Sunday, December 30, 2012

Cultural Security News (Dec. 23 - Dec. 29)

Expansion of China’s art market
In politics, John Seed published a colorful allegory on the waning relationship between the art market and art criticism. Jay Kislak, who chaired the Presidential Cultural Property Advisory Committee from 2003 to 2008 commented on frustration in dealing with State Department staff. Turkey’s Culture and Tourism Minister, Ertugrul Gunay, warned of continued efforts to repatriate ancient treasures. Fallujah began to work on a monument to victims of terrorism.
In a crossover of politics and economics, China realized the need for laws and regulation to expand the art market.
Elton John performing in Beijing on Nov. 25 (AP Photo) In a crossover of politics and security, in China, criticism of comments by Elton John about Ai Weiwei indicated continued restriction of artists in making political statements during performances.
In economics, the 3rd China Art Market Summit Forum discussed the change and sustainable development of the art market. Despite the success of current artists in China, the curator, Zhu Qi, voiced concern that there is no rising group at present. The Jing Daily reported that the art market in China is primed to increase the rate of development in 2013, while the art market in India corrected with an increased awareness of quality. A painting by Edward Hopper became the most expensive sale of an artwork in an online auction at $9.6 million. A collector paid $1.2 million for a group film posters.
In a crossover of economics and security, the director of the Dubai Municipality’s architectural heritage department called for the development of the heritage tourism sector in the interest of making conversation sustainable.
In security, Turkish police arrested four men in Adana in connection with a 1,900-year-old Torah scroll. Concerns increased over trafficking in cultural material from Syria through Lebanon and Turkey. In Florida, the man accused of trafficking in dinosaur fossils from Mongolia pleaded guilty. India is experiencing trouble with “unscientific” conservation methods that comprise monuments.
For similar news, visit Cultural Security News.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Cultural Intelligence: What’s missing?

Looking back on the year, the art market racked up success, while cultural heritage had setbacks.
Beyond criticism of high-end collectors for tainting the aesthetic integrity of modern and contemporary art, an art fair in Bangladesh, international sales of contemporary artworks from Syria, and recognition of emerging artists in Africa each reflect the potential of the political economy of cultural property. On the other hand, deliberate destruction of shrines in northern Mali and destruction of historic sites throughout Syria reflect a decade of targeting in political violence since the demolition of the giant statues of Buddha in the Bamiyan Valley of Afghanistan.
Photos: Xu Ming/GTIn the balance, cultural security did OK, but what’s missing in the perceived value of cultural property?
On the surface, expansion of the art market develops the political economy of art, but what are the long-term effects on cultural property? In China, for example, a focus on the art market as an aspect of economic development attracts capital and investment in infrastructure to the benefit of cultural heritage. How the resources are applied, however, has ramifications for the treatment of cultural property. Interest in art as an asset class risks casting cultural property as a commodity. As a result, perceptions of the value of historic buildings and sections of cities may factor the economic, versus the cultural, significance more into decisions on conservation.
What might restore balance to the short-term pragmatic and the long-term aesthetic considerations of cultural property?

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Cultural Security News (Dec. 16 - Dec. 22)

"Socio-Cultural" Security
In politics, in Australia, the think tank, Future Directions International (FDI), published a report which warned that the anti-Western rhetoric of Hizb ut-Tahrir “could pose a ‘socio-cultural’ security threat by increasing disharmony between Muslim and non-Muslim Australians.” Hizb ut-Tahrir criticized the quality of the study and the validity of the conclusions. Azerbaijan made news for participation in UNESCO’s committee for protection of cultural property during armed conflict.
Iran condemns monument destruction in Nagorno-Karabakh by ArmeniansIn a crossover of politics and security, Egypt engaged in talks with Israel to prevent the destruction of a war memorial for Egyptian soldiers of the Six Day War in the West Bank. The Pakistan People’s Party tasked the Ministry of National Heritage and the Foreign Ministry with coordinating efforts to repatriate Gandhara artifacts that had been trafficked to Western nations. Iran condemned the destruction of a monument by Armenia in Nagorno-Karabakh. In India, former politicians surrendered to the court in the twenty-year-old case of the demolition of the Babri Masjid mosque.
In economics, Georgia voiced appreciation of USAID in economic development and cited potential of a rich cultural heritage. Criticism continued over a lack of aesthetic appreciation in acquisitions of art. In China, the first Chinese Art Market Development Summit declared Beijing as a “maturing art market center of the world.” In the art market, one report indicated that sales of Sotheby’s dropped by 10% from last year. Founders of start-ups in the on-line art market sector voiced optimism with the “disproportionate” expansion of the market in emerging markets.
In a crossover of economics and security, in Pakistan, the Department of Archaeology and Museums (DOAM) attempted but failed to halt the sale of a Fasting Buddha, which had been illicitly removed and fetched over $11 million at auction at Christie’s in New York in 2011. Palestine claimed that loss of land and lack of control of borders impedes the development of tourism. In Afghanistan, the deadline for completing excavation of Buddhist artifacts at the Mes Aynak mine approaches. In Afghanistan, the governor of the central bank reported on an investigation of potential money laundering with large shipments of gold leaving the country.
In security, a retrospective commentary for the year referred to Islamists “systematically destroying the indigenous cultures of Mali, Lower Sudan, Niger, and Nigeria.” In Cyprus, the UN Ambassador reported on systematic and widespread destruction of cultural and religious heritage in the Turkish-occupied areas of the island. In Syria, new rebel Islamist groups act independently in attacks on cultural property. In Greece, two thieves received life sentences for trafficking in cultural artifacts.
For similar news, visit Cultural Security News.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Cultural and Human Security

