The contrast between risks to cultural heritage in regions of conflict and the burgeoning art market was quite stark this week. In Syria, bombing of monuments has given way to armed looting of artifacts, in Mali, desecration of the graves of Sidi Mahmoud by the Ansar Dine group threatened the cultural heritage of Timbuktu, and in Egypt, looting of pharaonic heritage continued to spread since Hosni Mubarak was deposed. Egypt was not without good news, however, in that 80 smuggled objects were returned from Brussels to Cairo. Also, reportedly, Jammu and Kashmir have 69 protected cultural sites, and Columbia and China signed co-op agreements including protection of cultural property. The picture in the art market was quite different. The sale of a painting by Mark Rothko set the record for a contemporary work at auction and illustrated the continued flow of investment into art. Artnet's launch of an index for modern and contemporary art emphasized the financial side of the art market, and a report of a Chinese collector building a museum to house his acquisitions reflects investment in cultural property quite different from protection of cultural sites in regions of conflict.
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