Monday, August 04, 2014

What's Happening In Museums Around the World

1.DALLAS, TX.- The art collective known as Slavs and Tatars will for the first time present the complete series of Love Letters carpets—10 in all—together with a new audio piece produced
specifically for their exhibition at the Dallas Museum of Art. Concentrations 57: Slavs and Tatars, opening July 18 (Late Night Friday) and on view through December 14, 2014, will also include
three additional works of sculpture from their current thematic series, Long Legged Linguistics. This installation is the latest in the Museum’s Concentrations series of project-based solo
exhibitions by international emerging and under-represented artists. Concentrations began in 1981 as part of the DMA’s commitment to showing the work of living artists, while preserving the
excitement of the work. ... more
Slavs and Tatars, founded in 2006, is an art collective whose installations, lecture-performances, sculptures and publications contemplate otherwise little-known affinities, syncretic ideas,
belief systems and rituals among peoples of the Caucasus, Central Asia and Eastern Europe.

2.  Association of Art Museum Directors sanctions Delaware Art Museum for sale of work of art
NEW YORK, NY.- The Association of Art Museum Directors released the following statement: The Association of Art Museum Directors is deeply troubled and saddened that the Delaware Art
Museum has deaccessioned and sold a work of art from its collection to pay outstanding debt and build its operating endowment. Art museums collect works of art for the benefit of present

and future generations. Responsible stewardship of a museum’s collection and the conservation, exhibition, and study of these works are the heart of a museum’s commitment to its
community and to the public. It is therefore a fundamental professional principle that works can only be deaccessioned to provide funds to acquire works of art and enhance a museum’s
collection.... more
More Information:

3. NORTHAMPTON, UK - Two museums have lost their accreditation status after the controversial sale of a 4,000-year-old Egyptian statue to a private collector.
Northampton Borough Council sold the Sekhemka limestone statue for nearly £16m at auction to help fund an extension to the town's museum.
Arts Council England ruled the sale breached the accredited standards for how museums manage their collections.
The council is now ineligible for a range of arts grants and funding.
Scott Furlong, from the Arts Council, said: "It is always hugely regrettable when we have to exclude a museum from the Accreditation Scheme.
"However, it is equally important that we are robust in upholding the standards and principles which underpin the scheme and are shared by the vast majority of museums."
Northampton Museum and Art Gallery, which is set to benefit from the sale of the statue, and the council-run Abington Park Museum have been removed from the Accreditation Scheme with immediate effect and excluded from future participation until at least August 2019.
The scheme sets nationally agreed standards for museums in the UK, demonstrating their commitment to managing collections effectively for the enjoyment and benefit of users. It also has strict criteria for the disposal of cultural objects.Sekhemka was gifted to Northampton's museums by the 4th Marquis of Northampton in 1880...more

4. ABOUT.COM An exciting line-up of of museum exhibits and installations is on tap for 2014. Must-see exhibits will be on display not just in our museum capitals of New York, Chicago, DC, etc., but also in St. Petersburg (FL), Milwaukee, Richmond, and Charlotte. Adding to the variety of destinations is the wide range of subject matter, from post-war art to nature photography to a living exhibit of octopi.
The following list is far from exhaustive--it is but a taste of some of the bigger shows on view this year. To find information on other exhibits, browse this list of top 10 museums in the USA. Further, if you use Twitter, you can follow my extensive list of U.S. Museums on Twitter.

