Showing posts with label david gill. Show all posts
Showing posts with label david gill. Show all posts

October 28, 2016

Looting Matters posting on the UK Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Bill

For nine years Professor David Gill’s blog Looting Matters has been the place to turn for thoughtful discussion of the archaeological ethics surrounding the collecting of antiquities.  As a Professor of Archaeological Heritage and Director of the Heritage Futures Research Unit at the University of Suffolk and a former Rome Scholar at the British School at Rome, as well as a Sir James Knott Fellow at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, and a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and holder of the 2012 Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) Outstanding Public Service Award recipient, it's safe to say that Dr. Gill has the credentials and expertise necessary to have an informed and measured opinion on the multiple threats facing our cultural heritage.

Dr. Gill has published widely on archaeological ethics, often with Dr. Christopher Chippindale (University of Cambridge).  Frequently on Looting Matters, as he has done today, he is the first in the heritage crimes field, to announce important news that we should all be paying attention to, often paces ahead of other researchers, including myself. 

Today Dr. Gill reminds us that on Monday, October 31, 2016 the Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Bill [HL] 2016-17 will have its 2nd reading in the UK’s House of Commons. 

In its current form, the Bill is an nobile effort to establish the United Kingdom's place as a champion for the world’s cultural heritage by introducing the domestic legislation necessary for the UK to meet the obligations contained in the Hague convention and its two protocols.   The bill seeks to introduce the necessary domestic legislation to enable the UK to finally ratify the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed
Conflict, a convention the UK signed in December 1954 and has been publicly committed to ratifying, along with its two Protocols since 2004. 

As of March 2016, 127 states are party to the Hague treaty, while 4 others (Andorra, Ireland, Philippines and the United Kingdom) have signed, but not ratified. Additionally, there are 104 States Parties to the First Protocol and 69 State Parties signatories to the Second Protocol

If passed this UK bill will not be retrospective and a person will be criminally liable only if they commit an offence after the commencement of the Bill. Part 2 will make it an offence to commit a serious breach of the Second Protocol, either in the UK or abroad.

To read up on this bill and its significance please see Dr. Gill's blog and the hyperlinks he has already posted.  While you are at it, I suggest you also follow his ongoing academic research here and perhaps take a look at his standing column "Context Matters" which he writes two times per year in the Journal of Art Crime speaking out about the material and intellectual consequences of heritage looting and illicit trafficking. 

By Lynda Albertson



July 17, 2015

David Gill's column Context Matters reviews “From Palmyra to Mayfair: The Movement of Antiquities from Syria and Northern Iraq” in the Spring 2015 issue of The Journal of Art Crime

In David Gill's regular column "Context Matters", the archaeologist examines “From Palmyra to Mayfair: The Movement of Antiquities from Syria and Northern Iraq” in the Spring 2015 issue of The Journal of Art Crimeedited by Noah Charney (with Marc Balcells and Christos Tsirogiannis) and published by ARCA:
The present conflict in Syria and northern Iraq has brought the issue of antiquities to the attention of the international media. This is due, first, to the scale of the recent looting revealed by remote sensing, second, to the possibility that archaeological objects were being used to fund the conflict, and third, to the deliberate destruction of key monuments and museum objects in what can only be described as acts of "cultural barbarism". At the same time there are more pressing concerns about the plight of refugees from the conflict zones, and the deliberate targeting of religious minorities. 
Looting is not a new phenomenon to Syria. And there have been instances in recent years of objects linked to that region turning up on the antiquities market. In April 2009 six Roman limestone busts surfaced on the London market at Bonhams (April 29, 2009, lots 48-53). ...
David Gill is Professor of Archaeological Heritage and Head of the Division of Humanities at University Campus Suffolk. He was a Rome Scholar at the British School of rome and a Sir James Knott Fellow at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne. He was subsequently part of the Department of Antiquities at the Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge, and Reader in Mediterranean Archaeology at Swansea University, Wales, UK. He has published widely on archaeological ethics with Christopher Chippindale. He has recently completed a history of British archaeological work in Greece prior to the First World War. 

Here's a link to ARCA's website about access to The Journal of Art Crime.

December 28, 2014

Columnist David Gill writes in Context Matters on "Learning from the Herm: The Need for more Rigorous Due Diligence Searches" in the Fall 2014 issue of The Journal of Art Crime

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin,
   ARCA Blog Editor-in-chief

In the Fall 2014 issue of The Journal of Art Crime, columnist David Gill writes in Context Matters on "Learning from the Herm: The Need for more Rigorous Due Diligence Searches":
The antiquities department of Bonhams planned to offer a Roman herm for auction on October 2, 2014 (lot 41). The herm was estimated to be sold for £10,000 to £15,000. It seems to be a Roman copy of the Hermes Propylaios set up next to the late 5th century BC monumental gateway, the Propylaia, at the entrance to the Athenian acropolis. The statue was observed there by the second century AD travel-writer Pausanias (I.22.8). The herm is known from a copy found at Pergamon in November 1903 (CS 1904) and now in Istanbul (Boardman 1985: 212, fi g. 189). The inscription on the stela reads in Greek: “You will recognise the fine state statue by Alkamenes, the Hermes before the Gates. Pergamios gave it. Know thyself” (trans. Boardman).
The display of such a statue in this royal city was unsurprising given the deliberate allusions to the city of Athens, and in particular to the Athenian acropolis, by the Attalids in the design. Andrew Stewart has suggested that a second type of herm is represented by an inscribed copy found in the Gymnasium of Vedius at Ephesus (Stewart 2003a; 003b). 
On 2 October 2014, the day of the Bonhams sale, Dr Christos Tsirogiannis was able to identify the Bonhams herm from the photographs and paperwork seized from the Italian dealer Gianfranco Becchina in Basle, Switzerland in May 2002 (Gill 2009, 78-79). The images were found in a fi le relating to Becchina’s associations with a Greek individual by the name of Zenebisis. The envelope containing the images were sent by Georgios Papadakis from Herakleion in Crete; the envelope is franked with the date 29 May 1987. The letter arrived in Basel (and was franked) on 1 June 1987. Someone has written on the envelope the name of Costas Gaitanis. Is Georgios Papadakis a genuine or a cover name? Why should Gaitanis be sending images to Becchina? Did Gaitanis have the herm in Greece? The evidence from the Becchina dossier suggests that the herm was being offered on the market in May 1987. 
Yet there is a problem. The herm offered at Bonhams was given a precise collecting history: “Nicolas Koutoulakis Collection, Geneva, acquired circa 1965, thence by descent”. This placed the herm in the period prior to the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. But how could the herm apparently be on the Greek market in 1987, but at the same time have already been acquired by Koutoulakis in 1965 and then passed down as part of his collection by descent?
David Gill is Professor of Archaeological Heritage and Head of the Division of Humanities at University Campus Suffolk. He was a Rome Scholar at the British School of rome and a Sir James Knott Fellow at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne. He was subsequently part of the Department of Antiquities at the Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge, and Reader in Mediterranean Archaeology at Swansea University, Wales, UK. He has published widely on archaeological ethics with Christopher Chippindale. He has recently completed a history of British archaeological work in Greece prior to the First World War.


