem Three planned wind turbines will be visible and Unesco wants the project stopped. Historic Scotland agrees they will damage it. A public inquiry will report soon. 

Bath
Site The city's grand neo-classical Georgian crescents, terraces and squares were listed in 1987.
Problem Unesco fears plans to build 2,000 flats in buildings up to nine storeys, and an engineering school sponsored by James Dyson, will damage the site's setting. It is sending inspectors and wants the schemes blocked until its committee has studied the plans.

Liverpool
Site Its maritime mercantile city, with its churches and Georgian warehouses, was listed in 2004.
Problem Unesco is happy the city swiftly acted on concerns that a new museum, a 24-storey tower and a new conference centre threatened the site's setting and integrity. Unesco wants further action to protect it.

Westminster, London
Site The Palace of Westminster, Westminster Abbey and St Margaret's Church were listed in 1987.
Problem Unesco believes several new tower blocks, including the 170-metre Beetham tower in Southwark and a 144m tower at Doon Street, will affect the site. It is annoyed its demands for a buffer zone and a detailed study of the skyline have been ignored.

Tower of London
Site The Norman tower and its 13th-century walls were listed in 1988.
Problem New buildings, such as the 66-storey "shard of glass" tower and a 39-floor tower at Fenchurch Street, will dominate the skyline. Unesco "regrets" the UK has failed to implement a robust buffer zone or an effective local plan. It is threatening to put the tower on its "world heritage in danger" list.

Sep 10, 2008

Forthcoming Program "Free Exercise, Historic Religious Properties and Sacred Sites", Washington DC, Sept. 18, 2008

For those in Washington DC, there's an interesting forthcoming program on the protection of sacred sites in America:
The Lawyers Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation, in conjunction with the American University Washington College of Law Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property, the Program on Law and Government, and the National Park Service, will hold its first program of the year on "Free Exercise, Historic Religious Properties and Sacred Sites: The Effect of RFRA and RLUIPA".
Thursday, September 18, 2008
3:00 pm – 5:00 pm
American University Washington College of Law
4801 Massachusetts Avenue NW, 6th Floor 

 
The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) created a cause of action for persons whose exercise of religion is substantially burdened by a government action, regardless of whether the burden results from a neutral law of general applicability.  In 1997, the Supreme Court invalidated RFRA as applied to the States, in a case involving a town's denial of a permit to demolish a historic sanctuary building (the law still remains operative as to the Federal Government and to the District of Columbia). The response of Congress to that decision was its  enactment of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA).  RLUIPA reinstated the general rule of RFRA -- that government action which substantially burdens religious exercise can be justified only if it is the least restrictive means of furthering a compelling government interest -- but this time, the law only would apply to  Local, State or Federal action involving land use or institutionalized persons. How have the courts applied RFRA to Federal actions involving historic religious properties or sacred sites, and what effect might RLUIPA have on otherwise valid and neutral historic preservation laws?  Drawing on recent case law and current litigation, the speakers will address these questions.
Speakers will include: 
•       Julia Miller, an attorney with the National Trust for Historic Preservation
•       Tersh Boasberg, an attorney specializing in historic preservation, chairman of the DC      Zoning Commission, and chair of the Historic Preservation Review Board.
•       Louis Cohen, partner, WilmerHale
COST:
General Registration:   no charge, but we need you to pre-register 
CLE Accreditation (2 credits) will be applied for – CLE Registration -  $35
REGISTRATION:
For more information and to register, please contact:
Office of Special Events & Continuing Legal Education, American University Washington College of Law
Tel: 202-274-4075
You can also visit the LCCHP web site at http://www.culturalheritagelaw.org/events/lcchp-events/free-exercise.

Returning a Stolen Eye

Zahi Hawass has announced Switzerland will return a 19 inch eye from this statue of Amenhotep III, according to AFP.  The statue was uncovered in 1970, and the eye was stolen in 1972.  Hawass said the eye was sold to an American antiquities dealer; who auctioned it at Sotheby's; then it was bought by a German antiquities dealer; and it ended up in a museum in Basel, Switzerland.  That's the typical journey of a stolen or illegally excavated antiquity. 
It's a very good thing this eye is being returned -- seemingly in an amicable way.  The wire story raises more questions though:  will the Swiss museum receive loans or other compensation; who are these dealers; are they still buying and selling objects. 

Art Theft in Los Angeles



The AP is reporting that a $200,000 reward has been offered for help in recovering 12 works of art stolen on August 23rd in the San Fernando Valley in California.

Two of the works, Peasants by Marc Chagall and Alicia Alanova by Kees van Dongen are pictured here. The works were insured, though that has potential drawbacks for the owners if the works are ever recovered.

Selling these works on the open market or at an auction house any time soon will be very difficult. As I've speculated before, there are four potential reasons why thieves may steal well known works of art.

