A Silver Rhyton depicting a stag, ca. 14th-13th C BCE. One of the objects Turkey has reportedly inquired about from the Met.

A Silver Rhyton depicting a stag, ca. 14th-13th C BCE. One of the objects Turkey has reportedly inquired about from the Met.

Disputes over works of art continue to hamper relationships between major Museums and nations of origin. One example is what appears to be a strained relationship between Turkey and the Met.

The Met is planning a major exhibition on the Seljuk Islamic empire. But the show

looks to be hampered by Turkey’s cultural embargo which demands a return of works of art before any new material will be loaned. As Tim Cornwell reports for the Art Newspaper:

Without loans from Turkey, and with Iranian loans unlikely unless there is a sudden improvement in relations between the US and Iran, the Met will have to rely on major loans from British and European institutions instead.

. . .

But Turkish loans could have ranged from manuscripts from the Topkapi Palace Museum in Istanbul and trophy items, such as an extraordinary steel mirror with gold inlay also housed there, to reliefs from the walls of Konya, the Seljuks’ historic capital in Anatolia.

A tile from the Seljuk Ceramics Museum in Konya

A tile from the Seljuk Ceramics Museum in Konya

Turkey has asked for a number of objects back from the Met, the British Museum and other institutions. Some of them removed from Turkey very early in the 20th Century.

According to reporting at Chasing Aphrodite, those objects requested by Turkey from the Met include objects with no history before from the Norbert Schimmel collection acquired them in the 1960s-70s. The ongoing dispute is a pity, as it harms both the ability of curators at the Met to secure Seljuk material for the exhibition, and hampers Turkey’s opportunity to present its heritage to new audiences.

  1. No Turkish loans for big Met show, The Art Newspaper (Oct 9, 2014).
Mark Landis on a "philanthropic binge"

Mark Landis on a “philanthropic binge”

We might forgive the casual observer’s relaxed views of art forgers. Perhaps because many of us, on some level, love an outlaw. Tales of art forgers have been popular: Clifford Irving’s Fake! (1969) examined the life of notorious art faker Elmyr de Höry. Orson Welles’ documentary examination of creation and storytelling F for Fake (1973) still cuts to the heart of what it means to make art. Done well, portrayals of art forgery force us to question the aesthetic experience. Yet many fail to acknowledge the underlying wrongdoing. Putting aside their colorful stories and backgrounds, all art counterfeiters are creating an elaborate lie. These individuals defraud our collective cultural heritage by distorting the body of work that artists have created. Prof. John Henry Merryman has called art counterfeiters “cultural vandals”. Those who watch the new documentary, Art and Craft, will first want to mark its subject as a vandal, but by the end may feel differently about him.

The documentary offers a terrific examination of the complicated predicament Landis gifted to at least 46 museums in 20 States. And does so by allowing the museum staff and Landis himself to tell us how he was able to fool so many for so long.

Landis would forge works with skill, such skill that he was able to use surprisingly inexpensive materials. But rather than sell his works, he would pose as a donor and give away his forged work. Most recently he impersonated a Jesuit priest. In the past he would pretend to come from old money. He would arrive at mostly small to mid-size art museums in his deceased mother’s cadillac and give his forged creations away. The documentary film, directed by Sam Cullman and Jennifer Grausman, with Mark Becker co-directing, gives us a first-hand view of how Landis creates forgeries and shows him giving them away. Viewers will  come away with different impressions of the man. Landis battles anxiety, schizophrenia, and other mental illnesses. In scenes where he describes his day-to-day well-being to doctors and caregivers, he’s asked how he stays busy, how he engages with the world.

Landis forges with simple materials: instant coffee, cheap frames, plywood, photocopies, some paint and most of all clever technique. His materials are purchased from chain hobby and home improvement stores. The man who finally caught Landis was Mat Leininger, a former Registrar at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art  The filmmakers hint at but don’t quite dive in to the tricky question of whether Leinenger’s pursuit of Landis and his forgeries made his employers at the Cincinnati Art Museum uncomfortable, or if there were other reasons for his dismissal. But for much of the film Leininger offer’s Prof. Merryman’s position, basically pointing out Landis’s wrongdoing, and expressing frustration at how difficult it can be to convince some museum staff that they have been fooled. Special praise should go to those curators who were willing to be filmed on camera after having been fooled.

