Monthly Archives: January 2012
Captain Gunter’s "loot": Antiquities from China’s Summer Palace continue to sell at auctionThe sale of a 8.5 by 5.8 centimeter Qing dynasty (late 18th- early 19th century) gold box for £490,000 ($764,694.00) at London auction house Woolley and Wallis has provoked an international debate. The gold box, embellished with seed pearls, enamel glass panels, and floral motifs, inscribed in 1860 “Loot from Summer Palace, Perkin, October 1860, Captain James Gunter, King’s Dragoon Guards.”This engraving not only increased the box’s value by 50%, but also sparked a passionate dialogue about looting during war, the Chinese art market, and auction house responsibility.
All is Fair in Loot and War?
Whether we regard items such as the Captain Gunter box as “stolen,” “plundered,” “contraband,” “spoils of war,” “ransacked,” “pillaged,” or as Gunter appropriately chose “looted,” the taking of valuable goods from invaded areas during war is as old as war itself. Art Law: Cases and Materials perhaps says it best:
This historical sketch [referring to Roman activities] emphasizes ...
SAFECORNER’s Top Ten of 2011
2011 was a great year for SAFECORNER! We published many thought-provoking posts, welcomed new writers to the blog, and sparked some fascinating discussion. We’d like to thank all of our readers, especially those of you who took the time to comment and to share the blog with others.
2012 promises to be just as exciting. But before we get too far into this new year, let’s take a look back at the Top Ten Most Popular SAFECORNER posts of 2011. These are the posts that received the most views during the past year. Enjoy!(MORE ...)
Returns to Italy from North America
Various antiquities from Princeton University Art Museum, a healthcare company, a New York gallery, and a New York private collector linked to the Metropolitan Museum of Art have been returned to Italy.
It is hoped that a more detailed list will appear shortly.
The museum and gallery have already returned items to Italy.(MORE ...)
Robert Hecht’s next step: publish his "memoir"?Now that the case against the 92-year old antiquities dealer Robert Hecht Jr. ended on the grounds that the statute of limitations has expired (Marion True’s case was similarly dismissed), will “the book about the antiquities underworld” that Hecht authored (see Peter Watson and Cecilia Todeschini, The Medici Conspiracy, pp. 160-179 which include excerpts from the manuscript) finally see the light of day?
According to Watson and Todeschini, seizing Hecht’s handwritten manuscript was the main reason for the February 2001 raid on Hecht’s Paris apartment. Jason Felch (co-author of Chasing Aphrodite) wrote in the LA Times that Hecht “has cut a wide swath through the art world since the 1950s, supplying museums and collectors around the world with some of the finest examples of ancient Greek, Roman and Etruscan art.” Photo: Above: A 2006 photo of American art dealer Robert E. Hecht Jr., center, in a Rome courthouse during his trial for allegedly receiving and conspiring to deal in illegally acquired antiquities. Credit: Alessandra Tarantino / Associated Press(MORE ...)
Kabul: "Who is the Museum Director?"
This short, but fascinating video is the first of a series produced by Kabul at Work and Untold Stories: the Oral Histories of Afghanistan’s Cultural Heritage funded by the Hollings Center for International Dialogue. In an interview with Omara Khan Massoudi we hear his first-hand account of the struggle to save Afghanistan’s cultural heritage throughout its tumultuous history. He talks about the famous Bactrian treasure and the future of the National Museum of Afghanistan. The video includes some wonderful old footage of the National Museum.
For more information on the situation in Afghanistan read Joanie Meharry’s story, “Looting Afghanistan’s cultural heritage: A conversation with Abdul Wasey Ferozi”.(MORE ...)
Cause for Alarm?
This link points you to a description of a new “reality” TV show slated to descend on St. Augustine, Florida, and 13 other American cities and towns this year. The gist? Let’s dig up private and public property to unsystematically hunt for “treasure” that can “tell a story of the past.” Cause that’s exactly what archaeology is all about, right?! Apparently, their host “has been digging up artifacts for 20 years, so he’s not some random digger.” What, with a metal detector? This cavalier attitude couched as socially responsible television is even more disturbing to me. Further telling to me is the statement by St. Augustine city archaeologist Carl Halbirt that the property owners he’s spoken with (independent of those eventually selected for the show) are “interested in the archaeology and preserving the past and that’s what we’re trying to do with a systematic approach.”
Most likely, some of these very same property owners have been part of direct negotiations related to past and ongoing cultural heritage management projects and salvage excavations…actual, systematic archaeology in other words. Apparently, the show’s producer has had her hands in several other “reality TV” winners, such as “Super Nanny” and “Reality Hell.” Does this bode well for the prospects of this show treating archaeology and history with any kind of respect? I doubt it… I hope that the networks will take a good, long look at the merits of this show before agreeing to host it, including independent evaluations of premise and practice by the archaeological community. Only time will tell… The St. Augustine Record has kindly provided the email address and phone number of the casting producer.(MORE ...)
Looking ahead: 2012 and beyond
With 2012 now upon us, SAFE looks forward to the coming year with anticipation, and offers a few predictions.
As discussion and publicity surrounding the repatriation of antiquities continues and public awareness and media focus on the actions of source countries (Italy, Greece, Peru, Turkey, Egypt, Bulgaria, etc.) increase, the return of cultural patrimony will accelerate during 2012 and the years that follow. The question is no longer whether such artifacts will be returned. In most cases, the only question is when.
Repatriation by U.S. museums and collectors in recent years (some 130 artifacts have already returned to Italy; the Boston Museum of Fine Art’s return to the upper half of the Weary Herakles to Turkey occurred this past year; Yale University’s transfer of Macchu Picchu artifacts back to Peru began in 2011 and will be ...(MORE ...)