Antiquities in the Art Market

Marina LahowinArticle, What do you think?Leave a Comment

Antiquities in the art market have long been a topic of controversy surrounding auction houses, museums, collectors and even governments. From looted antiquities making their way onto the shelves of respected institutions to auction houses being caught red handed with smuggled goods, the issue is unrelenting and without an easy solution. The antiquities market is considered to be a gray market, … Read More

Asia Week Raids Cast a Spotlight on Antiquities Trafficking in India

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India_Relief

Art auctions can be a source of nail-biting excitement with high prices breaking the record books. Yet, during the 2016 Asia Week in New York City, the headlines were dominated not by shockingly high sales, but by federal seizures of illegally trafficked Asian antiquities worth a combined estimate of $4 million. The seized artifacts were recovered as part of the … Read More

Cultural Property Laws: Why They Fail and How They Can Be Improved

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Workers unload 2nd c .AD Roman sarcophagus

The destruction and looting of cultural heritage sites and antiquities is a pervasive problem in Iraq and, more recently, Syria, as both areas are plagued by wider political conflicts. Despite international cultural property legislation established to prohibit the destruction or theft of cultural heritage (including the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed … Read More

Market Impact: Increasing Consumer Demand for Legal Provenance

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ceramic antiquities

The illegal antiquities market is extremely difficult to quantify. The nature of the smuggling networks and a code of silence between buyers and sellers make it next to impossible to confirm solid numbers for analysis. One of the few places for which hard data is available is the antiquities auction market. In 2015, researchers from the University of Chicago analyzed … Read More

Abbasid Wooden Beams Recovered from London Auction House

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Abbasid Caliphs Egypt

Eight wooden beams stolen from the Dome of the Abbasid Caliphs are now in the process of being repatriated to Egypt. The Dome of the Abbasid Caliphs dates to the 7th and 8th centuries. The well-preserved mausoleum is located near the famed Al-Sayeda Nafissa shrine in downtown Cairo. The beams, inscribed with verses from the Quran, had been illegally trafficked to … Read More

Heritage Crisis in Syria: a call for a moratorium on the antiquities trade

Heather LeeArticle, Commentary, From the field, Homepage3 Comments

The world has been closely following the tumultuous political upheaval behind the devastated state of cultural heritage preservation in Syria. A recent New York Times article describes “a feeling of impotence” that academics and archaeologists are experiencing in the face of the sheer magnitude of the danger threatening the cultural heritage of Syria. What will it take to stop the relentless destruction of Syria’s cultural heritage? It … Read More

The thorny issue of deaccession

Heather LeeArticle, Commentary3 Comments

Deaccessioned

On July 10, 2014, at Christie’s in London, a 4,000-year-old Egyptian limestone statue of an official named Sekhemka was sold to a telephone bidder for £15,762,500 (or $27,001,163, with the buyer’s premium). This sale was strongly opposed by several groups, including the UK Museums Association (MA), the Save Sekhemka Action Group, and Egypt’s Antiquities Ministry. Why the controversy? It is … Read More

Auctioning Sacred Objects in Paris, Indigenous Cultural Patrimony, and Burdens of Proof

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Hopi Indian with government official

The April 2013 auction of sacred Native American ceremonial items by the auction house Néret-Minet Tessier & Sarrou* in Paris proceeded only after legal action and vocal international protests from indigenous peoples, anthropologists, museologists, and even the USA government. Ultimately, the French courts upheld the property right of artifact collectors and the auction house over the rights of the Hopi … Read More

Why should import restrictions on antiquities from Cambodia be renewed?

SAFECORNERAnnouncement, Commentary, Report1 Comment

Weeks before the gavel fell on New York’s Asia Week auctions, Nord Wennerstrom began raising questions about the “iffy provenance” of Khmer artifacts, echoed by Chasing Aphrodite’s post on its Facebook page “For sale at Asia Week auctions: tons of unprovenanced Khmer antiquities“. Although the lack of published provenance (or ownership history) is not proof of dubious origin, it begs … Read More