Threats to the security of cultural heritage in conflict and the political risk of repatriation have increased the power of cultural property in international affairs. International conventions for the protection and preservation of cultural heritage have created opportunities for emerging nations to have a voice in international affairs and have given rise to innovative solutions to disputes over possession of cultural property. The Penn Museum and the Dallas Museum of Art recently negotiated academic collaboration with Turkey in exchange for the return of disputed objects as long-term loans. At the same time, the symbolic power of cultural heritage is increasingly exploited in political violence and armed conflict.
A statue from the Mausoleum of Halikarnassos (Photo from wikipedia.org)Wanton destruction in Mali and Syria provide poignant, topical examples. As with resolution of cases for repatriation, threats to the security of cultural heritage in conflict would benefit from innovative policy that goes beyond sheer protection with strategic consideration of cultural heritage. The assertion of the interrelation of cultural heritage and international security suggests that artworks and monuments have strategic value. The value, in turn, creates opportunity to incorporate cultural heritage into policy in the interest of human security.
As a first step, nations have realized the practical significance of cultural heritage to national security. The emerging relationship between cultural property and human rights suggests the relevance of cultural heritage to human security. Turkey recently brought human rights law into a case for repatriation of antiquities from the British Museum, and political tension on the twenty-year anniversary of the destruction of the Babri Mashid in India illustrates the significance of cultural property in freedom of expression. Targeting of shrines in Timbuktu and burning of the souk in Aleppo undermine cultural identity and, thereby, compromise human security. In such cases, cultural and human security intertwine.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Cultural Security News (Dec. 09 - Dec. 15)

Human Rights Law, Art Market Bubble, Transnational Crime and Trafficking
In politics, Turkey pulled human rights law into the case for repatriation of sculptures of the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus from the British Museum. Anastassis Mitsialis of Greece advocated the return or restitution of cultural property to nations of origin as part of a report at the 67th General Assembly of UNESCO. Despite protests from the Chinese government, an imperial seal, which was stolen from Beijing in the 19th century, will go up for auction in Paris. China wrestled with several contested demolitions and redevelopment of historic sites. Romania seeks to repatriate the remains of Constantin Brancusi from Paris, while India mourned the passing of Pandit Ravi Shankar.
In a crossover of politics and economics, from the perspective of some art critics, the role of critique has been supplanted by the art market, and art critics now critique the collectors as well as artists such as Damian Hirst. At the same time, popular artists, such Jeff Koons, displayed works with more than one representative, Damian Hirst left Gagosian Gallery, and pressure to produce art to fill stands at Art Basal Miami Beach risks compromising quality. In New Zealand, promoters of Maori cultural identity emphasize the need for cultural security to be a means to productive integration into society and not an ends. A new book by George Lekakis documents the loss of cultural material from Greece during the German occupation of World War II and estimates the value of some 8,500 objects at more than $1 trillion.
A portrait bust of Germanicus In a crossover of politics and security, the Director General of UNESCO and the President of Mauritania called for the protection of cultural heritage in Mali as destruction and looting continue amidst in sectarian conflict. Russian prosecutors investigated an exhibition by Jake and Dinos Chapman for violation of extremism laws, while social conservative groups such as Orthodox Christians and Cossacks filed complaints against the exhibition. The Hermitage Museum spoke out against the complaints and investigation, which appear to support the cultural policy of Vladimir Putin. In Pakistan, academics speak out over the planned destruction of a monument to Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah in Peshwar.
In economics, one of the Elgin marbles without issues of provenance fetched $8.2 million at auction in London. Speculation of an art-market bubble continued as million-dollar prices for works by current artists contrasted with deceased interest in works of the promising contemporary artists of the last half-century. Conflicting reports in China claim higher stability in the art market in Hong Kong while interest in investment in the art market has lessened on the mainland as under developed strategies for acquisitions have turned to losses. On the positive side, a Native American art auction at Bonhams in San Francisco, brought in $1.28 million.
In security, in Syria damage and looting continue with evidence for targeted theft and trafficking in high-value objects from museums. The Iraqi Ministry of Tourism reported similar tactics and information on international mafias that traffic in antiquities. A large number of items, which had been lent to the British Empire and Commonwealth Museum in Bristol, may have been sold without authorization. Douglas A. J. Latchford, a renowned British collector and expert of Khmer art has been implicated in the illicit transfer of a 10th -century warrior statue, which now features in a highly visible court case between Sotheby’s in New York and Cambodia. Reportedly, in South Africa, rising prices have induced an increase in art thefts.
For similar news, visit Cultural Security News.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Intelligence for Protection of Cultural Heritage