  • Renaissance to Goya: Prints and Drawings from Spain is a blockbuster collaboration between the New Mexico Museum of Art in Santa Fe and the British Museum in London. Through March 9, 2014.
  • Warhol: Art. Fame. Mortality is a show of more than 100 Andy Warhol works at the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, FL. January 18-April 27, 2014.
  • Miró: The Experience of Seeing at the Seattle Museum of Art will include 50 paintings, drawings, and sculptures culled from Madrid's Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía. February 13-May 25, 2014.
  • The Essential Robert Indiana, featuring the works of visual artist and LOVE sculptor, "will premiere in the state whose name he adopted as his own." Head to the Indianapolis Museum of Art from February 16-May 4, 2014.
  • Degas/Cassatt will explore the connections between these two well-known Impressionists with 70 works at the National Gallery in Washington, DC. May 11-October 5, 2014.
  • Kandinsky: A Retrospective will showcase the works of Modern Art pioneer Wassily Kandinsky at the Milwaukee Museum of Art. June 5-September 1, 2014.
  • Modernism from the National Gallery of Art: The Robert and Jane Meyerhoff Collection gives the West Coast a chance to see 50 works by the likes of Ellsworth Kelly, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, and Frank Stella. On view at San Francisco's de Young Museum June 7-October 12, 2014.
  • Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary, 1926-1938. This exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago will be the "first major museum exhibition to focus exclusively on the breakthrough years of René Magritte, creator of some of the 20th century’s most extraordinary imageswill be the first major survey of the artist's work in an American museum." June 24-October 13, 2014.
  • Jeff Koons: A Retrospective will be the last major show at NYC's Whitney Museum before it moves to a new space in the Meatpacking District. Koons' works, which are among some of the most famous of the late 20th century, will take up almost the entirety of the Whitney. June 27-October 19, 2014.

    Whats Happening in Museums in the Arts of The Americas and Africa

    1. SALEM, MASS.- The Peabody Essex Museum presents a new installation drawn from the museum's Native American art collection - the oldest, most comprehensive ongoing collection of its kind in the Western hemisphere. Raven's Many Gifts: Native Art of the Northwest Coast celebrates the rich artistic legacy of Native artists along the Pacific Northwest Coast while exploring dynamic relationships among humans, animals, ancestors and supernatural beings. Featuring nearly 30 works from the 19th century to present day, the installation includes superlative examples of works on paper, wood carvings, textiles, films, music and jewelry. Raven's Many Gifts is on view through mid-2015....more

    2. READING, PA.- The Reading Public Museum announced the display of one of its most important objects, a painted buffalo hide robe from the early decades of the nineteenth century. The hide
    robe will be on view, alongside addition objects from Plains nations including the Lakota, in The Museum’s North American Indian Gallery on the first floor. Less than 30 examples survive
    from this early period, and pictorial buffalo hides are among the most impressive early contact objects....more

     3. TACOMA, WA.-Tacoma Art Museum presents a dazzling visual experience of contemporary Native America Matika Wilbur, a leading young photographer from the Pacific Northwest (Tulalip and Swinomish Tribes), has traveled more than 60,000 miles in the Western United States over the past year, acquiring extraordinary portraits and remarkable narratives in her quest to visit and photograph people from every federally recognized sovereign Native American tribe (562 at the start of her project, now 566). Project 562
    examines the Indian image across socioeconomic and intergenerational spectrums, from tribal to hardcore urban, traditional elders to enduring teens. To date, Wilbur has visited about one-third of the 566 federally recognized tribes in the United States. She has been welcomed into rare experiences, capturing images and
    voices that have never before been represented....more

