Sunday, April 28, 2013

Cultural Security News (Apr. 21 - Apr. 27)

Peru remains active, while Syria, Albania, and First Nations struggle
In politics, Paraguay and Panama have collaborated on restitution for illicitly transferred cultural patrimony for two decades. In the UEA, academics raised concern over a lack a attention to Arabic in branches of foreign universities. In South Korea, a monk continued to petition for the return of an ancient Buddhist statute to Japan.
In a crossover of politics and security, in Italy bureaucracy creates risk for conservation of Pompeii. In Washington DC, a celebration honored 150th anniversary of the Lieber Code. In Canada, the government invested $200,000 to aid museums in research on provenance of Holocaust-era works of art. In France, pro-bono attorneys filed a petition to halt the sale of sacred Hopi masks as source nations for pre-Columbian art continued attempts to disrupt auctions. In Syria, the UNESCO Director-General called attention to destruction of cultural heritage in Aleppo. In the Maldives, rise extremism targeted religious monument from abroad.
In economics, the debate over the role aesthetics versus investment continued. In China, collects show limited interest in Western art. In the United States, collectors noted the consistent value of Oriental rugs. In Arizona, a study suggests the value of Native American art to the economy. Skate’s Art Market Research reported on the quickly growing art market of Poland.
Several lines at Nazca suffer irreparable damage. Photo: ANDINA / INCIn a crossover of economics and security, in Peru, the Ministry of Culture filed criminal charges against a construction firm for damaging ancient geoglyphs. In Peru, trafficking in antiquities contributes to the $5-7 billion earnings of organized crime.
In security, in Albania, after two decades, looting of churches remains a problem. In Egypt, the Archaeological Unit for Confiscated Antiquities (AUCA) caught a smuggler of coins at the Cairo International Airport. In Bethlehem, the Palestinian Authority police detained a suspect in smuggling of ancient coins and pottery.
For similar news, visit Cultural Security News.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

“Family, ‘Not Willing to Forget,’ Pursues Art It Lost to Nazis”

Stories of soldiers throwing open cargo train doors to find that they have stumbled across a cache of priceless masterpieces make for riveting tales. So, too, do the recounting of families seeking restoration of their stolen artworks. Patricia Cohen and Tom Mashberg of The New York Times report on just such a story in their recent article “Family, ‘Not Willing to Forget,’ Pursues Art It Lost to Nazis.”
Paul Rosenberg, one of the world’s most prominent dealers in Modern Art after World War I, established an extensive collection of museum-quality art, including works by such names as Rodin, C├ęzanne, Monet, and Modigliani. For three generations, the Rosenberg family has painstakingly searched for the hundreds of artworks that were looted from their family by the Nazis. Currently, the family is negotiating the return of a Matisse that has hung in the Henie Onstad Arts Center in Norway for the past forty-five years. The family sees pursuit of their lost artwork as a crusade; they have searched through auction catalogs, collaborated with Interpol, brought museums to court, and have even bought back their own property.  Thus far, the Rosenberg family has recovered more than 340 of the roughly 400 works they lost. Marc Masurovsky, a founder of the Holocaust Art Restitution Project, points out that the Rosenberg’s “are part of the 5 percent of those who have been successful” and that “They set an example of how restitution should take place.”
While the Rosenbergs are an exceptional case—given the extent and prestige of their collection as well as the meticulous records kept by Paul Rosenberg that have been used to discount those who discredit their claims—their crusade raises many pertinent issues. One such dispute is the fact that, after so many years—and what can be considered legitimate purchases—many people/institutions may in fact have reasonable claims to looted artworks.  Experts estimate the roughly 100,000 pieces worth perhaps $10 billion are still missing from Nazi plundering. How can we best approach the reconstitution of cultural legacy?
Originally posted by Sally Johnson on
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Sunday, April 21, 2013

Cultural Security News (Apr. 14 - Apr. 20)

