American Council for the Preservation of Cultural Property

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New York, NY 10022

ACPCP is a 501c4  organization

An ancient art dealer offers an authoritative academic peer reviewed rebuttal of the many weak arguments that are put forth to call for still further legislation and regulation of the antiquities trade.

A U.S. judge on Friday rejected Greece’s effort to dismiss an unusual lawsuit in which Sotheby’s and the owners of an ancient Greek bronze horse sued the country, seeking court permission to put the statue on the auction block.

Despite the fact that suspected Italian antiquities smuggler Giacomo Medici was acquitted by Italian authorities in 2011, and the objects in his photographic archive were subsequently cleared by the Carabinieri, anti-art trade vigilante, Christos Tsirogiannis, declares these objects, "sacred things," that must be confiscated from their owners.  All while Italian auction houses have increasingly been given the go ahead to legally sell and export similar material.

Sotheby’s is taking Greece’s ministry of culture to court over the ownership of an ancient Greek bronze horse, in a highly unusual legal attempt by the auction house “to clarify the rights of legitimate owners” amid a surge in spurious claims by countries of origin.

The dealer categorically denies that the piece was stolen, it has been known since 1935, and had been on display in a Canadian museum since 1951, without any calls from Iran for its return.  The New York District Attorney is now bogged down in a convoluted legal battle on behalf of the Islamic Republic of Iran with the owners of the relief and the Canadian insurance company from whom they acquired it.

The New York District Attorney’s office, under the aggressive direction of Cyrus Vance and dedicated anti-art trade crusader Assistant DA Matthew Bogdanos, has made two cultural property seizures in recent weeks. Neither object was recently looted; together, they had been in museums or private collections for over 115 years.  There was no evidence of wrongdoing by the collectors or dealers involved.

Anti-art-trade zealot Christos Tsirogiannis claimed that two Greek marble lekythoi on sale in London on behalf of the Swiss canton of Basel-Stadt, were stolen and therefore illegal to sell, despite the fact that the canton of Basel-Stadt received permission to sell the items from the Italian Carabinieri, who had sent back to Basel more than 1,000 antiquities from the original seizure of the Sicilian dealer Becchina's Swiss warehouse, stating that Italy had no legal claim to ownership of the pieces.  

The United States has once again withdrawn from UNESCO.  The 1970 UNESCO treaty stated that institutions should not acquire, loan, or borrow any ancient object regardless of value or rarity that had been exported from its country of origin after 1970.  This non-legally binding treaty has proven highly contentious as many nations continued to have a legal licensed trade in antiquities for more than a decade after this date.  Furthermore, it put the burden of proof on collectors and museums to establish provenance paperwork dating back to a time when this type of documentation was not regularly provided or necessary.

Modern Egypt, a society torn between a troubling pervasive public disdain for its pre-Islamic heritage and a desperate national fiscal need for cultural tourism, now has to deal with a Fatwa coming from the leading Islamic body arguing against state ownership of all antiquities and advocating treasure hunting, primarily for gold, on religious grounds.

Phony claims about involvement of the legitimate art trade with ISIS, and about art dealers supporting terrorism continue to be fed to the media, despite reputable, solid analysis that contradicts these false allegations. The most comprehensive resource is a 78 page report commissioned by the Dutch National Police, Central Investigation Unit, War Crimes Unit: Cultural Property, War Crimes and Islamic State – Destruction, plunder and trafficking of cultural property and heritage by Islamic State in Syria and Iraq – a war crimes perspective.

Christie’s and Hedge-Fund Titan Move to Quash Turkey’s Lawsuit Over ‘Stargazer’ Idol

The major American cultural institution, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, bought an an ancient vase in 1989 in a public sale and exhibited it for decades.  When questions arose, the Met reached out to Italian authorities, but were denied access to information about it for more than 25 years,.  Now a self-styled art crime sleuth with the help of New York prosecutors has seized the vase and the Met is being shamed for holding “loot.”

RICS Property Journal, July, 2017

Art market analyst, Ivan MacQuisten, analyzes the unrelenting challenges faced by the antiquities market in a climate rife with deliberate misinformation promoted by groups that have long been opposed to the perfectly legal and legitimate trade in ancient art.

New York antiquities dealer sues the Wall Street Journal following the publication of an article entitled, "Prominent Art Family Entangled in ISIS Antiquities-Looting Investigations," which provided no sources, objects, or evidence for the inflammatory title of the article.