    4. NEW YORK - Through October 5, 2014 | The Metropolitan Museum of Art: The Nelson A. Rockefeller Vision: In Pursuit of the Best in the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas
     From the Americas, highlights in the exhibition will include: a 12th-9th century B.C.E ceramic "Baby" figure, which was a centerpiece of the landmark 1965 exhibition The Jaguar's Children: Pre-Classic Central Mexico—the work's acquisition during the course of the exhibition had a transformative impact on The Museum of Primitive Art's pre-Columbian holdings; a vibrantly colored 14th-century feathered Inca tunic from Peru acquired in 1956; a 19th-century Tlingit knife from Alaska which was among the first objects from North America that Nelson Rockefeller purchased and kept in his home prior to donating it to The Museum of Primitive Art in 1959. Oceanic highlights will include: one of only two dozen surviving examples of
    Solomon Island shields with mother of pearl inlay; a Mangareva Figure representing the Polynesian agricultural god Rago, considered the signature Oceanic work acquired by The Museum of Primitive Art; and an Abelam Yam Mask, a basketry genre from New Guinea collected in the region by curator Douglas Newton considered among the most outstanding examples of a tradition in which enormous yams were exchanged in ceremonial competitions. African highlights will include: a monumental D'mba headdress from Guinea selected on the basis of its favorable comparison with the one now at the Musée Quai Branly in Paris; Male and Female Poro Figures by a master from Ivory Coast that were featured in the 1963 landmark exhibition Senufo Sculpture from West Africa; and the epic creation of a Fang Master from Gabon: Sculptural Element from a Reliquary Ensemble (The Great Bieri). Robert Goldwater, the director of The Museum of Primitive Art, advised Rockefeller on the acquisition of the latter work, considering it among the masterpieces of the history of art.
    Located adjacent to Nelson Rockefeller's boyhood home and directly across from the Museum of Modern Art, this innovative and emphatically fine arts institution had the mission to build an authoritative collection and to generate exhibitions that would shape and expand public appreciation of non-Western art. Art historian Robert Goldwater served as its director, and René d'Harnoncourt, Nelson Rockefeller's close associate and director of the Museum of Modern Art, remained an active advisor and member of its executive committee. Over the course of its history, The Museum of Primitive Art's connections to the regions represented were varied but significant: Nelson Rockefeller traveled extensively to Mexico and Latin America and served as Assistant Secretary of State for American Republic Affairs under President Franklin Roosevelt as well as President of Inter-American Affairs; his son, Michael, undertook research and field collecting in the Pacific; and the transition from colonialism to independence was celebrated through the loan of major works from the African collection to several important exhibitions in West and Southern Africa. and

    5. CAMBRIDGE, UNITED KINGDOM Museum of Archaeology & Anthropology, Cambridge
    Crafting Colour: Beads, Pattern and Painting from the Kalahari
    24 Jun 14 to 28 Sep 14
    Contemporary prints and paintings produced in western Botswana over the last twenty five years feature in the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology’s summer South Lecture Room exhibition. Many of the
    artists responsible talk about their work as a form of storytelling, and the stories they tell relate to the lives of their ancestors, hunting and gathering, but also their lives today, living on a former mission with limited access to the land and the resources it once supplied. The exhibition will juxtapose black and white images of San people in Botswana during the 1930s from the museum’s collections, with the colourful images produced more recently at the Kuru Art Project. This art workshop, established in 1990 at D’Kar in western Botswana, was inspired by the ancient tradition of San rock art found across southern Africa.

    Feds Stop Efforts Against St. Louis to Repatriate Egyptian Mask

    NOTE: The newsletter produced by the has become an important voice in the debate over cultural ptrimony. Their approach is thoughtful, reasoned, and even. It is a must read for anyone interested in this subject.

    1. ST. LOUIS, MO - A lengthy and convoluted case involving an ancient Egyptian mask purchased by the St. Louis Art Museum (SLAM) that began in 2011 was finally resolved on June 12, 2014. In response to the U.S. federal government’s appeal of the district court’s dismissal — twice — of the government’s case against the museum last year, the Eighth Circuit’s Ka Nefer Nefer Appellate
    Decision held on procedural grounds that the district court had not abused its discretion in dismissing the case, leaving any discussion of what it described as “an attempt to expand the government’s forfeiture powers at the likely expense of museums and good faith purchasers in the international marketplace for ancient artifacts” for another day.

    In 2011, museum representatives were told by federal authorities that they intended to seize a mask SLAM had purchased in 1998. The museum requested a declaratory judgment that the mask could not be seized because the statute of limitations had run and the government could not produce evidence that it was stolen or smuggled into the U.S. The art dealer offering the mask described the mask as having been excavated at Saqqara in 1952 and provided letters showing a chain of European ownership by various individuals. The museum sent photographs and description to the director of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo in 1998 and eventually received a letter in which the director declined to identify the mask as stolen; it checked the stolen art databases of the Art Loss Register, INTERPOL, and the International Foundation for Art Research, and hired an independent scholar who reported that the mask had likely left Egypt prior to imposition of Egyptian law prohibiting export. The museum then purchased the mask for almost $500,000 and placed it on display.