The art market, reportedly, is strong, while Egypt struggles to counter looting
In politics, in UAE, academics commented on the lack of Islamic and Arab culture in local branches of foreign schools and universities as a “cultural-security issue.”
Foreign-sponsored militants in the northwestern Syrian city of Aleppo (file photo)In a crossover of politics and security, in Syria, armed conflict continues to put historic structures at risk. In Turkey, a civilian contractor for the U.S. Department of Defense was detained for suspected antiquities smuggling. Time provided a pictorial list of the top ten plundered artifacts. In China, the Vice Premier promoted an inventory of moveable cultural relics to maintain “cultural security.”
In economics, in Dubai, Christie’s reports that the art market in the Middle East has sustainable growth. In Poland, the art market reportedly is flourishing as well. In New York, Indian art did well in an auction at Sotheby’s. The art market in Europe also, reportedly, is showing strong growth.
In a crossover of economics and security, the debate continues over the viability of the art market as a place for investment comparable to the stock market. In Libya, oil exploration puts archaeological sites at risk. In New York, the district attorney charged a gallery owner among numerous other defendants in a money laundering ring of the Nahmad-Trincher Organisation.
In security, a report from the Egyptian Council for Culture and Arts indicates that looting remains a problem that the Ministry of Interior and security forces have not been able to counter effectively. Still authorities remain vigilant in seizing ancient coffins, statues, and coins, and a man was arrested for possession looted coins and small artifacts.
For similar news, visit Cultural Security News.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Big Data on the Relative Value of Culture

Last week took a look at Big Data of the art market. This week takes a first step in comparing the financial value of art and the economic significance of the art market. The results are somewhat surprising and rather sobering.
The graph to the right shows annual sales in the art market as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The dotted black line indicates worldwide sales as a percentage of world GDP. The percentage dipped slightly with the economic downturn in 2009, recovered a bit in 2010, and then stayed roughly the same through 2012. Note that the percentage is relatively constant at about 0.10% but has not quite recovered to the level of 2008.
The solid lines indicate annual art sales, as a percentage of the respective GDP, in the nations with the largest share of the worldwide art market.
·     The green line indicates that the percentage for the United States roughly tracked the percentage for world art sales and decreased slightly over the five-year period.
·     The purple line indicates that China had the same percentage as the United States in 2008 but declined less in 2009 and increased more through 2011. Although the percentage for China fell with a market correction in 2012, art sales in China increased slightly relative to the GDP over the five-year period.
·     The blue line indicates that the United Kingdom has consistently had a significantly higher percentage than for world sales and for sales in the United States and China. The percentage for the United Kingdom decreased significantly more with the economic downturn but then recovered at the same rate as the percentage for China with a corresponding correction in 2012.
A sense of spending on art relative to the size of economies brings perspective to the perceived value of culture, especially in contrast to financial reporting on the art market.
1.   In contrast to the record-eclipsing prices for individual paintings, worldwide spending on art, as a percentage of GDP, not only has not increased over the past five years but has decreased slightly.
2.   The United States has greater sales of art than China or the United Kingdom, but art sales in the United States rank lower as a percentage of GDP.
3.   In China, spending on art increased dramatically over the past five years, but the sales as a percentage of GDP increased only slight over all.
4.   Annual art sales in the United Kingdom have not recovered since the economic downturn in of 2008 and 2009, and consequently the United Kingdom now ranks third in worldwide market share. As a percentage of GDP, however, art sales in the United Kingdom remain significantly higher than in China or the United States.
In conclusion, while the financial value of art seems to indicate an increasing value of culture, the economic significance of the art market remains relatively unchanged.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Cultural Security News (Apr. 07 - Apr. 13)

