Showing results 1 - 12 of 30 for the month of May, 2005.

May 31, 2005

Museums & the illegal antiquities trade

Posted at 12:50 am in Similar cases

The Age has an article following on from the Marion True indictment covered a week ago. It raises a number of interesting points about the way antiquities are acquired, not least in the comment: “In 1995, the Getty announced it would only acquire antiquities with sound provenance.” 1995? surely a reputable institution ought to have stopped doing this a lot longer ago than that?

The Age (Melbourne, Australia)

Museum in firing line
May 31, 2005

The Italians want to stop the illegal trade in antiquities. Peter Huck in Los Angeles considers the consequences for the J. Paul Getty Museum.

Judicial proceedings can move at a glacial pace in Italy, but, after a 10-year investigation into stolen Italian antiquities, Roman prosecutors have in view a very high-profile scalp: the antiquities curator at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles.

Last month, a Roman court charged Marion True, 56, with knowingly receiving stolen goods. She is also accused of using false documents to help launder artefacts acquired by the Getty from a private collection.

The case, which goes to trial in Rome on July 18, could have far-reaching consequences for the relationship between museums and international art dealers.
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May 28, 2005

Art dealer to return stolen Greek statue

Posted at 1:45 pm in Greece Archaeology, Similar cases

This is a complete change from the usual situation of lengthy arguments over repatriation of stolen artworks & whose responsibility they are. James Ede, a London art dealer on researching a kouros he had purchased discovered that it was stolen at some time during the Second World War. Not only is he returning it to the museum from which it was stolen, but he has refused to accept the reward that was offered (British Museum – are you listening?).

The Guardian

Art dealer takes Greek statue back home
Maev Kennedy, arts and heritage correspondent
Saturday May 28, 2005
The Guardian

Still smiling after 2,600 years, one small Greek youth, probably trousered by a soldier 60 years ago, is going home to the island of Samos.

“He’s in remarkable condition apart from his nose,” said James Ede, a London art dealer who has established that the figure was stolen from the island’s museum, probably during the second world war. “He got that biffing in antiquity, not in my care,” he added anxiously.
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May 27, 2005

Verdict reached on the Feldmann case

Posted at 1:42 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles, Similar cases

The courts have decided that the British Museum Act can not be overruled by any moral obligation on the part of the museum. Therefore the museum can not return the drawings the were looted by the Nazis.
As pointed out in previous articles, this could potentially have had implications for many other restitution cases involving the museum, not least that of the Elgin Marbles, had the courts decided in favour of letting the museum return the drawings.

Bloomberg news

British Museum Can’t Return Works Looted by Nazis, Court Says
May 27 (Bloomberg)

The British Museum, which holds antiquities including the Rosetta Stone and sculptures from Athens’ Parthenon, is barred from returning art looted by the Nazis to the heirs of a Jewish collector, a London court ruled.
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Feldmann case decision expected today

Posted at 8:52 am in British Museum, Elgin Marbles, Similar cases

According to this article, judgement is expected today on the Feldmann case, that could allow moral claims to overrule the museum’s act.

The Scotsman

Fri 27 May 2005
2:48am (UK)
Legal Ruling Could Loosen Grip on Elgin Marbles
By Stephen Howard, PA

Vice Chancellor Sir Andrew Morritt is ruling today on a point of law which could give the owners of stolen artworks a chance to reclaim them – a ruling which may give Greece a chance to reclaim the Elgin Marbles.
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May 26, 2005

Seminar on War & Cultural Heritage

Posted at 9:25 pm in Similar cases

The Institute of Art & Law has organised a number of seminars on cultural property in the past & this sounds like it will be a particularly interesting one, focussing on what is currently a very relevant subject. Of particular note is the fact that one of the speakers is from the British Museum. Unfortunately due to it being mid afternoon on a weekday I will be unable to attend.

