Sunday, March 31, 2013

Cultural Security News (Mar. 24 - Mar. 30)

Conflicted art market and the case of the Duryodhana
In politics, in the United States, the Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee criticized President Obama on the recent designation of national monuments. International usage of the phrase “cultural security” suggests the need for a definition.
In a crossover of politics and economics, in India, the Charminar in Hyderabad is once again up for consideration as UNESCO World Heritage.
In a crossover of politics and security, in Iraq, the Slovak Archaeological and Historical Institute (SAHI) plans to engage in excavations in the ancient Sumerian city of Umma. In Turkey, the travel ban on the Icelander arrested for attempted smuggling of antiquities was lifted. In Germany, a court passed a judgment that releases cultural objects for repatriation to Cyprus.
In economics, in Italy, construction workers discovered Mussolini’s bunker in Palazzo Venezia in Rome, and plans have been made to turn the structure into a tourist attraction. Reportedly, the Polish art market is primed to take on greater significance in Central Europe. In New York, auctions of Asian art had greater than expected success. Apparently, two primary annual reports on the art market, TEFAF and Artprice, tell somewhat different stories. Although the international art market contracted from 2012, art remains a sought after commodity.
In a crossover of economics and security, in Washington DC, more evidence suggests that the Mythic Warrior statue, Duryodhana, was illicitly removed from Cambodia after 1970.
In security, in Egypt, tomb raiding has reportedly worsened since Hosni Mubarak as more widespread and perpetrated by organized gangs with some armed and violent. The looting methods include digging tunnels to access archaeological treasures. In Libya, a Sufi shrine, which is legally protected as a national monument, was bombed. In Greece, a bomb exploded near the Acropolis in Athens.
For similar news, visit Cultural Security News.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Working towards a definition for "Cultural Security"

Depending on notions of “culture” and “security,” definitions of “cultural security” will vary. From the perspective of culture, the term would suggest the preservation or protection of the heritage and values of a group, community, or nation. From the perspective of security, the term would indicate a significance of culture to national, regional, or international security. As an illustration of the diversity of perspectives, a post by Robert Albro last fall considered the relationship between “culture” and “security.” Use of the phrase offers insight into an evolving definition.
The phrase, “cultural security,” seems to have been in use for about a century. According to Google’s Ngram Viewer, the phrase first appeared in 1916 and, beginning in 1930, the relative frequency of use started to increase. Relative usage reached a peak in 1944 and then declined through 1951 before assuming a steady increase through 2000. In the new millennium, the phrase has appeared as a term in various contexts internationally, and the usage seems to fall into three categories: preservation of an indigenous culture, protection of a national culture, and “power” of a national culture in the global economy.
Over the past decade, the preservation of indigenous cultures in the face of technological advancement and economic and political development has elicited discussion on cultural security. In 2001(?), the Department of Health in the Government of Western Australia published, Aboriginal Cultural Security – A Background Paper. The publication stated, “Cultural Security is a commitment to the principle that the construct and provision of services offered by the health system will not compromise the legitimate cultural rights, views, values and expectations of Aboriginal peoples.” Initiatives to preserve the Aboriginal culture continue to the present.
In the context of national cultures, "cultural security" refers to protecting against foreign influence. As an example, in August through December 2005, the Financial Times reported that “China propaganda tsars have moved to defend 'national cultural security' by ordering tighter controls on foreign involvement in the media market.” Active insulation against foreign influence reemerged in fall of 2006 and fall of 2011. Since then, officials in China have employed the rhetoric of “national cultural security” as a reason for banning performers of Western popular culture. Similar reports from China have continued into 2013, and a new example has emerged in Africa. Over the past month, news sources in Nigeria quoted the former president on the critical role of culture in the development of Africa.  At the regional summit on “Women and Youth in the Promotion of Cultural Security and Development in Africa,” Olusegun Obasanjo noted, "Culture tells us where we are coming from, where we are and to plot where we are going to."
A third type of "cultural security" exists in the interplay of culture and foreign policy. In 1999, Louis BĂ©langer published the paper, “Redefining Cultural Diplomacy: Cultural Security and Foreign Policy in Canada.” The paper points out that “states that have made culture the ‘third pillar’ of their foreign policy, beside security and economy” promote “an already existing culture abroad” as a form of cultural diplomacy. The "power" of a nation's culture abroad depends to some extent on economic standing. As nations such as the United States yield economic dominance to emerging economies, the national cultures will lose effect as attractors and face competition from the cultures of emerging nations. The competition could form a global political economy of culture.
The practical value of culture in the form of tangible art offers an example. The role of artworks, antiquities, and monuments in international affairs over the past two centuries has evolved into a political economy of cultural property. Politically, the dispute over ownership of artworks that were plundered during wartime or antiquities that have been looted from emerging nations has proven to be a significant issue in foreign policy. Also, the targeting of monuments in campaigns of ethnic and religious persecution has made cultural property relevant to security. Economically, over the last half-century in particular, the financial value of fine art and the market for antiquities have developed as a multi-billion-dollar sector of the global economy. Collectively, the increasing significance of cultural property in politics, economics, and security may serve as a model for the political economy of culture.
As the political economy of culture evolves, so will the definition(s) for “cultural security.”

