We wish our readers a happy and prosperous 2017
December has seen a busy end to the year, with IADAA helping to initiate a new campaigning foundation in New York led by Randall Hixenbaugh. We await further developments, but two key areas of attention will be the putative trade involvement, via Christie’s, with the Antiquities Coalition, over which several concerns have already been raised, and the possible introduction of the TAAR Act (Terrorism Art and Antiquity Revenue Prevention Act of 2016). The AC/Christie’s initiative gives IADAA the opportunity to challenge the AC directly over its stance on the trade. As we went to press, the Committee for Cultural Policy (http://goo.gl/Sy2alJ) reported that the TAAR Act had been killed off in Committee. IADAA will be keeping a close watch for any attempts to revive it in the next session of Congress.
The New Year will bring further developments in the UK regarding the Cultural Property [Armed Conflicts] Bill, which aims to ratify the Hague Convention and its protocols, while IADAA continues it works on attempting to mitigate the worst effects of any upcoming legislation resulting from the EU Survey.
We are also in the process of challenging a number of inaccurate media articles, including in Paris Match and the Art Media Agency, and it is noticeable that three months on from accepting the invitation to write a critique of the deeply flawed Homeland Security report Cash to Chaos, the website Homeland Security Today has still not published it, despite it being submitted and acknowledged on October 25.
2017 will see IADAA pressing home the message that the trade is part of the very Cultural Heritage that everyone is so keen to protect, laying the foundations for collecting, museums, connoisseurship, scholarship and research, among other noble traditions. This message will be all the more powerful if members are vocal in its support.
Please note our quote of the month – from the Art Media Agency – in the article below, entitled The Trafficking of Cultural Goods: “Indeed, it’s impossible to conceive the fight against the trafficking of cultural objects without the involvement of [art market] professionals. The procedures which they implement when carrying out research into the origins of the goods that they sell constitute obstacles to the sale of trafficked pieces.”
It is gratifying to see that at least some of those who regularly criticise the trade finally acknowledging the vital contribution it has to beating crime and terrorism, as IADAA has been arguing for some time.
The Helgo Treasure: A Viking Age Buddha
Irish Archaeology: December 28, 2013: this article from three years ago has just surfaced and gives a fascinating insight into how a Viking hoard in Sweden came to contain artefacts from Kashmir, Ireland and North Africa.
Dealers’ association asks industry to contact MPs over new cultural property law
Antiques Trade Gazette: December 1: The ADA has appealed for ATG readers, including the trade and collectors, to write to their MPs supporting amendments tabled for the Report stage of the Cultural Property [Armed Conflicts] Bill passing through the UK parliament. The appeal, which has also been sent out to ADA members as well as members of other associations, attempts to drum up support for changing the legal liability clause within the bill, which in it current form would leave the trade, collectors and auction houses vulnerable to prosecution even if they break the law without having any intention of doing so, by unwittingly dealing in a cultural artefacts that have been illegally exported from an occupied country. Other, similar laws, require there to be an element of dishonest intent before a dealer can be prosecuted. The ADA and others have argued that lack of clarity over definitions within the bill, such as for what ‘cultural property’ is and which territories qualify under the ‘occupied’ definition, mean that even those carrying out proper due diligence could be left exposed. They further argue that anti-trade campaigners will seek to create sever mischief under the terms of the Bill to disrupt honest trade, which will inevitably damage the industry despite Government pledges that the Bill will not have such an effect.
‘Protecting culture vital for identity and peace,’ says head of Unesco
The National, UAE: December 1: Another preview to the Abu Dhabi conference quotes UNESCO secretary general Irina Bukova demanding global policy adhered to by all states for protecting cultural heritage. While much of the focus appears to be on protecting archaeological sites in situ – something IADAA and others have been calling for strongly – the article also states that “demand from wealthy collectors has created an illicit trade in antiquities” and this will form part of the discussions.
As usual, no evidence is put forward to support this claim.
Does Aleppo prove that we westerners should keep the world’s antiquities?
The Independent: December 1: Robert Fisk asks whether the Aleppo Room, a paneled room belonging to a Christian family from the Ottoman empire, would have survived the current conflict if the family had not sold it to the Museum of Islamic Art in berlin in 1912. The article is more complex, arguing, at first, that western safe havens have proved anything but, as he reminds us of the damage done to Berlin and London by bombing during WWII.
His ultimate conclusion is an unhappy acknowledgement that they are better off in the west for time being. What he does not accept, however, is that the museum owns the Aleppo Room. Apparently paying its owners for it over a century ago does not count, although he gives no explanation for this. Notably, arch-enemy of the trade Donna Yates Tweeted that even reading the Independent headline made her feel sick. This story is important because it shows that the anti-trade lobby refuses to accept that collectors, dealers and museums own items even when they have been acquired from their original owners legitimately.
