The ArtTrak blog has been created as a discussion forum for the website www.arttrak.com. Periodically ArtTrak also sends out Newsletters to their subscribers and this information after publication is also added to the blog. While much of the blog is devoted to African, Pre-Columbian, Oceanic, American Indian, and Folk Art, we are also very involved with appraisal and authentication issues. Your comments are welcome.
I will be with Antiques Roadshow in the following cities this summer. For all cities except Eugene I will be traveling by car and will have objects with me. With some notice I can also schedule appraisal services or authentications for African, Pre-Columbian, Oceanic, and American Indian Art. Look forward to seeing you. At most stops I will arrive a few days early and stay a few days after the dates listed below.
Eugene, OR - June 4
El Paso, TX - June 18
Minneapolis, MN - July 9
Tulsa, OK - July 23
Atlanta, GA - August 6
Pittsburgh, PA - August 13
Barton Allen Wright, passed away March 2, 2011, age 90, in Phoenix. Born in Bisbee, AZ, December 21, 1920 to Roy and Anna Wright. The family moved to Mohave County, where he graduated from Kingman High School. A veteran of World War II, he served in New Guinea and the Philippines. After the war he married Margaret Nickelson. Graduated from the UA and began his career as an artist for the Arizona State Museum. Worked as an archaeologist at Town Creek Indian Mound State Park in Mt. Gilead, North Carolina, and later at an excavation near Tumacacori, AZ, for the Amerind Foundation. His master's thesis work was at Catclaw Cave on the Colorado River. Moved to Flagstaff spending 22 years at the Museum of Northern Arizona as artist, museum curator, and co-administrator. From 1977 to 1983 was scientific director at the San Diego Museum of Man. Upon retirement he moved back to his beloved Arizona to continue research and writing. Barton acquired a vast knowledge of northwestern Arizona, and held a river pilot's license for the Colorado River; he was a longtime student of Hopi Indian history and Kachinas. A talented painter, scratch board illustrator and graphic artist, he illustrated many of his own publications. He is survived by Margaret, his wife of 62 years, two children, Matthew and Frances Elena, two grandchildren, Christian and Malinda (Derrick) Willis, and two great grandchildren, Zachary and Charlie, his sister Calista Leonard of Tucson, as well as numerous nieces and nephews. A memorial service will be held at Northminster Presbyterian Church, 35th Ave. and Sweetwater, Phoenix, Sunday, March 27th at 2:30 pm. www.greenwoodmemorylawn.com
1. LOS ANGELES (REUTERS).- Street artist Banksy's first film "Exit Through the Gift Shop" is up for an Oscar -- and it seems the subversive Briton may be waging an unorthodox awards campaign on the walls and billboards of Los Angeles.
Several examples of graffiti bearing the hallmarks of Banksy's style and humor have turned up in areas of the city in recent days, including a Charlie Brown figure apparently bent on arson, and a cocktail-swigging Mickey Mouse.
The Mickey Mouse graffiti, first spotted on Wednesday, featured a lascivious Mickey grabbing the breast of a model and appears on a billboard opposite the Directors Guild of America offices near Hollywood's Sunset Strip. The billboard was taken down late on Wednesday.
Other pieces noted by bloggers and graffiti artists in recent days include a giant Oscar-like gold figure wearing a hoodie and standing on a red carpet being guarded by "Star Wars" style troopers, and a young boy brandishing a machine gun loaded with colorful crayons.
Representatives of the elusive artist, whose identity is unknown in public, could not immediately be reached for comment. Banksy is thought to be based in the southwestern English city of Bristol. He first drew attention in the early 1990s, and his street art pieces now sell for huge sums.
2. INDIANAPOLIS, IN. (Artdaily.org ) - The most extensive exhibition ever mounted of Thornton Dial’s painting and sculpture premiered at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, on view from February 25, 2011, to May 15, 2011. Hard Truths: The Art of Thornton Dial highlights the artist’s significant contribution to the field of American art and show how Dial’s work speaks to the most pressing issues of our time—including the War in Iraq, 9/11, and social issues like racism and homelessness. The exhibition presents 70 of Dial’s large-scale paintings, drawings and found-object sculptures spanning twenty years of his artistic career—including 25 works on view for the first time.
Thornton Dial’s work draws inspiration from the rich expressive traditions of the black South. With no formal art education, Dial developed a truly distinctive and original style. Influenced by African American yard shows, Dial’s work incorporates salvaged objects—from plastic grave flowers and children’s toys to carpet scraps and animal skeletons—to create highly charged assemblages that tackle a wide range of social and political subjects. His art touches on topics ranging from the dilemmas of labor and the abuse of the natural environment to meditations on significant recent political and cultural moments—with a particular focus on the struggles of historically marginalized groups such as women, the rural poor, and the impoverished underclass. Born out of decades of the artist’s own struggle as a working-class black man, Dial’s work also explores the history of racial oppression in America, from slavery through the Civil Rights Movement and into the post-modern era.
