October 31, 2016

What is the Gyeongju Declaration?

The Gyeongju Declaration, was drafted, revised, discussed and ratified, paragraph by paragraph, by all participants at the 6th International Conference of Experts on the Return of Cultural Property which took place in Gyeongju, the Republic of Korea, from October 17-19, 2016.

Hosted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Cultural Heritage Administration of the Republic of Korea and organized by the Overseas Korean Cultural Heritage Foundation and the Cultural Property Return Campaign Center, with sponsorship from the Gyeongsangbuk-do Provincial Government, the City of Gyeongju, and the Korean National Commission for UNESCO the conference set about to make recommendations that they believe will work to deter the illicit trafficking of cultural property and build capacity and cooperation between countries, restitution experts and civil society.

The recommendations have been printed below in their entirety.

As Mark Masurovsky, an expert presenter attending the meeting and co-founder of the Holocaust Art Restitution Project (HARP) said, recommendations 3 and 4 should be duly noted. 


We, the participants of the “6th International Conference of Experts on the Return of Cultural Property," held in Gyeongju, Republic of Korea, from 17 to 19 October 2016,

Expressing our sincere gratitude to our hosts, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Cultural Heritage Administration of the Republic of Korea, to our organizers, the Overseas Korean Cultural Heritage Foundation and the Cultural Property Return Campaign Center, and last but not least to our sponsors, Gyeongsangbuk-do Provincial Government, the City of Gyeongju, and the Korean National Commission for UNESCO, for their outstanding efforts and dedication,

Recognizing that the International Conference of Experts on the Return of Cultural Property, which was first proposed by the Republic of Korea in 2011 and whose first session was held in Seoul in the same year, with the second session in Seoul in 2012, third session in Ancient Olympia, Greece in 2013, fourth session in Dunhuang, China in 2014, fifth session in Nevsehir, Turkey in 2015, and sixth session here in Gyeongju, the Republic of Korea this year, has provided precious opportunities for the international community to share its experiences and knowledge on the return of cultural property and join the fight against the illicit trade in cultural property,

Welcoming the U.N. Resolution A/70/76, unanimously adopted in its December 9, 2015 General Assembly meeting and especially the operative paragraph 7 of this Resolution, where for the first time the recent institution of International Conference of Experts on the Return of Cultural Property as well as their concluding documents were recognized,

Recalling the Seoul Declaration (2011), the Seoul Recommendation (2012), the Ancient Olympia Recommendation (2013), the Dunhuang Recommendation (2014), and the Cappadocia Recommendation (2015) adopted by the previous International Conferences of Experts on the Return of Cultural Property.

Noting that international legal instruments, including the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict (1954) and its two protocols (1954 and 1999), the Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export, and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property (1970), and the UNIDROIT Convention on Stolen or Illicitly Exported Cultural Objects (1995), as well as the devoted efforts and subsequently-adopted resolutions of the United Nations (UN) and legal instruments of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), have contributed to the prevention of the illicit trade in cultural property and its return to countries of origin,

Acknowledging that not only international non-governmental organizations, such as the International Council of Museums (ICOM), but also public and private institutions, including museums, libraries, and religious organizations, as well as the general public and local communities, have ever-increasing roles to play in the struggle against the illicit trade in cultural property,

Commending, in particular, that the amicable efforts by Korean civil society and religious organizations to recover illicitly exported cultural property by means of dialogue and mutual exchange cooperating with other foreign institutions in possession thereof have set a positive precedent that can be emulated by numerous states which have similarly suffered from the illicit export of their cultural property,

Observing greater need for administrative and judicial mutual assistance between countries and closer cooperation from auction houses, museums, and libraries in each country to prevent new means of illicit trade in cultural property in the art market, including online sales,

Condemning any uncivilized acts of vandalism directed against cultural property, including the recent destruction and illegal removal of cultural property in the conflict-ridden Middle East and the rest of the world,

Recommend that:

1. Each State should closely cooperate with other States for the return or restitution of illegally exported cultural property and the prevention of the illicit export of cultural property, and reinforce existing networks among public and private organizations, as well as individuals to share and exchange information concerning stolen or illicitly exported cultural property and its restitution;

2. Each State should continue to update the existing inventory of state owned and privately owned cultural property, as well as the databases of stolen or illicitly exported cultural property, and share actively such information with governments, relevant institutions, and non-governmental organizations of other States aiming to establish a common publicly available international platform;

3. Each State should continuously monitor the art market, including online markets, to control the illicit trade in cultural property, raise awareness of the legal and ethical duties of due diligence for participants of such markets, and impose administrative and judicial sanctions, when appropriate;

4. Each State should allocate resources to encourage provenance research, to facilitate licit trade in cultural property, and develop and implement educational programs to share and disseminate the outcomes of such research, thereby improving the capacity of those who work in the area.

5. Museums, libraries, and other public and private organizations that hold cultural property and collections are encouraged to: a) Take appropriate action to facilitate the rapid return of human remains and sacred cultural property when they receive a request for the return of such property, taking into account the wishes of the departed, the interests and beliefs of the members of the community, ethnic group or religious society from whom the property was taken; b) Make every effort before acquisition, in compliance with Article 4.4 of the 1995 UNIDROIT Convention, to ensure that any cultural property offered for purchase, donation, or any other transfer thereof, has clear title, c) Provide their directors, personnel, and volunteers with periodic training and educational sessions to raise awareness of illicit trade in cultural property and endeavor to ensure that the ICOM Code of Ethics for Museums is fully complied with;

And also,

6. Auction houses, museums and art dealers should accept for consignment, acquire or trade in cultural property only when they are satisfied that a valid title is held and should make public all available provenance-related information on cultural property;

7. Governmental organizations, non-governmental organizations, the general public and local communities, private research institutes, museums, libraries, international academic institutions etc. should continue their efforts to further promote the purpose and spirit of this Conference which has been held annually in the Republic of Korea, Greece, China, and Turkey since 2011, respectively, for prohibiting and preventing illicit trade in cultural property and promoting return or restitution of illicitly exported or stolen cultural property.