Apollo, January 30, 2017

“We are an immigrant nation and we all have a shared interest in the preservation of ancient culture; and we should all value the controlled, legal movement of cultural property as we value the free movement of people, literature, and ideas.” So writes Gary Vikan, Committee for Cultural Policy (CCP) President and former director of the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, in the February 2017 edition of Apollo.

In Trading Places, Dr. Vikan describes the origins of the encyclopedic museum system in the U.S., and the results of recent, self-imposed regulation which has led to a veritable freeze of the free movement of cultural property.

You know the concept: There are the good people on one side. They are the poor, exploited local population of the Mediterranean countries, whose cultural heritage is taken away by the imperialists. And there are the bad people, the dealers and collectors, whose greed for objects make the imperialists’ thefts profitable. We had to listen to this all too often and we could not disagree, because we did not know how antiquities trade, for instance in Egypt in the 1930s, worked. Now, Fredrik Hagen and Kim Ryholt reconstruct the details on account of a diary of a Danish Egyptologist who traveled to Egypt in 1899/1900 and 1929/30 in order to collect exhibition objects for Danish museums. The authors have not stopped at this diary, though. They have adduced a number of sources to draw a detailed image of the practical workings of the Egyptian antiquities trade. 

As China’s auction houses expand abroad, foreign firms are tightly restricted from entering the booming Chinese market. In late 2010, an anonymous Chinese buyer snapped up a plundered 18th century Chinese imperial porcelain vase valued at $1.3 million for a stunning $86 million. A year later, a Chinese bidder purchased another vase from the Middle Kingdom for $18 million – more than 20,000 times the suggested price of $800.

Egypt’s former Antiquities Minister has said that retrieving Egyptian artefacts from abroad is not in Egypt’s interests, news sources from within the country report.

Prof. Mamdouh al-Damaty, an Egyptologist who was Minister from 2014-16 and believes that displaying his country’s heritage in other nations promotes Egypt across the world, also pointed out that the majority of Egyptian artefacts abroad were legally exported before laws were introduced to ban exports.

The financing of the "Islamic State" by antiquated smuggling was an important argument for the unloved Act of Cultural Protection.Now a study, which was presented at the Munich Security Conference, comes to an astounding result.

On the outskirts of the Munich Security Conference, a study of the King's College, London, was presented last weekend on the funding paths of the "Islamic State". The study bears the confident title of "Caliphate in Expiration" and shows considerable revenue reductions for the cashiers of the Islamic warriors in recent years. In essence, "ISIS" is financed from three sources: taxes and charges levied in conquered areas, from oil trading and looting.

In response to a recent Homeland Security Today article on a new report by National Center for Policy Analysis Senior Fellow David Grantham in which he stated a doctrinal change in how military strategy accounts for cultural heritage will help diminish an important funding stream terrorist groups need to fund operations against American forces and will improve the image of embedded US forces and discourage cultural infighting in their area of responsibility, is refuted by Joseph Coplin, co-owner of New York antiquities dealer Antiquarium on behalf of the American Council for the Preservation of Cultural Property, and James McAndrew, the former head of the Department of Homeland Security’s International Art and Antiquity Theft Investigations Program.

Dr. Fiona Rose-Greenland,Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Chicago, has worked to outline the framework of ISIS’ antiquities trade, and discusses how an "overactive collective imagination" has inflated looting estimates to around 7 billion when it is probably closer to "several million."

Investigative journalist is among the first to call into question the astonishingly exaggerated claims of undocumented trade in antiquities purported to be perpetrated by ISIS

The Association of Art Museum Directors (the “AAMD”) respectfully submits this statement for consideration by the Cultural Property Advisory Committee (the “Committee”) in connection with the proposed renewal of the Memorandum of Understanding Between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the Republic of Cyprus Concerning the Imposition of Import Restrictions on Pre-Classical and Classical Archaeological Objects and Byzantine and Post-Byzantine Period Ecclesiastical and Ritual Ethnological Materials dated July 10, 2012 (the “MOU”). Pursuant to the Cultural Property Implementation Act (the “CPIA”),1 the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the Republic of Cyprus (“Cyprus”) entered into the MOU in order to protect certain pre-Classical and Classical archaeological objects from the 8th millennium B.C.E. to 330 C.E. and ecclesiastical and ritual ethnological material representing the Byzantine and Post-Byzantine periods ranging from approximately the 4th century C.E. to 1850 C.E. for a period of five years, effective July 16, 2012, subject to interim review by the Committee.

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