3. Washington DC - Museum Security Network - Stolen History – NYTimes.com - Posted: 25 Feb 2011 01:43 PM PST Stolen History – NYTimes.com. Last month, the National Archives banned an amateur historian who did what should have been unthinkable: He doctored the date on a valuable Lincoln document. Now the archives has found that it has a more widespread problem, with underhanded “scholars” and sneak thieves making off with American treasures to sell on the black market to [...]
4. Is Sitting Bull's Headdress at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM)?
It was on view in February .. briefly. This stunning artifact is certainly rare and valuable. It has been identified as a Sioux headdress dated to c. 1875, but did it ever belong to Sitting Bull (c.1831-1890), the legendary Lakota chief who defeated the U. S. Seventh Cavalry at the Battle of Little Big Horn? While in exile in Saskatchewan, Sitting Bull is said to have given his headdress to his friend Major James Walsh, the Northwest Mounted Policeman. Walsh gave it to his friend Sir William Van Horne, who in turn donated it to the ROM around 1914. Arni Brownstone, a specialist of Native American Ethnography and Culture, has found numerous written references supporting this collection history. However, none of these documents cite their source of information. For this reason, and because one should be particularly skeptical about attributions to famed individuals like Sitting Bull, the headdress may still hold a secret.
5. NEW YORK, NY.- As New York’s Winter Antiques Show came to the end of its ten-day run, 21 to 30 January 2011, Canadian dealer Donald Ellis Gallery reported record sales. Not only did Ellis establish a new record for any Native American item twice, when he sold two extraordinary Eskimo masks from the estate of the Surrealist artist Enrico Donati (1909-2008), his sales at the Show of US$8.4 million exceeded the record total for any auction in this field. Each year Donald Ellis publishes a scholarly catalogue in conjunction with the fair and, in addition to the 36 works sold at the Show, he sold 9 other objects immediately prior to it for around US$1.3 million.
The Donati Fifth Avenue mask was the first of the two record masks to sell, breaking the record at a price in excess of US$2.1 million, and then this record was also broken when the Donati Studio mask sold for in excess of US$2.5 million. Yup’ik Eskimo masks are possibly the highest form of expression of Native American art and profoundly influenced the Surrealist artists who had escaped Paris in the Second World War and settled in New York. André Breton, Max Ernst, Roberto Matta, Wolfgang Paalan and Donati, among others, all owned significant examples and were the first to recognise them as exceptionally refined works of art. These two Donati masks have been requested for the forthcoming exhibition The Colour of My Dreams: Surrealism and Revolution in Art at the Vancouver Art Gallery from 28 May to 2 October 2011. Donald Ellis said: “The market seems to have turned incredibly positive. We are pleased to have had the opportunity to handle the extraordinary works of art from the Donati estate. Their sale helped us achieve over the past two weeks a dollar figure that has almost doubled any previous fair or gallery exhibition we have curated.” Donald Ellis’ sale of 45 works of art from the catalogue and at the fair for a total of US$9.7 million considerably exceeds the record total for an auction of American Indian Art of US$7,030,600 (57 lots) for the famed Dundas Collection in October 2006, (US$6 million of which was paid by Donald Ellis on behalf of the Thomson family and a small group of Canadian collectors, philanthropists and institutions). Artdaily.org
6. ATLANTA, GA.-The High Museum of Art will continue its collaboration with The Museum of Modern Art, New York (MoMA), with the exclusive presentation of the major exhibition “Picasso to Warhol: Twelve Modern Masters” beginning October 2011. This exhibition will present approximately 100 works of art created by 12 of the most iconic artists from the 20th century: Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Constantin Brancusi, Piet Mondrian, Fernand Léger, Marcel Duchamp, Giorgio De Chirico, Joan Miró, Alexander Calder, Jackson Pollock, Jasper Johns and Andy Warhol. “Picasso to Warhol” will be one of the largest concentrations of modern art masterpieces to ever be exhibited in the southeastern United States. Co-organized by the High Museum of Art and MoMA, the exhibition will be on view only in Atlanta from October 15, 2011, through April 29 .(Artdaily.org)
7. New York City - Museum for African Art Press Release:
Elsie McCabe Thompson, president, the Museum for African Art, today announced that the Museum has received a major contribution of $3 million from the Ford Foundation. The grant supports the final stage of
construction of the Museum's new building, which is located on Fifth Avenue at 110th Street and has been designed by the New York City-based Robert A.M. Stern Architects, LLP. In recognition of the Foundation's generosity, the Museum will name the lobby of the building—which opens in fall 2011—the "Ford Foundation Lobby." With its contribution, the Foundation joins other generous private donors to the Museum, including David Rockefeller, John Tishman, and the Walt Disney Company, among others, and brings to $76 million the total raised for the $90 million project.
February 28, 2011 – 09:05 BBC News – Mexico\’s struggle to stem looting of historic sites. "Aztec treasure: Mexico has long wanted to see the original returned
It is a spectacular work of art and a highlight at Mexico’s National Museum of Anthropology.
The semicircle of gleaming green feathers held together by rows of golden beads was, it is said, the headdress of Mexico’s last Aztec ruler, Moctezuma.
But the spectacular artefact is not real – it’s a replica. The original lies thousands of kilometres away in a collection at Vienna’s Ethnology Museum.