The complete column is published in the current issue of The Journal of Art Crime.  Subscriptions to The Journal of Art Crime or individual copies of eEditions or printed issues may be obtained through ARCA's website here.

December 11, 2014

Researcher Christos Tsirogiannis succeeds in getting suspected looted objects withdrawn from Christie's sale

Attic red-figured krater / Swingler
Source: Tsirogiannis (See Looting Matters)
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin,
 ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

As noted first on Paul Barford's blog, Portable Antiquity Collecting and Heritage Issues, the three items at Christie's identified last week by Dr. Christos Tsirogiannis as suspected looted objects have been withdrawn from this month's sale in New York City.

"Paul Barford notified me," Dr. Tsirogiannis wrote in an email to the ARCA blog, "I then verified it from Christie's website."

Dr. Tsirogiannis, a forensic archaeologist, identified images in the Christie's sales catalogue that matched images from the Symes-Michaelides and the Swingler archive (Professor David Gill provides more specific information here on his blog Looting Matters).

I asked Dr. Tsiogiannis who contacts the art market when researchers identify objects suspected to have been stolen? This is his response:
The auction houses, and the members of the international antiquities market in general, always have the opportunity to contact the Italian and Greek authorities directly, before the auctions. These authorities will check, for free, every single object for them. Instead, the members of the market not only are not contacting the authorities, but also complain publicly that they have no access to the archives. As long as the market does not cooperate with the relevant state authorities, those authorities will continue to intervene ex officio.

October 24, 2014

The John Rylands Seminar in Papyrology: "To Publish or Not to Publish" in Manchester on October 25, 2014

Dr. Roberta Mazza -- who spoke at ARCA's Art Crime Conference this year -- has organized a conference at the University of Manchester for tomorrow, October 25: "The John Rylands Seminar in Papyrology: To Publish or not to Publish".

To Publish or not to Publish?

A Multidisciplinary Approach to the Politics, Ethics and Economics of Ancient Artifacts
  
10:45-11:00 Welcome/Introduction: Roberta Mazza (University of Manchester)

11:00 -11:30 David Gill (University of Suffolk): What does ‘provenance’ mean?

11:30-12:00 Neil Brodie (University of Glasgow): The role of academics

12:00-12:30 Stuart Campbell (University of Manchester): Mesopotamian objects in a conflicted world

12:30-13:30 Lunch break

Chair: Roslynne Bell (University of Manchester)

13:30-14:00 Roberta Mazza (University of Manchester): Who owns the past? Private and public papyrus collections

14:00-14:30 Chris Naunton (Egypt Exploration Society, London): Association policies: the case of the Egypt Exploration Society

14:30-15:00 Coffee Break

15:00-15:30 Vernon Rapley (V&A Museum, National Museum Security Group, London): ‘Working together.’ Law enforcement and cultural sector, intelligence sharing and cooperation

15:30-16:00 James Ede (Charles Ede Gallery, London): Dealers: trade, traffic and the consequences of demonization

16:00-16:45 The way forward: round table

Discussants include Marcel Marée (The British Museum), David Trobisch (Director of the Museum of the Bible/Green Collection, Washington DC), Nikolaos Gonis (UCL), Campbell Price (Manchester Museum), Nicole Vitellone (University of Liverpool), William Webber (Art Loss Register, London), Donna Yates (University of Glasgow)


EVERYBODY IS WELCOME!


For information e-mail the organizer: roberta.mazza@manchester.ac.uk. Dr. Mazza is a Lecturer in Classics and Ancient History, University of Manchester; Academic honorary curator, Graeco-Roman Egypt antiquities, Manchester Museum; and Research Fellow, John Rylands Research Institute - John Rylands Library. Further information may be found on Dr. Mazza's blog, Faces & Voices.

May 28, 2014

David Gill on "The So-Called Crosby Garrett Helmet" in his column "Context Matters" for the Spring/Summer 2014 issue of ARCA's Journal of Art Crime

David Gill is Head of the Division of Humanities and Professor of Archaeological Heritage at University Campus Suffolk. He is a former Rome Scholar at the British School at Rome, and was a Sir James Knott Fellow at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne. He was previously a member of the Department of Antiquities at the Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge, and a Reader in Mediterranean Archaeology at Swansea University (where he also chaired the university’s e-learning sub-committee). He is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and holder of the 2012 Archaeology Institute of America (AIA) Outstanding Public Service Award, and the 2012 SAFE Beacon Award.
David Gill 
Context Matters 
The So-Called Crosby Garrett Helmet 
In late January 2014 a Roman bronze parade helmet went on display in the British Museum. It was said to have been found outside the small Cumbrian village of Crosby Garrett in north-west England. The helmet, now owned by an anonymous private collector, had previously been displayed at the Tullie House Museum in Carlisle (November 2013 to January 2014). The display in Carlisle was accompanied by a short illustrated booklet with contributions from a range of individuals (Breeze and Bishop 2013). Although the helmet reportedly surfaced within the last four years, a number of unanswered questions still remain. 
The helmet itself is a good example of a “sports helmet” probably for use in the hippia gymnasia of a Roman cavalry unit (Bishop 2013). It appears to date from the late second or the third century AD (Bishop and Coulston 2013; Symonds 2014, 16). Three examples of “sports helmets” were found at the Roman fort of Newstead (Trimontium) in Scotland (Toynbee 1962, 166-67, pls. 104-106, nos. 98-100; Maxwell 2005, 63; Breeze 2006, 85, fig. 64). The Crosby Garrett helmet shared a case in the British Museum with the second century AD Roman parade helmet found as part of a hoard of metalwork at Ribchester, Lancashire in 1796 (Toynbee 1962, 167, pl. 108, no. 101). 
The “Crosby Garrett” helmet is reported to have been found by one—though some reports suggested two—metal-detectorists from Peterlee in Co. Durham in May 2010 (on the east side of England). Peterlee is just under 80 km (50 miles) from Crosby Garrett as the crow flies. The helmet appears to have been “in 33 fragments, with 34 smaller fragments found in association” (quoted in Gill 2010a, 5). The site of the reported find was not shown to the Finds Liaison Officers (FLOs), Dot Boughton and Stuart Noon, of the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) until August 30, 2010, more than three months after the discovery (Worrell 2010, 30). Noon recalls being shown the spot by the metal-detectorists who claimed it was “not a particularly rewarding area” (Symonds 2014, 13). This is in contrast to the recognised significance of the area in the study of the indigenous population during the period of Roman occupation (Higham and Jones 1985, 83-85). Boughton, the FLO for Lancashire and Cumbria, has now given a brief account of the “Discovery” (Boughton 2013). She supports the suggestion that there were two individuals, a father and son, present at the discovery. It should be noted that the first photographs of the helmet appear in the hands of a woman with manicured fingernails and wearing a striped jumper. It appears that helmet’s visor had been placed “face-down in the ground, and the back of the helmet broken off but folded and deposited inside the visor” (Boughton 2013, 17). There is the suggestion that if PAS officers had not confirmed the find-spot, then UK museums would not have been in a position to bid for the helmet when it had appeared at auction (Worrell et al. 2011).
You may finish reading this article in the Spring/Summer 2014 issue (#11) of The Journal of Art Crime edited by ARCA founder Noah Charney. The Journal of Art Crime may be accessed through subscription or in paperback from Amazon.com. The Table of Contents is listed on ARCA's website here. The Associate Editors are Marc Balcells (John Jay College of Law) and Christos Tsirogiannis (University of Cambridge). Design and layout (including the front cover illustration) are produced by Urška Charney.