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Cultural Security News (Mar. 17 - Mar. 23)

Iraq National Museum ten years on, and the Gardner heist 23 years on
In politics, in Kenya, reflections on Olusegun Obasanjo’s statements on the protection of culture reiterated the call for cultural security in African nations. In Germany, David Hasselhoff visited the Berlin Wall to support the effort to preserve a section from demolition. In Washington DC, a design of a $142-million-dollar monument to Dwight D. Eisenhower received criticism.
In a crossover of politics and economics, in Australia, the Gallery of NSW came under scrutiny for objects that may have been acquired from the now infamous Subbash Kapoor.
A Maya effigy fragment is seen at Sotheby's auction house. The pre-Columbian artifact is part of the Barbier-Mueller collection to be offered in the auction house Paris sale on March 22-23. In a crossover of politics and security, in Syria, the struggle over protecting cultural heritage in the face of hardship and loss of life continued. The week marked the 10-year anniversary of the US-led military intervention in Iraq, while the National Museum in Baghdad remained closed. In Paris, Mexico demanded that Sotheby’s halt the planned sale of pre-Columbian artifacts that qualify and protected national patrimony. President Obama plans to designate five new national monuments. In London, a court blocked the extradition of a woman, who was accused of smuggling antiquities, to Russia by citing human rights, which might be violated in Russian prisons.
In economics, the president of Pace Beijing commented on the shift by collectors in China from speculation to long-term investment in art. In New York, four days of auctions of Asian art from antiquities to contemporary art was expected to take in up to $106 million. In India, the director of Christie’s voiced optimism about the potential of the art market. With the completion of The European Fine Art Fair (TEFAF), the dominant market share shifted back to the West with the United States reassuming the top rank and Brazil continuing to show signs as an emerging market.
In a crossover of economics and security, the Egyptian Ministry of State for Antiquities plans to restore the Villa Casdagli of downtown Cairo.
In security, in Greece, divers returned to the site of ancient shipwreck off of the island of Antikythera after nearly forty years. In Boston, the FBI announced progress on the case of the heist from the Gardner Museum in 1990. A 3-D scanning technology holds promise for authenticating an tracking artworks.
For similar news, visit Cultural Security News.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Orphaned Antiquities – Problems Solved, or Expanded?