The exact origin of the headdress or “penacho” is disputed but one version says Moctezuma gave it to the Hernan Cortez, leader of the Spanish conquistadors, in the 16th Century. By the twists and turns of history, it ended up in Austria.
Nearly 500 years on, the original may be loaned temporarily to Mexico, a development that has created expectation there and highlighted the country’s historic riches.
But the pre-Hispanic artefacts and sites not only attract tourists; looters and traffickers see a chance to profit from the wealth of the past.
Now the authorities are looking at various ways of clamping down on this trade in relics of their nation’s history.
There are an estimated 200,000 archaeological sites in Mexico – among them, the Mayan ruins and pyramids in the country’s south, the Paquime mud-based constructions in the northern state of Chihuahua and the huge complex of Teotihuacan, north of Mexico City.
Teotihuacan is probably the best known archaeological site in Mexico
The government admits that just 40,000 archaeological sites are properly registered; of those, only 160 are supervised and open to the public.
Most sites are unsupervised, with many located on private property or in remote locations. They are vulnerable to those who illegally extract artefacts to sell on, sometimes for thousands of dollars.
The battle against the illegal trade is made even harder because there are no official estimates of the number of pieces being smuggled.
The International Council of Museums, an association of museums and museum professionals that safeguards heritage, published a Red List in June 2010 of works it considered at risk.
ICOM warned that the pre-Hispanic and colonial cultural heritage of Mexico and Central America was “severely endangered”.
Mexico signed an international treaty in 1972 that prohibits the extraction and trade in archaeological artefacts, with punishment of up to 12 years in jail for such a crime.
But, almost four decades on, experts say the demand from abroad for pre-Hispanic pieces, especially the US, shows no signs of abating.
Looting of archaeological sites often begins at a local level, according to Mexican officials.
Looting is becoming increasingly businesslike, officials say
In some cases, inhabitants of Mexico’s poor rural communities come across pieces and decide to sell them to earn extra income. The middlemen who buy the artefacts then offer the goods to private collectors or art traders.
But the business is getting increasingly sophisticated, with criminals taking advantage of the lack of supervision of thousands of sites.
“The problem is professional looting,” says archaeologist Enrique Vela, editor of Arqueologia Mexicana, a leading archaeology magazine.
“These are networks that have capacities that sometimes us archaeologists don’t even have, of digging in some areas because they know exactly where the objects will appear,” he said.
The government has succeeded in intercepting some of these networks; last July, in raids around the country, it recovered 180 archaeological pieces believed to be in the process of being smuggled abroad.
In 2008, the government created a dedicated inter-departmental unit to deal with the cases and to start creating a database of missing artefacts.
Authorities are also trying to stop the sale of items in international auction houses.
“As soon as we hear that an auction house is selling one of these pieces, we launch an effort, both judicial and diplomatic, to notify the auction house that it is committing a crime and that the sale must be stopped,” says Rene Salazar, from the attorney general’s office.
Mexico’s rich history is a draw for visitors
But Mr Salazar admits that differing national laws and the lack of reliable figures about the number of artefacts being smuggled every year complicate those efforts.
In fact, a simple search at online auction sites throws up several results of alleged archaeological pieces from Mexico.
It is impossible to know whether these are authentic – fakes have also flooded the market, authorities say – but the concern is that the trafficking is too widespread to control.
The government has launched campaigns aimed at children, asking them to help to save the country’s rich heritage.
The hope is that the battle against archaeological looting will be boosted if the younger generations are taught the importance of their country’s past."
There have been surges in the past in Mexico's posture towards recovering antiquities. It appears we are entering another period where pressure will be placed on institutions - both private and public - to return these objects. Unfortunately, as we have seen in the past the pressure will be exerted as a result of diplomatic trade offs rather than the merit of each repatriation case. Will Mexico win.. probably not. What seems more logical is that the prices will drop and the markets will move to places that don't have the political incentive to accede to these demands. Note that Christies is out of the Pre-Columbian business for the moment or until they find a more stable market place some where else in the world.
1. SALT LAKE CITY (AP).- A Colorado antiquities dealer indicted as part of sweeping federal investigation into the looting of southwestern American Indian artifacts on Wednesday pleaded guilty to reduced charges in Salt Lake City's federal court.
Carl L. Crites pleaded guilty to three felony counts of trafficking, theft and depredation of government property before U.S. District Judge Dee Benson. In exchange for the plea, federal prosecutors dropped two other charges.
In court Wednesday, Crites acknowledged he had purchased a pair of basket-maker sandals valued at more than $1,000 from an undercover government operative and that he knew the slippers had been illegally taken from Utah public lands.
Crites, of Durango, Colo., also acknowledged helping the informant dig up human remains, pottery shards and a knife on U.S. Bureau of Land Management land in southern Utah.
The charges carry a combined maximum punishment of 22 years in federal prison. Crites' wife, Mary V. Crites, also pleaded guilty Wednesday to one felony count of trafficking, which carries a maximum penalty of up to two years in prison. A second charge was dropped. Benson set an Aug. 11 date for sentencing. The Crites', who operated an antiquities business, have surrendered some five truckloads of American Indian relics to federal agents.