ARCA would like to thank all of the participants for their participation and contribution to this process.


October 28, 2016

Looting Matters posting on the UK Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Bill

For nine years Professor David Gill’s blog Looting Matters has been the place to turn for thoughtful discussion of the archaeological ethics surrounding the collecting of antiquities.  As a Professor of Archaeological Heritage and Director of the Heritage Futures Research Unit at the University of Suffolk and a former Rome Scholar at the British School at Rome, as well as a Sir James Knott Fellow at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, and a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and holder of the 2012 Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) Outstanding Public Service Award recipient, it's safe to say that Dr. Gill has the credentials and expertise necessary to have an informed and measured opinion on the multiple threats facing our cultural heritage.

Dr. Gill has published widely on archaeological ethics, often with Dr. Christopher Chippindale (University of Cambridge).  Frequently on Looting Matters, as he has done today, he is the first in the heritage crimes field, to announce important news that we should all be paying attention to, often paces ahead of other researchers, including myself. 

Today Dr. Gill reminds us that on Monday, October 31, 2016 the Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Bill [HL] 2016-17 will have its 2nd reading in the UK’s House of Commons. 

In its current form, the Bill is an nobile effort to establish the United Kingdom's place as a champion for the world’s cultural heritage by introducing the domestic legislation necessary for the UK to meet the obligations contained in the Hague convention and its two protocols.   The bill seeks to introduce the necessary domestic legislation to enable the UK to finally ratify the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed
Conflict, a convention the UK signed in December 1954 and has been publicly committed to ratifying, along with its two Protocols since 2004. 

As of March 2016, 127 states are party to the Hague treaty, while 4 others (Andorra, Ireland, Philippines and the United Kingdom) have signed, but not ratified. Additionally, there are 104 States Parties to the First Protocol and 69 State Parties signatories to the Second Protocol

If passed this UK bill will not be retrospective and a person will be criminally liable only if they commit an offence after the commencement of the Bill. Part 2 will make it an offence to commit a serious breach of the Second Protocol, either in the UK or abroad.

To read up on this bill and its significance please see Dr. Gill's blog and the hyperlinks he has already posted.  While you are at it, I suggest you also follow his ongoing academic research here and perhaps take a look at his standing column "Context Matters" which he writes two times per year in the Journal of Art Crime speaking out about the material and intellectual consequences of heritage looting and illicit trafficking. 

By Lynda Albertson



October 26, 2016

To keep or not to keep, that is the question

Despite the formal objections of two governments, Cyprus and Egypt, and an open letter of complaint from classical archaeologist and MacArthur Foundation Genius scholar and Toledo native, Joan Breton Connelly, Christie’s in New York and the Toledo Museum of Art have gone forward with their auction of 68 deaccessioned artworks from the museum's antiquities collection.  


Shaaban Abdel Gawad Supervisor-General of Egypt's Antiquities Repatriation Department at the antiquities ministry had earlier contacted the directors of UNESCO and the International Council of Museums, as well as Egypt’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who tried to work through the Egyptian embassy in the United States to persuade the museum to withdraw the Egyptian artefacts and return them to their country of origin.  The National Committee for Antiquities Repatriation led by Minister of Antiquities Khaled El-Enany also met to discuss the proposed sale and to consider possible methods of postponing the sale or requesting that the objects be relinquished to Egypt.

Leonidas Pantelides, ambassador of Cyprus to the United States, voiced his own, somewhat softer objection on Monday, October 24, asking that the sale be postponed or that the museum reconsider keeping the items. 

In a letter of rebuttal to the public outcry, and in the most part to Dr. Connelly's rebuke of the sale, the Toledo Museum of Art issued a formal reply which is posted in its entirety on the museum's website. In explaining its rationale for going forward with the antiquities auction the museum stated:


The rebuttal quotes from the AAMD - The Association of Art Museum Directors wherein the North American-based association states: 

“Deaccessioning is a legitimate part of the formation and care of collections and, if practiced, should be done in order to refine and improve the quality and appropriateness of the collection, the better to serve the museum’s mission.” 

The Toledo Museum of Art's statement further justified their decision to sell antiquities from their collection drawing from the collections ethics guidelines of the AAM - the American Alliance of Museums

In simple terms, the museum's letter spelled out that their decision to sell artifacts was not taken willy-nilly and in their eyes falls safely inside the AAMD code of ethics which provides that sales proceeds may not be used “for purposes other than acquisitions of works of art for the collection.” 

But the museum's decision, and the consequences of their decision, underscore the slippery slope museums can legally walk on, staying inside the perceived ethical boundaries of specific association guidelines in order to raise funds for new acquisitions, while still being allowed to divest themselves of no longer wanted art.

In total, 23 items from the museum's collection have been sold during Tuesday's New York auction including Lot 16 a Cypriot limestone head of a male votary, formally part of the Cesnola Collection of Cypriot antiquities which sold for USD$ 68,750.

And Lot 6 an An Egyptian limestone fragment from the Early 26th Dynasty which sold for USD$162,500

The auction netted the Ohio art museum $640,000 on Tuesday.

The sale of the remaining 45 deaccessioned artworks continued via Christie’s web-based online auction site through Wednesday, October 26, 2016. The Online and live auctions at Christie’s generated almost USD $970,000 for the Toledo Museum of Art's new acquisitions fund.









October 23, 2016

Sunday, October 23, 2016 - ,,,, No comments

Another case for the ICC? Iconoclast who detonated the Maqam of Prophet Yunus (Jonah) confesses on tape after capture

In Mosul's frightening and uncertain future, perhaps one bit of hopeful news may be developing.  It appears that the Iraqi Shi'ite paramilitary group Al Nujaba has released a video with a captured combatant who claims to have been one of the iconoclasts responsible for the destruction of the Shrine of Jonah/Mosque of Yunus (Nineveh, Mosul, Iraq). 



The newly released video also appears to circle out a specific male individual who, from the footage, also seems to be implicated in the destruction of statues and artifacts within the Mosul Museum.

