Tuesday, 4 April 2017

The Sky is Falling in ... the Sky is falling in...

As I have noted time and time again on this blog, apart from generally low literary skills, one characteristic of artefact collectors are their constant attempts to present themselves as the victims of some elitist conspiracy. The latest in the genre is this incoherent ramble from the pen of Kate FitzGibbon of the American Committee for Cultural Policy (CCP):
Anti Art collecting campaign  A new anti-art collecting campaign has begun, coordinated by the usual interest groups and government agencies. The groups that have pushed so hard for ending the international trade in art have based previous arguments on claims that the art market was funding terrorism. These claims have been debunked by experts, although they are still repeated in the press. Since the facts don't support the claims, the interest groups are struggling to find another narrative. [...] Essentially, this new theme is that heritage is at risk and that source countries lack the will or the resources to fight back. The art trade is a blot on the social landscape and serves no good purpose. The only way to stop the destruction of heritage is to “decapitate the market." According to this new narrative, not only will ending the art market halt looting, but also, art is bad for you, unless you live in the country where it was produced. The world should not be concerned with saving art which belongs to all humankind. It is "national heritage" that counts - a phrase that implies governmental control and ownership, and can be politically and geographically defined. Without the explicit permission of source nation governments, art should not circulate [...] CCP is committed to fighting policies that countenance academic censorship or set the goals of nationalist regimes above the international interest in the circulation of art
While running around the issue of what is and what is not an illicit antiquity like a headless gibbon, the writer fails to note anything that has been happening since 1970. It was in 1970 that the world (not some elitist cabal of collector-fighters) decided that 'heritage is at risk' and that in the name of civilised co-operation, we should all work together to help concerned source countries - for whom this is a resource drain - combat this problem. It is complete and utter nonsense to say that only now is national heritage to be under 'government control and ownership', that was the starting point of writing the 1970 Convention by the UN (the 'n' stands for nations Ms Fitz-Gibbon). Yes, 1970's article 6 states that 'Without the explicit permission of source nation governments, art should not circulate' and article 3 states that artefacts which cannot be shown to be compliant with that are to be deemed illicit. That was in '1970', the year Diana Ross and The Supremes performed their farewell live concert together at the Frontier Hotel in Las Vegas and "All Kinds of Everything", sung by Dana won the Eurovision Song Contest 1970 for Ireland. Hardly then a 'new campaign'. Anyway Ms Fitgibbon reckons that requiring to see verification of legitimacy from anyone involved in the antiquities business is 'a bad argument'.
Consider the fact that almost all ancient and ethnographic art (in circulation and in our museums) lacks the documentation that would make it legitimate in the eyes of extremists 
Then one might ask the question ('extremist' labels or not) whether it should not be 'in circulation'. No responsible or respect-worthy dealer should buy something no-questions-asked and put unpapered artefacts in their stockroom, any more than they'd feed meat from a pig found dead in a ditch to their kids. Objects of course in a museum collection before 1970 will however be verifiably documented as part of that museum collection by that date. It's the ones that are not that are the problem. 

The dealer's 'dilemma' is simple to resolve, let them not worry about defining 'illicit' artefacts, let the trade concentrate on identifying the licit ones, those that are not stolen and artworks that left a source country many decades ago, ones that have the paperwork to verify that. Let them sell those and ignore the rest. The problem is that some of them want to have their cake and eat it, they want to profit from the sale of artefacts which cannot be verified as of licit origins (I guess they will come cheaper) but pretending that they are, and that is simply dishonest and unethical - especially when that is based upon 'feelings'.

The American Committee for Cultural Policy has a cheek to talk of attempting to combat the setting 'the goals of nationalist regimes above the international interest in the circulation of [antiquities on the licit antiquities market]'. Nobody is doing that, what the 1970 Convention and measures arising from it are about is fairness and international co-operation and goodwill. I see nothing of that from the ACCP. As for nationalism, I'll bet that a fair number of the ACCP's supporters voted for hype-xenophobe Donald 'Build a Wall' Trump and I'd not be surprised to see any of them in a 'Make America Great Again' hat. What do Americans have in their heads today when they criticise citizens of other countries using the word 'nationalist'? 


No comments:

Creative Commons License
Ten utwór jest dostępny na licencji Creative Commons Uznanie autorstwa-Bez utworów zależnych 3.0 Unported.