The tightening interrelation of cultural property and international security -- cultural security -- creates a need for the collection and analysis of specialized intelligence. “Cultural Intelligence” enables assessments of the tactical and strategic significance of antiquities, fine art, and cultural heritage sites to national and regional security. This video, "Art of Cultural Intelligence," presents a framework for the collection of cultural intelligence as a fundamental asset in countering threats to cultural security.
Looting of antiquities as a tactic in campaigns of cultural cleansing, trafficking in antiquities as a source of funding for insurgents, and targeting of historic structures and religious monuments in political violence represent distinct threats to regional security. A critical initial step in countering the threats includes marshaling appropriate sources of information. Publications that report on the art market and cultural property globally and players in the antiquities trade offer opportunities as sources of cultural intelligence.
Ultimately, the development of tactical and strategic cultural intelligence can reveal trafficking networks and assess risks to cultural heritage sites. As a starting point, this presentation identifies viable sources of cultural intelligence. Conflicts in Afghanistan (2001) and Iraq (2003) provide examples in retrospect, while volatility in Mali presents an opportunity in the context of an emerging security risk.
In conclusion, the presentation speculates on the applications of cultural intelligence in regional security.
Erik Nemeth delivered the presentation on a panel, "Archaeology in Conflict and the Military," at the conference Archaeology in Conflict (www.archaeologyinconflict.org) in Vienna, Austria.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Cultural Security News (Dec. 02 - Dec. 08)

Pearl Harbor, China Poly Auction, and thefts of Henry Moore statues
In politics, in New Mexico, the state Supreme Court considered whether or not to uphold the designation of Mount Taylor as a cultural site of Navajo, Hopi, Zuni, Acoma Pueblo, and Laguna people to protect the cultural property from development. An agreement to return a mosaic of Orpheus from the Dallas Museum of Art to Turkey included collaboration on art loans and conservation and other technical expertise. In Hawaii, ceremonies at the Pearl Harbor Memorial commemorated the 71st anniversary of the Japanese attack that compelled the United States to enter World War II.
In a crossover of politics and security, Irina Bokova authored an op-ed in The New York Times. The Director General of UNESCO made a case for “seeing cultural heritage as an international security issue.” In India, on the 20th anniversary of the demolition of the Babri Mosque in Ayodhya, police in Hyderabad prepared to deter protests at The Charimnar. A court in Qatar sentenced a poet to life imprisonment for criticizing the emir. New Zealand acceded to the 1954 Hague Convention by passing legislation on the protection of cultural property from destruction and theft during armed conflict. In the United States, federal agencies signed a memorandum of understanding for the protection of Native American sacred sites and improving access to the sites.
In a crossover of politics and economics, the high-end collectors and buyers at Art Basel Miami Beach drew criticism from writers and critics, who question the impact of current spending in the art market on the development of art.
In economics, a London borough, Tower Hamlets, hoped to solve financial problems with the sale of "Draped Seated Woman" by Henry Moore, but the sale was impeded by the Art Fund charity, which challenged the legal ownership of the sculpture. In France, President Francois Hollande inaugurated a Louvre satellite museum, which is hoped to revive the economy of Lens. The art fair, Art Basel Miami Beach attracted new affluent Latin American buyers. Poly Auction, China’s largest art auction house, is now the third-largest internationally after Christie’s and Sotheby’s. The nature magazine, National Geographic, raised $3.8 million in an auction of photographs.
In security, in the UAE, Sharjah Police worked off of information from Dubai Police to arrest a couple of Pakistani men who were trafficking in fake gold coins. In Oman, the Council of Ministers approved a plan to counter looting of and trafficking in cultural property as part of a comprehensive plan to develop tourism. In Khao Sam Kaeo, a “bead rush” increases looting and trafficking of cultural property in Thailand. In the UK, the two men who stole “Working Model for Sundial” from the Henry Moore Foundation in Hertfordshire were sentenced to a year in prison. In Italy, Rome police recovered an Egyptian sphinx of the 4th century B.C. In New York, U.S. Homeland Security Investigations (HIS) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) seized several Indian statues that the now notorious antiquities dealer, Subhash Kapoor, had allegedly sold. HSI also seized a 16th century tapestry from a business in Houston on behalf of the Spanish Civil Guard. Also, the FBI Art Crime Program secured a painting from a Santa Fe art gallery on behalf of the Embassy of Peru in Washington D.C.
For similar news, visit Cultural Security News.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Cultural Property in Foreign Policy: Distraction or Asset?