The “fuzziness” of cultural property laws regarding the acquisition and ownership of antiquities has put private collectors and museums in a tough spot:  if collectors discover that they may not legally “own” the objects already in their collections, but museums are wary of accepting possibly “tainted” pieces, what is one to do about these “orphaned antiquities”?
A recent article in The Art Newspaper discusses how US museums are promising to be more open about lack of provenance.  But are these new rules too flexible?
At the end of January the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) changed its guidelines and improved its online database of objects without a definite provenance.  Members are now required to disclose a complete record of an object’s past and the museum’s reasons for acquisition, and these objects are given the status of “limbo or orphan state.” Since 2008 the AAMD has required members and donors to provide provenance records dating back to 1970 (as opposed to just the 10 years required previously). The new guidelines, however, stipulate that: “Recognizing that a complete recent ownership history may not be obtainable for all archaeological material and every work of ancient art, the AAMD believes that its member museums should have the right to exercise their institutional responsibility to make informed and defensible judgments about the appropriateness of acquiring such an object if, in their opinion, doing so would satisfy the requirements set forth in the Guidelines below and meet the highest standards of due diligence and transparency as articulated in this Statement of Principles.”
The AAMD believes that the new guidelines will create a more transparent and proactive dialogue between donors and institutions, and therefore will result in more objects entering the public domain.  Critics of these guidelines, however, fear that members are given too much leeway to make exceptions to the rules.  Essentially, the guidelines are just that:  guidelines.  If an object’s provenance does not extend back to 1970 then it should not be acquired…unless there are “good reasons” (refer to pages 6 and 7 of the Guidelines on the Acquisition of Archaeological Material and Ancient Art; link below).
The ethics of collecting have been under scrutiny for quite some time now.  The financial loss, not to mention the damage done to the institution’s reputation, associated with improper acquisition are strong incentives for museums to remain vigilant.  However, stringency regarding provenance information can leave those private collectors trying to do the right thing in a lurch. Will more flexible guidelines result in less “orphaned antiquities”? Or will this flexibility bring a flood of “fuzzy” artifacts into museums? This remains to be determined.  One positive point, however, is that by not only encouraging but requiring thorough research into an object’s past, these regulations will help objects re-enter the public domain and, possibly, result in more objects being returned to their countries of origin.
Strengthened Guidelines on the Acquisition of Archaeological Materials and Ancient Artifacts (January 30, 2013)
Guidelines on the Acquisition of Archaeological Material and Ancient Art (revised 2013)
Originally posted by Sally Johnson on
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Sunday, March 17, 2013

Cultural Security News (Mar. 10 - Mar. 16)

Ministries of Culture in China, Egypt, India, and Yemen
In politics, experts at a travel agency compiled a collection of photos of monuments to women leaders around the world. In China, censors will now need to contend with Ai Weiwei’s rock music. The Association of Art Museums Directors in North America continues to examine the issue of donors passing antiquities to museum and the potential for legal risk of objects of questionable provenance. The British Museum received criticism for delays in discussing the return of Benin Bronzes to Nigeria.
State of the art marketIn a crossover of politics and economics, an article speculated on the success of Western and contemporary art in the market when Chinese buyers have limited interest in Western artworks. In Egypt, state Antiquities Minister, Mohamed Ibrahim, announced the formation of a committee receive bids from private companies to restore the historical Al-Muizz Li Din-Allah Al-Fatimi Street in Cairo. An article commented on the underused resale rights legislation in the art market.
In a crossover of politics and security, in Turkey, an Icelandic citizen was arrested at the airport on suspicion of smuggling artifacts. In Rome, the popes are credited with stocking the city full of ancient treasures from around the world. The Cyrus Cylinder is on tour in the United States. The Archaeological Survey of India has issued notices for demolition of illegal buildings in Goa and Ponda.
In economics, a report following TEFAF indicated that despite economic turmoil, art remains a viable investment option in China over real estate and stock markets. Also, auction houses in China are shifting strategy from focusing on sales volume to sales of quality works, while China dropped into second place against the United States in art sales at auction. Reportedly, the British Museum is the most popular attraction in the United Kingdom. A new on-line art dealing venue, Artspace, claims to have a novel, competitive method. Ganesh Pyne, who is credited with reestablishing Bengal art in the Indian art market, passed away. An article discussed the relevance of art market in Israel as a barometer for emerging trends in the United States and Europe.
A Syrian rebel prepares for battle in AleppoIn a crossover of economics and security, a recent article on looting in Syria referred to an estimate of $2 billion in artifacts that have been smuggled out of the country, while foreign efforts to aid in documenting the cultural heritage remain frustrated.
In security, in Egypt, reports continue on the threat of looting to archaeological site as farmers convert the sites to agricultural land. In Bulgaria, police recovered a violin that may be the $1.8 million Stradivarius that was stolen in London two years ago. The Yemeni Deputy Culture Minister discussed the vulnerability of artifacts and manuscripts to theft and vandalism.
For similar news, visit Cultural Security News.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Economics and Emotion of the Art Market

