In an LA Times OP-ED, Erin Thompson argues Syria is home to a rich array of cultural heritage. Noting the risk to the works of art from thousands of archaeological sites, she highlights an under-acknowledged threat.
The Art Loss Register and Julian Radcliffe got the New York Times treatment last week. I think it was an accurate portrayal of the ALR and its role in the art market. I couldn’t help but be a little disappointed in many of the same art crime tropes that some are unable to resist in a piece like this. Things like Radcliffe’s physical appearance, his almost spy-novel backstory, and other aspects distracted me from some of the good reporting in the piece.
The main point holds true I think, that nobody really loves the ALR, but they do perform a service for the Art Market. Much of the criticism lobbied against the organization is entirely justified, but many critics point to the fact that the ALR not only is a database, but also acts as a stolen art recovery service, in exchange for a sizable portion of the value of the work. That has often put them in an uneasy position.
For example the incident involving a Norman Rockwell painting, ‘Russian Schoolroom’ is discussed:
Judy Goffman Cutler, an art dealer who became entangled in a Register hunt for a Norman Rockwell painting, has sued the company twice, contending that it harassed her for years in its zeal to collect a fee for recovering the work.
Mrs. Cutler had clear title to the painting in 1989, when she sold it to the director Steven Spielberg. Later it was mistakenly listed as stolen by the F.B.I. and, consequently, the Register, which tried for years to recover it.
Mrs. Cutler said that the Register pursued her even after company officials had reason to know she had done nothing wrong. Neither of her suits against the company succeeded, and she is still angry.
“They knew better but chose to follow the greedy path,” she said.
The Register has characterized its dispute with Mrs. Cutler as a misunderstanding based on faulty information it received from the F.B.I. and others that suggested that the painting was stolen.
I have heard many similar arguments and criticisms of the ALR. Dorothy King relates a similar example from last year.
Have any experience dealing with the ALR that you’d like to share? Comment below or drop me a note.
- Kate Taylor & Lorne Manly, Tracking Stolen Art, for Profit, and Blurring a Few Lines, The New York Times, September 20, 2013.
I’ve been forwarded on details of a promising conference coming up at DePaul’s Center for Art, Museum & Cultural Heritage Law in November. From the announcement:
The conference, Restitution and Repatriation: The Return of Cultural Objects Symposium will be held at DePaul University College of Law in Chicago on Thursday, November 14, 2013. The program will address the underlying legal, ethical and moral reasons and policies behind the return of cultural objects. Panels will discuss provenance research, museum acquisitions, historical appropriations, and the ethical issues that come into play when requests for repatriation are made.
Our Featured Lecturer will be Jack Trope, Executive Director of the Association on American Indian Affairs. Other speakers include: Lori Breslauer, Acting General Counsel of the Field Museum of Natural History; Steve Nash, Chair of the Department of Anthropology and Curator of Archaeology at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science; Rebecca Tsosie, a Willard H. Pedrick Distinguished Research Scholar and Professor of Law at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University; Richard M. Leventhal, the Director of the Penn Cultural Heritage Center; Charles Brian Rose, a James B. Pritchard Professor of Mediterranean Archaeology in the Department of Classical Studies and Curator-in-Charge of the Mediterranean Section of the Penn Museum; Marc-André Renold, Director of the Art-Law Centre at the University of Geneva; Frank Lord, an associate at Herrick Feinstein LLP; Thomas R. Kline, Of Counsel in the Washington, D.C. office of Andrews Kurth LLP; and Simon Frankel, a partner at Covington & Burling LLP, as well as several other leaders in the art, museum, and cultural heritage fields.
Be sure to check out the events page for this and other heritage events coming up, or to alert me about upcoming conferences.
Tatiana Flessas (Law Department, London School of Economics) has a new work-in-progress titled “The Ends of the Museum“.
Here’s the Abstract:
Dawn raids in London, Sussex, Cambridgeshire, the West Midlands, Essex, and Northern Ireland have netted the arrest of 19 individuals in connection with the theft of Chinese works of art and rhinoceros horn. The arrests were connected to six thefts, which occurred over four months in 2012:
The University of London is testing the deaccession waters, tentatively planning to auction four early Shakespeare folios. They were gifted to the University’s Senate House Library in 1956. The proposal to sell them has drawn the usual arguments about commodification of rare objects, and the possible reticence of future donors to donate their rare possessions: Continue reading “University of London Considering a Deaccession of Shakespeare Folios”
As Congress debates whether to authorize military action in Syria in the wake of reported chemical weapons attacks, NBC’s science blog discusses the current state of looting and destruction during Syria’s ongoing Civil war:
Over thousands of years, a large mound, or tell, forms with layers of each civilization piled atop one another, said Jesse Casana, an archaeologist at the University of Arkansas and the chairman of the American Schools of Oriental Research’s Damascus Committee.