    The U.S. government investigation provided a somewhat different story of the mask’s ownership history. After its excavation in 1952, the mask was stored for 5 years in Saqqara, then shipped to Cairo, ostensibly in preparation for a traveling exhibit. It was sent back to Saqqara from Cairo in 1962, then boxed and sent again to Cairo in 1966. In 1973, the box contents were inventoried and the mask was missing. In 2006, according to a U.S. government pleading, the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities became aware in 2006 that the mask had been acquired by the Saint Louis Art Museum. The U.S. government filed an in rem forfeiture claim in March 2011 asserting that there was probable cause to believe that at some time between 1966 and 1973, the mask had been stolen from Egypt and later introduced unlawfully into the U.S.

    The museum moved to dismiss on the basis that the government’s evidence was insufficient to make a claim, and in April 2012, the district court agreed, dismissing the complaint in March 2012 for failure to state a claim. The district court said, essentially, that if the government claims the mask was stolen, it should show some proof of the theft. The U.S. Attorney filed a motion for reconsideration and asked to file an amended complaint, both of which the court denied in June 2012. The U.S. Attorney immediately appealed. Negotiations between federal authorities and the museum, that eventually failed, took place between 2012 and April 2013 and oral argument in the government’s appeal was heard in December 2013 before the Eighth Circuit.

    Image: The St. Louis Art Museum, Mummy Mask of the Lady Ka-nefer-nefer

    The St. Louis Art Museum’s online catalog entry is below:

    Mummy Mask of the Lady Ka-nefer-nefer
    New Kingdom
     (1550–1070 BC)
    Dynasty 19
     (1295–1186 BC)
    plaster, linen, resin, glass, wood, gold, and pigment
    21 1/16 x 14 9/16 x 9 3/4 in. (53.5 x 37 x 24.7 cm)
    Friends Fund and funds given by Mr. and Mrs. Christian B. Peper, Mrs. Drew Philpott, the Longmire Fund of the Saint Louis Community Foundation, The Arthur and Helen Baer Charitable Foundation, an anonymous donor, Gary Wolff, Mrs. Marjorie M. Getty, by exchange, Florence Heiman in memory of her husband, Theodore Heiman, Ellen D. Thompson, by exchange, Dr. and Mrs. G. R. Hansen, Sid Goldstein in memory of Donna and Earl Jacobs, Friends Fund, by exchange, and Museum Purchase
    Accession Number: 19:1998
    On View, Gallery 130
    Place of origin:  Memphis, Saqqara,  Egypt

    This mask has an extraordinary presence with its combination of glass inlaid eyes, gilt face with shimmering, almost lifelike translucence, and realistic wig. The craftsman who fashioned the wig out of thick resin carefully cut and modeled the plaits of hair in the latest style. The red “gold” coloring of her skin-a result of oxidation on the metal surface-may be purposeful or merely the product of the sulphurous fumes given off by the resinous wig. The band around her head, her eyes, and her nipples are inlaid with glass, surprising because glass was as costly and rare as the turquoise and carnelian for which it was substituted. The roughened surface of the mask’s lips suggests they were once covered with a heavier gold foil. In each hand she holds a wooden amulet to signify strength and welfare. A delicate scene carved in relief on her arms shows her successful ascent into the afterlife on the boat of the Great God Osiris.
     1951/1952 -
     Mohammed Zakaria Goneim, excavated at Saqqara, Egypt [1]by 1952 -
     Unknown Dealer, Brussels, Belgium [2]- early 1960s
     Kaloterna Collection [3]early 1960s -
     Private Collection, Switzerland, acquired from Kaloterna collection [4]by 1997 – 1998
     Phoenix Art, S.A. (Hicham Aboutaam), Geneva, Switzerland, purchased from private collection [5]1998/03/30 -
     Saint Louis Art Museum, purchased from Phoenix Ancient Art, S.A. [6]Notes:
     [1] Excavated by Mohammed Zakaria Goneim, Keeper of the Antiquities of Saqqara, at Saqqara, during his first season (1951-1952) at the site [Goneim, Mohammed Zakaria,"Excavations at Saqqara; Horus Sekhem-Khet, the Unfinished Step Pyramid at Saqqara." Vol. 1. Cairo: Imprimerie de L'Institut Français D'Archéologie Orientale, 1957].A letter from a scholar, dated December 12, 1999, indicates that the other objects from the Saqqara excavation group were displayed together in the Cairo Museum, suggesting that they were put on display right after Goneim’s excavation. The scholar suggests that the mask was never displayed with the other excavated objects and was probably awarded to the excavator himself. This would correspond with its appearance on the European art market soon after its excavation [SLAM document files].