Targeting of cultural property in political violence and cases for repatriation of cultural patrimony have developed into significant challenges in regional conflict and foreign relations. Looked at in the short-term, the challenges may seem transient, but what if targeting and repatriation of cultural heritage are symptoms of a broader phenomenon of the power of culture?
A recent New York Times op-ed by Irina Bokova stressed the relevance of cultural heritage to international security. The Director General of UNESCO provided poignant examples of deliberate destruction of World Heritage sites, such as during armed conflict in Syria and political violence in Mali, which led up to a recommendation of “seeing cultural heritage as an international security issue.” With an increasing interrelation of threats to cultural heritage and regional security, nations have both a responsibility of and a strategic interest in countering threats. The relevance of cultural heritage to security has implications for foreign policy. What policy might nations adopt to protect, and potentially leverage, cultural property in the interest of national security?
Issues of cultural property prompt a similar question for diplomacy. Turkey’s assertive campaign for repatriation of cultural treasures and China’s campaign to develop cultural soft power illustrate the exploitation of cultural property in foreign policy. Simultaneously, both nations face criticism for domestic cultural policy. Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s plan to construct a mosque in Taksim Square has been met with opposition from secularists, and Chinese officials’ continued pursuit of “cultural security” is perceived as oppressive from abroad. With other emerging nations experimenting with the potential of cultural property as a means to a voice in international affairs, Turkey’s and China’s balancing of foreign and domestic cultural policy provide valuable case studies.
In the sort-term, threats to cultural heritage in conflict and the trends of repatriation and cultural soft power may seem like distractions in the face of armed conflict and tension in foreign relations, but investing in strategic responses may lead to more effective application of culture in foreign policy. By examining the challenges with the intent of finding long-term constructive solutions, nations would gain practice in considering the value of culture as a medium for diplomacy and as instrumental to security.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Cultural Security News (Nov. 25 - Dec. 01)

Turkey and China cause controversy with foreign and domestic cultural policy
In politics, the 100-year anniversary of the discovery of the bust of Nefertiti approaches, while the controversy between Egypt and Germany continues over ownership of the cultural treasure. A Norwegian group proceeded with plans to return Roald Amundsen's  ship, Maud, by visiting Cambridge Bay in Canada to photograph the wreck. China continues to progress with developing cultural soft power abroad while implementing domestic cultural policy such as the rapid establishment of museums nationwide. On a lighter note, toilets have aesthetic appeal in Korea as evidenced by a dedicated park in Suwon.
Mexchac GabaIn a crossover of politics and economics, the Tate Modern in London lends esteem to African artists by showcasing Nigerian artists. The show drew criticism of engaging in “neocolonialism” under the guise of “being nice” to disadvantaged African artists. In China, the "world's first financial center for art" is under construction in Xiamen.
In economics, as evidence of Chinese auction houses becoming competitive internationally, Poly Auction planned its first auction outside of China to coincide with Christie’s auction in Hong Kong. Specialized funds reflect Initiatives to create an asset class from fine art and collectibles. Estimates range from $960 million to $2 billion in the funds worldwide and are a fraction of the $60 billion international market for art. Malaysian art has reportedly made gains, and new wealth in Turkey increases the demand for art the local market. Canada’s art market tends to follow the United States and Britain in building a following for recent artistic movements.
In a crossover of economics and security, financial analysts warn of an impending bubble in the contemporary art market.
In security, artists in Nepal sculpted trash from Mount Everest in an effort raise awareness of the environmental impact of expeditions. New Zealand reportedly lags in establishing World Heritage Sites relative to Australia and has none of cultural significance. Similar to controversy over Turkey’s pursuit of repatriation of antiquities from abroad, domestic cultural policy draws criticism to the planned construction of a mosque in Taksim Square. A former secretary to Imelda Marcos has been charged with keeping a painting, to which the Philippine government claimed ownership after Ferdinand Marcos was deposed. The former secretary was detained in New York and pleaded not guilty to conspiring to sell the painting by Monet.
For similar news, visit Cultural SecurityNews.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Innovative Teaching Methods for Cultural Security

