April 28, 2016

ISIS and the missing treasures, the missing treasures and ISIS?

Last year, Simon Cox led a team who investigated ISIS: Looting for Terror for the BBC (File on 4). Since then, he has led a team who have investigated ISIS and the Missing Treasures for Channel 4 (Dispatches). On both occasions, they have done solid investigative work and secured new evidence of antiquities trafficking. My queries do not detract from that work.
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April 19, 2016

illicit antiquities – call for papers

I’m very happy to announce that I’m guest editing a special collection of peer-reviewed articles on illicit antiquities for Cogent Social Sciences. The deadline for submission is the 1st of September 2016. Cogent have posted the call for papers. They use online submission and continuous publication.
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April 13, 2016

Of fingers and forgeries – illicit Palmyrene art

In the original title of my previous post, I asked, does one of the ‘recently excavated Palmyrene statues’ have six fingers? In a somewhat unexpected turn of events, some people seem to have (mis)understood it as a denial of the existence of polydactyly (where people have more than five digits on one or more of their hands and/or feet).
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April 13, 2016

Were these ‘Palmyrene statues’ ‘recently excavated’? At least one appears to be a forgery.

I had been planning to leave this note until later, as I am supposed to be writing – and, my dear and unduly patient editors, I am writing – something on iconoclasm. However, since the evidence is being discussed, I felt I should write this now. Looking at the two ‘Palmyrene statues’ that have recently been sold through a ‘public auction in Raqqa’, I believe that at least one is fake (though I would defer to any expert, as I am not one).
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March 25, 2016

theft to order in Italy and subsistence trafficking out of zones of crisis and conflict

While I try to finalise the presentation of a report on antiquities trafficking for a roundtable discussion at UNESCO, new evidence continues to emerge.
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March 9, 2016

A very brief and very remote review of recent damage and destruction of cultural property in south-eastern Turkey

This is a very brief and remote survey of English-language reports. It does not cover “collateral damage” and mass destruction of civilian property in a “scorched earth” policy in Cizre, Diyarbakir (in particular its Sur district), Silvan and elsewhere; it does not cover the lynching campaign against the homes of the Kurdish community and the offices of the “pro-Kurdish” (pro-human rights) People’s Democratic Party (HDP).
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March 2, 2016

Check your provenance

As has oft been pointed out (sometimes with magnificent style), even the Big Three auction houses, which are the most visible, most monitored and apparently most diligent actors in the antiquities market, have a problem with provenance – or the lack of it. Judging by their auctions, that problem remains.
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March 1, 2016

A painting of Arhat Angaja – earliest listed source, 2015

This painting of Arhat Angaja was “acquired from Ferri-Drouot” in Paris on the 26th of June 2015, but Ferri Drouot is “une société de ventes aux enchères” (an auction house for fine art and antiques). Who sold it to or through Ferri Drouot? When and where did the anonymous previous owner acquire it?

According to Christie’s, this painting ‘belonged to a set of 23 paintings depicting the Sixteen Great Arhats’. So, presumably, they know more than they are saying. ‘Three other compositions from this particular paintings set have been identified: Arhat Nagasena (HAR item no.36291), Arhat Kanakavatsa (HAR item no.36292), and Arhat Bakula (HAR item no.36293).’

How do they know that there was a set of 23 paintings of 16 aspects of this legendary figure? Since they can apparently account for 4 of the paintings, what has happened to the other 19? When such information is withheld, is it because people in its chain of ownership do not want to be identified? Is it because the information is actually insecure? Is it because its release would highlight how little information is known about other objects?

Diligent sellers should not play hide and seek with their diligent buyers.

Its price had already jumped from an estimate of €20,000-€30,000 to a sale price of €65,000. Why, in less than a year, has its estimate jumped again? Is it because, since the auction in Paris, it has any known collecting history?

Its auction estimate is $120,000-$180,000.

A painting of Arhat Angaja. Indian, Himalayan and Southeast Asian Works of Art, Lot 215, Sale 12168, Christie's, New York, USA, 15th March 2016.

A painting of Arhat Angaja. Indian, Himalayan and Southeast Asian Works of Art, Lot 215, Sale 12168, Christie’s, New York, USA, 15th March 2016.

March 1, 2016

A gilt bronze figure of Shakyamuni – earliest listed source, 2012

This fifteenth-century gilt bronze figure of Shakyamuni surfaced at Koller Auktionen in Switzerland on the 8th of May 2012 – how did it get there from Nepal?

Its auction estimate is $100,000-$150,000.

A gilt bronze figure of Shakyamuni. Indian, Himalayan and Southeast Asian Works of Art, Lot 268, Sale 12168, Christie's, New York, USA, 15th March 2016.

A gilt bronze figure of Shakyamuni. Indian, Himalayan and Southeast Asian Works of Art, Lot 268, Sale 12168, Christie’s, New York, USA, 15th March 2016.

March 1, 2016

A painting of Kurukulla – earliest listed source, 2012

This seventeenth or eighteenth-century painting of Kurukulla, from “central Tibet”, is only traced back to a sale through Bonhams’ New York auction house on the 19th of March 2012.

Its auction estimate is $150,000-$200,000.

A painting of Kurukulla. Indian, Himalayan and Southeast Asian Works of Art, Lot 213, Sale 12168, Christie's, New York, USA, 15th March 2016.

A painting of Kurukulla. Indian, Himalayan and Southeast Asian Works of Art, Lot 213, Sale 12168, Christie’s, New York, USA, 15th March 2016.

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