|The Alexander Sarcophagus in Istanbul|
Of marbles and men | The Economist
Turkey is looking at its past and ramping up repatriation (politely for now). You know how the Economist will come out on this issue perhaps, but they give it away in the first paragraph by recounting the Ottoman removal from Sidon of the Alexander Sarcophagus. Repatriation targets for Turkey include practically everyone: the Met, the British Museum, “the Louvre, the Pergamon, London’s Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A), the Gulbenkian Museum in Lisbon, the Davids Samling Museum in Denmark, the Dumbarton Oaks Museum in Washington, DC, the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Getty. It has also claimed stolen antiquities that have been seized by police in Frankfurt, Florence, Bulgaria, Switzerland and Scotland.”
A couple of weeks ago I took a train to the handsome city of Baltimore and saw the Bourne collection in its new home. It’s a revealing show with some lovely artifacts, including some I don’t remember seeing in Santa Fe. The painted Nasca stirrup bottles (right), masterpieces of design and economy dating from about 500 CE, alone were worth the trip. Yet I came away thinking that, perhaps without realizing it, the organizers have given an object lesson in the dangers of collecting antiquities that have no record of archaeological excavation. What I wrote in Stealing History – that “not a single piece on display” in the Bourne collection “gives a specific provenance, archaeological history or other sign it emerged from any place but a looter’s pit” – remains true but needs some amending.
My answer: Crystal Bridges is damn good. For one, the setting is lovely: 120 acres of Ozark forest set around a creek from which the museum takes it’s name. Two, even though Moshe Safdie’s buildings don’t exactly recede into the background, they are intriguing and work well as a museum.
Supreme Court Denies Cert | culturalpropertylaw.net
The Supreme Court has refused to hear Odyssey Marine’s Appeal of the Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes case.
Archaeologists accuse MoD of allowing Odyssey Marine to ‘plunder’ | theguardian
And more uncomfortable questions for Odyssey, this time with respect to their exploration of the HMS Victory:
The Ministry of Defence is facing a legal battle and parliamentary questions after letting a US company excavate a British 18th-century warship laden with a potentially lucrative cargo. Lord Renfrew is among leading archaeologists condemning a financial deal struck over HMS Victory, considered the world’s mightiest ship when she sank in a storm in the English Channel in 1744. In return for excavating the vessel’s historic remains, which may include gold and silver worth many millions of pounds, Odyssey Marine Exploration is entitled to receive “a percentage of the recovered artefacts’ fair value” or “artefacts in lieu of cash”.
The British have a dashed good collection of cultural artifacts in their various museums, but lately the coves have had a hell of a time hanging onto it. On Saturday evening a “nationally significant” medieval jug valued at $1.2 million was stolen from the Stockwood Discovery Centre in Luton. . .
In a country with more than 5,000 years of civilization buried under its sands, illegal digs have long been a problem. With only slight exaggeration, Egyptians like to joke you can dig anywhere and turn up something ancient, even if its just pottery shards or a statuette. But in the security void, the treasure hunting has mushroomed, with 5,697 cases of illegal digs since the start of the anti-Mubarak uprising in early 2011— 100 times more than the previous year, according to figures obtained by The Associated Press from the Interior Ministry, which is in charge of police.
Art Crime in Film: Jø Nesbo’s “Headhunter” | ARCA
Catherine discusses how well this Swedish film handles art theft. It does a pretty good job–for a movie. I give the film a thumbs up, but don’t watch this for the art theft. It’s a dark and bloody flick. We chuckled when Sweden’s number 1 detective was also the head of their art theft unit.
A priceless piece of Peru’s cultural heritage was put up for sale last week at Sotheby’s Auction House in New York, where it fetched $212,500. The object in question was a gold Sicán funeral mask, dating from somewhere between 950 and 1250 A.D., with its origins in the Pomac Forest region of Lambayeque. According to Sotheby’s, the mask came from the estate of Jan Mitchell. A 2009 New York Times obituary stats that Mitchell was a wealthy New York restaurateur who donated a large portion of his pre-Columbian gold collection to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.