The alarming scale of the loss of cultural property—whether it be in the form of monuments, sites, or objects from museums, libraries, or archives—is a topic that, while covered by the media, academic publications, and political dialogue, is considered a secondary priority relative to human security and political stability during armed conflict.  It is, however, important to consider their interrelation:  efforts to protect cultural property would enhance both human security and political stability.  The establishment of seminars and training programs, therefore, is fundamental to cultural security.
Dr. Laurie W. Rush (Ph.D., RPA, FAAR), Cultural Resource Manager for the U.S. Army, is at the forefront of pioneering training programs to educate soldiers on cultural heritage protection.  Dr. Rush is currently working toward improved archaeological mapping for military planning and military guidelines for stability operations in archaeologically sensitive areas.  Additionally, Dr. Rush and her team are brainstorming innovative methods to raise awareness and to instruct.  Their work includes developing teaching aids; for example, in partnership with colleagues at Colorado State University, Dr. Rush has developed three different decks of playing cards, each version featuring photos and messages about the cultural heritage of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Egypt.  These playing cards are a simple, yet highly effective, training tool for U.S. troops.
Dr. Rush and her team are presently involved in creating PowerPoint modules on “Cultural Property Protection Training” that focus on various countries of the SOUTHCOM AOR (“The U.S. Southern Command Area of Responsibility encompasses 31 countries and 15 areas of special sovereignty. The region represents about one-sixth of the landmass of the world assigned to regional unified commands”).  These modules cover topics such as:  identification of cultural resources, governing national and international legislation, and “your part”—what should you do and why you should do it.  These teaching aids will help military personnel to develop cultural property identification skills, to consider cultural property protection strategies and process from a military point of view, and to develop the capacity for identification and protection of cultural property across the SOUTHCOM AOR.
Originally posted by Sally Johnson on CulturalSecurity.net.
Learn about the framework for Cultural Intelligence.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Cultural Security News (Nov. 18 - Nov. 24)

China’s play in the political economy of art and culture
In politics, the discovery of a Renoir at a flea-market in Maryland illustrated the controversy over museum care of donated collections.  The relative of a donor to the Baltimore Museum of Art not only was disappointed that some of the entrusted paintings were not on display but also discovered that at least one painting had been stolen and missing from the museum for over fifty years. On a positive note, Yale returned the last of the artifacts from Machu Picchu in a process of repatriation that lasted almost two years.
In a crossover of politics and economics, Reuters reported on the “Occupy Museums” movement, which questions the cultural security of the art market in the face of high-end collectors bidding up the prices of “high-end” works with a seeming disregard for artistic or aesthetic merit. In the interest of cultural security, Dubai hosted an architectural conservation conference in the interest of protecting cultural heritage and identity during development in the Middle East.
3873f7d006e9064b1aae44ef2989f4a0.jpgIn a crossover of politics and security, a media initiative by the government in Beijing to promote Chinese culture and economy abroad aims to increase China’s soft power, while Joseph Nye remains skeptical of the changes for success in light of a repressive domestic policy.
In economics, major auctions houses, Poly International Auction and China Guardian Auctions, from China planned debuts in Hong Kong to coincide with annual auctions by Sotheby’s and Christie’s. Coincidentally, an article in South China Morning Post examined a range of information sources and investment vehicles to mitigate risk in the art market. In Egypt, on-line venues are starting to provide local collectors with access to affordable works and enable new local artists to market works globally, and India endeavored to create awareness of and access to local art with a fifth India Art Fair. Reportedly, Russian collectors prefer to acquire works in London, while galleries in Moscow are closing. Despite a stalling art market, the combined sales of post-war and contemporary art by Sotheby’s and Christie’s in New York totaled close to $1 billion in the past week.
In a crossover of economics and security, the success of the market for contemporary art in Istanbul has drawn criticism from the conservative Muslim majority in Turkey. In Australia, new regulations on insurance and storage for artworks in super funds have lowered the appeal for investors.
In security, an article in Foreign Policy provided history on calls by Islamists to demolish ancient Egyptian monuments. An article on BlouinARTINFO provided background on available evidence that suggests that trafficking in fine art and antiquities intersects with organized crime and perhaps funds terrorist groups. Meanwhile, the success of forgers in copying 20th-century abstract and expressionist artists has increased the risk of litigation for professionals and foundations that authenticate works. On positive note, the return of a mummified Maori head from Canada to New Zealand reflected efforts of the past twenty-five years to repatriate human remains for proper burial by the Maori.
 For similar news, visit Cultural Security News.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Yin and Yang of the Value of Art