Native American artifacts: court cases and archaeological investigations
In politics, in Egypt, the Antiquities Minister refuted a report of looting in a region by asserting that the area in question does not have any archaeological sites. This past week marked the 10-year anniversary of the destruction of the statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad. In Iraq, an archaeologist claims that the United States obtained, and has refused to return, thousands of artifacts. In China, Jackie Chan’s title of “ambassador for the return of relics” was drawn into question over plans to move historic buildings to Singapore. In England, the Labour party dismissed the idea of a statue of Margaret Thatcher on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square. In the United States, Bill Moyers interviewed a Native American author on the lack of cultural power of Indians.
BAGHDAD, IRAQ - APRIL 9: (FILE PHOTO) U.S marines and Iraqis are seen on April 9, 2003 as the statue of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein is toppled at al-Fardous square in Baghdad, Iraq. In a crossover of politics and economics, in Jordan, the EU Ambassador inaugurated a cultural event that promotes artists and designers.  In China, Christie’s gained permission to hold an auction in Shanghai. The event will mark the first auction held by a foreign company on the mainland. Also, the planned Beijing freeport will be much larger than the Shanghai freeport. In Texas, development of public land now falls subject to archaeological investigation for cultural artifacts.
In a crossover of politics and security, in Syria, ancient sites suffer damage as fortifications are exploited to strategic advantage in the civil war. In India, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) does not know what happened to 35 protected monuments, which have disappeared. Controversy over the Hopi masks for sale in France continued with legal proceedings against the Paris auction house. The sale occurred nonetheless but not without emotional protests at the auction.
In economics, expanded its online business with the acquisition of VIP Art of New York, and Hiscox insurance reported an increase in online purchases of art. Meanwhile, in New York, another firm, Art Remba, entered the online market for trying out artworks before committing to an acquisition. Sotheby’s demonstrated confidence in a comeback of the art market by announcing plans to ask $30-40 million for a painting by Francis Bacon. Reportedly, interest in African contemporary art has surged. In Mexico, the annual art bazaar fell short of expectations. In China, reports on the strength of the art market on the mainland remain mixed, but the online market continues to expand with a new website that will focus on modern and contemporary art.
In a crossover of economics and security, reports continued on the prolonged closure of the Iraq National Museum in Baghdad.
In security, in Texas, Homeland Security Investigations made an arrest for the theft of Chinese ivory Buddhist Lohans from a gallery in Houston. In Italy, police recovered a Chagall painting eleven years after the theft from a yacht in a northern port. A rare report on damage to cultural property during armed conflict in Nepal pointed out that the nation has yet to ratify the 1954 Hague Convention.
For similar news, visit Cultural Security News.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Big Data of the Art Market and the Value of Culture

The art market is increasingly global. In news this past week, Christie’s reportedly became the first foreign auction house to gain permission to operate independently in mainland China, and apparently more collectors worldwide are blurring national borders by buying art online, and not just affordable contemporary works. Still, competition between nations and cultures remains a part of the art world. For example, the United States regained the top market share for total (auction and private) sales in 2012, but reportedly China still had the largest auction market.
As political boundaries give way to globalization, cultures become more exposed to foreign influence. Rhetoric by officials in China and concerns about the influence of development in Africa reflect the effects on national cultures. While effects are apparent, tracking change remains a challenge. Qualitative observations describe the change, but a measurable rate of change remains elusive. An emerging political economy of cultural property adds complexity but also identifies a means to track the change.
A global market for art and antiques provides a means to measure the perceived “value” of culture. Enterprises such as Artprice of France and Artron of China increasingly provide data online to monitor art sales, and a recent report on the two enterprises combining resources holds potential for a comprehensive source of data from the art market. Similarly, the annual report that follows TEFAF provides data not only on auction sales but also on private sales, which can make up a significant portion of the global market for art and antiques. But what does the resulting Big Data look like, and what does it say about the value of culture?
The graph to the right provides a sense of the types of possible analyses. All data were derived from TEFAF annual reports. The dotted black line indicates global sales of art and antiques by year. The right vertical axis provides a scale in billions of USD. Note the dramatic drop in sales with the economic crisis of 2008 and the gradual recovery through 2011 with a slight market correction in 2012. The solid lines indicate the percentages of the top three nations in the market, and the left vertical axis provides a scale. The green line indicates that the United States has had a dominant market share with the exception of 2011. The blue line indicates that the United Kingdom has fallen off in market share but has maintained a consistent share since 2010. The purple line indicates that China steadily increased in market share through, and even surpassed the United States in, 2011 before dropping off slightly in 2012.
The steady increase of China’s market share may suggest that China increasingly values culture, at least in the form of fine art and antiques. The increase does demonstrate China’s ability to compete with Western nations for influence in the global spectrum of cultural power. The available data allow for further analyses on fine art and antiques, and the market for antiquities remains to be explored.
What other questions about the perceived value of culture in the 21st century might be asked and answered through Big Data of the art market?

