2008 In Review

I’m a little late with my 2008 in review, but as this post will be my 500th, and as the blog has eclipsed the 100,000-pages-read mark, I think its a good time to look back on art and antiquities policy in 2008.  Pictured here is a part of the New Prospect.1 New Orleans Biennial.

  1. In January a massive search of the the LA County Museum of Art, along with Pasadena’s Pacific Asia Museum, the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana and the Mingei Museum in San Diego seemed to signal new scrutiny by federal authorities of the antiquities trade.  However the investigation seems to have stalled significantly, as Roxanna Brown died in federal custody
  2. Also in January, Shelby White agreed to return antiquities from her private collection to Italy continuing Italy’s wildly successful repatriation policy, which was further-publicized by the travelling “Nostoi” exhibition.  
  3. The extent of the forgeries produced by the Bolton forgers started to emerge as well, and revealed the underlying difficulty the art and antiquities trade has in authentication.  Even for world-class institutions, the temptation to purchase a masterwork at a “bargain” price is too tempting.  
  4. The ongoing dispute between Spain, Odyssey Marine, and even Peru over a massive underwater discovery has been taking place in Federal District Court in Florida.  
  5. In December, Peru filed suit against Yale University seeking the return of a number of objects from Machu Picchu. 
  6. Italy and the Cleveland Museum of Art reached an agreement to return antiquities to Italy.
  7. The state of Iraq’s heritage has been in the news a great deal this last year as well, with a number of seizures, arrests and returns.
  8. In June, the AAMD issued a new ethics policy for the acquisition of antiquities, which stated essentially that in most cases a museum should not acquire an object unless evidence exists that the object was outside its “country of probable modern discovery before 1970, or was legally exported from its probably country of modern discovery after 1970.”
  9. New Economic models were proposed for the antiquities trade, which share a lot of characteristics with some of the old models, but could if implemented carefully do a lot of good.
  10. The state of the American economy has made deacessioning an emerging issue for many arts institutions, and reveals I think a number of interesting discrepancies in how we think art should be displayed and allocated.

Many thanks for your continued readership.  

Questions or Comments? Email me at derek.fincham@gmail.com

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