Does aesthetics or the market determine the value of art? Two articles on November 19th each represented one side of the debate. “Occupy Art” reflected on criticism of the investor-collector mentality that cares less about aesthetics than rate of return on artworks, and “Art as an investment” outlined an array of opportunities and financial products that derive from the art market. Will there be a dominant force or harmony in the passion and pragmatics of art collecting in the 21st century?
“Occupy Art” happened to appear in the U.S. edition of Reuters, while “Art as an investment” appeared in the South China Morning Post. Western and Eastern perspectives were distinct. “Occupy Art” passionately suggests that tastes, or lack thereof, of high-end “collectors” control the market and have degraded the practice of collecting. “Art as an investment” takes a pragmatic look at the ways in which art has developed as an asset class.
What do sales prices of $250 million (Cezanne’s The Card Players), $140 million (Pollock’s No. 5), $120 million (Munch’s The Scream), $87 million (Rothko’s Orange, Red, Yellow) say about the quality of the art? While the prices may seem extreme, at least each of the sales, which occurred over the past decade, reflects vetting through a history of ownership. What do sales prices of $8 million (Hirst’s The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living) and $33.7 million (Koons’ Tulips) say about quality of the art? The artists appear to have a following of wealthy collectors who somehow decide on the financial value of the artworks. “Occupy Art” refers to the “art market oligopoly system,” in which money and perceived prestige guides acquisitions.
The multibillion-dollar art market offers a spectrum of investment options. Masterworks, many with market values over $10 million, are the “blue chips,” with paintings by Pablo Picasso and others selling for over $100 million. Although, reportedly no work acquired for over $30 million has ever been resold at a profit. “Art as an investment” points out options to mitigate risk in art investing. Indices, such as the Mei Moses Art Index, and on-line statistics, such as Artindex.com, provide more transparency in the art market but fall short of comprehensive risk assessments. The Fine Art Fund Group in London and Art Futures in Hong Kong offer shares in diversified portfolios of artworks, but art funds of major banks have folded in the past couple of decades. The success of the market over the past two years notwithstanding, art is still developing as an alternative investment.
On the other end of the spectrum, “affordable art” comprises prints, by recognized artists such as Henri Matisse and Andy Warhol, which sell on-line at Costco and “penny stock” works by aspiring artists that are increasingly accessible through on-line galleries. In the present-day art market, on-line access to affordable art creates the possibility of crowdsourcing aesthetics as a complement to the rarefied perspectives of art critics and high-end collectors. It’s yet to be seen if and when the volume of trading develops into a significant share of the $60 billion international market and whether decisions follow aesthetics or profitability.
The two articles, and the debate that lies in between, characterizes the broader political economy of cultural property. On the political side, artworks and monuments play a role in cultural identity, which causes conflict in calls for repatriation and is put at risk when political violence targets monuments. In economics, China’s increasing share in the art market and the financial potential of contemporary art in emerging nations illustrate a relationship between cultural property and development.
Perhaps the passion and pragmatics of art collecting can serve as a barometer of sorts for the political economy of cultural property?