'Islam does not encourage destruction of heritage'
Gulf News: December 2: Dr Mounir Bouchenaki, cultural expert and one-time director of the World Heritage Centre at Unesco, argued at the Abu Dhabi conference that it is not Islam but warring factions that encourage the destruction of cultural heritage.
He proposes that the international community, in coordination with local professionals, carry out emergency operations [to preserve] cultural heritage in times of war.
“The director-general of museums and antiquities has announced that the majority of the artefacts of 34 national museums in Syria have been transferred to secure warehouses. Then again, we don’t yet know how many artefacts are being illegally excavated in both Syria and Iraq and being sold on illegal markets,” the expert said.
So, further confirmation that there are no clear figures regarding the level of looted artefacts.
Nations set to approve heritage protection fund
Daily Mail: December 3: 40 countries at the Abu Dhabi conference have are to establish a cultural protection fund (with hopes of raising $100m), based in Geneva, to create safe havens for endangered artefacts in times of conflict. France has pledged $30m to the fund.
A draft of the so-called Abu Dhabi Declaration, still being discussed by the participants at the two-day UNESCO-backed meeting, did not mention a value for the proposed fund.
But delegates have spoken of a $100 million target.
France, which along with the United Arab Emirates is spearheading the initiative, said it would contribute around $30 million (28 million euros).
The fund aims to safeguard cultural heritage endangered by conflicts, finance preventive and emergency operations, combat the illicit trafficking of artefacts and help restore damaged cultural property, based on a draft declaration yet to be finalised.
Participants hope the international network of refuge zones under discussion will be used to temporarily store cultural property endangered by conflicts or extremism.
Amid regional instability and rising demand, a historic agreement could protect priceless cultural artifacts
PBS Newshour: December 6: This is the first article we have become aware of that appears to give some detail of what is in the memorandum of Understanding between Egypt and the US signed by Egyptian Foreign Minister Shoukry and Secretary of State John Kerry. The report states (IADAA underlines): “One central element of the agreement is that it changes the burden of proof. For example, until now, Egypt has had to prove an item was looted. With the MOU in place, the burden is now on the seller to prove that it wasn’t looted and that there is a solid paper trail tracing the journey from Egypt to their hands, including a valid export license.”
We have no confirmation yet that this report is accurate but are attempting to gain verification.
However in another article, published by Ahram Online (http://goo.gl/VqM0s7) on December 7, Shaaban Abdel Gawad, general supervisor of the Antiquities Repatriation Department at the Egyptian Minister of Antiquities, reportedly gives other details of the MoU, stating that under its terms the US government has to return to Egypt any material on the designated list forwarded to Washington. It should also use its best efforts to facilitate technical assistance in cultural resource management and security in Egypt, as appropriate, under available programmes.
Gawad added that according to the MoU Egypt should promote best practices in cultural resource management and encourage coordination among cultural heritage authorities tourism authorities, religious authorities, and development agencies to ensure the enforcement of laws that protect heritage sites from encroachment, unsanctioned appropriation, looting, and damage.
Cabinet approves bill amending certain legislative acts on export/import of movable cultural property
Interfax Ukraine: December 8: Initially what seems a rather obscure article turns out to have some interesting content. Essentially, the Ukraine Cabinet has acknowledged that the definition of movable cultural property is so loose and obscure that it causes problems for customs and exporters, so it has decided to clarify the definition to reduce administrative barriers and other burdens. The new Bill will also improve controls, hand powers of certification from the Ministry of Culture to regional authorities and set up a new and more effective accreditation system. Simpler and more effective seems to be the order of the day.
Artifact trafficking and the battle to stop it: 'It's open season'
Syria: Direct: December 8: Further unsubstantiated claims on the level of the antiquities problem, especially when it comes to the funding of ISIS. It features Dr Amr al-Azm, the US-based academic who has collaborated in some of the most questionable media stories/documentaries of the past year (NBC News, the truly awful and incompetent National Geographic Explorer Channel documentary with Inigo Gilmore, etc). Under the heading Open Season, the article links to what is billed as a September 2016 State department speech by Andrew Keller regarding the level of ISIS funding. However, it is actually from September 2015 and notes that “ISIL has probably earned several million dollars from antiquities sales since mid-2014, but the precise amount is unknown”. So actually nothing new at all.
More interesting is the claim by UNESCO’s Edouard Planche that UNESCO is trying to work with CINOA “but the process takes time”. As far as we know, there is no dialogue between UNESCO and CINOA, but this may be well worth checking.
Egypt retrieved over 500 smuggled artifacts in 2016: official
Egypt Independent: December 9: The 500 figure comes from the Antiquities Ministry but the report does not say if all were originally taken illegally, just that they have been returned.