The first, is that a wealthy collector admires the works, and hired a thief. This is often referred to as the Dr. No situation. This seems the least likely possibility, but the one that strikes a chord with the imagination. Writers and journalists frequently cite Dr. No as being responsible for thefts, and I admit it makes for good Bond villains, but there has been little convincing evidence that this is why people are stealing rare objects.

Second, the thief may not have known that the object was so rare as to make its subsequent sale difficult.

Third, the thief may simply be trying to kidnap the object. They could then insure its safe return for a generous reward. This is what the defendants in Glasgow are charged with in the theft of da Vinci's Madonna with the Yarnwinder.

Finally, perhaps there is a market somewhere for these works. Perhaps it may not be all that difficult to sell these kind of works. This strikes me as the most troubling possibility, as these valuable stolen works will likely be widely-publicized and photographs will be circulated.

Sep 9, 2008

Court Appearance for Da Vinci Thieves


The five men accused of trying to launder da Vinci's Madonna with the Yarnwinder have appeared in High Court in Glasgow. From the Telegraph:

The men are accused of contacting a loss adjuster, whom they believed to be acting for the insurers of the painting, and stating that they could return the artwork within 72 hours. It is alleged they said the masterpiece would not be returned unless £2m was deposited in an account at Marshall Solicitors, formerly known as Marshall Gilby Solicitors, and a further £2.25m placed in a Swiss bank account.

Sep 3, 2008

Another Deaccessioning Decision in Duluth

Donn Zaretsky has an interesting overview, with lots of links, to an emerging problem for the National Galleries of Scotland, which may have to find £50 million in the next four months to purchase Titian's Diana & Actaeon.

It may have to do the same within the next four years for another one.

He concludes by arguing:


[T]o oppose the deal between Fisk University and Alice Walton's Crystal Bridges Museum on "anti-deaccessioning" grounds just means that you would prefer that Fisk suffer whatever consequences follow from its inability to consummate the proposed sale (elimination of various athletic programs, faculty layoffs, etc.) than that the works at issue be relocated
(and, in that case, for only half the time, and probably to a venue which would allow even more people to see them).

The difference in Scotland and the UK is the process is somewhat more regulated. If a work is slated for export outside of the UK, important "Waverley" level works are temporarily delayed so funds can be raised. Perhaps a similar idea could work in the United States, though that idea is anathema to the ethos of many American cultural institutions which are often eager to acquire works to build collections.

Another example is the city of Duluth, Minnesota which is considering selling this window featuring Princess Minnehaha, which is installed in the railroad depot in the city. The city is considering selling the window to help make up a $6.5 million budget gap. This window could fetch between $1-3 million at auction.

The window was commissioned by the State of Minnesota and was used in an 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago. A Duluth civic group bought the Tiffany window soon after the exhibition. City officials have tried to justify the sale, arguing it doesn't have a strong Duluth connection, and that the city isn't a museum. That may be true, but a window which has been in the city for well over a century must have begun to develop a kind of attachment to the city. I wonder what differences there might be between the city of Dulth's potential decision to sell the window, and the Univeristy of Iowa's potential decision to sell its Pollock.

I'd recommend to Duluth, that if it is considering selling the window, it give civic groups and interested parties an opportunity to raise funds to keep the window in Duluth (as the Waverley criteria accomplish in the UK), or try to work out a sharing agreement to allow the window to be viewed by its citizens. If so, then it seems like a good idea to allow the city to continue its day-to-day operations in exchange for auctioning off the window.


Sep 1, 2008

Gustav -- Levees Holding

Apologies for the light posting in recent days. I was in a hurry to pack up some clothes and head out of New Orleans. I'm safe in Austin Texas, watching and reading the Times-Picayune coverage of the storm. Things appear to be in flux at the moment. There are scattered reports of flooding in the Lower 9th Ward, but it looks like the levees are holding so far.

Driving West on I-10 on Saturday I saw hundreds of buses and ambulances coming in to get folks out of the path of the storm. The silver lining may be that people were able to get out of the area in time.

One issue during Katrina and during this storm is how to protect works of art during these disasters. I noted with great interest the forthcoming ICOM/ICMAH annual conference on "Museums and Disasters" which is scheduled to take place Nov. 12th - 16th 2008 in New Orleans. The scheduled presenters re seeming to take an interesting approach -- by looking at how to present disasters as the subject of exhibition, but also how to protect museum collections during disasters. I had never considered before what the art museums in New Orleans (and elsewhere) do with their works of art to protec them during storms and natural disasters.

Hopefully I can shuffle my teaching duties to be able to attend most of these events in a couple of months. I'm also eager to get back to work at Loyola as soon as I can, but I did check out a big box of art law and contract law treatises to get to work on a new article this week.

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