    [2] In a letter dated February 11, 1997, Charly Mathez confirms that he saw the mask in a gallery in Brussels in 1952. According to a letter dated October 5, 1999, he did not remember the name of the gallery [SLAM document files].

    [3] In a letter dated March 19, 1998, Hicham Aboutaam indicated that an anonymous Swiss collector acquired the mask from the Kaloterna (possibly Kaliterna) family. In a letter of July 2, 1997, addressed to Hicham Aboutaam, the Swiss collector stated that this acquisition took place in the early 1960s [SLAM document files]. The name “Kaloterna” may be a misspelling of the common Croatian name “Kaliterna.” The Swiss collector also had an address in Croatia, and it is possible that the collector became acquainted with the Kaloterna (or Kaliterna) family there.

    [4] See note [3]. The Swiss collector requested anonymity.

    [5] The Swiss collector’s letter of July 2, 1997 confirms the sale of the mask to Aboutaam [SLAM document files]. Aboutaam also states that the mask was in the United States from 1995 until 1997, possibly indicating that it was in the possession of the New York branch of Phoenix Ancient Art, S.A. during that time [letter, September 23, 1997, SLAM document files].

    [6] Invoice to the Saint Louis Art Museum dated March 12, 1998 [SLAM document files]. Minutes of the Collections Committee of the Board of Trustees, Saint Louis Art Museum, March 18, 1998.

    2. St. Louis: In certain respects, the tale of the Ka-Nefer-Nefer follows a familiar script: like many disputed antiquities, the Egyptian funerary mask was unearthed last century and quickly vanished, spending nearly 50 years in obscurity before resurfacing on the European art market in the late 1990s. The St. Louis Art Museum soon bought the mask -- an elaborately tooled cartonnage of blended gold, glass and linen. It has since become the centerpiece in a bitter ownership dispute between the museum, which claims clear title, and Egypt, which charges the mask was plundered from a government storeroom.
    But this story went decidedly off-script last year after U.S. officials, acting on Egypt's behalf, entered the fray. The feds informed museum leaders that they believed the mask was stolen, and they intended to use the courts to seize the artifact and return it to Egypt. But where some museums might have simply handed over the goods, St. Louis went on the attack, filing its own a pre-emptive lawsuit that claimed the statute of
    limitations had expired -- an aggressive challenge from an institution that has repeatedly defied calls to release its grip on this pricey piece of loot.
    "This is very unusual," Patty Gerstenblith, who directs the Center for Art, Museum & Cultural Heritage Law at DePaul University, told me not long after the museum filed its suit. "This is the first time I've seen a public institution like a museum deciding to expend its funds to proactively sue the government."
    Now comes U.S. District Judge Henry E. Autrey, who on March 31 handed museum leaders a legal victory, and a moral challenge, when he dismissed the government's forfeiture claim, finding it "devoid of any facts showing that the Mask was 'missing' because it was stolen and then smuggled out of the country." (Underline and bold in the original).
    Indeed, there are no official records showing that the mask was sold by -- or stolen from -- the Egyptian government

    Auctions Around the World In the Arts of the Americas, Africa, and the Pacific Summer 2014

    1. PARIS.- Today at Sotheby’s Paris, the Monumental Sculpture, Fang Mabea, Cameroon, formerly owned by Félix Fénéon & Jacques Kerchache was sold for €4.353.500 ($5.914.099) above the
    high estimate of €3.5 million

    2. DALLAS, TX.- A rare and fantastically-preserved Campaign Flag advising Native Americans to "Beware of Foreign Influence" brought top lot honors when it sold for $59,375 in Heritage Auctions' $739,000+ Americana & Political Signature® Auction May 24 in Dallas. The auction's 400+ lots spanned more than 200 years of American history.

