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 Reports held that potentially looted antiques were withdrawn from auction.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.

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