Institute of Art & Law

Forthcoming Seminars
War and Cultural Heritage

A Seminar to be held in association with the international law firm, Clyde & Co

Monday 6th June 2005, 3pm

In April 2003 the world was shocked to see the scenes of the looting of the Iraq National Museum. In fact, over the past decade the world has witnessed many scenes of cultural vandalism – the destruction of the Neretva Bridge of Mostar and the destruction of the Giant Buddhas of Bamiyan being just two such examples. As a result, the ability of international law to protect cultural heritage in times of armed conflict has assumed even greater importance.
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Iran requests return of artefacts from Chicago Oriental Institute

Posted at 9:02 pm in Similar cases

Part of Iran’s ongoing attempts to recover items from their country that are held in foreign museums. This case is particularly disturbing, in that Iran lent the artefacts for 3 years to be studied in 1963, but they have still not been returned by the institute.

Mehr News

Iran seeks return of artifacts from Chicago’s Oriental Institute

TEHRAN, May 25 (MNA) — Iran has renewed efforts to recover historical artifacts which were discovered in the Choghamish region of Khuzestan in 1963 and entrusted to the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago but never returned to the country.
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Australia to return artefacts to British Museum

Posted at 8:53 pm in British Museum, Similar cases

The case of the aboriginal bark etchings, has been going on for the last year. They were on loan in Australia from the British Museum, but prevented from being returned by the aboriginals. It seems now though that the state of Victoria has ruled that they should be returned to the British Museum.
In many ways this is a sad decision for the aboriginal tribes involved. However on the other hand the way that they went about achieving their goals by trying to retain the items while they were on loan could only have served to make the British Museum far more wary of loaning items in the future had they succeeded.

ABC (Australia)

Thursday, 26 May 2005, 06:46:15 AEST
Artefacts decision ‘costs Indigenous people’

Victoria’s Aboriginal Affairs Minister, Gavin Jennings, has refused to prevent three Indigenous artefacts being returned to institutions in Britain.

The items were on temporary loan from the British Museum and the Royal Botanic Gardens in London.
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May 25, 2005

Atorney General would have final say in restitution cases

Posted at 12:49 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles, Similar cases

This article from Reuters about the Feldman case adds an interesting point to the statements from the Attorney General’s Office. At the end it adds: “But final permission for any works to leave the country would always lie with the Attorney General”. This alters the situation somewhat from what was suggested in the other articles, as it means that although the legal framework might be there to allow a return without an act of parliament, it would still always be the government that would make the final decision.


Nazi case may open door for Elgin Marbles’ return
Wed May 25, 2005 11:12 AM BST

LONDON (Reuters) – A British court case over art looted by the Nazis could pave the way for Britain to return Greece’s Elgin Marbles, whose ownership the two countries have long disputed.
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May 24, 2005

More on the Feldmann case

Posted at 10:20 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles, Similar cases

Three more sources are covering the story now – interesting if for no other reason than having that number of papers documenting a relatively obscure legal judgement.

The Times

May 25, 2005
Elgin Marbles cast dark shadow over looted art
By Sean O’Neill
MINISTERS could stop the British Museum returning artworks looted by the Nazis to a Jewish family because of fears that they might pave the way for Greece to make a legally binding claim on the Elgin Marbles.

Lord Goldsmith, the Attorney-General, asked the High Court to clarify whether the museum could exercise a “moral obligation” to return improperly obtained property.

The specific case at issue is a claim by the heirs of Dr Arthur Feldmann for the return of four Old Master drawings taken from the Czech lawyer’s home in Brno by the Gestapo in 1939.
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Moral obligations of British Museum could overrule the British Museum Act

Posted at 8:00 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles, Similar cases

