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.
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