March 30, 2014

ARCA Announces Nominees for the 2014 Eleanor and Anthony Vallombroso Award for Excellence in Art Crime Scholarship

Ballots have been sent out to the Board of Trustees for ARCA's 2014 Eleanor and Anthony Vallombroso Award for Excellence in Art Crime Scholarship which usually goes to a professor, journalist, or author. Past winners: Norman Palmer (2009); Larry Rothfield (2010); Neil Brodie (2011); Jason Felch and Ralph Frammolino (Jointly - 2012); and Duncan Chappell (2013). The Nominees for the 2014 Eleanor and Anthony Vallombroso Award for Excellence in Art Crime Scholarship are:

Milton Esterow, Editor and publisher of ARTnews.
Nominators’ Synopsis – Author of The Art Stealers (MacMillan, 1973)
Milton Esterow is editor and publisher of ARTnews. Since he bought ARTnews from Newsweek Magazine in 1972, he has guided its growth into the most widely circulated art magazine in the world. Since 1975, ARTnews has won most of the major journalism awards presented to magazines. Its editors and reporters have been honored forty-four times for excellence in reporting, criticism, and design. Under Mr. Esterow's direction, ARTnews became the first magazine to consistently apply rigorous standards of investigative reporting to the art world. Mr. Esterow received a special award for lifetime achievement from the College Art Association, the national organization of educators, artists, art historians, curators, critics, and institutions in 2003. He was cited for “his exceptional contributions to art journalism and investigative art reporting” and for having “overseen the magazine’s financial success while enhancing its reputation and influence in the visual-arts community and beyond.”
Dr. David Gill, Professor of Archaeology, University of Suffolk

Nominators’ Synopsis – "Dr. Gill is has been a persistent and thoughtful advocate for reform in the museum community and the antiquities trade. He has done excellent work on the consequences of the sale of antiquities without history. His research has drawn attention to the impact of looting. Some highlights of his considerable scholarly output include: studying Cycladic figurines from the 3rd millennium BC; the photographic archives from Switzerland which triggered the return of looted objects to Italy; the sale of antiquities in London and New York; and the collecting history of private antiquities collections. David Gill is a Professor of Archaeological Heritage at University Campus Suffolk who has a great knowledge of the cultural property debate, has published extensively against looting, and maintains Looting Matters, the internationally best-known and visited archaeological blog regarding cultural property issues. The blog, updated almost daily, offers not only detailed discussions of the issues surrounding the crime of looting, but also a platform for new evidence of antiquities trafficking, informing the world's archaeological community and helping state authorities to pursue their stolen heritage."
David Gill is a former Rome Scholar at the British School at Rome, and Sir James Knott Fellow at Newcastle University. He was responsible for the Greek and Roman collections at the Fitzwilliam Museum and was subsequently Reader in Mediterranean Archaeology at Swansea University. His Sifting the Soil of Greece: the Early Years of the British School at Athens (1886-1919) [2011] was published to coincide with the 125th anniversary of the School. He received the Outstanding Public Service Award from the Archaeological Institute of America (2012). Gill has published widely on cultural matters and his “Material and intellectual consequences of esteem for Cycladic figures” (co-written with Dr Christopher Chippindale) presented a new methodological approach to studying this area. He has a regular editorial column, “Context Matters”, for the Journal of Art Crime, and runs a research blog, “Looting Matters”.
Simon Mackenzie, Trafficking Culture project at the University of Glasgow.
Nominator’s Synopsis – "Besides being a criminologist who explored art crimes since his doctoral dissertation, launched along Neil Brodie the Trafficking Culture project at the University of Glasgow."
Simon Mackenzie is Professor of Criminology, Law & Society in the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Glasgow, where he is also a member of the criminological research staff at the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research, a cross-institutional organization conducting national and international criminological research projects. Prof Mackenzie co-ordinates the Trafficking Culture research group, which is a pioneering interdisciplinary collaboration producing research evidence on the scale and nature of the international market in looted cultural objects, including regional case studies of trafficking networks and evaluative measures of the effects of regulatory interventions which aim to control this form of trafficking. Trafficking Culture is funded with a €1m research grant from the European Research Council. The group employs a core group of researchers plus an affiliate Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellow, and four PhD research students, making it a world-leading center for study in this field. As well as producing research evidence, the team are developing educational resources for the next generation of scholars via a new course, run for the first time in 2014, on International Trafficking in Cultural Objects, offered as part of the three Criminology Masters pathways which Prof Mackenzie convenes at Glasgow: the MRes Criminology; the MSc Criminology & Criminal Justice; and the MSc Transnational Crime, Justice & Security. Simon’s research on the international market in illicit cultural objects began with his PhD, leading to the publication in 2005 of Going, going, gone: regulating the market in illicit antiquities, which won the British Society of Criminology Book Prize that year. The book was mainly an empirical study of attitudes and practices of high-end dealers in relation to their engagement with looted artefacts, and an analysis of the implications for regulation and control of the various neutralizing and justificatory narratives surrounding handling illicit objects at the top end of the market. 
From 2005-07, in a study with Prof Penny Green funded by the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council, Simon extended this analysis by looking at the market’s reaction to the onset of explicit criminalization in a case study of the Dealing in Cultural Objects (Offences) Act 2003. This research was published in Mackenzie and Green (eds) Criminology and Archaeology: Studies in Looted Antiquities (2009), part of the Onati International Series on Law and Society and based around the proceedings of a workshop at the Onati International Institute for the Sociology of Law exploring the interdisciplinary possibilities of a field of study based both in archaeology and criminology. 
Simon has worked with a number of international organisations, providing research-based input to support initiatives to reduce the international trade in looted cultural objects: eg. he has worked with UNODC in producing briefing documents for UN member states in their 2009 enquiry into Trafficking Cultural Property, leading to policy recommendations made at the UN Commissions and Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice; and he is currently on the editorial committee of ICOM’s International Observatory on Illicit Traffic in Cultural Goods. Prof Mackenzie is a member of the Peer Review Committee of the Arts and Humanities Research Council, Associate Editor of the Howard Journal of Criminal Justice, and a member of the editorial board of the British Journal of Criminology. His criminological research has been supported by grants and contracts from funders including the EU, ESRC, AHRC, both the UK and Scottish Governments, and the UN.
Sandy Nairne, Director, Director, National Portrait Gallery
Nominator’s Synopsis – "His book, Art Theft and the Case of the Stolen Turners, and his outspoken transparency about rewards versus paid information for the recovery of stolen art have been refreshing and thoughtful. He’s a major public figure, head of the National Portrait Gallery, and is a good representative of what this award stands for."
Sandy Nairne is currently Director of the National Portrait Gallery in London, a post he has held since 2002. As director of one of Britain’s popular national museums (visited by more than 2m each year) he has sought to combine a determined drive for research and scholarship in the understanding of collections and in making exhibitions, with a strong emphasis on education and community engagement. He has supported the wider implementation of advanced security procedures (combined with new technologies) to protect collections and loans, and the sharing of information about thefts and cases of forgery, even when this appears difficult for individual museums. 
In July 1994, as Director of Programmes for the Tate, Sandy Nairne flew to Frankfurt on the day following the shocking theft of two paintings by J.M.W.Turner, then worth £24m, and on loan to the Schirn Kunsthalle from the Tate. Nairne then spent eight and a half years coordinating the complex attempts to recover these two great masterpieces. The first was recovered in July 2000, but returned to Britain incognito in order not to disturb the connections made to those holding the second painting (with approval from the Frankfurt Prosecutors’ Office). Following an approved ‘payment for information’ the second painting was returned in December 2002. In 2011 Nairne published a detailed account of the recovery, combined with a close analysis of the issues surrounding high value art theft, from ethics, to value and to motivation. Art Theft and the Case of the Stolen Turners (Reaktion) has gone into a second printing, and been published in translation in Germany and in Japan.
Professor Lyndel V. Prott, Honorary Professor, University of Queensland and Honorary Member of The Australian Academy of the Humanities.

