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:
A very troubling story from Pakistan. On Monday, armed men attempted to damage this giant Buddha in the Swat valley in Pakistan. The BBC has a good report. The men arrived in the night, drilled holes in the rock, and filled them with dynamite. There was damage to the rock above the carving, but the actual carving was unharmed. The carving is considered the second-largest in Asia behind only the now-destroyed Bamiyan Buddhas.
I’m not sure how much can be done to protect sites in this part of the world. I know there is a UNESCO Convention on the Intentional Destruction of Cultural Heritage, but that kind of multilateral treaty seems ill-equipped to prevent this kind of willful and senseless destruction.
625 Antiquities, worth millions of dollars were seized in Karachi last week, Pakistan’s Daily Times reported on Sunday. The objects were hidden in a large freight container, under a shipment of furniture bound for the UAE. The UAE has a reputation for being a transit state, where antiquities can be purchased relatively easily.
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