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Cultural Security News (Nov. 11 - Nov. 17)

UAE: Preservation, acquisitions, and prevention
In politics, an op-ed in US News and World Report illustrated the emerging power of cultural property in foreign relations, while the illumination of the Statue of Liberty provided a symbol of resilience after Hurricane Sandy. Questions over what defines "fine art" continued a midst controversies over the aesthetic value of some modern and contemporary art. In the UAE, the director of the Sharjah Museums Department's (SMD) presented at a course that aims to introduce professionals working in the Arab region to the field of conservation and management of heritage and museum collections. Athar Programme and the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM) organized the course.
In a crossover of politics and security, a 3-D rendering of the Buddhist Cave Temples of Xiangtangshan in China accompanied an exhibit of Buddhist sculptures at New York University's Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, which included sculptures from prominent museums in Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom. Also, an article in Foreign Policy articulated the historical targeting of religious monuments as background for recent calls by Salafist leader Murgan Salem al-Goharyof for the destruction of monuments such as the Sphinx and pyramids at Giza. Tragically, the armed conflict between Israeli and Hamas also put world cultural heritage, such as in Jerusalem, at risk.
In economics, arts centers and organizations are considered catalysts for economic development in the United States, such as in Oregon and Arkansas, and the government of Abu Dhabi considers the annual art fair part of a "cultural ecosystem." The Royal Family made acquisitions destined for the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, which is scheduled to open in 2017. Performing arts showed promise in Taiwan, as the Ministry of Culture funded the Performance Art Showcase which featured the Huashan Living Arts Festival as a means to promoting the arts both within the state and with international festival curators.
Sotheby's and Christie's had successful auctions in New York totaling close to $1 billion despite the stagnating market for contemporary art, and at a following auction by Phillips de Pury & Company,  a portrait of Mao Zedong by Andy Warhol sold for $12 million. Meanwhile Chinese auctions houses, such as China Guardian Auctions and Poly Auctions, prepare to expand internationally.
In a crossover of economics and security, ArtLyst.com queued off of comments by art critics and high-end collectors to write an article with details on the "unscrupulous" facets of the billion-dollar art market.
In security, an armed robbery at the Pretoria Art Museum made headlines as the largest art heist in the history of South Africa. Reportedly, a 10-fold increase in prices motivated the estimated $2 million theft. Subsequently, the Minister of Arts and Culture appealed for the safe return of the artworks. Meanwhile, investigation into the illicit dealings of of Subhash Chandra Kapoor revealed long-term smuggling of relics across India and South East Asia.
In recoveries, two men copped to stealing a Henry Moore sculpture worth up to $793,800 in Eastern England, and authorities in Connecticut may leverage of drug and gun charges to press a mobster for information on the historic 1990 heist from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.
In prevention, a new decree to combat cyber crime in the UAE included penalties for use of information technology in illicit trading of antiquities and artworks. Also, the International Council of Museums is behind establishing an "intelligence" body, "International Observatory on Illicit Traffic in Cultural Goods," to improve cooperation between Interpol and UNESCO on countering the worldwide illicit trade in cultural material.
For similar news, visit Cultural Security News.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Pragmatics of Cultural Property

Does the concept of cultural security have practical significance? Different perspectives on “cultural security” indicate an evolving theoretical concept. At the same time, controversies over the politics of repatriation, the financial value of art, and the security of cultural heritage in regions of conflict have practical implications.
Cultural Heritage Objects Database - Fighting the Illicit appropriation of Cultural HeritagePolitically, nations with a history of claims for repatriation, such as Greece, created a precedent. Nations, such as Italy, have followed with success in retrieving objects from renowned museums in the United States and in the process kicked up political dust. Before the dust settled, nations, such as Turkey, took the politics of cultural property to the next level by stretching the basis for claims of repatriation.  The assertiveness of Turkey's claims raises the question of an ulterior motive. Is pursuit of the return of cultural patrimony simply a matter of cultural heritage, or has cultural property taken on a practical role in global power?
Financially, the art market has captured interest as an alternative investment. However, the interest has raised concern over the overvaluation of masterworks and contemporary art. Are a small group of collector-investors bidding up the value of safe masterworks without regard for the art market, as a whole, or for aspiring artists? Does the commoditization of art put the cultural value at risk?
In security, what is the role, or fate, of cultural property in armed conflict and political violence? UNESCO conventions for protection have established standards that challenge the abilities of nations to secure cultural heritage. Syria serves as a topical example of the challenges of securing cultural property in armed conflict, and the actions of Ansar Dine in Mali poignantly illustrate the challenges of protecting cultural property from political violence. As states parties to UNESCO conventions, both Syria and Mali bear responsibility for securing historic structures and religious monuments. However, the circumstances of the conflicts seem to challenge, if not make it impossible, to follow the conventions.
Controversies--over the political exploitation of repatriation, financial exploitation of artworks, and responsibilities of states parties to conventions--have shifted the protection of cultural heritage from an altruistic “art for art’s sake” issue to a matter of practical significance. Nations increasingly seem to realize the political advantage of becoming states parties to the conventions. In light of the advantages, what are the motives behind acceptance and to what ends are the conventions being implemented?