Nominator’s Synopsis – "Professor Lyndel V. Prott (lvprott@bigpond.com) is an Honorary Professor, University of Queensland and Honorary Member of The Australian Academy of the Humanities. She is the former Head of International Standards Section, UNESCO and then Director of the Cultural Heritage Division where she was instrumental in strengthening existing international instruments and the realisation of the 1995 UNIDROIT Convention. Her scholarship has made contributions to the foundation of cultural heritage law scholarship. We would not perhaps even think of cultural heritage law without her important theoretical scholarship. Her work has brought attention to the plague of antiquities looting and she has been an advocate for concerted international action to combat the theft of heritage and destruction of our collective past."
Lyndel Prott AO (1991), Öst. EKWuK(i) (2000), Hon FAHA; LL.D. (honoris causa) B.A. LL.B. (University of Sydney), Licence Spéciale en Droit international (ULB Brussels), Dr. Juris (Tübingen) and member of Gray’s Inn, London, is former Director of UNESCO’s Division of Cultural Heritage and former Professor of Cultural Heritage Law at the University of Sydney. She has had a distinguished career in teaching, research and practice, including co-operation with ICOM and INTERPOL to improve co-ordination between civil and criminal law to deal with illicit traffic. At UNESCO 1990-2002 she was responsible for the administration of UNESCO’s Conventions and standard-setting Recommendations on the protection of cultural heritage and also for the negotiations on the 1999 Protocol to the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict 1954 and the Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage 2001. She contributed as Observer for UNESCO to the negotiations for the UNIDROIT Convention on Stolen or Illegally Exported Cultural Objects 1995. She has authored, co-authored or edited over 280 books, reports or articles, written in English, French or German and translated into 9 other languages. Currently Honorary Professor at the University of Queensland, she has taught at many universities including long distance learning courses on International Heritage Law.

December 14, 2013

Christie's New York Auction of "Antiquities" withdraws "Symes Pan" from sale: Christos Tsirogiannis says that in due course more information will be found about The Medici Pan, the Hermes-Thoth, and the Symes Pan

"Hermes-Thoth" marble once passed
through the hands of Robin Symes
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCAblog Editor-in-Chief

As reported by Professor David Gill on his blog Looting Matters, Christie's New York auction house withdrew the "Symes Pan" identified by Cambridge's Dr. Christos Tsirogiannis from the Schinousa archive. Dr. Gill wrote in an email to the ARCAblog after conclusion of the three-hour "Antiquities" sale at Rockefeller Plaza today:
Buyers of antiquities are rightly concerned about buying objects that can be identified from the seized photographic archives such as the Medici Dossier and the Schinousa images that related to Robin Symes. Institutional reputation is also a factor and auction houses are wanting to distance themselves from any perception of endorsement of the illicit trade in antiquities.
The ARCAblog asked Dr. Tsirogiannis for his perspective on Sotheby's withdrawal of The Medici Pan; the sale of the Symes/Schinousa Hermes-Thoth marble by Sotheby's yesterday; and Christie's decision to not auction the Symes Pan):
The Medici Pan withdrawn by Sotheby's
The Medici Pan in Sotheby's seems to be a totally different case; it appears to lack any collecting history before 1975 and Sotheby's may have to explain when this antiquity passed through the hands of Medici and why Sotheby's did not refer to Medici as part of the collecting history of the object. I am sure that soon we will find out more interesting things about the case of The Medici Pan. 
Although the Hermes-Thoth head was sold with a collecting history before 1970, it is yet to be proved if it is still protected by any bilateral agreements between the US and other countries or breaks any national legislation. One question that Sotheby's may have to answer is when did the object pass through the hands of Robin Symes and Christos Michaelides.
Symes Pan withdrawn by Christie's
Regarding the Christie's Pan (lot 114), Christie's may have to answer why they withdrew the antiquity if it has a documented collecting history before 1970 (at least since 1968)? 
I am sure that in due course, more information will be found and will become available regarding these three cases.
The ARCAblog asked the opinion of Fabio Isman -- an Italian investigative journalist who has covered the illegal antiquities market for decades -- of how antiquities are sold in New York City with so little information about where they came from and how they got to the auction houses:
As usual, the auction houses don't quite care about the past. Important, for them, is only money. I think they are not very ethical. And, at the end, after Christos Tsirogiannis pointed out a few objects he recognized, they decided to withdraw two main objects: which was the minimum they could do.
Signore Isman, the author of "Pezzi di Medici e Symes: all'asta: fino a quando?" in the Italian Artemagazine, writes of "The Great Raid" in Italy since 1970 of the illegal excavation of 'at least one a half million artifacts' (Princeton University) that have been sold on the lucrative international market. Isman points out that of the 85 archaeological finds scheduled to be sold at Sotheby's in New York on December 12, that Christos Tsirogiannis, a Greek archaeologist working in England at Cambridge University, has identified two lots 'that are not new for anyone who has dealt with the Great Raid in Italy, from 1970 onwards.' 