New restrictions on coins minted within Egypt include widely circulated Roman Egyptian pieces
New rules impact broad range of items, affect copper, silver, gold coinage
Coin World: December 9: The new Egypt/US MoU restricts the movement of a broad group of ancient Egyptian coins, raising the potential of hitting US collectors. Again, this article reports: “These MOUs are initiated by the country seeking protection and effectively shift the burden of proof. Prior to an MOU, Egypt needed to prove that an item was looted to enforce trade restrictions. With the MOU’s implementation, the burden shifts to the seller of an item included in the covered items to prove that it was legally imported or has been outside of Egypt since 1970. This type of documentation can be challenging for coins, which by their nature are small, often look similar to one another, and often lack provenance.”
How Egypt intends to stop sale of its relics around the world
Al-monitor: December 11: This article attempts to conflate the legal and illegal trade by opening with the following two sentences: “Egyptian antiquities continue to be smuggled abroad and put up for international auction. Recently, a set of Egyptian relics was put up for auction in London’s Christie's Auction House, held Dec. 6-15.”
However, it is noticeable that it does not directly accuse Christie’s of selling smuggled pieces.
The article goes on to confirm what we have known for a long time, that Egypt is trying to stop the sale of Egyptian artefacts anywhere in the world and that it will intervene wherever possible prior to auctions (regardless of the legitimacy of the sale). What is important, however, is that the confirmation comes directly from
Shaaban Abdel-Gawad, the director general of the Department of Recovered Antiquities within the Ministry of Antiquities.
More interestingly, he also claims that Egypt were behind the new German law and that they are pursuing the reversal of the burden of proof at auction: “…we require the concerned auction house to provide documents proving its ownership of the archaeological pieces”.
Abdel-Gawad stated: “Egypt has been demanding the amendment of the UNESCO 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property to include all relics that had been looted and stolen before that date. It is also demanding that the auction houses be responsible for providing proof of ownership of any relics they are displaying instead of the concerned country of origin.”
There is no acknowledgement anywhere of Egypt selling off antiquities for decades via the Cairo Museum saleroom and licensed dealers.
A few good Monuments Men: Saving art from looting and destruction — especially in the Middle East — is a military matter
Salon: December 11: The report states that the British Army recently announced that it would be recruiting 15 to 20 new officers with specializations in art, archaeology and antiquities who will be deployed in the field, just behind the front lines, to help identify, protect and track art and antiquities that are in danger of being damaged, looted or destroyed. However, this report refers to an Art Newspaper article, to which it links, which actually states that the army could be doing this.
The article’s author, Noah Charney, dismisses the efforts of the art trade in tackling the looting and smuggling problem, stating that “while those in the art trade talk a good game, there’s profit to be had, from major galleries and online auction sites (where it is easy for a seller to hide his or her identity, difficult to be sure of an object’s provenance, and where some objects have been advertised as being still covered in desert sand, as if this were a selling point)”. He also promotes the virtues of the awful “Blood Antiquities documentary”. Again, this article is long and claims and propaganda, but short on facts.
Bill protecting works of art lent by foreign institutions passes US Senate
The Art Newspaper: December 13: A bill protecting works of art on loan to the US from foreign institutions from seizure was passed by the Senate on Saturday, 10 December and is now waiting to be signed into law by President Obama.
Opponents say it would allow Russia to exhibit art and cultural property that was forcibly seized during the Bolshevik Revolution and block the heirs of the original owners from filing claims in US courts. The bill exempts objects that were looted from 1933 to 1945 by the Nazi regime and its allies, and for any works taken by a foreign government after 1900 "as part of a systematic campaign of coercive confiscation or misappropriation of works from members of a targeted and vulnerable group”.
Lawsuit details Islamic State profits from antiquities' sale
Associated Press: December 15: This is a curious story because of what it does not say. In brief, the Federal Court in Washington has filed a lawsuit seeking to recover four ancient artefacts – — a ring, two gold coins and a stone tablet — worth thousands of dollars that are believed to have been put up for sale by ISIS. Prosecutors said one of the goals of filing the lawsuit, which uses a law that allows the U.S. government to go after the foreign or domestic assets of terrorist groups and is believed to be the first of its kind targeting the Islamic State, is to decrease the market for objects being sold by the militant organization. Pictures recovered on a hard drive and cellphone during the May 2015 Abu Sayyaf raid by US Special Forces show the artefacts to have been looted by ISIS.
As the article continues, though, the lawsuit did not say does not say where items may be now.
New leads on looted Middle Eastern antiquities
The Hill: December 17: Archaeologist Alex Joffe’s commentary notes that little of importance in the way of Syrian antiquities has appeared on Western markets so far (as IADAA and others have been arguing for the past year or more), but says that much of it will have gone to Gulf states with the smugglers waiting for the furore to die down before attempting to sell much of it under false papers in Britain and other centres.