During the video, the captured militant admits that he was part of Daesh's Hisbah [the religious police] and admits to bombing three different bridges as well as taking part in the attacks on the Hatra ruins and the destruction at Prophet Yona's tomb. 

The Mosul Museum is the second largest museum in Iraq after the National Museum of Iraq in Baghdad.  A video showing the destruction of historic artifacts was widely circulated by Daesh on February 26, 2015.

As the image in the recent video is quite blurry, ARCA has uploaded a screenshot from the original Mosul Museum destruction video which shows the individual, dressed in a long sleeved robe called a dishdasha, in higher definition. 


Military offensives to recapture cities from a dug-in military force are always fraught with peril.  If fighting forces manage to recapture the city of Mosul, it will be the fifth time in thirteen years of conflict that the city has changed hands since 2003. As the history of previous offensives in Iraq has painfully demonstrated, in liberating Mosul, one group’s victory does not necessarily bode equally well for others divided along different ethnic and sectarian lines.

By: Lynda Albertson

October 21, 2016

Christie's Withdraws Suspect Antiquity from Auction

Christie's has withdrawn the suspect antiquity identified by Greek forensic archaeologist and ARCA lecturer Christos Tsirogiannis on October 11, 2016. This object had been set for auction on October 25, 2016 via Christie’s in New York.


The object is traceable to the confiscated Robin Symes archive, an antiquities dealer long accused by Italian prosecutors of being part of an antiquities trafficking network that involved tombaroli (tomb raiders) in southern Italy and suspect antiquities dealers and buyers around the globe.

The withdrawal of the object comes simply with a statement that reads "Please note that this lot is withdrawn". A Financial Times article mentions “further research may indicate that [the torso] was purchased through legitimate sources”.

For details on Dr. Tsirogiannis' assessment of this objects, please see ARCA's earlier report of his finding here. 

October 20, 2016

European Association of Archaeologists issues statement of concern on illicit objects in the licit market

The European Association of Archaeologists (EAA) has issued a forceful statement of concern regarding an October 25, 2016 auction at Christie's New York previously reported on ARCA's blog on October 11, 2016 which includes an object traceable to the confiscated Robin Symes archive.

This statement is officially posted on the EAA website here and reprinted below.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 

Statement of the Committee on Illicit Trade in Cultural Materials to an Ongoing Auction at Christie’s

Robin Symes and Christos Michaelides formed a duo of dealers who dominated the international antiquities market in the 1980s and 1990s. During that period they became the best suppliers of illicit antiquities to the most 'reputable' museums, private collections and auction houses. Many of their antiquities came from lower-level dealers such as Giacomo Medici and Gianfranco Becchina, both now convicted for their involvement in numerous cases of antiquities looted from Italy, Greece and other countries, after the 1970 UNESCO Convention.

Since the discovery and confiscation of the archives belonging to these three dealers (that of Medici in 1995, Becchina in 2001 and Symes-Michaelides in 2006), over 300 masterpieces depicted in the archives have been repatriated, mainly to Italy and Greece, from museums, private collections and individuals who consigned them in auctions. Dozens of cases are still undergoing negotiation, and the forensic archaeologists Daniela Rizzo, Maurizio Pellegrini and Christos Tsirogiannis, who were appointed as experts by the Italian and Greek governments to assess the confiscated archives, have identified a few hundred more. The Polaroid and regular-print images in the archives (over 10,000 images in total) usually depict antiquities in a poor condition, newly excavated; covered with soil, with fresh marks of impact and bearing soil and salt encrustations. Professional images in the same archives often depict the same antiquities in various stages of conservation/restoration, while tens of thousands of documents alongside the images in those archives leave no doubt about the true nature of the international antiquities market.

Since 2007 Christos Tsirogiannis has been researching the antiquities auctions of Christie's, Sotheby's and Bonhams. Every single year he identifies antiquities that are depicted in the confiscated archives, offered for sale by one, two or all three leading auction houses. Especially in the case of Christie's, in nearly every auction antiquities handled by Medici, Becchina and/or Symes-Michaelides are offered. Several of the antiquities identified in auctions have been repatriated to Greece and Italy; over the years Tsirogiannis has notified other countries as well (such as Egypt, Israel and Syria). Since 2010, all his identifications in auction houses, together with images from the confiscated archives have immediately been made publicly available online via pages such as 'Looting Matters' (maintained by Professor David Gill), 'ARCA blog' (maintained by Dr Lynda Albertson) and most recently 'Market of Mass Destruction' (maintained by Dr Neil Brodie), and the blog of the Committee on Illicit Trade in Cultural Material. It is therefore possible for both experts and non-experts to have a complete, constant and unobstructed view of the on-going situation; Christos Tsirogiannis has also made available online his academic analysis of the identified cases, published in various journals.

However, even after all these revelations, auction houses continue to present the bulk of their stock without a complete provenance that extends the collecting history before 1970; moreover, they always exclude the names of Medici, Becchina and other illicit antiquities dealers from their catalogue entries. As for Symes, he is usually excluded too, although sometimes his name is mentioned, if the auction house feels that the object is safe. Indeed, according to the PhD research of Christos Tsirogiannis at the University of Cambridge on the international illicit antiquities network through the Symes-Michaelides archive, there are a few exceptions: about 6% of the antiquities depicted in the Symes-Michaelides archive indeed had a pre-1970 collecting history. However, over 93% appears to be of illicit origin, looted and/or smuggled or stolen from archaeological sites, often depicted in pieces in the Medici and Becchina archives, and a few are now recognized as fakes. To date, he has identified 733 objects from the Symes-Michaelides archive in auctions, museums, galleries and private collections.