Isman writes that Tsirogiannis identified a marble "Hermes-Thoth" from a photograph in the Schinousa archive, a group of photographs recovered by Greek police of objects Robin Symes and his partner Christos Michaelides sold through their gallery headquartered in London. Isman writes that according to Tsirogiannis Sotheby's acknowledges the connection to Symes but points to a private English collection as the source. Tsirogiannis also identified the Greek terracotta pan, withdrawn today from auction by Christies, from the Symes' photographic archives from the Greek island of Schiousa from where Symes and Michaelides conducted business away from the office. Christies listed the Merrin Gallery and a private New York collector as "provenance". Isman writes that Italian investigators have suspected the Merrin Gallery of conducting business with Gianfranco Becchina and Robert Hecht, art dealers allegedly transacting with Medici.  

Isman writes that the third object recognized by Tsirogiannis from one of the polaroids found in Medici's Geneva freeport warehouse is associated with the "Hydra Galerie", opened in Geneva by Medici, under a false name, in 1983.

At the end of this article, Fabio Isman laments the absence of Paolo Giorgio Ferri from the Cultural Heritage Ministry where he served two years before he returned to the Ministry of Justice -- in the past Ferri would have been the one protesting on behalf of the Italian government against the auction of these suspected artifacts.

  

December 13, 2013

Sotheby's sells Symes marble matched by Dr. Christos Tsirogiannis in the Schinousa archives for more than $4.6 million today; Sotheby's withdraws The Medici Pan; and Christie's in NY aims to sell Symes Pan tomorrow

Looting Matters: Hermes-Thoth
Image: Schinousa Archive
Today Sotheby's auction house in New York sold an ancient marble head for more than $4.6 million even after Dr. Christos Tsirogiannis pointed out that the piece, owned by Robin Symes, matched an image in the Schinousa archives. 

On December 5, Professor David Gills wrote on his blog "Looting Matters" under the post Symes and Hermes-Thoth about a 2,000 year old marble head for sale at a New York auction house today:
I am grateful to my Cambridge colleague Dr Christos Tsirogiannis for pointing out that the head of Hermes-Thoth due to be auctioned at Sotheby's New York next week had once passed through the hands of Robin Symes (December 12, 2013, lot 39). The estimate is $2.5-3.5 million.... Colour images of the head feature in the Schinousa archive where they were identified by Tsirogiannis.


In 2006, Peter Watson and Cecilia Todeschini published The Medici Conspiracy: the illicit journey of looted antiquities, from Italy's tomb raiders to the world's greatest museums, an expose about the network of tombaroli and art dealers who funneled looted antiquities into private and public collections from the 1960s through the 1990s. Peter Watson wrote Mr. Symes legal problems in "The fall of Robin Symes" in 2005. On Trafficking Culture, archaeologist Neil Brodie summarizes the illegal activities of Giacomo Medici, convicted in 2005 of receiving stolen goods, illegal export of goods, and conspiracy to traffic. Here's how Symes is believed to have been involved:
By the late 1980s, Medici had developed commercial relations with other major antiquities dealers including Robin Symes, Frieda Tchacos, Nikolas Koutoulakis, Robert Hecht, and the brothers Ali and Hischam Aboutaam (Watson and Todeschini 2007: 73-4). He was the ultimate source of artefacts that would subsequently be sold through dealers or auction houses to private collectors, including Lawrence and Barbara Fleischman, Maurice Tempelsman, Shelby White and Leon Levy, the Hunt brothers, George Ortiz, and José Luis Várez Fisa (Watson and Todeschini 2007: 112-34; Isman 2010), and to museums including the J. Paul Getty, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Cleveland Museum of Art, and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.
Sotheby's Hermes-Thoth
Neil Brodie explained in September 2012:
Investigative reporter Nikolas Zirganos took a special interest in the activities of British antiquities dealer Robin Symes, and was present in April 2006 when Greek police raided a villa on the island of Schinoussa belonging to Symes and his deceased partner Christos Michaelides. Zirganos described how the villa on Schinoussa was used for what he described as the ‘preparation and closing of deals’ (Zirganos 2007: 318). The villa was in effect a social and commercial hub, where Symes and Michaelides would entertain archaeologists, museum curators, conservators and wealthy collectors to gossip about the market and what was available for purchase, and to arrange sales. Thus, it was possible for a customer to purchase an illicit artefact on Schinoussa without actually coming into contact with it. The artefact would be smuggled separately to Switzerland, where the customer could take possession of it.
Jason Felch, author of Chasing Aphrodite and an investigative journalist for The Los Angeles Times, wrote of Symes in January 2013:
Last year, the Getty quietly returned 150 marble fragments in the collection (88.AA.140 - 88.AA.144) to Italy after evidence emerged that they joined objects found in the same looted tombs of Ascoli Satriano that produced the Getty's Griffins and statue of Apollo, which were returned to Italy in 2007. The objects and fragments were acquired in the 1980s from London dealer Robin Symes.
Dr. Gill described the Schinousa archive last June on "Looting Matters":
This photographic archive records the material that passed through the hands of a London-based dealer. If material from this archive resurfaces on the market, it would be reasonable to see the full collecting history indicated. But such information would no doubt be provided by rigorous due diligence searches.
December 12, 20013, Sotheby's sold the late Hellenistic marble head of Hermes-Toth for $4,645,000 (Hammer's Price with Buyer's Premium)."