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Cultural Security News (Mar. 31 - Apr. 06)

Peru-China and Egypt-EU agreements to counter trafficking in cultural property
In politics, the battle for the Berlin Wall continued, while the power of the symbolism has waned since 1989. After three years of investigation, a Buddhist statue was returned from the United States to Myanmar. In Italy, investigation into the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin continued. South Koreans called for the return of a stolen Buddhist statue to Japan. In Russia, Artyom Loskutov is considered the most well-known activist after Pussy Riot. Peru and China have signed a Cultural Cooperation Agreement, which includes protection and recovery of cultural property.
Buddha statueIn a crossover of politics and economics, an Arizona tribe requested that an auction house in Paris withhold tribal artifacts with religious significance from sale. In the UK, the seller of a Reynold’s painting is attempting to categorize the artwork as “plant” to avoid capital gains tax.
In a crossover of politics and security, in Iraq development has surpassed looting as the main threat to cultural heritage. Egypt and the EU discussed an agreement to fight trafficking and to repatriate artifacts. In Syria, controversy continued over which parties are responsible for looting of cultural property. The Lawyers for Justice in Libya demanded the arrest of the parties responsible for the destruction of the Al-Andalusi mausoleum.
In economics, speculation continued over the contraction of the art market in China, while debate over undervaluing of the international art market gained momentum. Steven Cohen reportedly paid $155 million for Picasso’s “Le Reve.” The market for damaged art has particular relevance as insurance companies settle claims after natural disasters such as hurricane Sandy. In Nigeria, increased documentation of contemporary art is improving the market.
In a crossover of economics and security, in Thailand, restoration competes with conservation of historic monuments. United Nation agencies have announced a campaign to alert tourists to illicit goods that enable organized crime.
In security, in Paris, a bomb threat caused the evacuation of the Eiffel Tower. In Syria, a Jewish synagogue was looted and hit by shelling in Damascus, and the Temple of Bel was damaged by fighting in Palmyra. In Utah, several individuals were indicted for trafficking in artifacts from Peru. On a positive note, in Bulgaria, cultural property crimes have dropped by half.
For similar news, visit Cultural Security News.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

A Paradox in Repatriation – American Artifacts

Foreign nations habitually depend on international accords to enlist American help when seeking repatriation of artifacts from the United States; Washington, however, has no reciprocal agreements governing American artifacts abroad.  New York Times reporter Tom Mashberg describes how this paradox in the way artifacts are repatriated around the world is brought to light by the current Hopi case.
The Hopi Indians of Arizona are trying to stop the sale of 70 sacred “masks” at an auction in Paris next week.  The Hopi believe these object to be imbued with divine spirits, and that for outsiders to photograph, collect, or sell them, is sacrilegious. According to the auction house, the collector (who remains anonymous) legally purchased the objects at auctions and sales within the United States over a period of 30 years, starting in 1930, and therefore is in accordance with French law; Hopi leaders counter that any sales made by tribe were not legal, given that they may have been made under duress and since no individual Hopi can “own” a religious artifact, as it is owned communally. The impending auction—to take place on April 12—will be one of the largest auctions of Hopi artifacts and is estimated to procure $1 million. Although both the State and Interior Departments are advising the tribe, both agencies admit that their ability to intervene is limited. The laws currently in effect to protect the illicit sale of Indian artifacts only apply to the United States, and have no weight abroad.
It is a rare occurrence when a cultural heritage claim arises from the sale of American artifacts abroad. Jack F. Tope, the executive director of the Association on American Indian Affairs, discusses how, “Right now there just aren’t any prohibitions against this kind of foreign sale.” It is easy to forget, amid the turmoil of repatriation cases directed at or seeking a helping hand from the United States, that sacred artifacts belonging to the United States can just as easily end up in the foreign art market. Unfortunately, as Trope aptly states, “The leverage for international repatriation just isn’t there.”  Just as cultures abroad have a right to their cultural heritage, so too do those in the United States.  The paradox brought to light by the Hopi case is proof of our on-going need to continue examining and reevaluating world-wide laws pertaining to cultural heritage.
Originally posted by Sally Johnson on