2.Paris Drouot/Savoyard portering scandal French investigators believe that some – by no means all – of the corps of 110 self-regulating, uniformed Drouot porters have been systematically hiding away items from large estates left by art collectors or wealthy people. If someone complained, the missing item would mysteriously reappear. If the theft was not spotted by the heirs, the items were sold privately or auctioned at Drouot after a period of months or even years.
Police and art dealers say that slow motion thefts of this kind have been widespread for decades but have traditionally involved relatively low-value items. A small group of Savoyards is now accused of extending the practice to far more valuable objects, including a small Courbet oil worth about €100,000 (£90,000), a Chagall gouache and a collection of diamonds.
Eight of them have been formally accused of "organised theft" and belonging to a "criminal gang". An auctioneer licensed to operate at Drouot is accused of receiving stolen goods but is not thought to have played a leading role in the operation.
Georges Delettrez, president of Drouot, (established 1852) has been attempting to minimise the affair. "It is not because we have eight black sheep that all the flock is sick," he said. "We are also victims. These disgraceful thefts have nothing to do with Drouot."
The pastoral metaphor is appropriate. Portering duties at Parisian auction houses have been monopolised by men from the high Alpine pastures of Savoie since the 1830s. Before the invention of skiing holidays, villages such as Tigne had to export part of their male population to the big city. The hold of Savoyards on the jobs at Drouot was officially recognised by the Emperor Napoleon III in 1860.
The auction house does not employ them directly but pays their organisation a percentage of its profits which is then shared out among the porters. Each of the 110 jobs is numbered and passed on within the same families or sometimes, more recently, sold to other Savoyards for up to €50,000.
With the growth of employment in the winter sports industry, the original porter-supplying villages, such as Tignes, have shared out the jobs with other villages in Savoie and Haute-Savoie. Each porter wears a black uniform, with a red collar carrying his official number.
The job of the Savoyards is to collect items for sale, store them and carry them into the auction room. Over the years, they have also acquired permission to buy and sell items on commission or in their own right. These rights have now been suspended.
The extent of the illicit trade is unclear. Police have been searching through 125 large containers used by the Savoyards at a warehouse on the eastern edges of Paris. Only 10 containers – belonging to the accused porters – have been emptied so far. They are said to have contained scores of objets d'art, pieces of furniture or ancient books whose origins the owners of the containers could not explain. Searches at the homes of the accused men have discovered a gouache painting by Marc Chagall and a set of diamonds.
Parisian art dealers say that the illicit activities of some Drouot porters have been an open secret for years. So long as the thefts remained modest, dealers were reluctant to complain because they were fearful of upsetting the porters. "If you complained, there would be reprisals, like objects broken in transit," one dealer told Le Figaro.
Another common practice, dealers said, was for porters to steal parts of an object in transit– such as the doors of an antique wardrobe – and then buy the "incomplete" article for a low price. Several months later, the antique would be re-assembled and sold on for a big profit."Until now, these were small, occasional thefts," one dealer said. "Not a Courbet or a Chagall."
Detectives are trying to work out just how widespread the thefts had become. "There was no gang leader," one investigator told Le Parisien. "This was a cooperative of crime."
From pastures to porters
*The "Savoyards" or "collets rouges" (red collars) have been part of the Drouot landscape for 150 years.
*The corps of 110 porters are recruited from high Alpine villages in the Savoie or Haute-Savoie.
*Their monopoly at Drouot was decreed by Napoleon III in 1860, while making Savoie part of France.
*Each Savoyard wears a black uniform with a red collar, bearing his serial number. While at work, the Savoyards are never known by their real names but by nicknames such as "Corbeau" or "Narcisse". (museum-security.org)
3. Former Getty antiquities curator Marion True speaks out about her five-year trial in Italy January 5, 2011 The high-profile trial of Getty antiquities curator Marion True, charged by the Italian government with conspiring to traffic in looted art, ended last year on Oct. 13 after the statutes of limitations for her alleged crimes ran out. But the fear that this trial instilled in museums across the nation about acquiring antiquities persists, as do questions about True's history with her co-defendants, antiquities dealers Robert Hecht and Giacomo Medici.
This month, True published a statement in the Art Newspaper to rebut some of the "distorted and slanderous allegations" against her. In the process, she reminds readers of one of the great ironies or tragedies of the five-year, 43-session trial: Before the investigation, True's department at the Getty had a reputation for being one of the few museum teams on the better side of best practices in a fast-changing playing field, in which foreign governments often label works as looted after the fact of their sale or export instead of before.
