Liza Oliver and Erich Hatala Matthes, '' Wbur,
The arrests of Wiener and Kapoor reveal how much the black market sustains itself through the same networks and avenues of sale as legal antiquities exported before the 1970 UNESCO convention was created to prevent the unlawful trade in cultural property.The lack of transparency in the art market makes it a welcoming home for illicit transactions, shielding dealers and collectors from risk. As Ricardo Elia, associate professor of archaeology at Boston University has noted, there is no distinction between the legitimate and black market — they are the same entity. The illicit market in antiquities has a range of adverse effects on both the historical record and contemporary communities, which the legitimate art market perpetuates.[...] Although auction houses emphasize their efforts at doing “due diligence” in their provenance research, consistent revelationsabout the abundance of illicit antiquities for sale through major auction houses supports the conclusion that they are often protecting themselves from liability through plausible deniability rather than attempting to ensure that stolen artifacts are kept off the market.The authors suggest that 'museums can do better to educate the public particularly collectors about these issues, since their continued collecting of legal antiquities, directly increases black market demand'. can you see the British Museum, caught up in their own web of 'partnership' with collectors in the UK, doing anything like that? They suggest museums 'can also make provenance research a greater priority'.
Museums should teach not only about the object in its original historical context, but also about the often violent or unethical social life that led it to the museum's wall. Museums with antiquities often shy away from such discussions, reticent about their own unsavory collecting histories. As a result, contemporary museum practice remains complicit in such histories.Unethical also involves artefact hunting.
Collectively, these practices add up to a failure of museums’ core mission to educate the public in accordance with the highest of professional and ethical standards. Not engaging openly with the public about these issues, or worse yet, turning a blind eye to participate in these practices, makes museums complicit in perpetuating neocolonial power structures between countries of advanced economies and those that are impoverished and developing. By all means, museums, and events such as Asia Week, should be an occasion for celebrating culture, but they should also be an opportunity for critical reflection on the practices that feed the culture industry. It is the responsibility of auction houses, dealers, museums and collectors alike to ensure that they are not contributing to the decimation of the very cultural histories they claim to value.