    3. SAN FRANCISCO, CA.- A Navajo classic twill-weave manta from the Collection of Alexandra and Sidney Sheldon of Malibu, Calif., sold for $112,500 in Bonhams' auction of Native American Art,
    June 2 in San Francisco. It was the leading lot of the $1.9 million auction that achieved a 98 percent sold rate by value and an 85 percent sold rate by lot.

    4. DENVER, PA.- Morphy’s May 17 auction may have gotten off to a “rocky” start, but that was just fine with bidders, since prehistoric stone artifacts were exactly what they came to buy. The 190-lot auction that featured blades, bannerstones, arrowheads and points of tremendous rarity chalked up a healthy $661,000 (all prices quoted inclusive of 20% buyer’s premium).[/url]

    5. DALLAS, TX.- DALLAS (AP) - A necklace made from the claws of a grizzly bear and a Colt .45 six-shooter once owned by ex-scout and showman “Buffalo Bill” Cody sold at auction in Dallas for more than $40,000 each. Heritage Auctions says both sold Saturday for the same sale price: $40,625. The Dallas-based auction house sold the two pieces during its “Legends of the West Signature Auction,” which featured nearly 400 collectible items including guns, photos, badges and books. Heritage spokesman Tom Slater says Sioux warrior chief Sitting Bull gave Cody the grizzly bear-claw necklace. Slater says Cody bought the 1873
    Frontier Six-Shooter Revolver from the New York City firearms dealer Hartley & Graham in January 1883.
    Follow us: @washtimes on Twitter

    Archaeology - New Discoveries Summer 2014

    PARIS.- An exceptional Gallo-Roman sanctuary is currently being revealed at Pont-Saint-Maxence (Oise). This Inrap excavation has been authorised by the government (Drac Picardie) and is taking place prior to the construction of a shopping centre. The history of Late Antique period Pont-Saint-Maxence is little known, and the discovery of an enormous sanctuary from the mid 2nd century A.D. therefore came as a surprise, particularly as the remarkable statuary discovered on the site has no equal in Roman Gaul.
    This sanctuary, contained in an enclosure of 70 x 105 m, possessed two small pavilions at the rear of which only the foundations have been preserved. In the centre, the cella, a substantial masonry platform, was accessible by steps in the front façade. This was the heart of the sanctuary, containing the statue of a divinity. Here, archaeologists have discovered many pieces of balustrades with paired "S" shaped decorative elements, together with fragments of marble veneer.[/url]

     BEIJING (AFP).- Two pairs of 3,300-year-old trousers found in China's far western Xinjiang region may be the world's oldest, state-media reported Friday.
    Archeologists in May found animal-fur menswear on the bodies of two mummies, identified as male shamans in their 40s, the state-run China Daily cited scientists as saying.
    An international team is working together to repair and preserve the two pairs -- which are the oldest yet discovered with a clear resemblance to modern trousers, the report said.
    "They were almost of the same shape as today's trousers," the report quoted Lu Enguo, a researcher at the Institute of Archaeology in Xinjiang, as saying.
    Even older apparel resembling trousers have previously been discovered in the region, but they were made according to a more simple design and lacked a piece of fabric covering the crotch, Lu added
    . Archaeologists believe nomads living in the area invented trousers for horse riding.
    The nomads "at first wore a kind of trousers that only had two legs," said Xu Dongliang, deputy head of the institute, adding that "crotches were sewed on to the legs, and gradually other styles, such as bloomers, appeared". Previously, the oldest pants found with a crotch were just 2,800 years old, the report said.

    WASHINGTON (AFP).- 'Game of Thrones' scenario seen in Neandertal ancestors found in the Atapuerca Mountains. The vicious fight for survival and power among disparate kingdoms and clans may have led some ancient people to evolve facial traits more quickly than others, a study said Thursday. New research on 17 skulls from a collection of 430,000-year-old remains found at the base of an underground shaft in Spain suggests that big jaws were the first prominent feature of these pre-Neandertals. Their large mandibles could gnash meat, open wide and be used like a tool or a third hand, helping them adapt to their eating needs in a harsh, cold environment.