In her words:
An employee of the Getty Museum for 23 years, I had been working for much of that time with Italian colleagues in the Ministry for Beni Culturali — Mario Serio (former director general), Adriano La Regina (former superintendent of the Imperial Fora), Pier Giovanni Guzzo (superintendent of Pompeii and Herculaneum) in particular — to find new ways of building collections at the Getty beyond market purchases... And from 1987, at the request of Getty president Harold Williams, I worked with legal counsel to formulate an acquisition policy for antiquities that called for direct notification of the ministries of Mediterranean countries when purchases were proposed, and requested any information or objections to acquisitions under consideration. The policy also demanded that the ministries have immediate notification of objects acquired and, most importantly, the return of any object that could be proven to be illicitly excavated or smuggled. At the time this policy was the most stringent among major US museums, and was strengthened in 1995 with the requirement that any object proposed for acquisition be published as something known to the scholarly world before 1995. (Culture Monster All the Arts, All the Time) See The Art Newspaper for Marion True's complete statement. see also Peter Watson's The Medici Conspiracy.
1. The Museum Security Network - Cairo Egypt - "On Thursday, the Antiquities Minister Dr. Zahi Hawass released on his popular blog site a list of looted places since the fighting began this January, and after President Hosni Mubarak relinquished power to the military. Apparently, criminals broke into De Morgan, the Met’s storage facility there, and tied up guards before looting the facility. Met director Thomas Campbell released a statement on Thursday, stating his concern on current affairs in the Middle East. As the New York Times posts, Campbell states: “The world cannot sit by and permit unchecked anarchy to jeopardize the cultural heritage of one of the world’s oldest, greatest and most inspiring civilizations. We echo the voices of all concerned citizens of the globe in imploring Egypt’s new government authorities, in building the nation’s future, to protect its precious past. Action needs to be taken immediately.”
2. New York Time March 3, 2011 - Cairo Egypt - Updated Zahi Hawass, Egypt’s antiquities minister, said in a telephone interview on Friday that while he is planning to resign he had not yet and still holds the post. He clarified his status after an ArtsBeat report on Thursday said he had already stepped down.
After Egypt’s prime minister resigned on Thursday and the army asked his replacement to form a caretaker cabinet, Mr. Hawass, a powerful and controversial figure, said he would not be part of the new government. His comments came after he posted on his Web site for the first time a list of dozens of sites that have been looted since the beginning of the uprising that led to the fall of President Hosni Mubarak. Reached by telephone on Thursday Mr. Hawass said he was happy that he had made the “right decision” and lashed out at colleagues who have criticized him, including one who has accused him of smuggling antiquities. Among the places Mr. Hawass named as having been looted were the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s storerooms at its excavation site in Dahshur, south of Cairo. In a statement the Met’s director, Thomas P. Campbell, described that incident as having taken place several weeks ago.
3. SAINT PETERSBURG.-Spanish King Juan Carlos and his wife Queen Sofia on Friday presided over the opening of an exhibition of works from Madrid's Prado museum in Russia's imperial capital Saint Petersburg. The State Hermitage Museum, the Museo del Prado and the State Society for Cultural Action [Sociedad Estatal de Acción Cultural] today signed the collaborative agreements for the celebration of the exhibitions "The Prado in the Hermitage" and "Treasures from the Hermitage", to be shown this year in Saint Petersburg and Madrid respectively within the context of the bi-lateral Spain-Russia Year 2011. The Prado in the Hermitage (25 February to 29 May 2011) presents in Saint Petersburg a group of 66 paintings from the Spanish, Italian and Flemish Schools that will allow Russian visitors to appreciate the historical and artistic importance of the Prado’s collect ...
4. NEW YORK, NY.- Highly creative re-imaginings of the iconic form of the African mask comprise a unique installation held at The Metropolitan Museum of Art beginning March 8. Featuring 20 works of art—19 sculptures and one photograph—Reconfiguring an African Icon: Odes to the Mask by Modern and Contemporary Artists from Three Continents reflects on the enduring relevance of African masks as a source of inspiration for artists across cultures into the present. Highlights of the installation are whimsical sculptures created from discarded consumption goods by contemporary artists Romuald Hazoumé (b. 1962) and Calixte Dakpogan (b. 1958), both from the Republic of Benin. Seventeen of the 20 works selected are on loan from European and American private collections; the others are drawn from the Museum's own collection. (artdaily.org)
5. CAIRO (REUTERS).- Egypt's Antiquities Ministry has recovered some of the national treasures that went missing from the Egyptian Museum during an uprising which unseated Hosni Mubarak, the country's top Egyptologist said Monday.
Items including a statue of King Tutankhamun and objects from the era of the Pharaoh Akhenaten went missing when looters broke into the museum during mass protests that engulfed the streets around the museum in central Cairo.
But Zahi Hawass, recently named minister of state for antiquities affairs, said in a statement that some objects including a Heart Scarab and a small Ushabti statue were found.
Part of a coffin dating back to the Modern Kingdom 3,000 years ago was also found outside the museum.
"We found two of the eight missing artifacts outside the museum between a government building that got burned and the gift shop. We are continuing the search and will find more," Hawass told Reuters.
Artefacts still missing include a statue of Akhenaten's wife Nefertiti making offerings, a stone statuette of a scribe from Amarna and the torso and upper limbs of a gilded wood statue of Tutankhamun.
Hawass said thieves also attacked a storehouse near the pyramids of Dahshour 35 km (21.75 miles) south of Cairo on Sunday, the second attack on the site in days.
