At the end of last month, Lynda Albertson, CEO of the Association for Research into Crimes against Art (ARCA) gave a lecture at the John Cabot University in Rome (Camilla Voltolini. 'Criminals Without Borders: the Illicit Antiquities Trade' April 3, 2017).
Albertson stressed the complex structure and set of motivations behind the looting of art, and placed art crimes within a commercial context. Through a series of examples, she illustrated how stolen artifacts enter a complex network in which looters on subsistence living, middle-men buyers, distributors, auction-houses, and collectors each vary in their motivations and opportunities for engaging in the illicit art trade. According to Albertson, “art will always attract criminals, not because they love it, but because there is a market for it.” Looted art and artifacts often appear on the market a long time after they have been reported missing, and in different places. This is the result of differences between countries in terms of laws and restrictions on import/export, and in the paperwork and documentation necessary to accompany a work of art. Thanks to these legislative vacuums, looters are able to move the stolen items around the world. Punitive legislative measures often have little impact in contrasting looting. Instead, we must change the way the market thinks, and understanding how the market is fed becomes of capital importance to accomplish this goal.Readers of this blog will be aware that I see enough evidence in what they say and write to make me extremely sceptical of the notion that collectors and dealers are capable of sentient thought at all, let alone enter into a proper discussion of collecting and the issues surrounding the antiquities trade. .
Anyone who willingly gets involved with a chain of 'ownership' that involves culture criminals across borders deserves all that is coming to them.
Vignette: No-questions-asking collectors acknowledge no boundaries.