One of the arguments used by the British Museum for why they can’t return the Elgin Marbles to Greece is the British Museum Act 1963. This is the act of parliament that defines many aspects of the way the British Museum operates. It defines things such as how the Museum’s trustees are appointed. It also sets out the rules on how the Museum can remove objects from its collection (or in most cases, how it can not). The act states that the only way that items can be removed from the British Museum’s collection is if they are either duplicates of other items in the collection, or are deemed worthless as a result of damage or similar. Originally this served the purpose of safeguarding the collections within the museum & stopping them from getting broken up. These safeguards are not unique to the British Museum, but are a relatively common feature in the charter of museums to prevent deaccessioning (the term used to describe the removal of items from a museum or libraries collection).
The British Museum regularly uses this Act as part of their reasoning that they can not return the Parthenon Marbles, suggesting that the act means that they can not be removed from the collection without a change of the act, & that a change of the act would be a decision made by the government. This conveniently means that they can divert questions about the return of the marbles to being the responsibility of the government. (lets not forget though then when it suits them it is possible to bend / ignore the British Museum Act – the deaccessioning of some of the Benin Bronzes, as exposed by the Art Newspaper, was either a strange interpretation of the act, or a case of total incompetence by the museum in understanding the contents of its own collections). The reality is that any decision would probably have to be agreed by both the Museum & The Government).
All this could change however, as a court case underway at the moment could rule that the moral obligations of the museum in cases of restitution can over rule the anti-deaccessioning provisions of the British Museum Act. The Attorney General has acknowledged that the outcome of this case could have implication for other cultural property cases, specifically mentioning the Elgin Marbles as an example. It will be very interesting to see the conclusions of this case.

The Scotsman

Tue 24 May 2005 4:23pm (UK)
Court Battle Could Decide Fate of Elgin Marbles
By Stephen Howard, PA

A court battle over Old Masters drawings looted by the Nazis could decide the fate of the Elgin Marbles.

Senior High Court judge Sir Andrew Morritt was today asked to rule whether the “moral obligation” of the British Museum to the true owners of looted works of art overrides laws forbidding the break-up of its collections.

The Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, has asked the court for clarification of the law because he says there are “strong arguments” that the moral merit of a claim cannot override an Act of Parliament which bars the museum from disposing of its collections.
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Over 8000 treasures looted from Iraq Museum still untraced

Posted at 1:08 pm in Similar cases

Despite the huge public outcry around the world about the looting of Iraq’s National Museum in Baghdad, most of the items taken are still missing. Over the next few years, a lot of those that were not destroyed will probably turn up in the hands of unscrupulous private directors, but the museum itself is unlikely to recover most of those that are still missing.

The Independent

At least 8,000 treasures looted from Iraq museum still untraced
By Louise Jury, Arts Correspondent
24 May 2005

Evidence of how quickly and irretrievably a country can be stripped of its cultural heritage came with the Iraq war in 2003.

The latest figures, presented to the art crime conference yesterday by John Curtis of the British Museum, suggested that half of the 40 iconic items from the Iraq National Museum in Baghdad still had not been retrieved. And of at least 15,000 items looted from its storerooms, about 8,000 have yet to be traced.
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Britain is still a key player in the trade in looted artwork

Posted at 1:01 pm in Similar cases

The trade in looted cultural property continues today, although nowadays more of it goes on between Private dealers & collectors, unlike in the past, when large museums were happy to acquire many items of unknown provenance on a regular basis. Despite plans by the government to cut down on the amount of looted artwork being trafficked through Britain. The Cultural Objects Offences Act of 2003 put in place the legal framework to do something to prevent this, but from this article it appears that there also needs to b more action, to actually prosecute those involved. The claim in the article that “Most antiquities on the market nowadays are either stolen or forgeries.” really does put the level of the problem in perspective.

The Independent

Art market scandal: British Museum expert highlights growing problem of fake antiquities
By Louise Jury, Arts Correspondent
24 May 2005

Most of the antiquities on sale in Britain are either stolen or fakes, a leading museum scientist has told a national conference on art crime.

Paul Craddock, a scientist at the British Museum whose work involves checking the authenticity of artefacts, said international legislation had so far “proved toothless” at fighting the burgeoning problem.
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