     WELLINGTON (AFP).- Natural History Museum in London: Tiny 'living fossil' found in New Zealand waters. A microscopic marine creature believed to have been extinct for four million years has been found alive and well in New Zealand waters, researchers said Thursday.
    More Information:

    SAN SALVADOR (AFP).- Three human skeletons found in El Salvador shed light on pre-Hispanic life . Japanese and Salvadoran archaeologists said Friday they have found three human skeletons in El Salvador from more than 1,600 years ago that could shed new light on

    early human settlements in the region.

    SANTIAGO (AFP).- A group of students discovered a 7,000-year-old mummy during a trip to northern Chile, local media reported Monday.

    TULUM, YUCATAN, MEXICO. Divers of the Tulum Speleological Project exploring a cave in the area called Hoyo Negro (Black Hole), in Tulum, Quintana Roo State, Mexico. A teenage girl who fell into a hole more than 12,000 years ago in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula is offering new clues about the origins of the first Native Americans, researchers said Thursday. Named "Naia" by scientists, her skeleton is amo
    ng the oldest known and best preserved in the Americas. Her remains were found in 2007, submerged in an underwater cave along with the bones of saber tooth tigers, giant sloths and cave bears, some 135 feet (41 meters) below sea level

    JERUSALEM.- An 800 Year Old Lead Seal Stamped by the Monastery of St. Sabas Was Found in Archaeological Excavations carried out by the Israel Antiquities Authority in the Bayit VeGan

    Quarter in Jerusalem Archaeologists believe a farmstead discovered during excavations may have been part of the monastery’s property during the Crusader Period

    LOS ANGELES. Getty Research Institute acquires rare, early photos of Mayan archeological sites

    MEXICO CITY.- Archaeologists find burial of unusual characteristics in the Mexican State of Sinaloa. In the southern parts of Sinaloa, a burial of unusual characteristics was discovered, made up of elements from old Occidental Mexico and rich offerings deposited around bone

    remains. As the excavation advanced, never seen before archeological traces surged; informed archeologist Victor Joel Santos Ramírez, director of the project.July 25

    SPAIN:  Prehistoric hunting scenes unearthed in Spanish cave...Threat of vandalism puts ancient paintings at risk. A series of hunting scenes dating from 7,000 years ago have been found by archaeologists on the six-metre long wall of a small cave in the region of Vilafranca in Castellón, eastern Spain—but it is being kept a secret for now. A layer of dust and dirt covered ten figures, including bulls, two archers and a goat. The
    murals were exposed to harsh weather but the paintings pigments have not seriously deteriorated.
    Inés Domingo Sanz, a research professor at the University of Barcelona, and Dídac Román, a research associate (archaeology) at the University of Toulouse II Le Mirail and University of Valencia, discovered the site while undertaking government-sponsored research into another excavation area in the region. Sanz says that “some of the [painting] details are unique [and unlike anything] across the entire Mediterranean Basin”. A planned publication will throw light on the rare archaeological find.
    The cave was discovered in November 2013 but its location will only be revealed once security measures are in place, after vandals defaced a 5,000-year-old rock painting in Spain’s southern Jaén province in April.

     FRANCE: Prehistoric painted caves added to Unesco’s World Heritage List
    The Chauvet Pont-d’Arc site in southern France is twice as old as the Lascaux complex The world’s oldest decorated cave has entered Unesco’s World Heritage List. The 36,000 year-old cave of Chauvet Pont-d'Arc, in the Ardèche region of southern France, was one of six new sites added to the organisation’s preservation list during the 38th session of the World Heritage Committee in Doha, Qatar, which began on 15 June and ends tomorrow.
     The cave of Chauvet Pont-d’Arc had been sealed by a rock fall until it was discovered in 1994, ensuring its state of remarkable preservation. It is twice as old as the Lascaux cave complex in the Dordogne, which was previously considered the earliest example of prehistoric rock art.
    Of the more than 1,000 drawings lining the walls of Chauvet Pont-d’Arc, 425 depict animals, including species that are unique in Palaeolithic cave art, such as the panther and the owl.
    The cave has never been open to the public for conservation reasons. Instead, the Cavern of Pont-d’Arc, a €50m replica that has been under construction nearby since October 2012, is set to admit visitors from April 2015. At 3,500 square metres, the replica covers less than half the area of the original but the drawings will be reproduced to 1:1 scale.