The most recent of these identifications in the Symes-Michaelides archive involves a professional photograph depicting a Roman marble figurine of a draped goddess, on offer at the forthcoming antiquities auction of Christie's on October 25th 2016 in New York (lot 92). Christie's (again) fail to include Symes in the collecting history of this antiquity; the catalogue entry reads: ‘Property from a distinguished Private Collection’. ‘Provenance: With Perpitch Gallery, Paris. Acquired by the current owner from the above, prior to 1991’. The figurine is estimated at $100,000 – 150,000. Since over 93% of the antiquities that Symes sold were illicit, it would be useful to research the full collecting history and true origin of this antiquity (especially before 1991).

Christie's and the antiquities market, in general, claim that they are exercising 'due diligence' on the collecting history of every antiquity they offer. The continuous matches with objects in the confiscated archives, the withdrawal of antiquities before the auctions and their repatriations demonstrate that the much-advertised 'due diligence' procedure is problematic, at the very least. The true picture of auction and gallery sales is one of incomplete collecting histories, unnamed sources and illicit antiquities dealers, disguised as the legitimate previous owners or consigners of antiquities on offer. In addition, the members of the market are constantly complaining that the confiscated archives are not made publicly available by the authorities, in order for the antiquities there depicted to be identified before the auctions. However, there are obvious answers to that complaint, all known to the market representatives.

First, the archives are confiscated evidence of multiple on-going investigations. Second, the market, given its negative reaction and luck of cooperation in each of the identified cases so far, is likely to continue the same non-cooperative policy if the archives were made available to everyone, while the authorities would be losing their only chance to identify the depicted antiquities once they surface for sale and the academics their chance to analyse the true nature of the market. In fact, the members of the market do not take every opportunity to have their stock checked; they refuse to send to the Italian authorities the list of the antiquities to be sold in forthcoming auctions (before compiling the printed catalogue) for fear of letting down their clients/consigners, whose identity is – nearly always – kept concealed with the protestation of 'confidentiality'.

The Roman marble figurine of a draped goddess, lot 92 in the forthcoming Christie's auction, is a typical example of an antiquity on offer: true commercial sources are hidden or not identified; we have an incomplete collecting history employing a chronological generalization ('prior to 1991') and the true country of origin - that is, the place from which the antiquity originally came/was discovered - is not identified. This analysis of the way in which this figurine is presented by the antiquities market encapsulates the state of the market and is a revelation of its deficient practices; this is the true value of this identification.

The Committee on the Illicit Trade on Cultural Material highly deplores such sales and urges every auction house to accurately verify the origin of the objects on sale, and refuse objects with doubtful provenance. In accordance with our statutes, we report any illegal activity, or trade of potentially illegally-acquired material culture. Furthermore, we aim to contribute in any form to discourage commercialisation of archaeological material.

October 19, 2016

Abu Dhabi Police arrest three for illicit marketing and circulation of the antiquities


Photo Credit : Gulf news
goo.gl/VQq1Xa
Via the the state-run WAM news agency Brigadier General Dr. Rashid Bu Rasheed, Director of the Criminal Investigation Division of the Abu Dhabi Police has confirmed that law enforcement officials have foiled an attempt to smuggle illicit objects into the Gulf country. 


The nationalities of the smugglers has not been released. For the present, the objects will remain with the UAE authorities for security and pending further review.  No further information has been released at present as to if these objects originate from current areas of conflict. 

Stolen artefacts largely move from poor course countries to rich market countries.  Smugglers often buy antiquities from looters within their network before selling them on knowingly and unknowingly to dealers and collectors 

The antiquities markets in Gulf States such as the UAE are known transit and terminus points for illicit antiquities.  Fakes and forgeries of coins and artworks also pop up frequently via well known dealers operating within the country. 

One example of a previous illicit antiquities seizure in the AUE is outlined on Paul Barford's 2010 report excerpted here:



A sampling of similar incidents of importing or exporting of illicit antiquities via the UAE can be found below.

https://www.ice.gov/news/releases/ice-makes-arrests-and-seizes-cultural-artifacts-stolen-egypt

http://www.uaeinteract.com/docs/Dubai_Customs_foil_a_major_attempt_to_smuggle_antiquities/33117.htm

http://thetrialwarrior.blogspot.it/2011/08/prosecutors-reveal-further-details-in.html





October 16, 2016

Who (in the USA) bought the Northampton Sekhemka in 2014?

Sekhemka, front (Christie's)
In July 2014 the BBC News reported on the £15.76m controversial sale at Christie's Auction house in London of the Northampton Sekhemka, a 4,000 year old sandstone statue of an Egyptian scribe, put up for auction and sold to raise funds to expand the regional museum:

Northampton Borough Council auctioned the Sekhemka limestone statue to help fund a £14m extension to Northampton Museum and Art Gallery. However, Arts Council England had warned the council its museum could lose its accreditation status. The Egyptian ambassador to Britain said the council should have handed the statue back if it did not want it.

Sue Edwards, from the Save Sekhemka Action Group, who travelled from Northampton at the time of the auction, said: "This is the darkest cultural day in the town's history. The local authority has made a huge mistake but we will continue our fight to save Sekhemka."

Sekhemka, side (Christie's)
Here's a link to a 1963 academic paper published in The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, titled "The Northhampton Statue of Sekhemka", where by T. J. H. James  describes the statue as having entered a museum collection in England about 1870.

Christie's sales catalogue described the Northampton Sekhemka as "AN EXCEPTIONAL EGYPTIAN PAINTED LIMESTONE STATUE FOR THE INSPECTOR OF THE SCRIBES SEKHEMKA, OLD KINGDOM, DYNASTY 5, CIRCA 2400-2300 B.C." The statue sold for almost three times the catalogue estimate. In Christie's notes on the statue, the piece is described as belonging to the tomb of the deceased; the scroll lists 'offerings that Sekhemka needs to subsist comfortably in the afterlife.' As for the portrait of Sekhemka's wife Sitmerit:

Here, the position of Sitmerit’s body, as well as her composed expression are perhaps what gives peacefulness and harmony to this family portrait. It shows the close link between husband and wife, and their attachment to their family. The smaller scale should not be interpreted as a symbol of womens' place in society; rather, it is an artistic choice, for women had an equal status with men. She provides the love and support that her family needs. She prompts desire, gives life, and watches over her loved ones. She has a protective role and is the grounding force for the family.
Sekhemka, detail of wife (Christie's)

At the time, Christie's wrote that a similar statue also resides at the Brooklyn Museum

Only one other statue is attributed to Sekhemka, Inspector of the Scribes, now in the Brooklyn Museum. The kneeling figure is made of diorite, the base is in limestone, painted to imitate diorite and is decorated as an offering table. It is suggested that Sekhemka may have had a discarded royal sculpture repaired and a base added to it. The similar quality of the carving between this and the present lot certainly serves to link the two pieces. Moreover, both statues were brought out of Egypt at around the same time; Dr. Henry Abbott, the original owner of the Brooklyn Sekhemka, returned with his collection in 1851.

