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
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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, 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, 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.
For similar news, visit Cultural Security News.

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.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

“The Paint Job That Transformed A Town”

Tannersville, NY has once again been featured on NBC’s Today Show under the caption:  “Brightly hued makeover revives rural town.”  As discussed in the blog entry “A New Coat of Paint,” Tannersville, NY was a typical American Main Street Town, destined to perish from economic decline.  This was the case until resident Elena Patterson took her paintbrush to the buildings, trashcans, and rocks along Main Street.  NBC’s Mike Leonard reported on the “Tannersville Paint Program” at its start in 2003; this past week, he revisited his story to show the transformation of a once “standard-issue faded country town” into a vibrant tourist destination. 
Mike Leonard’s stroll through Tannersville after its “multi-hued do-over” shows how far the small Catskill town has come from its “drab and faded portrait” days to its current, reviving status.  When Leonard’s story on the creative conflict that first drew him to Tannersville back in the summer of 2003 aired on the Today Show, it drew more media attention to the small village that in turn encouraged more visitors, prompting more business owners to “take the colorful plunge.”  Elena Patterson’s vision of luring the visitors with alluring colors certainly worked.  The town needed to “Make a statement! Make a splash!”  We can see that the colors have brightened not only the buildings, but also the prospects, of Tannersville, NY.
Could a basic change of colors miraculously alter the fortunes of a small village? Leonard’s story shows that it can.  To harken back to the blog entry “A New Coat of Paint,” we have validation that art certainly does have the potential to revive depressed economies.  Not only must we hope that this story of the healing power of art will inspire even more innovative projects around the globe, we must continue to substantiate the link between art and the economy.  The proof is in the paint.
To view Mike Leonard’s story, see:
Originally posted by Sally Johnson on
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Sunday, November 4, 2012

Cultural Security News (Oct. 28 - Nov. 03)

Rise of repatriation and decline of auctions?
In politics, the final set of Machu Picchu artifacts are scheduled to be returned from Yale to Peru, and in the UAE the National Council of Tourism and Antiquities prepared to work with the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM) to add sites to the UNESCO World Heritage list. Turkey's controversial policy on repatriation remained in the spotlight, but on the positive side, in Israel, Jews peacefully pray at the Temple Mount despite fears that such a presence at the site, which Muslims also revere as the Al Aqsa mosque, will provoke conflict.
Jerusalem's Old CityIn economics, the second Budapest Art Market showed continuing promise of opening Western European markets to artists of Eastern Europe, and 'urban art' worldwide appeared to be another sector of the art market that thrives during recession. In Malaysia, the secondary market continued to show strong results for the year, but auction houses also received criticism and are seen as a declining industry. In New Zealand, gallery owners, dealers, and artists criticized the auction industry for not supporting artists. At the same time, Artemundi Global Fund, and investment fund dedicated to art, foresee sart investing turning away from auctions, and Liquid Rarity Funds in the United States seeks to securitize fine art and other collectibles. In bridging economics and security, unemployment has reportedly increased the risk of looting of native artifacts in the western United States, and Beijing seeks to act against forgeries, "fake" sales, and "fake" auctions.
In security, destruction of public artworks in renovation work received criticism in Nigeria, while in Mali, cultural heritage remains at risk with a report that radical Islamists were in the process of destroying Timbuktu's independence monument with a bulldozer. At the same time, looting has taken on industrial proportions in Egypt. In an ironic twist, Egyptian security services stopped an attempt to smuggle documents that might provide evidence of Jewish property in Egypt. The report implicates the Israeli Mossad in the operation, which could have enabled repatriation claims against Egypt. In prevention, Botswana announced a meeting for preservation and law enforcement professionals in Southern Africa to counter trafficking in cultural property.
For similar news, visit Cultural Security News.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Cultural Security When Natural Disasters Strike

In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy’s shocking impact across the Northeast we are reminded of the havoc and devastation that can be left in the wake of Natural Disasters.
In addition to lives, homes, and businesses, Natural Disasters threaten landmarks, museums, and storage facilities—such as the major auction houses and galleries—that house countless pieces of cultural patrimony.  Sandy’s impact has resulted (thus far) in a death count of 74 in the U.S., 8.5 million people across 17 states without power, and damages estimated at $20 billion in NYC alone; in addition, Breezy Point, Queens, was ravaged by fire and many Jersey Shore landmarks, including Funtown Pier in Seaside Heights, were decimated.  Luckily, the Smithsonian Institution’s museums and National Zoo were able to reopen after two days and report that all facilities in Maryland and Virginia weathered the storm in good condition; thanks to the maintenance staff on hand all leaks were diverted with sandbags, leaving the collections undamaged.  The devastation incurred and the number of close calls prompts us to consider what measures we can take to protect citizens, property, and both man made cultural and natural heritage.
An example of preemptive measures taken to protect art and antiquities came from the Chicago Conservation Center.  Fearing the effects of Sandy would be felt as far inland as the Midwest, the Conservation Center sent out e-blasts warning against the danger of flood-damage to works of art.  In preparation, the Conservation Center set up a “Hurricane Sandy 24/7 Disaster Response Service” to help clients safeguard their collections, endeavoring to fulfill its mission of “Conserving Art from Coast to Coast.”
Hurricane Sandy is a reminder that destruction can be wrought by nature itself; it is also a reminder that we cannot always be 100% prepared, so we must be vigilant.  What sort of protection against natural disasters can we offer? How are we to pick up and reassemble the pieces?