Art collecting may seem to be all about money and the global economy. Several articles over the past week have speculated on the state of the Chinese auction market in 2013 and discussed methods for integrated analysis of Western and Asian art markets. Acquisitions, however, have an equally significant emotional, political component.
The art market is truly international in that the top-four selling artists are Andy Warhol, Zhang Daqian, Pablo Picasso, and Gerhard Richter, and China and the United States compete for the number-one spot in auction sales. Despite the success, the market has a struggling middle class for which an insightful article in The Art Newspaper offered an economic perspective. In “While the rich get richer…,” Charlotte Burns reported on the expansion of the art market at the high and low ends. Benjamin Mandel, an economist at the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank, offered “It is possible that the bifurcation in the art market reflects a dichotomous growth in the world’s economies,” and Linda Blumberg, the executive director of The Art Dealers Association of America, asserted, “The middle range is absolutely vital to the ecology of the art world.”
As if on queue, the Financial Times reported on a potential solution. Namely, the founders of Art HK: Hong Kong International Art fair, held a new London-based fair. Art13 focused on mid-market dealers and galleries, which featured works by artists from more than 30 nations. Reportedly, the fair fared well in selling works in the mid-market range. The advantage of tapping into an under-exploited market notwithstanding, the strategy of the organizers included inviting major collectors from Miami to Singapore. Collectors from China had more to talk about than the financial value of art and, in a public forum, commented on the rebuilding of the nation’s cultural institutions. A prediction by a Chinese property developer, who built a museum in Shanghai, was particularly telling of the intertwining of emotion with economics.
“We will get the money first, and then we will get our dignity back. When China becomes the world’s number one economy, Chinese works of art will become the most valuable in the world!” ("The Art Market: why 13 is lucky for some," Financial Times, 08 March 2013.)

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Cultural Security News (Mar. 03 - Mar. 09)

Cultural security in Africa and Yemen, and the auction market in China
In politics, in England, debate arose over the creation of a statue of Baroness Thatcher in Grantham. The United States signed a memorandum of understanding with Belize to protect the nation’s cultural patrimony.
In a crossover of politics and economics, in Washington, the Cowlitz tribe is pursuing recognition of Mount St. Helens as “Traditional Cultural Property of significance,” which may have implications for drawing tourism.
Olusegun-Obasanjo-0903.jpg - Olusegun-Obasanjo-0903.jpgIn a crossover of politics and security, the former president of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo, called for Africans to guard their cultures at the regional summit, “Women and Youth in the Promotion of Cultural Security and Development in Africa,” where Zainab Maina, Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, added, “economic growth without social and cultural justice cannot be our idea of development in Africa.” In Syria, government officials continue to claim that looting has occurred in major museums but that looting at remote sites remains a problem. In contrast, websites reported a theft at the Raqqa Musuem.
In economics, in Canada, an article reported on renewed efforts to establish a market in contemporary art. The ArtNewspaper reported on the lagging middle market in the art world, while Art13, a new fair in London, will target the middle-market. Artprice and Art Market Monitor of Artron (AMMA) formed an alliance to comprehensively assess Western and Asian art markets. Global art sales continued to expand despite a slowdown in China. Internationally, art fairs have emerged as a significant force in the market. In China, speculation surrounded the performance of the auction market for 2013.
In a crossover of economics and security, the HuffingtonPost published a follow-up article on the fourth year of the Sustainable Preservation Initiative, which builds fences around archaeological sites in emerging nations so that locals can protect and charge admission to the areas. In Egypt, agricultural development continues to threaten sites of cultural heritage.
In security, a post in Foreign Policy, showed photos of the destruction of statues of deposed dictators over the past 60 years. In Canada, Mounties arrested two men for trafficking in antiques. In Yemen, the Antiquities General Authority, Sana’a’s Airport Security and Antiquities Prosecution has recovered about 1500 antiques over the past six years at Sana’s International airport.
For similar news, visit Cultural Security News.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Who’s innovating in the political economy of cultural property?