By April 2016, no matching offer was made in time to prevent the statue from leaving the UK and the object was cleared to be shipped to an unknown buyer – at the time heavily speculated to be a mysterious private collector in Qatar or museum in the Middle East.   

In a report presented to the UK’s Parliament pursuant to section 10 (1)(a) of the Export Control Act 2002 on the export of objects of Cultural Interest first reported on by the BBC it has emerged the Department for Culture, Media and Sport granted an export licence to the United States. 

Who the new owner is, is anyone's guess. 


Dear Tourists, Remember the motto: “Take only pictures, leave only memories.”

Its an age old adage, a memorable saying which holds some important fact of experience that is considered true by many people: 

Always leave things a little better than when you arrived. Take only pictures, leave only memories. You'll be happy you did

But for some tourists, building memories includes acts of selfish vandalism. 

This week, yet again, tourists have tried to chip away at what remains of the city of Pompeii. As if surviving an earthquake, only to be completely enveloped by the volcanic ash of a volcano wasn't insult enough, two Dutch tourists have brazenly walked off with part of a fresco from one of the most poignant villas of Pompeii.

La Casa della Venere in Bikini 
Nicked from the House of Julia Felix aka La Casa della Venere in Bikini (the House of Venus in a bikini); the villa dates to between AD 62 and 79, and stands on the well-trafficked via dell'Abbondanza.  The villa was reopened to the public this past winter following substantial conservation efforts as the site has already been subject to disrepair and predation. 

After the earthquake struck Pompeii in 62 A.D the owner of this extravagant home, the daughter of Spurius, decided to repurpose her villa, transforming portions of it into apartments, a workshop and a public bathhouse. The home's triclinium had beds made of marble and the bathing complex included an outdoor pool, a calidarium, a tepidarium and a frigidarium.  The villa and its amenities were converted most likely to ease the housing shortage caused by the earthquake and to profit from the fact that Pompeii's Forum and Stabian Baths were undergoing renovations. 



We know the history of the villa's renovations from a notice painted on the façade which read “elegant bathing facilities, shops with annexed apartments upstairs and independent apartments on the first floor are offered for rent to respectable people”.

Its doubtful that Julia Felix would have considered momento-grabbing tourists as respectable.  

Generally speaking, marauding tourists taking more than just selfies hardly take the time to comprehend what it is they are walking away with, perhaps wondering as many do, why the Italian authorities can't seem to find a way to secure a site so beautiful, yet so vulnerable to vandalism. 

One thing is for certain, when visiting sites like these, it is already difficult enough to imagine them in their former glory.  One already has to use one's imagination to understand how spacious and luxurious the place must have been, even by Pompeian standards, when so much has had to be carted off, in part for safekeeping and preservation in part for spoils. 


The thieves probably weren't aware that at one time the villa was dramatically adorned with wall paintings, two of which are now on permanent exhibition in the Louvre Museum in Paris.  The statuette for which the house is nicknamed, is also long missing from the site.  It's on display in the Gabinetto Segreto (Secret Cabinet) of Italy's National Archaeological Museum in Naples. The gallery houses overly-naughty objects from Pompeii and Herculaneum once considered too erotic in nature for the general museum population. 


Spotted by a tour guide, who grabbed the 8 cm by 8 cm stolen fresco fragment from the culprits and notified the authorities, the two tourists have been charged with attempted grand larceny. 

Italian Newspaper Il Mattino reports that when confronted the tourist tried to tell the authorities 


This is not the first theft at Pompeii, nor is it likely to be the last. 

3 million tourists set foot in Pompeii every year.  Visitors need to remember that they have no right to desecrate ruins for their short term gain. If everyone takes away "a momento", even if found on the ground, in one hundred year's time there will not be a Pompeii - just a pile of rubble.





October 15, 2016

Saturday, October 15, 2016 - ,, No comments

Collector's indictment shows just how easy it was for art to be transported to places it shouldn't be

In April of this year luxury real-estate developer and fine arts collector Michael Shvo, based in New York City with offices in New York, London, and Dubai blessed the pages of the Wall Street Journal as one of New York's savvy young developers with more than $4bn (£2.84bn) worth of luxury projects in development. But in September Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance Jr. indicted the business mogul for allegedly evading more than $1.4 million in taxes related to the purchase of fine art, furniture, jewelry and a Ferrari 458 Spider. 

With hefty charges that include criminal tax fraud in the second, third and fourth degrees, repeated failure to file taxes and offering a false instrument for filing in the first degree, The New York indictment alleges that between 2010 and 2016, Shvo told auction houses his art purchases were to be shipped to the Cayman Islands and thus would not be subject to sales tax.

Prior to his indictment, Blouin Art & Auction had listed Shvo on their Power 100 list of movers and shakers with significant influence in the art world.  The charges he now faces, come at a time when dealers and collectors in the New York art market have started to come under increased scrutiny for offenses from fraud to tax evasion. 

The article printed below, republished with permission from the October 2016 issue of the Maine Antique Digest, shows how disconcerting simple it is to move art around like chess pieces outside the established rules of the game. 

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Real estate developer and collector Michael Shvo, 43, his companies, Shvo Art Ltd. and Seren LLC, and two shipping companies and their principals were indicted on September 8 in New York City for participating in a scheme to evade the payment of more than $1 million in state and local sales and use taxes associated with the purchase of fine art, furniture, jewelry, and a luxury sports vehicle.