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Interior of Crac des Chevaliers

Interior of Crac des Chevaliers

And a photo of the same section taken during the Spring of 2014 showing considerable damage

And a photo of the same section taken during the Spring of 2014 showing considerable damage

How much has antiquities looting contributed to funding ISIS? There are a lot of speculative reports out there, but due to the nature of the illicit antiquities trade, and the dearth of first hand reporting the situation remains murky. There seems to be a good opportunity given what we know about the unscrupulous portions of the trade.

Michael Danti in an interview with Rachel Martin for All Things Considered summarizes the second and third hand accounts he’s heard:

MARTIN: Obviously this is part of the world that has a long history with cultural looting and the illegal excavation of antiquities, the sale of those treasures on the black market. How is what’s happening now different than other chapters of this kind of theft and destruction?

DANTI: Well, we’re used to, unfortunately, accustomed to seeing cultural heritage crimes in Iraq. What’s different with Syria is this scale of built heritage in Syria; old city neighborhood in Aleppo, Damascus, Homs and Hamas – neighborhoods that date back 4, 5, 600 years. The number of standing Hellenistic Roman and Byzantine architectural remains there are throughout the country; there’s so much that’s exposed to collateral or intentional damage through combat. There’s damage from vandalism. There are archaeological looters moving in and excavating into the sites. And then there’s just the inevitable destruction that’s caused by neglect because preservation specialists can’t come in and work at the sites and maintain them.

The sliver of good news that I see is the different tone coming from the State Department with respect to heritage issues. Last week Secretary of State John Kerry announced the State Department would partner with the American Schools of Orient Research to document threats to cultural heritage sites in Iraq and Syria.

From Kerry’s remarks at the Met last week:

ISIL is not only beheading individuals; it is tearing at the fabric of whole civilizations. It has no respect for life. It has no respect for religion. And it has no respect for culture, which for millions is actually the foundation of life. Far from hiding their destruction of churches and mosques, they broadcast these, purposefully and with pride, for all the world to see their act of depravity and for all of us to be intimidated and to perhaps back off from our values. For the proud people of Iraq and Syria – ancient civilizations, civilizations of great beauty, great accomplishment, of extraordinary history and intellectual achievement – the destruction of their heritage is a purposeful final insult, and another example of ISIL’s implacable evil. ISIL is stealing lives, yes, but it’s also stealing the soul of millions.

How shocking and historically shameful it would be if we did nothing while the forces of chaos rob the very cradle of our civilization. So many different traditions trace their roots back to this part of the world, as we all know. This is the first thing many of us learned in school. The looting of Apamea and Dura Europos, the devastation caused by fighting in the ancient UNESCO heritage city of Aleppo, the destruction of the Tomb of Jonah – these appalling acts aren’t just a tragedy for the Syrian and the Iraqi people. These acts of vandalism are a tragedy for all civilized people, and the civilized world must take a stand.

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Alexander Calder's 'Flamingo'

Alexander Calder’s ‘Flamingo’

DePaul is once again hosting its terrific National Cultural Heritage Law Moot Court Competition. This is a terrific tournament, in its sixth year, with rounds argued in the Dirksen Federal Building in Chicago. If you are a law student interested in meeting some cultural heritage lawyers, and getting some great moot court experience, this is a terrific opportunity. There is still time to register. Here are the details:

DePaul College of Law and the Lawyers’ Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation are pleased to announce that registration for the Sixth Annual Cultural Heritage Law Moot Court Competition is now open! The Oral Arguments for the 2015 Competition will be held on February 27th and 28th, 2015 at the Everett M. Dirksen United States Courthouse, home of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, in Chicago, Illinois.

The 2015 Competition will focus on constitutional challenges to the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990 (VARA), 17 U.S.C. § 106A, which protects visual artists’ moral rights of attribution and integrity. The problem will address both a First Amendment and a Fifth Amendment challenge to VARA.

The competition is open to 26 two- and three-member student teams from ABA-accredited or provisionally accredited law schools. Schools may register up to two teams at a rate of $450.00 per team.  The registration deadline is November 20, 2014. The problem will be released on November 21, 2014. Visit the competition website at go.depaul.edu/chmoot for additional details or to register a team. Contact the Competition Board at chmoot@gmail.com with any questions regarding the competition.

Attorneys interested in serving as judges or brief graders should contact chmootjudges@gmail.com. CLE credit is available for attorneys who participate as judges.