The Medici Pan withdrawn from sale at Sotheby's New York

Professor Gill also noted in "Looting Matters" that Dr. Christos Tsirogiannis identified "The Medici Pan" that was later withdrawn from the sale:
Sotheby's New York are due to auction a giallo antico marble bust of Pan next week (December 12, 2013, lot 51). The estimate is $10,000-$15,000. Dr Christos Tsirogiannis has pointed out to me that a polaroid image of the sculpture was found on the Geneva Freeport premises of Giacomo Medici.
The Symes Pan for sale Dec. 13 at Christie's Rockefeller Plaza

Again, on the blog "Looting Matters", Dr. Gill writes about another item for sale that caught the eye of forensic archaeologist Christos Tsirogiannis:
Tsirogiannis has now identified a terracotta Pan from the Schinousa archive that is due to be auctioned at Christie's Rockefeller Plaza (December 13, 2013, lot 114, estimate $8000 - $12000). Christie's have offered the following collecting history:
with Edward H. Merrin Gallery, New York, 1968.
Private Collection, New York, 1968-2011.
So when was the Pan in the possession of Robin Symes? What is the identity of the private collection? Is the collecting history presented by Christie's robust? What authenticated documentation was supplied to Christie's?
The Edward H. Merrin Gallery has been linked to the bronze Zeus returned to Italy, material in the collection of Dr Elie Borowski, as well as the marble Castor and Pollux on loan to New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Artemagazine

The Italian Artemagazine  in "Pezzi di Medici e Symes all'asta: fino a quando?" (authored by Fabio Isman and his team) asks why illegally excavated antiquities from Italy are being offered for sale in New York City after Cambridge's Dr. Christos Tsirogiannis has identified the items to archives collected in police raids.

October 17, 2012

The Journal of Art Crime, Fall 2012: Columnist David Gill on "Fragmented Pots, Attributions and the Role of the Academic" in Context Matters

In the Fall 2012 issue of The Journal of Art Crime, columnist David Gill writes on "Fragmented Pots, Attributions and the Role of the Academic" in Context Matters:
In January 2012 the Italian government announced the return of some 40 archaeological fragments from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.  The fragments had been bequeathed by a deceased American collector ("riconducibili alla collezione privata di un cittadino americano, deceduto").  The following day, the Italian journalist Fabio Isman reported, in Il Messaggero, that the anonymous collector was, in fact, Dietrich von Bothmer (Isman 2012).  Isman was able to add that some of these 40 fragments were part of objects that had already been returned to Italy from North American collections, or from objects that had been seized by the Carabinieri.  Bothmer had himself indicated that he "always gave fragments of mine when they would fit another vase in the collection" (Nørskov 2002:31). 
The Italian report specifically added the information that some of the fragments came from the Onesimos cup, returned by the J. Paul Getty Museum and now on display in the Villa Giulia in Rome (Sgubini 1999; Godart and De Caro 2007:78-79, no. 10); see Gill and Chippindale 2006: 312).  The first parts of the cup were acquired in 1983 from "the European art market" (Walsh 1984: 246, no. 73, inv. 83.AE.362).  At the time, it has been presented to the Museum, accession number 84.AE.8:" its acquisition was reported the following year (Walsh 1985: 169, no. 20, inv. 84.AE.80; see Williams 1991).  Further fragments, from the "European art market", were added in 1985 (Walsh 1986: 191, no. 47, inv. 85.AE.385.1-2).  It is significant that Dyfri Williams, who published the "Getty" cup, noted that he was shown photographs of "a rim fragment, made up of three pieces" in November 1990.  He does not specify who owned the pieces.  Subsequent research has shown that the fragments were derived from Galerie Nefer (owned by Frida Tchacos-Nussberger), and the Hydra Gallery (Gill and Chippindale 2006: 312).
David Gill teaches at University Campus Suffolk, Ipswich, England.  He is a former Rome Scholar at the British School at Rome and was a member of the Department of Antiquities at the Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge.  He has published widely on archaeological ethics with Christopher Chippindale.  He has recently completed a history of British archaeological work in Greece prior to the First World War.

You may read Dr. Gill's Context Matters by subscribing to The Journal of Art Crime through the ARCA website.

July 24, 2012

James Cuno's "Museums Matter: In Praise of the Encyclopedic Museum" Reviewed in the Spring/Summer 2012 issue of The Journal of Art Crime

David Gill reviews James Cuno's book, Museums Matter: In Praise of the Encyclopedic Museum (The University of Chicago Press, 2011) in the Spring/Summer 2012 issue of The Journal of Art Crime.  Dr. Gill is Head of the Division of Humanities and Professor of Archaeological Heritage at University Campus Suffolk, at Ipswich, Suffolk, England.  James Cuno is president and CEO of The J. Paul Getty Trust.
Cuno is passionate about the contribution of the encyclopedic museum to the cultural landscape of our cosmopolitan world. The implicit statement of his title is a change from the earlier questions that he has raised: Whose Muse? (2004), Who Owns Antiquity? (2008), and Whose Culture? (2009) [see reviews by Gill in JAC 1, 1, Spring 2009, 65-66; 2, 1, Fall 2009, 99-100]. The four core chapters on the Enlightenment, the Discursive, the Cosmopolitan, and the Imperial Museums had their origins in the 2009 Campbell Lectures at Rice University.
Cuno avoids turning his attention to the issue of antiquities. Yet they lurk on the periphery of his text. As I walked around the Greek and Roman galleries of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art (a good example of an Encyclopedic Museum) in the first weeks of 2012 I had Cuno’s words in my mind as his imaginary viewer engaged with objects on display: “why it looks the way it does, how it might have been made, by whom and where, and what purpose and meaning it may have had for the first people who saw it and all who subsequently came into contact with it before and after it entered the museum’s collection” (pp. 3-4). Signatures of statue bases as well as on Athenian figure-decorated pots may point us to artists of both high and low status. The iconography may provide insights into Athenian social values and indeed myth. Residual paint on funerary stelai reminds us that not all marble was brilliant white. But what about the viewers? How can we understand the reception of such ancient objects when their contexts have been permanently lost? And so often the pieces have no declared collecting histories that will trace their passage from the ground (or even their archaeological context) to museum gallery.

July 9, 2012

"Princeton and Recently Surfaced Antiquities" in David Gill's column "Context Matters" for Spring/Summer 2012 issue of The Journal of Art Crime

In the column "Context Matters", David Gill writes on "Princeton and Recently Surfaced Antiquities" in the Spring/Summer 2012 issue of The Journal of Art Crime.
In 1983 the USA ratified the 1970 Unesco Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property (Paris, 14 November 1970). Article 7 includes the statement,
To take the necessary measures, consistent with national legislation, to prevent museums and similar institutions within their territories from acquiring cultural property originating in another State Party which has been illegally exported after entry into force of this Convention, in the States concerned.
In 2002 the Princeton University Art Museum agreed to return the fragmentary pediment of a Roman funerary relief that it had acquired in 1985 from New York dealer Peter Sharrer with funds provided by Mr. and Mrs. Leon Levy (inv. 85-34: Princeton University Art Museum 1986, 38, 39 [ill.]; Padgett 2001b, 47-51, no. 11). It turned out that the fragment had been discovered in 1981-82 at Colle Tasso near Tivoli and had been published by Zaccaria Mari. Michael Padgett, the then curator at Princeton and who was preparing a catalogue of the Roman sculptures, notified the museum’s acting director who in turn contacted the Italian authorities (Anon. 2002). Susan M. Taylor, the museum’s newly appointed director, was quoted in the press release about the return: “We are proud to be an active partner in the ongoing international effort to resolve ownership claims for stolen objects and in discouraging the illegal trade of art and cultural artifacts.” 
This was not to be the end of the museum’s return of antiquities.
Dr. Gill is Head of the Division of Humanities and Professor of Archaeological Heritage at University Campus Suffolk, at Ipswich, Suffolk, England. He is the author of 2011 book, "Sifting the soil of Greece: the early years of the British School at Athens (1886-1919)".