The defendants are charged with criminal tax fraud in the second, third, and fourth degrees, falsifying business records in the first degree, and offering a false instrument for filing in the first degree, among other charges.

“As alleged in the indictment, Michael Shvo went to great lengths to defraud New Yorkers out of more than a million dollars in tax revenue,” said New York County District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. in a press release. “This indictment puts other purchasers of fine art on notice: the purposeful evasion of New York State and City taxes is a tax crime, and those who scheme to avoid their obligations will be held criminally and civilly accountable.”

According to court documents, between 2010 and 2016, Shvo engaged in a long-term scheme to evade payment of state and local sales and use taxes on purchases of fine art, furniture, and jewelry. In communications with auction houses and art galleries, Shvo allegedly falsely represented that purchases he made would be shipped to an out-of-state address in the Cayman Islands or other overseas destinations, and therefore no sales tax was collected. Shvo’s purchases were allegedly shipped instead to his office or homes in New York, including an apartment on Columbus Circle and a house in the Hamptons.

Sheridan C.T.S. Hedley (a.k.a. “Tully Hedley”), 33, Guy Drori, 49, and their respective shipping companies, Hedley’s Inc. and Bestguy Moving LLC, are charged with participating in the scheme by providing auction houses and galleries with shipping documentation that deliberately misrepresented the destination of Shvo’s purchases.

It is also alleged that Shvo fraudulently used New York resale certificates, which allow dealers to purchase items solely for the purpose of resale without paying sales tax, in connection with a number of personal purchases, including jewelry valued at more than $65,000 for his wife and furniture for his office in New York.

Shvo evaded payment of New York state and local use taxes on a new Ferrari 458 Spider that he purchased from an out-of-state dealer by establishing a limited liability company in Montana called Seren LLC—named after his wife—and registering the luxury vehicle to the company. According to court documents, no business was ever conducted in Montana and the vehicle was used in New York.

Shvo is accused of evading payments totaling more than $1,000,000 in New York state and local sales and use taxes.

Shvo is alleged to have engaged in a scheme to hide the assets of his company, Shvo Art Ltd., from taxation and evade paying both New York state and New York City corporate taxes on the profits made from the company’s sales of fine art and furniture. Between 2010 and 2016, Shvo Art Ltd. allegedly made efforts to falsely portray the company and its assets as being located offshore, when in fact Shvo operated the company out of his office and homes in Manhattan and the Hamptons. Shvo and his company are charged with failing to file appropriate tax returns and evading the payment of more than $275,000 in corporate tax.

The New York County District Attorney’s Office’s asset forfeiture unit has filed civil papers against Shvo and two of his companies seeking the forfeiture of funds gained through the alleged crimes. In connection with its civil action, the district attorney’s office has secured a temporary restraining order restraining approximately $1.5 million of Shvo’s assets.

To subscribe to the Main Antiquities Digest please see the journal's web link here.

October 14, 2016

Conviction and Sentence - New Brunswick Museum Theft

Last month, Bruce Lee Marion pleaded guilty to possession of stolen property, valued at more than $5,000 for his role in the theft of four bronze plaques taken from the façade of the New Brunswick Museum (Musée du Nouveau-Brunswick) in Saint John, Canada.   He was sentenced on October 13, 2016 to two years minus one day in provincial jail.

The four plaques, part of a series of nine commemorative bronzes produced by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada which highlight the stories of New Brunswickers who have made significant contributions to the region, were reported stolen by museum staff on July 28, 2016.   One plaque recognized the country's Royal Navy Admiral Charles Carter Drury, a second recognized New Brunswick politician John Hamilton Gray, and the remaining two highlighted the lives of historians George McCall Theal and John Clarence Webster.  Once mounted outside the museum, the plaques had been pried off the wall, most likely with a crowbar.

Marion was connected to the theft after scrap dealer, Robert Knox at Simpson Scrap Metal and Recycling reported the license plate of Marion's vehicle to the authorities after he heard radio news reports about the museum's loss and remembered that Marion had delivered material matching the plaques' description to the Lorneville scrap yard.

Given the recent increase in metal thefts in Canada, where scrap metal dealers say bronze and copper alloys can fetch up to Canadian $1.60 per pound, the museum has opted to remove the remaining five plaques for safekeeping.

October 13, 2016

Conference: Art, Antiquities, Heritage and Wildlife Crime in Southeast Asia - 22 October 2016



Conference Venue: The Chinese University of Hong Kong Graduate Law Centre, The Faculty of Law, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, 2/F, Bank of America Tower, 12 Harcourt Road, Central, Hong Kong.

Date and Time: Saturday 22nd October, 2016, 9.30 am- 5.15 pm.

Registration and attendance is free.

The Faculty of Law at the Chinese University of Hong Kong presents a conference as part of its 10th Anniversary celebrations to consider crime involving art, antiquities, cultural heritage and wildlife in Southeast Asia and beyond. The Conference will involve academics, legal practitioners, the Hong Kong Police Force, Interpol and US Homeland Security. The speakers will consider issues involving art crime and cultural heritage protection in Southeast Asia including the looting and illicit traffic in antiquities in Southeast Asia. There will also be a special panel considering the trade in endangered species focusing on Hong Kong’s place in the illicit trade in ivory.