 

This Chart from the Economist, from June, 2014 shows the growing influence of ISIS

This Chart from the Economist, from June, 2014 shows the areas under ISIS control

Three academics (Amr Al-Azm Salam al-Kuntar, and Brian I. Daniels) who have been training Syrian preservationists in Southern Turkey have some more anecdotal insights into how deep the connection between ISIS and the illicit antiquities trade is in an OpEd appearing in the International NY Times:

In extensive conversations with those working and living in areas currently under ISIS control, we learned that ISIS is indeed involved in the illicit antiquities trade, but in a way that is more complex and insidious than we expected. (Our contacts and sources, whom we cannot name for reasons of their safety, continue their work under the most dangerous of conditions.)

ISIS does not seem to have devoted the manpower of its army to the active work of looting archaeological sites. Rather, its involvement is financial. In general, ISIS permits local inhabitants to dig at these sites in exchange for a percentage of the monetary value of any finds.

The group’s rationale for this levy is the Islamic khums tax, according to which Muslims are required to pay a percentage of the value of any goods or treasure recovered from the ground. ISIS claims to be the legitimate recipient of such proceeds.

The amount levied for the khums varies by region and the type of object recovered. In ISIS-controlled areas at the periphery of Aleppo Province in Syria, the khums is 20 percent. In the Raqqa region, the levy can reach up to 50 percent or even higher if the finds are from the Islamic period (beginning in the early-to-mid-seventh century) or made of precious metals like gold.

The scale of looting varies considerably under this system, and much is left to the discretion of local ISIS leaders. For a few areas, such as the ancient sites along Euphrates, ISIS leaders have encouraged digging by semiprofessional field crews. These teams are often from Iraq and are applying and profiting from their experience looting ancient sites there. They operate with a “license” from ISIS, and an ISIS representative is assigned to oversee their work to ensure the proper use of heavy machinery and to verify accurate payment of the khums.

But how much exactly does this amount to? The answer is difficult to quantify. As Sam Hardy points out, the recent claim that ISIS has garnered $36m from antiquities looted in its territory is likely inaccurate:

I can only reiterate that it is (literally) unimaginable that the Islamic State is making $36m from a 0.2%-0.4% share of the market value of the antiquities that have been looted from one district under its rule (as $36m from a 20% khums tax on looters’ and traffickers’ own 1%-2% share would imply a trade value of $9b-$18b of antiquities from al-Nabk alone).

Al-kuntar Amr Al-azm & Brian I. Daniels, ISIS’ Antiquities Sideline, N.Y. T., Sept. 2, 2014.

 

Rock art destruction and looting in California's Owens Valley

Rock art destruction and looting in California’s Owens Valley

Central California PBS affiliate KVIE has a segment showing and discussing the theft and destruction of ancient petroglyphs from California. It shows some of the sites themselves, the damage they have suffered, and a good overview of the laws protecting these sites. The segment really hits its stride in pointing out the disconnect between laws protecting these sites, and the local populations. There is a lot more public awareness needed. People should know better, but they don’t yet, and cultural resource managers need to redouble their efforts to do a better job educating the public about why they shouldn’t damage sites and remove items.

 

The full segment is below the jump.

 

 

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The Roman Colonnade at Apamea

The Roman Colonnade at Apamea, satellite images show extensive looting there since the beginning of conflict in Syria

Ursula Lindsey reports for the Chronicle of Higher Education on what foreign academics are doing to combat the looting and destruction in Syria:

Scholars can do little to stop the fighting and looting, but they have created blogs, websites, Facebook pages, and Twitter accounts to monitor the destruction and raise awareness about it. By sharing excavation records, scholars outside the Middle East have helped their counterparts in the Arab world to compile online lists of missing or stolen objects.

Cheikhmous Ali, an archaeologist at the University of Strasbourg, in France, founded the Association for the Protection of Syrian Archaeology, which relies on an underground network of activists and journalists to document damage to historical sites in Syria. The Syrian authorities are often suspicious of people taking photos, so the association’s volunteer informants sometimes use hidden devices, such as tiny digital cameras inserted into pens, to accomplish their goals.