July 1, 2012

The Spring/Summer 2012 Issue of The Journal of Art Crime is now available to download by subscription

The PDF edition of the Spring/Summer 2012 issue of The Journal of Art Crime can now be downloaded by subscribers. This seventh issue is edited by Noah Charney and published by ARCA.
 
Academic articles: "Bordering on Alchemy: A Nation of Counterfeiters" by Stephen Mihm; "Daubertizing the Art Expert" by John Daab; "Looting History: An Analysis of the Illicit Antiquities Trade in Israel" by Aleksandra Sheftel; "The Beltracchi Affair: A Comment on the "Most Spectacular" German Art Forgery Case in Recent Times" by Duncan Chappell and Saskia Hufnagel; and "The Forger's Point of View" by Thierry Lenain.

Regular columns: Donn Zaretsky's Art Law and Policy on "When Photography Might be Illegal"; Ton Cremers on "Rise in Thefts from Museums: Due to Economic Crisis?"; David Gill's Context Matters on "Princeton and Recently Surfaced Antiquities"; and Noah Charney's Lessons from the History of Art Crime on "Mark Landis: the Forger Who Has Yet to Commit a Crime".

Editorial Essays: Joshua Knelman on "Headache Art"; Noah Charney on "Appendix on Forensics of Forgery Investigation"; and Noah Charney on "Art Crime in North America".

Reviews: Stuart George reviews "Stealing Rembrandts: The Untold Stories of Notorious Art Heists" by Anthony M. Amore and Tom Mashberg; David Gill reviews "Museums Matter: In Praise of the Encyclopedic Museum" by James Cuno; Catherine Schofield Sezgin reviews "Hot Art: Chasing Thieves and Detectives Through the Secret World of Stolen Art" by Joshua Knelman; Noah Charney reviews "The Deceivers: Art Forgery and Identity in the Nineteenth Century" by Aviva Briefel; and John Kleberg reviews "Leonardo's Lost Princess" by Peter Silverman with Catherine Whitney.

Extras: Noah Charney's interviews with George H. O. Abungu; Ernst Schöller; Joris Kila and Karl von Habsburg; Ralph Frammolino and Jason Felch; Thierry Lenain; and a Q&A on "Art Crime in Canada".  

There is also a list of the 2012 ARCA Awards.

February 26, 2012

The Journal of Art Crime, Fall 2011: David Gill's Column "Context Matters" looks at "Compliance and the Antiquities Market

In the Fall issue of The Journal of Art Crime, David Gill, in his column "Context Matters" looks at "Compliance and the Antiquities Market." Here's an excerpt from his column:

Over the years there has been a major change in the way countries have sought to reclaim archaeological material that had been looted. Claims have been made against the background of the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. This was accepted by the USA in 1984 and by the United Kingdom in 2002. 
Attempts to reclaim material were extended and tended to take time to go through the legal channels. Such disputes included the Kanakaria Mosaics to Cyprus, the Dekadrachm Hoard and the Lydian Treasure to Turkey, and the Aidonia Treasure to Greece. The case of the Sevso Treasure is unresolved as although it was certainly removed from its archaeological context by unscientific means, it has not been possible to confirm where this hoard was found. 
The seizure of the Medici Dossier in the Geneva Freeport (and related photographic archives in Basel and in Greece) has allowed the Italian authorities to adopt a different strategy. Images of objects in a fragmented state or still covered in mud have been an emotive force in the rhetoric surrounding the returns. Museums that were reluctant to negotiate were persuaded that bad publicity could be avoided if discussions about returns were initiated. In one case a major North American museum was shown images in 2005 and less than a year later had arranged to return 13 antiquities to Italy. It was, and is, hard to argue that something was in “an old collection” when the object had been recorded in a distressed state subsequent to the 1970 UNESCO Convention. 
Yet compliance has been reluctant in some quarters. Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts was aware nearly twenty years ago that the torso of a Weary Herakles fit the abdomen and legs of a statue that had been excavated at Perge in southern Turkey. The presentation of a collection history that suggested that the torso had surfaced in Germany in the 1950s was a distraction. The situation was made more complicated as the donors had retained part ownership of the torso. Full title was eventually transferred to the MFA.
David Gill is Head of the Division of Humanities and Professor of Archaeological Heritage at University Campus Suffolk, UK. He is a former Rome Scholar at the British School at Rome. He returned to Newcastle University as a Sir James Knott Fellow where he laid the foundations for Artful Crafts: Ancient Greek Silverware and Pottery (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994) written with Michael Vickers. He was appointed Museum Assistant in Research in the Department of Antiquities at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge where he had curatorial responsibility for the Greek and Roman collections. He then moved to Swansea University where he was Reader in Mediterranean Archaeology. His Sifting the Soil of Greece: the Early Years of the British School at Athens (1886-1919) (London: Institute of Classical Studies, 2011) was published to coincide with the 125th anniversary of the School.

September 7, 2011

The Journal of Art Crime, Spring 2011: David Gill's Context Matters looks at "The Unresolved Case of the Minneapolis Krater"

In the Spring 2011 issue of The Journal of Art Crime, David Gill writes about "The Unresolved Case of the Minneapolis Krater" in his regular column Context Matters.

Gill, head of the Division of Humanities and Professor of Archaeological Heritage at University Campus Suffolk, at Ipswich, Suffolk, England (from October 2011) and author of Sifting the soil of Greece: the early years of the British School at Athens (1886-1919), answers the question of why the dispute over the krater needs to be resolved. The Athenian pot, decorated with a Dionysiac scene, was acquired in 1983 from the London-based dealer Robin Symes by the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Although the collecting history for the krater claims that it had been private owned by collectors in Switzerland and Great Britain for 15 years prior to the purchase, the pot has been identified from the photographic archive seized in a warehouse facility held by Robert Hecht and Giacomo Medici, convicted in 2004 for dealing in stolen ancient artifacts.

To read more about this five-year-old dispute, you may obtain a copy of this issue by subscription through the ARCA website or through Amazon.com.