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Cultural Security News (Nov. 04 - Nov. 10)

Bolivia, Botswana, and Nepal: Progress in protection
In politics, Nepal illustrated the spread in awareness of cultural property with plans to ratify the 1954 Hague Convention, which specifies the protection of cultural property during armed conflict. A few articles commented on the waning political and aesthetic merit of contemporary art. Italy displayed success of repatriation efforts with an exhibition of antiquities at The National Etruscan Museum of Villa Giulia in Rome. The exhibition included descriptions of methods of trafficking antiquities.
In a combination of politics and security, a workshop on trafficking in cultural property in Botswana encouraged Southern African nations to establish a database of cultural artifacts. Similar collaboration in Latin America occurred between Peru and Bolivia, which returned a mummified toddler that had been seized in route to France. In Australia, a scholar at Deakin University studies wartime damage in Iraq and plans to look at a potential link between violence and destruction of heritage sites.
In economics, art collectors/investors in China and the United States seem to be retreating to, and bidding up, safer masterworks from more speculative, expanding, contemporary art. At the same time, auction houses in China assertively pursue business internationally, and Hungary may turn into the cutting edge of contemporary art in Europe with the success of the second Art Market Budapest. A flurry of articles discussed the impact of hurricane Sandy on the New York art market, while others considered the concern a distraction from getting back to business. The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) announced the first partnership with the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) to "identify and calculate the arts and culture sector's contributions to the Gross Domestic Product." Coincidentally, Pacific Standard Time in Los Angeles boasted that last year's art exhibition had an economic output of more than $280 million.
In a crossover of economics and security, the market for contemporary art in China might benefit from a downturn in the market for Chinese antiques. Reports held that potentially looted antiques were withdrawn from auction. As a poignant indication of the challenges of protecting cultural property during economic downturn, a short letter by Lawrence Rothfield pointed out that repatriation efforts do not help ongoing looting in Egypt.
In security, Syrian authorities seized a truck loaded with antiquities and bomb-making materials south of the port city of Tartous. SANA news agency reported that the seizure included coins of the Byzantine and Roman eras and several archaeological pieces along with pieces of iron cyclone tubing for manufacturing explosive devices. An article on the Gatestone Institute website provides historical background on the "Wahhabi despoliation" of tombs of historic Muslim figures in North Africa as a trend leading up to publicized targeting of shines in Timbuktu over the summer. Another article reported on the burning of a historic church in Pakistan in September.
On the softer side of security, forgeries pose a problem in the market as demonstrated by a con artist in Paris who gained the cooperation of a renowned Indian artist, M.F. Husain, in signing works by others. To compound the problem, diligently seized forgeries in criminal cases can reappear in the market.
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Friday, November 9, 2012

Cultural Heritage and National Security = Cultural Security

Cultural heritage has a role in national security. Politically, international conventions for the protection of cultural property foster relations between developed “market” nations and emerging “source” nations. Socially, cultural identity influences security in regions of political instability. Economically, the $60 billion international art market creates risk of trafficking and money laundering. By recognizing, respecting, and protecting the cultural heritage of emerging nations, developed nations can mitigate security risks internationally.
Over the past half-century, UNESCO conventions have developed the political importance of cultural property. In response, state parties to the conventions pursue bilateral agreements and domestic policy in the interest of cultural security. Specifically, countering the traffic in antiquities and preserving historic monuments protects cultural identity, which plays a role in political stability.
Foreign policy that supports the repatriation of cultural patrimony develops relations with the “source nations” and demonstrates an interest in countering trafficking in cultural material. Recent efforts by the US Department of Homeland Security in returning objects to Peru provides an example. Policy that supports the preservation of sites of cultural heritage positively reinforces relations with nations in political turmoil. As one example, the US Ambassadors Fund supports restoration and conservation of cultural heritage worldwide.
The perceived value of cultural heritage also creates security risks. Terrorist groups target religious monuments in acts of political violence, an illicit trade in antiquities induces looting in emerging nations, and an international art market creates opportunity for money laundering. Poignant examples include the Taliban’s destruction of statues of Buddha, looting of antiquities in Iraq, and a thriving market for forgeries of works by master artists worldwide.
Foreign policy that protects monuments, counters trafficking in antiquities, and brings greater transparency to the art market not only supports national security but also protects cultural heritage of emerging nations.