6. MEXICO CITY. Mexico and Austria have moved a step closer to sharing Moctezuma’s Crown as Austria seriously considers returning the feathered headdress on loan for three years. It would mean that for the first time in 500 years the headdress returns to Mexico. The Mexican government is even discussing a change in its antiquities law to make the loan possible. Should the loan happen, it would set an important precedent for European museums with contentious objects in their collections.
Christian Feest, the director of Vienna’s Museum of Ethnology, describes the fabled object as “the Mona Lisa of ethnology”. Once assumed to be the crown of the Aztec rulers, the feather headdress is unique in its survival from the pre-Columbian Americas. Made from the tail feathers of over 200 quetzal birds, it is decorated with gold. In 1878, it went to the forerunner of the Museum of Ethnology (now part of the Kunsthistorisches Museum).
Last year the two countries agreed to co-operate over this part of their shared cultural heritage with Mexico’s National Institute for Anthropology and History and Austria’s Museum of Ethnology forming a bi-national commission.
Mexico’s foreign ministry says the goal is “to enable Mexicans to admire the headdress”. It also says that “an artefact currently in a Mexican museum that is of interest to Austria” might be lent to Vienna. This could be the golden coach of Mexico’s Emperor Maximilian in the Museo Nacional de Historia.
6. NEW HAVEN. After a lawsuit initiated by Peru and an acrimonious high-level public battle, Yale University has signed an agreement Peru that will result in the return this year to Peru of some 5,000 artefacts taken a century ago from Machu Picchu. The objects were carted off by the American explorer Hiram Bingham III (1875-1956), and have since been in the possession of Yale University’s Peabody Museum. While Yale officials have long claimed the right to keep the objects, Peru has maintained that Bingham failed to abide by an agreement to return the collection.
The accord, reached on 11 February between Yale and the Universidad Nacional de San Antonio Abad del Cusco (UNSAAC), builds upon a memorandum of understanding struck in late 2010 and establishes the UNSAAC-Yale International Centre for the Study of Machu Picchu and Inca Culture in Casa Concha, an Incan palace in the centre of Cusco. The objects will be housed at a specially designed facility in Cusco with exhibits planned to mark the centenary of the “scientific discovery” of the Incan site and on the 1911-1912 Yale-Peruvian Scientific Expeditions. An exhibition of the most important works of the Machu Picchu collection is planned later this year at museums in Lima and Cusco.
“The collection is not being returned within a framework of a repatriation,” said Richard Burger, a Yale University professor, archaeologist and curator of the Machu Picchu Collection. “The agreement is that Yale is returning [the collection] in recognition of the unique role that they have for the Peruvian people and Peruvian identity,” he said. Burger hopes that the agreement will be a milestone in international archaeological restitution cases, and that the resulting academic, scientific and institutional outcomes could be emulated in similar situations. (The Art Newspaper)
7. LONDON (REUTERS).- China overtook Britain as the world's second largest art and antiques market last year, a new report showed, and British art officials voiced concern that an EU levy planned in 2012 would further undermine its position.
"The Global Art Market in 2010: Crisis and Recovery" underlined what auction houses and consigners had seen throughout last year -- a sharp rise in the number of wealthy Chinese buyers, and, with them, prices.
The report, commissioned by the European Fine Art Foundation, estimated the value of the global art and antiques market in 2010 at 43 billion euros ($60 billion), up 52 percent from 2009 when values slumped as a result of the financial crisis.
"The period from 2008 through 2010 has been one of crisis and recovery for the market for art and antiques," said the report, released on Monday.
"Luxury spending contracted sharply in many countries during 2009, however 2010 brought the first signs of economic recovery with a rebound in consumer confidence and with Chinese consumers driving growth in many luxury sectors."
The report highlighted concerns in Britain that an EU art tax due to be imposed in 2012 could further damage the country's ability to cope with increasing competition from abroad.
An EU levy on the sale of works by living artists was introduced in the United Kingdom in 2006, and, according to the British Art Market Federation, was a "significant factor" behind the country's declining share of the contemporary art market.
Under European Commission plans, in 2012 this levy is due to extend in the UK to sales of works by artists who have died within the last 70 years, affecting auction favorites like Pablo Picasso and Alberto Giacometti. Artsdaily.org
Reflecting on 36 years of collecting, dealing, and appraising art is in some ways exciting and in many other ways somewhat depressing. Technology has given us many tools that make our professional lives easier and more fulfilling. It was not too long ago that I was sitting in my hotel room somewhere in the Midwest waiting for a client to show up for an appointment that was scheduled for two hours before. We had no internet, no cell phones, and hotel switchboards that were hit or miss at best. At that point we didn’t have great libraries or google to make research easier. We actually traveled to the local library to find our books and we thumbed through catalogs to find that mask that we thought was sold at auction four years before. No I don’t miss being on the road three weeks at a time or trying cook food in my hotel room, or for that matter unpacking and unpacking things in the car several times a day. Nostalgic thoughts are not what I have for pushing boxes through the snow hoping that you weren’t going to break those pieces that were consigned and wondering if you were going to sell something on this stop. I don’t miss the strain of checking $200,000 work of consigned Northwest Coast art as baggage hoping to see it on the carousel after landed.
