Posts tagged ‘Cambodia’


illicit trafficking, provenance research and due diligence… and confidence and risk

Last year, UNESCO hosted a round table on the movement of cultural property in 2016: regulation, international cooperation and professional diligence for the protection of cultural heritage. (See the programme.)

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a dismembered Buddha from Indonesia sold for 246 per cent more than its estimate at Christie’s Paris auction

By the market’s seemingly only definition, profit, Christie’s Paris auction of sacred images and other antiquities from Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Nepal, Thailand and Tibet was a success. By any other definition, its results were more questionable.

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Christie’s Paris auction of sacred images and other antiquities from Asia, 14th December 2016

Today, Christie’s Paris auction house is offering sacred images and other antiquities from Asia, specifically Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Nepal, Thailand and Tibet. Almost none of the 88 objects has a secure and complete collecting history. Numerous objects appear to have “surfaced“, in archaeologists David Gill and Christopher Chippindale’s term, at this auction.

Thus, with regard to almost all of the 88 objects, there does not appear to be sufficient evidence to reassure ethical buyers that they are not taking any risk of handling stolen cultural goods, illicitly exported cultural goods or illicitly imported cultural goods.

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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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The conflict antiquities trade: a historical overview – download

A (correctly-numbered) preprint copy of my historical overview of the conflict antiquities trade is available for download. As I mentioned before, the ICOM International Observatory‘s book is also available to read online.

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The conflict antiquities trade: a historical overview

The International Council of Museums’ (ICOM) International Observatory on Illicit Traffic in Cultural Goods has published a book on countering the illicit traffic in cultural goods: the global challenge of protecting the world’s heritage (handled by France Desmarais, Raphaël Roig, Susanne Poverlein, Aedin Mac Devitt and Mélanie Foehn). It gave me the opportunity to provide a historical overview of the conflict antiquities trade.

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Sotheby’s blood antiquities from Cambodia

In Cambodia (as elsewhere), looting and smuggling are associated with poverty and corruption. Academic collusion is key to the ostensibly legal antiquities market. (Dr. Emma Bunker, who confirmed that Sotheby’s statue was ‘definitely stolen’, nonetheless advised them to sell the statue privately, or to sell the statue publicly without mentioning the scene of the crime, but either way to ignore legal advice.) And it is an illicit trade steeped in blood.

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Asia Week auction, WTF20: Cambodia – a bronze Khmer Siva from ‘an old German collection’. How old? Who knows?

Buddhist Art also has a bronze, Bayon-period Khmer Siva ‘[f]rom an old German collection’.

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Asia Week auction, WTF19: Cambodia – temples’ statues are easier to transport without arms…

Buddhist Art has a sandstone Khmer deity.

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Asia Week auction, WTF6: Cambodia – Angkor Wat-style Khmer antiquities

Carlton Rochell Asian Art has an ‘Angkor Wat style‘ Khmer chariot finial from Cambodia, via an unidentified ‘American [p]rivate [c]ollection’.

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