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


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

Kevin CoffeeReportLeave a Comment

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

Experts lend opinions to the discussion of unprovenanced antiquities

Brooke TodsenCommentary, Report, What do you think?Leave a Comment

The New York Times reported on Tuesday, July 10 about the growing tension over new guidelines “making it more difficult for collectors of antiquities to donate, or sell, the cultural treasures that fill their homes, display cases and storage units.” As museums and auction houses react to recent measures taken by the U.S. to stem the illicit antiquities trade, they are increasingly reluctant … Read More

Federal Court Judge rules that 10th c. Khmer statue remains at Sotheby’s … for now

SAFECORNERUpdate4 Comments

Daniel Patrick Moynihan U.S. Courthouse in lower Manhattan

In a 30-minute conference held on the 21st floor of the Daniel Patrick Moynihan U.S. Courthouse in lower Manhattan today, Judge George B. Daniels ruled against the government’s request for “a warrant to arrest” the 10th century Khmer sandstone sculpture, known as a Dvarapala, which is the subject of the in rem civil forfeiture action known as United States of … Read More

EBay: Lip service is not enough!

SAFECORNERCommentary2 Comments

As the holiday shopping season goes into full force, eBay – the leading online auction and shopping site – once again offers a dizzying array of objects listed under “antiquities.” Described as “early Neolithic,” “Bronze age”, “Tang Dynasty,” to “Khmer,” “Pre-Columbian,” “12th Century Djenne,” “Ancient Roman,” etc. these “antiquities” are advertised to originate from all corners of the world. They … Read More

Reflecting on Seized Antiquities from 2009

David GillUpdateLeave a Comment

In 2009 three antiquities were seized from a single New York auction-house: one just prior to the sale, and two subsequent to it (after being sold for c. $120,000). The auction-house co-operated fully in 2009 and subsequently stated (over the later seizure) that “the transparency of the public auction system combined with the efforts from the U.S. ICE and foreign … Read More

Geneva… Singapore… now Red Hook?

SAFECORNERCommentary15 Comments

Known for its “industrial charm”, New York’s Red Hook section in Brooklyn will soon be home to Christie’s Fine Art Storage Services – a subsidiary of the auction house. In Wall Street Journal’s article “The Ultimate Walk-In Closet”, Kelly Crow questions if Christie’s “is walking a delicate line”: balancing clients’ desire for confidentiality and customs’ desire to “deter potential smugglers … Read More