He continues: “More names of those involved in antiquities trade – regime, ISIS and ‘rebels,’ antiquities looters and dealers, and Gulf financiers and middlemen - need to be added to terror and anti-money laundering watch lists, now.”
The subtext to this article appears to be an accusation that all trade in antiquities is somehow rotten because it acts as a cover for criminal activity.
House Task Force Urges 'Continued Vigilance' to Combat Terror Financing
The Weekly Standard: December 21: The Task Force to Investigate Terrorism Financing of the House Financial Services Committee released a report on December 20 highlighting the methods terrorist groups use to secure money and prescribing ways for the United States to combat them. This article goes on to say: he radical Islamist terrorist group profits so extensively from stolen antiquities that the task force held a hearing dedicated to the matter April 19 titled “Preventing Cultural Genocide: Countering the Plunder and Sale of Priceless Cultural Antiquities by ISIS.”
Looking at the report itself, it rehashes some of the already discredited claims regarding the level of finance, giving sources such as the Washington Post and the Russian ambassador. Here is an example of what the report states, as found on page 11: Although there is not an exact estimate of how much ISIS profits overall from looting antiquities, Iraqi officials claimed in 2015 that ISIS could be generating as much as $100 million annually (Source: Testimony by Robert M. Edsel, Chairman of the Board, Monuments Men Foundation, Hearings, supra note 17 (Preventing Cultural Genocide: Countering the Plunder and Sale of Priceless Cultural Antiquities by ISIS).
Incredibly, page 4 of the report’s appendix goes as far as reviving what almost nobody still believes regarding the importance of antiquities to terrorist financing: Some analysts believe that the second largest source of revenue for the Islamic State is the sale of antiquities looted from areas under the group's control (Source: Testimony of Matthew Levitt, Director of the Stein Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence, Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Terrorist Financing and the Islamic State: Hearing before the H. Comm. on Financial Services, 113th Cong. (Nov. 13, 2014). Note the source to this claim is over two years old.
New York Dealer Charged with Smuggling East Asian Antiquities
Art Forum: December 22: Manhattan’s district attorney’s office has charged Nancy Wiener, founder of her eponymous gallery on the Upper East Side, with possession of stolen goods and conspiracy to traffic East Asian antiquities, Lisa Bannon and Christopher S. Stewart of the Wall Street Journal report.
According to the complaint, Wiener allegedly falsified documents for objects that had been looted from archaeological sites before selling them to buyers, museums, and auction houses between 1999 and 2016. Wiener, who has sold illegal artifacts to both Sotheby’s and Christie’s, turned herself in to the authorities and was subsequently arraigned in Manhattan’s criminal court and then released.
The trafficking of cultural goods
The Art Media Agency, Paris: December 27: This fairly dusty article looks at the problem from a legal standpoint, summarising its various aspects and setting everything in the context of UNESCO. However, of vital importance is what it states about the fourth and final category for consideration: professional rules applicable to art-market professionals. It is worth quoting in full: “Indeed, it’s impossible to conceive the fight against the trafficking of cultural objects without the involvement of [art market] professionals. The procedures which they implement when carrying out research into the origins of the goods that they sell constitute obstacles to the sale of trafficked pieces.”
This is recognition from the AMA, which is usually critical of the trade, that the trade’s professional codes of conduct are vital in the fight against terrorist financing. And yet, as we continue to argue, the trade is almost never invited to take part in the debate.
New ‘Red List’ for West Africa helps to protect art, cultural antiquities
Africa Times: December 29: The International Council of Museums (ICOM) has released a “red list” for West Africa that highlights the cultural objects and artifacts most at risk of being looted, stolen, or illegally exported and trafficked.
The Red List of West African Cultural Objects at Risk is similar to ICOM lists issued for other regions of the world and meant to protect their cultural heritage. The new eight-page guide is not a list of stolen or missing items, but rather an educational tool designed to prevent illegal transactions.
Red list: http://goo.gl/bMORYj
Ministry of Antiquities to sign cooperation protocol with Ministry of Tourism
Egypt Daily News: December 29: The protocol allows the Ministry of Tourism to manage tourist services in the pyramids area, which could be extended to other archaeological areas, Minister of Antiquities Khaled El-Anany said.
The ministry intends to participate in two archaeological exhibitions across six global capital cities in 2017, as part of its plan to improve its financial resources and the marketing of Egyptian antiquities globally.
This article confirms what IADAA has been arguing for months: that Egypt’s reclamation of all antiquities – regardless of their legal status in other countries – is primarily concerned with restoring tourism revenues lost since the January 25, 2011 coup.