I do miss being able to walk into a New York dealer’s gallery to admire a great piece and then walk out the door with it an hour later with an admonishment to bring back the piece or the money. All this was done with no paperwork. Everybody was easier to work with then and I include dealers, scholars, collectors, and curators. Attitudes were more laid back because there really was less to worry about; and in this sense, it was more fun to be a part of something that many professionals did because it was enjoyable. We did have our bandits and characters that were certainly in part a pain in the butt but they also in their way lent color to a field that was known for its oral history of bad boys and their exploits. I miss NOT having to deal constantly with the threat of making a mistake either by purchasing something that was fake or by acquiring an object thathas a questionable collection history.
Which is a perfect lead in to the purpose of this essay. Where are we going and what is the future ofthe business of tribal art for private and public collectors and dealers?Clearly we are not heading in a very favorable direction. Restrictions in the acquisition of both Pre-Columbian and African terracottas have impacted those markets. With museums reluctant to acquire anything that can’t be documented as having been in the U.S. prior to 1972 collectors know that their collections of this material are not going to be accepted for donation by museums either.With unsettled economic conditions killing the lower and middle level markets and significantly reduced activity in the upper end among US collectors, the future of Pre-Columbian art is not bright. After reading Peter Watson’s The Medici Conspiracyit is fairly obvious how dealers and collectors will attempt to overcome these obstacles. There certainly appears to be a trend worldwide for governments to become involved in our lives, so I see the possibility of more restrictions.
In my world stolen is stolen. It is a simple concept that doesn’t involvewhat I term as a do over.If a Native American sold something that he owned to a traveler 150 years ago and it didn’t violate any laws at the time, you don’t get to rehash the sale in the present because the laws are different now. A legitimate buyer and a legitimate seller make a legitimate sale that we define with property rights. The ability to redefine property rights after the fact is against everything that I believe the country stands for. But that’s just me and the trends are against private property rights for the individual. We need to focus on the rationale for doing what we do. Is it about the objects or is it about some political agenda that needs to be satisfied? This world needs museums to teach us where we have been so that we may better respect not only each other but also our past. It is my feeling that without the economic power of private collectors museums will lose interestin the objects that make it possible for them to teach us about what defines us all as special and unique in our own ways. I fear that the future will bring holographic images that will only serve as artificial icons of what many of us now take for granted as we spend a Sunday afternoon walking through a museum.
In 2002 the Logan Museum returned a Tlingit bear headdress collected by Axel Rasmussen in Alaska between 1926 and 1936. The source is the same as the Virginia Museum of Art's Tlingit frontlet. The question in both cases is the same and that is did it really qualify under the cultural patrimony definitions of the Native American Grave Repatriation and Protection Act (NAGPRA)? " Items can also be returned if they are objects of cultural patrimony, such as the headdress, which means it belongs to the entire tribe, not an individual, and therefore cannot be sold or transferred from one person to another." Did it really belong to the entire tribe or did the Tlingits say that in order to meet NAGPRA's criterion for repatriation? Considering the collections of Tlingit material alone, this question is huge. The American Museum of Natural History has about 5200 objects collected by Emmons (The Tlingit Indians, Emmons/Laguna1991, p. XIX). The Burke Museum has a Tlingit frontlet owned by Chief Shakes. I can see no difference in the potential "clan status" of this object when compared with the frontlet repatriated by Virginia. So how did Emmons who was protective of the Tlingit and was widely respected, collect objects so easily? It appears to some degree that the times were different. Emmons and Laguna noted that missionary work was "flourishing" and many indians became Christian abandoning "heathen" practices. Additionally, successors to the deceased chiefs were required to confront the chief and all that he possessed to be gaged worthy of succession. It was believed that the trappings of the chief's power also possessed spirits that could if not treated properly cause death. Emmons reports that a white man was impervious to such spirits and could remove objects easily diminishing the power of the deceased. If this is to be believed, it made it easy to collect important objects if you had the sort of relationship Emmons had with the Tlingit.. So I pose the question what are the property rights of a legitimate purchaser? Clearly the Tlingit had to be aware of 5200 objects disappearing over a twenty year period. I am neither a Northwest Coast scholar or a lawyer with a specialty in cases like these. So now over a hundred years later with significant outside cultural influences having impacted the Tlingit since the turn of the century can we legitimately strip the purchaser and subsequent owners of their property rights in the name of a moral do over. Laguna estimated that 11,000 objects collected during this period are now in museums around the world. At the very least I think we need more information and justification than what we have in the background material provided below. NAGPRA is not perfect by any means. It is especially difficult for small museums that have limited staff to complete the required inventories and to contact the appropriate native american groups. That said I certainly recognize that it is difficult also for institutions to lose objects that in many cases have been acquired by limited acquisition funds. It is not politically correct to sympathize with the institutions, but quite frankly there are two sides to this story which should be recognized and reflected in ongoing modifications to this legislation.