August 24, 2011

The Journal of Art Crime, Spring 2011: David W. J. Gill and Christos Tsirogiannis on "Polaroids from the Medici Dossier: Continued Sightings on the Market"

"Bonhams withdraws Roman sculptures with 'Medici link' from auction"
Polaroid from the Medici Dossier and Bonhams Copyright [for the composition] David Gill.

David W. J. Gill and Christos Tsirogiannis have written on "Polaroids from the Medici Dossier: Continued Sightings on the Market" for the fifth issue of The Journal of Art Crime (Spring 2011) which can be purchased through subscription through ARCA's website or individually through Amazon.com. This is the abstract for the article:
The series of returned antiquities to Italy have been a reminder of the role of Giacomo Medici in the movement of antiquities to North American public and private collections. A dossier of images was seized during a series of raids on premises in the Geneva Freeport linked to Medici. Such images have made it possible for the Italian authorities to make identifications with recently surfaced antiquities. In spite of the publicity some involved with the trade of antiquities continue to offer recently-surfaced objects that can be traced back to Medici and his consignments to the London market.
David Gill is Reader in Mediterranean Archaeology at Swansea University, Wales, UK. He is a former Rome Scholar at the British School at Rome and was a member of the Department of Antiquities at the Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge. He has published widely on archaeological ethics with Christopher Chippindale. He is currently completing a history of British archaeological work in Greece prior to the First World War.

Christos Tsirogiannis is a postgraduate research student at Hughes Hall, University of Cambridge. His PhD research, supervised by Christopher Chippindale and David Gill, is on the international implications of the Robin Symes-Christos Michaelides photographic archive. He has excavated in Attica, the Cyclades and on Ithaka. He was seconded by the Hellenic Ministry of Culture to the Ministry of Justice to research illicit antiquities. He was involved with the return of antiquities from the J. Paul Getty Museum to Greece.

June 18, 2011

Saturday, June 18, 2011 - ,, No comments

Swansea University Professor David Gill Awarded AIA's Outstanding Public Service Award

The Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) has selected Dr. David Gill, Reader in Mediterranean archaeology at Swansea University and a columnist for ARCA's Journal of Art Crime, for this year's Public Service Award.

Professor Gill, author of "Context Matters", a column published twice-annually in the Journal of Art Crime, spoke recently with journalist Robin Turner with Western Mail, the "national" newspaper of Wales, here and has been previously featured on the ARCA blog "Lotting Matters Relays Message from the Field in Egypt" here and "Medici's Antiquties Still a Presence on the Art Market" here.

Dr. Gill is also a member of the Editorial Board for the Journal of Art Crime.

February 4, 2011

The Journal of Art Crime: Columnist David Gill on 'Context Matters'

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin

In his column “Context Matters,” archaeologist David Gill writes of “Greece and the U. S.: Reviewing Cultural Property Agreements” of Greece’s 2010 formal request to the United States to impose “import restrictions on archaeological and ethnological material from Greece dating to the Neolithic Period through the mid-eighteenth century”.

Gill’s column also covers international looting news from the period from March 2010 through August 2010 in Egypt, Greece, Italy, Japan, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

David Gill is Reader in Mediterranean Archaeology at Swansea University, Wales, UK. He is a former Rome Scholar at the British School at Rome and was a member of the Department of Antiquities at the Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge. He has published widely on archaeological ethics with Christopher Chippindale. His Sifting the Soil of Greece: The Early Years of the British School at Athens (1886-1919) is due to be published in March by the Institute of Classical Studies in London. He is a member of the editorial board for the Journal of Art Crime.

ARCA blog: Dr. Gill, some of our readers are not schooled in cultural property law, how would you explain to them the lay meaning of Greece's request to the U. S. to impose "import restrictions in archaeological and ethnological material from Greece"?
Dr. Gill: The US has been a signatory to the UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property (1970) since 1983. However this seems to have made little significant impact on the acquisition policies of public museums and private collectors (as the impact of the “Medici Conspiracy” has shown all too clearly). In the last few years the J. Paul Getty Museum returned a gold funerary wreath that appears to have been removed from an archaeological context in Macedonia, and the New York collector Shelby White handed back a bronze calyx-krater that also appears to come from northern Greece. There are reports in the Greek press that there is a claim on a number of Greek antiquities in a major U. S. university museum. The case of the Aidonia Treasure that appeared on the North American market drew attention to concerns about recent illicit activity on archaeological sites in Greece. The Greek authorities feel that a formal Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) would have an impact on the movement of recently-surfaced cultural objects.
ARCA blog: Why do you think that the agreement stops "through the mid-eighteenth century"? What was the political compromise here?
Dr. Gill: The requested agreement covers material from prehistoric times (Neolithic) right through to the period of the Turkokratia. The MOU statement made it clear that Greek authorities wished to protect post-Byzantine art and materials.
ARCA blog: Would you expect to see any practical changes in how museums or private individuals collect items from Greece? And what kind of items would be included in this agreement?
Dr. Gill: The “Medici Conspiracy” has delivered a wake-up call to major museums and private collectors in North America (and beyond). Museum curators, dealers and collectors can no longer turn a blind eye to the issue. The Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) has re-formulated its policy towards the acquisition of archaeological material, and established an online object registry. There needs to be a more rigorous due diligence process by those selling antiquities as well as those making purchases. Collecting histories (I prefer this to the misleading term “provenance” that is so carelessly used in art history circles—but that is another story) need to be carefully documented. The proposed MOU with Greece covers a range of works from Neolithic figurines to ecclesiastical icons.
To seek out this piece, and many others, consider a subscription to the Journal of Art Crime—the first peer-reviewed academic journal covering art and heritage crime. ARCA publishes two volumes annually in the Spring and Fall. Individual, Institutional, electronic and printed versions are all available, with subscriptions as low as 30 Euros. All proceeds go to ARCA's nonprofit research and education initiatives. Please see the publications page for more information.

Photo: Dr. Gill at Rhamnous in eastern Attica, Greece

October 29, 2010

Giacomo Medici's Antiquities Crime Ring Still a Presence on the Art Market


Bonhams Auction house in London sold two antiquities that had been looted by the organized crime ring run by the infamous, imprisoned Giacomo Medici. Two lots from a recent sale were part of the dossier of antiquities looted by tomb raiders on behalf of Medici, who then sold them to the world's most famous museums. Medici was arrested in 1995 and imprisoned in 2004, but the repercussions from his looting ring are still felt. Bonhams has come under scrutiny because of their failure to withdraw the two lots in question from their recent sale, despite the fact that they were notified by renowned professor of archaeology, Dr David Gill of University of Swansea. Dr Gill, an ARCA colleague both as a regular columnist and editorial board member of The Journal of Art Crime, warned Bonhams ahead of time, but the sale went through. The buyer of the two suspect lots, however, withdrew his interest when the Medici connection was made clear. ARCA lauds Dr Gill for his diligent efforts.