Italy Squandered €150m in Culture Funding

La dea di Aidone
La dea di Aidone

The Art Newspaper reported last week after examining EU documents, that Italy has been stripped of €151m in culture funding next year because regions have failed to spend funds allocated. This includes the loss of funding for Aidone, which is the village near the ancient site of Morgantina:

The EU rejected a request for €2.4m from the Archaeological Museum of Aidone to renovate its galleries because of incomplete documentation and the lack of an “economic framework”. The museum was due to welcome back the Head of Hades (400-300BC), a Hellenistic terracotta fragment that was restored to Sicily by the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles in January. But the sculpture, thought to have been illegally excavated from a sanctuary at Morgantina in the 1970s, remains in limbo in Palermo, partly because the Aidone museum has not prepared a suitable display for it.

This is a really sad development. It seems now very difficult to square the argument that works of art must be returned when the requesting nation cannot properly manage funding that is available. The step here needs to be capacity building for these smaller museums and regions to properly instruct the employees the expectations of grant requests and the expectations.

There may be another side to this story. The English-language reporting of happenings in Italy often have a Northern-European bias. But its hard to put a positive spin on such wasted resources.

We’ll hopefully be in Aidone and Morgantina in a week’s time—we are able to sneak away from my cultural heritage law course in Valletta, Malta. I hope to have some images and thoughts on the site and museum in Aidone soon.

Tina Lepri & Hannah McGivern, Italy squanders €150m in EU grants, http://theartnewspaper.com/news/conservation/italy-squanders-hundreds-of-millions-in-eu-grants/.

60 Minutes Reports on the Knoedler art fraud scandal

This forged work forgot to spell Jackson Pollock's last name with a 'c'
This forged work forgot to spell Jackson Pollock’s last name with a ‘c’

In case you haven’t seen it yet, 60 minutes examined the rapid fall of the Knoedler Art Gallery in 2011. The piece does a thorough job of giving background on the Knoedler Gallery, the role of the Cataloge Raisonne, and scientific testing.

I found particularly interesting this exchange between Anderson Cooper, and Domenico de Sole, one of the collectors, and the chairman of Sotheby’s which underscores the role of reputation and trust in the art market:

Anderson Cooper: Do you feel you did enough due diligence as a buyer?

Domenico de Sole: My due diligence was to go to the best, most prominent gallery in the United States dealing with a person with a stellar reputation, and pay a price that was reasonable, it was fair.

Domenico de Sole was the person who bought that $8 million fake Mark Rothko and told us he believes Knoedler Gallery and its President Ann Freedman either knew or should have known that this lucrative collection could not possibly be genuine. Greg Clarick is his attorney.

Greg Clarick: The red flags began with the notion that Glafira Rosales, who was an unknown person to Knoedler, who Knoedler never investigated, came in and she started delivering what turned out to be an endless stream of never-before-seen paintings was enough to raise a huge red flag.

Anderson Cooper: Strangers don’t walk off the street into a gallery saying that they have access to a never-before-seen collection of some of the greatest masterpieces

Greg Clarick: That’s right. Second, the works had no provenance.

Anderson Cooper: No chain, no history?

Greg Clarick: They had no history. They had no documents.

Anderson Cooper: So there was no evidence these paintings had ever been painted by the artists?

Greg Clarick: That’s correct.

Not only that, there were no bills of sale, no insurance records, no shipping documents, and no museum exhibitions for any of the paintings. Greg Clarick told us the gallery had motivation to overlook the paintings’ shortcomings.

Greg Clarick: Over the period of this fraud, Knoedler sold these paintings for about $67 million. Knoedler made over $40 million in profit from selling these paintings. And at the same time, Knoedler made essentially no money at all from selling other paintings.

Work in Progress on Authenticating Art

F_FOR_FAKE_COVER

I’ve posted a draft of a forthcoming work on art authentication on SSRN. The piece is scheduled for publication in the Mississippi Law Journal in the fall. I probably enjoyed writing this piece more than I should have. Our appetite for stories about art forgery and art authentication are indeed boundless, and in researching the piece, they’ve been boundless for a long time. Criminologists were studying art forgery as early as the 1960s. From the abstract:

The determination of a work of art as authentic (or not) makes a tremendous difference in the value of a work of art. Owing to the millions of dollars which can be added, or subtracted, to a work of art when an authentication opinion is made, lawsuits will often be the last resort of those unhappy with an authentication. Determining with absolute certainty, the authenticity of a work of art takes the combined expertise of art historians, scientists, and art connoisseurs. Previous examinations of the problem of art fraud and counterfeit art have focused on criminal offenses, pointed to market failures, and even argued that we should not care too much about fake art at all if nobody notices. These examinations all fail to give sufficient weight to the sheer difficulty of the task. It takes tremendous expertise required to correctly determine the artist who created a work of art, and the period in which the object was fashioned. The pages which follow argue art authentication and the experts who make them have gotten a bad reputation. Instead, their analysis should be properly valued as expert testimony in court in art authentication disputes, and should be protected from vexatious litigation.
Derek Fincham, Authenticating Art by Valuing Art Experts, SSRN Scholarly Paper ID 2770705 (Social Science Research Network), Apr. 26, 2016.