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"Madonna with the saints John the Evangelist and Gregory the Wonderworker", 1639, by the Italian artist Guercino

“Madonna with the saints John the Evangelist and Gregory the Wonderworker”, 1639, by the Italian artist Guercino

Holidays and festivals always bring increased risks to works of art. Perhaps because the usual traffic of locals and visitors is reduced, and there aren’t as many who might notice something that would be odd or uncharacteristic. I’m not sure if that is one of the contributing factors to the theft of this Guercino depicting St. John the Evangelist and the Madonna. The work was stolen from the Church of San Vincenzo in Modena Italy earlier this week. Whether the start of Italy’s Ferragosto holiday this week led to the Church being more at risk is just speculation on my part, but may have been a contributing factor. Perhaps the biggest factor is the lack of funding at the Church, and the inability to pay the bills on a security system installed to protect the works in the church. As reported by Hannah McGivern in the Art Newspaper:

According to the parish priest Gianni Gherardi, who reported the theft, the church could not afford to insure the painting. Its alarm system—fitted during a renovation in the mid-1990s that was financed by the local bank Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Modena—had been inactive since the funds dried up, said Monsignor Giacomo Morandi, the vicar of the archdiocese. 

Church theft is a difficult problem in Italy, with so many churches filled with so much amazing art, hardening all these sites to thwart theft is an expensive and difficult undertaking. Church art theft usually involves smaller minor objects like candlesticks, smaller paintings of lesser value, and other ecclesiastical art. This theft appears to be of a much higher profile. This high profile of course makes it more of a headache for the thieves. There is no legitimate market any time soon for this work.

 

At left, one of Patrick Cariou's photographs of Rastafarian's, and at right, a painting from Prince's 'Canal Zone' series

At left, one of Patrick Cariou’s photographs of Rastafarian’s, and at right, a painting from Prince’s ‘Canal Zone’ series

The Harvard Law Review has a tidy summary of the recent Second Circuit decision in Cariou v. Prince. From the note:

Recently, in Cariou v. Prince, the Second Circuit held that a series of photographic collages described as “appropriation art” qualified as fair use despite the fact that both the collage and the original photographs served similar expressive purposes, albeit in very different manners. The court adopted the broadest definition of transformation to date, which, though formally reliant on the language in Campbell, relaxed the requirements for transformativeness such that a work need only show “new expression, meaning, or message.”” Because of the variety of prior definitions and the broad language in Campbell, the Cariou rule is not precluded by precedent. However, such a broad formulation blurs the line between a transformative work and the right to prepare derivative works under 17 U.S.C. § 106(2), and the court does not provide an aesthetically neutral method of distinguishing between the two. Unless and until the statute is changed, future courts should resolve the tension in a way that both preserves the derivative work right and precludes value judgments of new art forms.

Cariou v. Prince, 714 F.3d 694 (U.S. Court of Appeals, 2nd Circuit 2013).
Copyright Law – Fair Use – Second Circuit Holds That Appropriation Artwork Need Not Comment on the Original to Be Transformative – Cariou V. Prince, 714 F.3d 694 (2d Cir. 2013), 127 Harv. L. Rev. 1228 (2013).
Satellite images of Aleppo from March 2013 on the left, compared with May 26, 2013

Satellite images of Aleppo from March 2013 on the left, compared with May 26, 2013

Its not just ancient sites and archaeology that are at risk in Syria. The NPR program Fresh Air today featured a terrific interview with a former punk band drummer who was able to capture recordings of some ancient religious chants in Christian and Sufi communities in Syria. He was able to this before the outbreak of the Civil War there. In relating the history of these musical and religious traditions Jason Hamacher gives a sad account of how much is being lost in Syria as the conflict there continues. Here’s one exchange between the host Teri Gross and Jason Hamacher:

GROSS: So you must have a lot of photographs of ancient sites in Syria that have been fully or partially destroyed by the Civil War?

HAMACHER: Correct. The perfect example is, there was a neighborhood called Jdeideh. It’s actually the Armenian quarter of the city. And they had the absolute best restaurants. There were these five, six, seven hundred-year-old mansions that had a covered – the restaurants were set up in these courtyards and the food was just unbelievable. The food from Aleppo has been regarded throughout history as some of the best Middle Eastern food on earth. The Ottoman sultans would actually have their chefs either train in Aleppo or bring someone from Aleppo to learn how to do this amazing cooking.

Almost that entire neighborhood is gone, leveled. There was a place called the Sissi House that was in Jdeideh that I used to eat at all the time. And it was bombed; gone. Like, someone sent me a photo and I couldn’t even – they’re like, do you think this is the Sissi House?

I couldn’t even understand what I was looking at. There’s so much of that.

GROSS: The cathedral that you recorded the ancient version of “The Lord’s Prayer” that we heard, is that cathedral still standing? Was that cathedral affected by the bombing and the shelling in Syria?

HAMACHER: It still stands. It’s riddled with bullet holes. Everything has suffered damage.

The full audio is embedded below the jump.

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