Thursday, February 9, 2012

Was Robert Hecht good for the art world?

The recent demise of the controversial American antiquities dealer Robert Hecht Jr., who died in Paris on Wednesday at the age of 92, prompted us to consider whether Hecht’s allegedly nefarious activities have had an inadvertently positive effect on art and antiquities. The notoriety and publicity surrounding Hecht’s trial, along with those of his alleged co-conspirators Marion True and Giacomo Medici, have led countless museums in the United States and throughout the world to alter their acquisitions policies and repatriate objects that were attained under dubious circumstances.
In addition, the media attention paid to Hecht’s trial has brought the illicit trade of art and antiquities to the forefront of the minds of not only members of the international museum community, but also private collectors, galleries and the public. Hecht’s 1972 sale of the so-called Euphronios krater to the Metropolitan Museum in New York for one million dollars—then the record price paid for an antiquity—ushered in an era of exorbitantly high prices paid for ancient art works at both auctions and private sales. Most importantly perhaps, at least from an archaeological standpoint, Hecht’s actions have led the Italian government to enact more stringent measures to prevent the illegal looting of ancient tombs and excavation sites.
No matter how we view the arguably beneficial results of his actions, Hecht has left an indelible mark on the art and antiquities markets. His legacy, however, will likely remain a dubious one.  
Originally posted by Joshua Mix on

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