The Asia Week in New York is an effort by galleries and Museums to exhibit Asian art and promote sales. According to Tom Mashberg’s reporting in the New York Times, it generated $360 million in sales last year.
But this year the event also generated considerable law enforcement attention, with by my count the seizure of eight antiquities. At least so far It revealed again the depressing scope of antiquities looting networks. Even when a network is revealed, and dismantled, objects appear again on the market for years after a successful investigation—in some cases decades or more. The ICE press release estimated that the Kapoor investigation and Operation Hidden Idol has secured over 2,500 objects, worth an estimated $100 million, with a total of four arrests.
The seizures at Asia Week this year stem largely from the investigation by Federal Agents, in cooperation with Indian authorities, of Subhash Kapoor.
Chasing Aphrodite has comprehensive coverage, and offers this background on the investigation:
It is getting harder and harder to keep up with all of the cultural heritage law events and conferences which are happening. One of the best resources is the opportunities list put together every week by Donna Yates on her excellent blog. In the next few days, there are two excellent heritage law events, first in New York, and another in Washington D.C.
First off is the Lawyers Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation Annual Conference on Friday March 25. It includes panels on the Parthenon Sculptures, Restitution, Conflict-Related looting, and digital heritage. The full schedule and speakers are available here.
And then next week on Tuesday and Wednesday a conference titled “Intersections in International Cultural Heritage Law” at Georgetown University Law Center offers six panels on topics including human rights and cultural heritage, International criminal law and Heritage, the World Court and the Temple of Preah Vihear, and the ongoing situation in Syria and Iraq.
I was able to arrange my schedule and will be at both events. I’ll try to tweet the noteworthy comments and happenings, so you can follow along, but more importantly, if you are there, I’d be very happy to grab a beer or a coffee.
Lauren Jean Bradberry, a third year law student at Louisiana State has a comment in volume 76 of the Louisiana Law Review examining the scope of copyright protection for architecture. It offers an interesting read, so long as you can forgive the puns we lawyers seem to love.
This week at the ICC the trial of Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi began. He stands accused of directing the destruction of medieval tombs and a mosque, all world heritage sites, and all a part of Timbuktu’s 15th century heritage. Owen Bowcott reports for the Gaurdian that:
No Taliban or al-Qaida leader was charged with the destruction of Afghanistan’s sixth-century Bamiyan Buddhas, which were dynamited in 2001. Khmer Rouge genocide trials did not deal with the looting of Cambodia’s Hindu temples. Nor have Islamic State leaders been indicted for destroying Assyrian statues from Nineveh or razing Roman ruins in Palmyra.
The damage inflicted on Timbuktu, known as “the city of 333 saints”, followed the rebellion of al-Qaida-inspired Tuareg militias, armed with weapons from Libya, in the central African state in 2012.
Faqi, a local ethnic Tuareg, is said to have been a member of Ansar Dine and the head of Hesbah, known as the Manners’ Brigade, which considered the mausoleums – built to pay homage to deceased saints – to be blasphemous.
He is accused of directing attacks on 10 ancient mud-brick buildings in June 2012 and July 2012. One of the desecrated sites was the Sidi Yahya mosque, built in 1440 when Timbuktu was a regional centre for learning. It contained Prof Sidi Yahya’s mausoleum.