Speakers:

Managing Director, Head of Private Client Services, K2 Intelligence

Criminal Intelligence Officer, Works of Art Unit, Interpol

Senior Inspector, Hong Kong Police Force

Senior Consultant, Head of Private Wealth - China, Herbert Smith Freehills

Associate Professor of Practice in Law, The Faculty of Law, The Chinese University of Hong Kong

Associate Professor, the Hakubi Center for Advanced Research of Kyoto University

Professor of Criminology at Victoria University of Wellington, member of the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research at the University of Glasgow (Trafficking Culture)

Police Commandant Ministry of Interior International Police Co-operation Directorate

Assistant HSI Attaché, Homeland Security Investigations, Hong Kong, Macau & Taiwan

For further details please contact: 
Ms Bonnie Leung (swleung@cuhk.edu.hk) or Steven Gallagher (stevegallagher@cuhk.edu.hk)

Lecture: ‘The International Illicit Antiquities Network: Dealers, Auction Houses, Private Collectors and Museums’ by Christos Tsirogiannis


Fen Edge Archaeology Group (FEAG) will host a lecture given by Dr. Christos Tsirogiannis on the ‘The International Illicit Antiquities Network: Dealers, Auction Houses, Private Collectors and Museums

Date: Wednesday, 19 October 2016 

Time: 7.30 pm 


Admission Fee: Members £2; Non-members pay £3.’

The talk will present the main members of a trafficking network dealing in looted and smuggled antiquities, contra the 1970 UNESCO convention and will highlight connections between dealers, auction houses, private collectors and museums. Dr. Tsirogiannis will also make use of photographic evidence from confiscated archives of illicit antiquities dealers why antiquities should be repatriated and dealers and museum curators be prosecuted.

Christos Tsirogiannis is a forensic archaeologist researching smuggled antiquities and the market for looted cultural objects. He is a Senior Archaeologist at the Cambridge Archaeological Unit and a lecturer at ARCA's Postgraduate program in Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection.  He studied archaeology and history of art in Greece and worked for the Greek Ministries of Culture and Justice from 1994 to 2008, excavating throughout Greece and recording antiquities in private hands. 

Since 2007, Christos has been identifying illicit antiquities, depicted in the confiscated Medici, Becchina and Symes-Michaelides archives, in museums, galleries, auction houses and private collections, notifying the relevant government authorities as toxic antiquities are suspected in the licit art market. 

Conference: Artcrime 2016 - The New Zealand Art Crime Research Trust

Yayoi Kusama public artwork, “Dots for Love and Peace” 2009,
City Gallery Wellington, New Zealand 2009
Sponsored by: The New Zealand Art Crime Research Trust

Date: Saturday 15 October 2016

Location: City Gallery, Wellington

Times: 10:00 am - 7 pm

10.00am - Welcome; Formal Opening
Arthur Tompkins and Elizabeth Caldwell

10.20am - Introduction
Louisa Gommans

10.25am - Art Crime as a discipline: progress since 2008
Noah Charney

10.55am - Anatomy of an international statue trafficking network.
Simon Mackenzie

11.25am - Q & A

11.30am - Morning tea

12.00pm - Introduction
Ngarino Ellis

12.05pm - Repatriation in a museum context: no one size fits all
Puāwai Cairns

12.35pm - Stolen Art in Paradise? Stories of Illicit trafficking of Cultural Property in the Pacific: Case Studies from Fiji, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea
Tarisi Vunidilo

1.05pm - Q & A
1.10pm - Lunch

2.00pm - Introduction
Penelope Jackson

2.05pm - Copying for the colonies: W. S. Hatton and the forging of national histories
Rebecca Rice

2.35pm - Re-Use and Misuse of images of Museum collection items
Victoria Leachman

3.05pm - Q & A

3.10pm - Afternoon tea

3.40pm - Panel discussion: Security in the Galleries Catherine Gardner
New Zealand Police
Erika McClintock – City Gallery, Wellington
Courtney Johnston – The Dowse Art Museum, Lower Hutt
Reuben Friend – Pātaka, Porirua

4.40pm - Art Thieves, Fraudsters and Fakers: The New Zealand Story by Penelope Jackson (Awa Press 2016) Mary Varnham; Elizabeth Caldwell interviewing Penelope Jackson

Following the formal programme, attendees are invited to stay on for an informal cocktail and networking function at the Gallery from 5.00 pm to 7.00pm.  This will include the launch of Art Thieves, Fraudsters and Fakers: The New Zealand Story by Penelope Jackson (Published by Awa Press 2016).

October 12, 2016

Art Theft Alert - Historic Residence - Biel House

Postcard circa 1900 of Biel House
Address: Stenton, Dunbar, Lothian, Scotland, EH42 1SY
Attraction Type: Historic House 
Location: 4 miles west of Dunbar, off the B6370 

Police in East Lothian are appealing for information after items from a rare collection of Ancient Egyptian artefacts, historical swords, daggers, spears and arrows were stolen from Biel House, a mansion in East Lothian at some point between 4 pm on Tuesday, October 4th and 9 am on Wednesday, October 5th, 2016. Biel House, is a privately-owned - castellated three-storey residence which dates originally from the 16th century.  It is a member of the Historic Houses Association, but only open by appointment to visitors.

The residence is reported to be the birthplace of William Dunbar, the great Scottish poet. Owned by the Earls of Dunbar until 1489, when the King transferred it from Hugo Dunbar of Biel to Robert Lauder of Edrington, the original house was a 12th century tower house. The present house was built in the 16th century. 

Officers are asking anyone in the area at the time or who may have been offered any objects matching the above description to please contact officers on 101 or alternatively contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

October 11, 2016

Auction Alert - Christie's Auction House - A il(licit) Roman Marble Draped Goddess?

On October 10, 2016 ARCA was informed by Christos Tsirogiannis that he had identified a new potentially tainted antiquity scheduled to be auctioned by Christie's auction house in New York on October 25, 2016 traceable to the confiscated Robin Symes archive.



A screenshot of the provenance/collection history details are added here:


Since 2007 Tsirogiannis, a UK-based Greek forensic archaeologist and summer lecturer with ARCA's Postgraduate Program in Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection, has sought to identify antiquities of illicit origin in museums, collections, galleries and auction houses that can be traced to the confiscated Robin Symes-Christos Michaelides archives and the related Giacomo Medici and Gianfranco Becchina archives.

Each of these dealer's archives provide insight inside the illicit trade in antiquities and, when combined, include thousands of ancient objects from all over the world which have passed through the hands of smugglers, middlemen, and antiquities dealers who "laundered” illicit objects through the licit market.