The latest political and economic developments for cultural property may seem obvious. The rising trend in repatriation of antiquities from museums in the United States and Europe to “source nations” may seem like the cutting edge in politics, and emergence of China as a major force in the international art market may seem like the latest in economics. But on closer examination emerging nations may be the source of real innovation in the political economy of cultural property. Namely, how are nations actively exploiting cultural property to political and economic advantage?
Iran may prove a better example for innovative politics through cultural property. Over the past week, the Iranian Cultural Heritage, Handicraft and Tourism Organisation (ICHHTO) was scrutinized for domestic policy on "protection" of archaeological sites. The Persian Daily Hamshahri reported that, “ICHHTO has recently been involved in an illegal excavation and looting of Iranian antiquities.” Apparently, the ICHHTO has conducted “excavations” that have destroyed the possibility of archaeological research. The Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies (CIAS) in London asserted, “The evidence in hand confirms a bitter reality for the Iranian nation, that the sole purpose of ICHHTO’s creation by the Islamic Republic was the destruction of pre-Islamic Iranian heritage under the guise of protection.”
Egypt may prove a better example for innovative economics through cultural property. Adel Abdel Sattar, the secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, reportedly indicated the potential for a private tourism firm to manage monuments and historic sites in the nation. The cultural property under consideration includes the pyramids in Giza, the Sphinx, the Abu Simbel Temple, and the temples of Luxor. Apparently, Qatar has an interest in exploiting the historic sites for a period of five years and Egypt would reportedly realize an estimated $200 billion. Such a deal raises a number of questions, starting with, “How much control, if any, would Egypt retain in determining what happens to the cultural property during the five years?”
Both situations require further research to assess the current and future effects on the cultural property in question. Both instances, however, illustrate the potential range of innovative practices. The symbolic value of antiquities to identity and the financial value of monuments to tourism create opportunities for exploitation in politics and economics beyond those fostered by international conventions and markets.
What’s next?

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Cultural Security News (Feb. 24 - Mar. 02)

“Renting” the pyramids in Egypt and “protecting” cultural property in Iran? 
In politics, in New York, the removal of a painting from Auburn museum for reasons of “safety” caused a controversy when the owning foundation announced plans to sell the artwork. In Washington D.C., complaints arose over suspected misuse of social media by the White House in circumventing the press. In the West Bank, Palestinians claim that cultural artifacts were illicitly removed for a King Herod exhibit in Jerusalem. In the U.S., Hindu leaders call for the repatriation of cultural patrimony to source nations worldwide. In Washington D.C., federal layers made a trip to Cambodia in the ongoing dispute over the 10th century “mythic warrior” statue, Duryodhana.
In a crossover of politics and economics, in Germany, plans to construct luxury flats would require the demolition of part of the Berlin Wall. Protestors subsequently delayed the demolition. In New York, students at the Fashion Institute of Technology discussed if size matters in the art world.
In a crossover of politics and security, in Egypt, Islamists are suspected of vandalizing monuments of important intellectuals of the 20th century, and looting of Villa Casdagl in Cairo was reportedly targeted due to Western and Christian past uses. Japan will demand though diplomatic channels that South Korea return Buddhist statues that have been missing since last year. The U.S. signed a memorandum of understanding with Belize to bring legal action against illicit possession of artifacts from Belize. The Iranian Cultural Heritage, Handicraft and Tourism Organization is suspected of looting and destroying pre-Islamic cultural heritage under the guise of protection.
In economics, Christie’s announced higher transaction costs at auctions with shifts in thresholds for premiums. Turkmenistan is investing in removal of Soviet-era buildings and rebuilding with marble facades. In Maastricht, Netherlands, attendance of the upcoming TEFAF (The European Fine Art Fair) is expected to follow the upward trend since the launch in 1988. In China, predictions for 2013 expect more pragmatic long-term practices in the art market. Christie’s in London announced a master’s degree (MSc) in art, law and business accredited by the University of Glasgow. In London, Sotheby’s held a show of contemporary art from oil-rich nations of Central Asia and the Caucasus.
In a crossover of economics and security, Felix Salmon had an interesting piece on the fourth year of Sustainable Preservation Initiative in finding creative means for protection of archaeological sites in emerging nations. In Egypt, apparently Qatar has an interest in funding a project to put the Pyramids up for rent.
In security, in Greece, a man who mailed a stolen Salvador Dali painting back to an Upper East Side gallery in New York was subsequently trapped in sting operation by New York police. In New York, a world-class pianist was robbed of a $140,000 grand piano while subletting his condo. In Syria, rebels, soldiers, and civilians reportedly make use of historic fortifications for protection against shelling. Concern continues in Hyderabad, India over Hindu temples and Islamic mosques as flashpoints for conflict.
For similar news, visit Cultural Security News.