Christie’s is being criticized for leaving on the auction block three items which have been alleged by archaeologists and an Italian prosecutor to have originated from the famous and illicit antiquities trader, Giacomo Medici. Italy, however, has not submitted a formal request for repatriation of the objects to the U.S. government or even a title claim to Christie’s.
She offers some strong comments from attorney William G. Pearlstein:
What the Italians are doing is outrageous. They are deliberately withholding the Medici files from the public, allowing hot pieces to remain in circulation and then playing up every seizure for maximum publicity value. They continue to play the role of victim when actually they have became cynical predators on American institutions that want nothing more than to do the right thing.
David Gill responds with his typical pointed questions about diligence for buyers, Christies, and collecting histories. I think many good points are made here, and we need to have an open conversation about what role the market and auction houses can or should play in this trade. Damage is done, demand remains high, and the current rules aren't preventing destruction or producing an honest market. I've argued that auction houses need to be held to a higher standerd, because they act as heritage market makers, and the fact that an object comes up for auction means something, and is an important event in the history of an objects such that increased liability should attach when these objects are found to be lost or stolen.
- David Gill, Christie's, the Medici Dossier and William G. Pearlstein Looting matters (2010), http://lootingmatters.blogspot.com/2010/06/christies-medici-dossier-and-william-g.html (last visited Jun 7, 2010).
- Kimberley Alderman, Is Italy “Asking For It” By Refusing to Release the Medici Photographs? Three items at Christie’s raise questions « The Cultural Property and Archaeology Law Blog, http://culturalpropertylaw.wordpress.com/2010/06/06/is-italy-asking-for-it-by-refusing-to-release-the-medici-photographs-three-items-at-christies-raise-questions/ (last visited Jun 7, 2010).