RICHMOND, VA Richmond Times Dispatch - VMFA returns Native American headdress
By Holly Prestidge Published: March 10, 2011
"In a first for the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, an item has been returned to an Alaskan Native American tribe. A Kingfisher Fort Headdress acquired by the museum in 1955 was returned to the Lúkaax.ádi clan of Alaska's Tlingit tribe last week in a ceremony at the National Museum of the American Indian's Cultural Resource Center in Suitland, Md. The headdress, which dates to the
late 19th century and early 20th century, was adorned with wood, swan down, walrus whiskers and flicker feathers. It was repatriated to the tribe in accordance with the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990. This was the first time the museum has returned an item under that law. The law gives museums and federal agencies a way to return Native American items such as human remains and funerary and sacred objects to descendents and affiliated Indian tribes and Native American organizations. Items can also be returned if they are objects of cultural patrimony, such as the headdress, which means it belongs to the entire tribe, not an individual, and therefore cannot be sold or transferred from one person to another.
The museum acquired the headdress and 24 other items of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska from the Portland Art Museum in Oregon.
A claim was issued for the headdress, and the VMFA Board of Trustees voted in May 2010 to return it. Lee Anne Chesterfield, assistant curator of ancient American art for the museum, said Wednesday that possibly one or two other items could fall into the category of cultural patrimony, though the museum hasn't received any other claims. She said working to return the headdress has "been a great learning experience for the museum," particularly since the federal law can be difficult to navigate.
"It's been such a great experience for everyone," Chesterfield added, "and we've made some new friends."
"Notice is hereby given in accordance with the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), 43 CFR 10.10 (a)(3), of the intent to repatriate a cultural item in the possession of the Logan Museum of Anthropology that meets the definition of ``sacred object'' and ``object of cultural patrimony'' under Section 2 of the Act.
This notice is published as part of the National Park Service's administrative responsibilities under NAGPRA, 43 CFR 10.2 (c). The determinations within this notice are the sole responsibility of the museum, institution, or Federal agency that has control of these cultural items. The National Park Service is not responsible for the determinations within this notice.
The cultural item is a bear headdress (Xoots Shakee.at). It is comprised of an ermine fur crown decorated around the edge with sea lion whiskers and red and yellow shafted flicker feathers. The carved wooden frontlet represents a bear whose breast and abdomen are decorated with the head of an eagle and the head and front legs of a frog. The carving is painted red, black, blue, and green and is inlaid with abalone shell along the top and along each side of the bear crest. The interior frame of the headdress is constructed of wood and whalebone and lined with cotton cloth.
Accession and catalogue records of the Logan Museum of Anthropology and the Portland Art Museum indicate that the bear headdress was collected by Axel Rasmussen in Alaska between 1926 and 1936. Mr. Rasmussen went to Alaska in the late 1920s as superintendent of schools at Wrangell. In 1937, he left Wrangell for a similar position in Skagway, where he stayed until his death in 1945. The headdress was probably collected while he was in Wrangell, as the date marked on the collector's catalogue card predates his tenure in Skagway. In 1948, his art collection was donated to the Portland Art Museum, which sold the headdress to the St. Paul Gallery in St. Paul, MN, in 1959. Rev. Glen Ridenour purchased the headdress from the St. Paul Gallery at an unknown date and sold it to the Logan Museum of Anthropology in 1964.
Consultations with and documentation provided by representatives of the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes acting on behalf of the Teikweidi Clan of the Tlingit confirm the Tlingit identity of this cultural item, and the Teikweidi Clan of the Tlingit as the rightful custodians of this item. Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes representatives have provided evidence that the headdress is needed for religious ceremonies by the clan, and that the headdress has ongoing historical, traditional, and cultural importance to the Tlingit people, and to the Teikweidi Clan in particular, and that under the Tlingit system of communal property ownership, this cultural item could not have been alienated, appropriated, or conveyed by any individual.
Based on the abovementioned information, officials of the Logan Museum of Anthropology have determined that, pursuant to 43 CFR 10.2 (d)(3), this cultural item is a ceremonial object needed by traditional Native American religious leaders for the practice of traditional Native American religions by their presentday adherents. Officials of the Logan Museum of Anthropology also have determined that, pursuant to 43 CFR 10.2 (d)(4), this cultural item has ongoing historical, traditional, and cultural importance to the clan itself and is of such central importance that it could not have been alienated, appropriated, or conveyed by any individual. Lastly, officials of the Logan Museum of Anthropology have determined that, pursuant to 43 CFR 10.2(e), there is a relationship of shared group identity that can be reasonably traced between this sacred object/object of cultural patrimony and the Teikweidi Clan of the Tlingit tribe, whose interests are represented here by the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes.
This notice has been sent to officials of the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes. Representatives of any other Indian tribe that believes itself to be culturally affiliated with this object should contact William Green, Director, Logan Museum of Anthropology, Beloit College, 700 College St., Beloit, WI 53511, telephone (608) 363 2119 before August 12, 2002. Repatriation of this sacred object/object of cultural patrimony to the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes may begin after that date if no additional claimants come forward."
Dated: June 19, 2002
Manager, National NAGPRA Program.
[FR Doc. 0217414 Filed 71002; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 431070S