Christies Auction Object alongside image from
the confiscated Symes archive.
Many have argued that Dr. Tsirogiannis tactics of naming potentially looted objects from the archives via ARCA's blog, David Gill's Looting Matters and on occasion Neil Brodie's Market of Mass Destruction, places auction houses at a disadvantage and should be construed as unfair given the market does not have direct access to the archives.  A valid point, but this is not the first time that an item up for auction at Christie's has been listed for auction exhibiting only a limited version of the objects actual collection history.

How Many? 

This is the third time ARCA has helped to publicise tainted antiquities that Tsirogiannis has identified on auction with the firm Christie's in 2016.  In 2015, objects were identified at the auction house in April, in September, in October and in December.  In 2014 Tsirogiannis identified objects in March, November and in December.  In 2013, ARCA published only one. Each of these auctions excluded key passages through the hands of disgraced antiquities dealers well-known for having dealt in tainted antiquities.

But is the fact that trafficked antiquities continue to make it to licit market the fault solely of the auction house in failing to do sufficient due diligence or are their "distinguished" private consignors, like the one in this month's auction, just as culpable?

It would be interesting to know from the auction house's perspective how many times they are approached by collectors who have purchased illicit objects in the past, but who fail to disclose an object's full collection history, knowing that should they reveal a less than pristine pedigree, the pieces would then become worthless on the licit art market and also potentially be subject to seizure.

Do the big-three auction houses keep records of consignors who falsify or omit collection histories?  Do they in turn share these lists with researchers? And if not, do they share them voluntarily with authorities?

Given the frequency illicit antiquities continue to penetrate the legitimate art market, embroiling firms like Christie's in the repetitive drama of appearing complacent when handling stolen and illegally-exported (illicit) antiquities shouldn't auction houses consider more stringent reporting requirements of their consignors to insure that they do not support the illicit antiquities trade. 

In closing,  given the proven lucrative nature of unprovenanced antiquities on the open market, Tsirogiannis has notified Interpol and the American authorities of his new identifications. Here's hoping that his continued spotlight, however awkward it is for everyone, will serve as a stark reminder that we still have a long way to go before the licit art market is cleaned up.

By: Lynda Albertson

October 10, 2016

Carabinieri del Comando Tutela Patrimonio Culturale to return stolen archaeological finds to Mexico

Mexican Embassy in Rome, Italy
In a ceremony to be held October 11, 2016 at 13:00 at the Mexican Embassy in Rome, Brigadier General Fabrizio Parrulli, Italy's new Commander of the Carabinieri for the Protection of Cultural Heritage, in a ceremony to repatriate illicitly trafficked heritage will return twelve archaeological objects to the Mexican authorities via a handover to the country's ambassador to Italy, Signore Juan Jose Guerra Abud, KBE. 

Having succeeding General Mariano Mossa as the head of Italy's specialised Comando Carabinieri Tutela Patrimonio Culturale this year, Brigadier General Fabrizio Parrulli is not stranger to the nuance of international policing.  With degrees European Studies as well as International Law and Diplomacy the new general has commanded a team of Iraqi police as part of the NATO mission in Iraq and served as the commander of a training department for police in Baghdad.  Closer to home,he has served within the Carabinieri TPC overseeing the its NCO School in Florence.

The twelve pre-Columbian Mesoamerican pieces to be repatriated are from the Mesoamerican Preclassical period (2500 BCC - 200 CE) and the Classical Period (200-1000 CE).  The objects seized included a clay head of votive use portraying a character of high rank, another votive bust with disk-shaped earrings and another sculpture with nose ornamentation.

The antiquities were seized by law enforcement between 2013 and 2016 as the result of three separate investigations coordinated by the prosecutor of the Republic of Palmi (RC), Pesaro and Ascoli Piceno.  Several of the objects were seized during a customs cross-check of two travellers arriving from Mexico via the Reggio di Calabria "Tito Minniti" Airport, also known as the Aeroporto dello Stretto, in southern Calabria.  In a second instance an object had been marketed via "a popular online sales site" where the seller listed the city where the object was currently located and a cellular where he could be reached for further questions.  To verify the authenticity of the objects being sold the Carabinieri TPC worked with experts from the Museo Nazionale Preistorico Etnografico Luigi Pigorini in Rome as objects of this type are often reproductions.


Mexico is a quintessential example of an antiquities-rich “source nation”.  It's a country with an abundance of unprotected archaeological sites that all too often yields artifacts with a commercial value on the art market.  It is also a nation, that despite making great strides, still lacks the economic resources necessary to adequately protect much of the remote cultural patrimony found within its borders. 

In 2013, art market trend watcher Emma Crichton-Miller noted that Paris had superseded New York as "the most dynamic centre for pre-Columbian art globally, attracting collectors mainly from Europe and America, but also Latin America, the Middle East and Asia." This might explain why traffickers importing illicit goods, appreciate Italy's strategic placement on the European mainland. 

The theft and illegal trade of Mexican pre-Columbian antiquities is fed by high demand within the art market, which in turn creates strong incentives for poverty-driven digging.   Individuals and teams of looters dig indiscriminately where opportunity avails, without concern for the objects lost archaeological context.  They then collect and smuggle valuable finds to market countries by whatever channels are available to them.  

What legal instruments are there in Mexico to protect cultural heritage? 

Mexico's heritage law, written January 19, 1934 (Art. 27, Political Constitution of the Republic of Mexico; Law on the Protection and Conservation of Monuments. Typical Towns and Places of National Beauty), established national ownership of all immovable archaeological material in the public domain, and precluded the export of all works of art or antiquities without an export license.  

This law was further refined in 1972 creating new archaeological zones and extending national ownership of the cultural patrimony to private collections and absolutely forbidding the export of pre-Columbian antiquities. The only exception to this strict mandate is in the case of presidentially-approved gifts and exchanges to foreign scientific institutions and foreign governments for diplomacy purposes. 

It is also illegal in Mexico to excavate archaeological sites, even on private land, without the permission of the Mexican government's National Institute of Anthropology and History.