Greece reported to be seeking International Justice for the Parthenon

The Ilissos sculpture, on display in London, originally adorned the Parthenon
The Ilissos sculpture, on display in London, originally adorned the Parthenon

With 2016 marking the 200th anniversary of the acquisition of the Parthenon sculptures by Parliament from Lord Elgin, there will likely be a lot of attention paid to the long-running dispute. The Guardian reported yesterday on a legal summary authored by Geoffrey Robertson, Norman Palmer, and Amal Clooney. The possibility of bringing a claim before the ICJ, raising public support, and continuing to generate goodwill towards reunification of the monument in Athens are the major themes of the 141 page summary, available via the Guardian. But the major focus of the claim now seems to be a call for justice for the sculptures, an argument I’ve made as well building on the well-established principle of environmental justice.

The reporting by Helena Smith focuses on the work by advocates in Athens:

As campaigners prepare to mark the 200th anniversary of the antiquities’ “captivity” in London, Athens is working at forging alliances that would further empower its longstanding battle to retrieve the sculptures.

“We are trying to develop alliances which we hope would eventually lead to an international body like the United Nations to come with us against the British Museum,” the country’s culture minister, Aristides Baltas, revealed in an interview.

“If the UN represents all nations of the world and all nations of the world say ‘the marbles should be returned’ then we’ll go to court because the British Museum would be against humanity,” he said. “We do not regard the Parthenon as exclusively Greek but rather as a heritage of humanity.”

But the politician admitted there was always the risk of courts issuing a negative verdict that would wreck Athens’ chances of having the artworks reunited with the magnificent monument they once adorned.

“Courts do not by definition regard [any] issue at the level of history or morality or humanity-at-large. They look at the laws,” said Baltas, an academic and philosopher who played a pivotal role in founding Syriza, Greece’s governing leftist party. “As there are no hard and fast rules regarding the issue of returning treasures taken away from various countries, there is no indisputable legal basis.”

Helena Smith, Greece Looks to International Justice to Regain Parthenon Marbles from UK, The Guardian, May 8, 2016, http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2016/may/08/greece-international-justice-regain-parthenon-marbles-uk.
Derek Fincham, The Parthenon Sculptures and Cultural Justice, 23 Fordham Intellectual Property, Media & Entertainment Law Journal 943 (2013).
Christopher Hitchens, A Home for the Marbles, The New York Times, Jun. 19, 2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/19/opinion/19iht-edhitchens.html.
Michael Kimmelman, Elgin Marble Argument in a New Light, The New York Times, Jun. 24, 2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/24/arts/design/24abroad.html.
John Henry Merryman, Whither the Elgin Marbles, in Imperialism, art and restitution 98 (Cambridge Univ Pr 2006).
David Rudenstine, Lord Elgin and the Ottomans: The Question of Permission, 23 Cardozo L. Rev. 449 (2001).

Younging on Traditional Knowledge and Intellectual Property

A Caribbean Steel drum, an instrument made using traditional knowledge
A Caribbean Steel drum, an instrument made using traditional knowledge

Dr. Gregory Younging, at the University of British Columbia, has an interesting essay in the Pennsylvania Journal of International Law titled “Traditional Knowledge Exists; Intellectual Property is Invented or Created“. From the introduction:

Prior to contact with Europeans between 300 and 600 years ago, Traditional Knowledge (TK) systems had developed and flourished over thousands of years in various parts of the world. These knowledge systems are rich and varied, ranging from soil and plant taxonomy, cultural and genetic information, animal husbandry, medicine and pharmacology, ecology, zoology, music, arts, architecture, social welfare, governance, conflict management, and many others. Most of these TK systems continue to exist and evolve; at the same time, they have been appropriated and subjected to Western legal regimes. Indigenous cultural expressions are manifestations of TK that are passed on by Indigenous ancestors through successive generations. They are, in turn, inherited by current, to be passed on to future, generations.

Some thoughts on Remote Houston

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Downtown Houston, part of our Remote “Tour”

What would happen if some thoughtful people added some real art to the idea of the audio guide. What if you ditch the whole name. What if you took the best parts of Radiohead’s OK Computer, flashmobs, our fears of mortality, our reliance of technology, confronted 50 people with the idea of a city, and took them through the parts of a city we often ignore?

You’d end up I think with something like “Remote Houston”. An experience put together by the arts collective Rimini Protokoll based in Berlin. The idea is adaptable to different cities, and each tour is modified to account for the quirks of different cities. “Remote Houston” begins in Evergreen Cemetery, and ends in the heart of Houston’s downtown.

What you get out of each tour will be personal and different. I was struck by how the tour was tied so closely to the idea of life and death and the passage of time. All concepts that we teach in law school, with are given arcane names with course titles like “Trusts and Estates” and cover concepts like “dead hand control” and the like. These doctrines are integral to our courses and doctrine, but never really made tangible. At least not in this way.

As Molly Glentzer, an art critic for the Houston Chronicle discussed during our recent tour together pointed out in her review:

Continue reading Some thoughts on Remote Houston

House Task Force discussing Terrorism Financing and Antiquities

This morning a Congressional Task Force to Investigate Terrorism Financing is discussing terrorism and the antiquities trade:

Witnesses include:

Here is the Memo prepared by the Congressional Research Service prepared for the House Committee on Financial Services:

 

041916 Tf Supplemental Hearing Memo