    Paleontology - New Discoveries Summer 2014

    1. GREENWICH, CONN.-  Bruce Museum scientist Daniel Ksepka identifies world's largest-ever flying bird Scientists have identified the fossilized remains of an extinct giant bird that is likely to have the largest wingspan of any bird ever to have lived. A paper announcing the findings, “Flight Performance of the Largest Volant Bird,” was published July 7 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and is authored by Dr. Daniel Ksepka, the newest Curator of Science at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich.
    More Information:[/url]

    2. BUENOS AIRES (AFP).- Paleontologists in Argentina's remote Patagonia region have discovered fossils of what may be the largest dinosaur ever, amid a vast cache of fossils that could shed light on prehistoric life. The creature is believed to be a new species of Titanosaur, a long-necked, long-tailed sauropod that walked on four legs and lived some 95 million years ago in the Cretaceous Period. Researchers say the plant-eating
    dinosaur weighed the equivalent of more than 14 African elephants, or about 100 tonnes, and stretched up to 40 meters (130 feet) in length. .....

    3. LONDON - A new study published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
    identifies a newly discovered 3- to 5-million-year-old Tibetan fox from the Himalayan Mountains, Vulpes qiuzhudingi, as the likely ancestor of the living Arctic fox (Vulpes lagopus), lending support to the idea that the evolution of present-day animals of the Arctic region is intimately connected to ancestors that first became adapted for life in cold regions in the high altitude environments of the Tibetan Plateau.

    Repatriation - Summer 2014

    BENIN CITY.- Two statues from among thousands of works of art looted by British soldiers in the 19th century have been returned to Nigeria, prompting calls for other "stolen" treasures to be repatriated. For more than a century, the artefacts from the "Benin Bronzes" collection had been in the family of retired medical consultant Mark Walker, whose grandfather was involved in a 1897 British raid in which they were taken. But on Friday, the statues -- depicting a fabled ibis bird and the traditional monarch's bell -- were given back to the Oba (King) of Benin, Uku Akpolokpolo Erediauwa I, at a ceremony attended by royal officials and local dignitaries. Walker said he decided to return the statues to Nigeria in September last year after learning of their history, in part from his grandfather's diary from the time, which described the treasures as "loot". "That gave me the idea that perhaps they should go to the place where they will be appreciated for ever," he told AFP in Benin City, 240 kilometres (150 miles) east of Lagos. "I'm very proud to be part of this because it is clearly seen as an historic occasion.

    PHNOM PENH (AFP).- Looted more than 40 years ago, Khmer statues returned to Cambodia from United States. Cambodia on Tuesday officially welcomed the return of three ancient statues looted from the kingdom more than 40 years ago, including one retrieved after a long legal

    battle in the United States.[/url]

    RIO DE JANEIRO - Art worth $4.5m found hidden in Brazilian shipping container
    Authorities in Rio de Janeiro are investigating whether the works are part of a money laundering scheme
    01 July 2014

    CARACAS - Stolen Matisse painting returned to Venezuela after more than a decade
    But question marks still hang over the theft from a Caracas museum 08 July 2014

    CAIRO  Egyptian artefacts recovered after looting, now on show in Cairo
    But the country’s heritage remains at risk

    PARIS.- "International Council of Museums' Committee for Egyptology expresses concern over sale of Sekhemka". Advocating for ethical conduct by museums and museum professionals, ICOM CIPEG cites the ICOM Code of Ethics for Museums, and particularly its article 2.16 on the “income from disposal of collections*,” calling on the Northampton Borough Council (UK) to abandon the sale of the Sekhemka statue at Christie’s London this Thursday 10 July, 2014.[/url]

    LONDON Christies Auction House - A 4,000-year-old Egyptian statue expected to raise about £6m has sold for £15.76m at Christie's of London.
    Northampton Borough Council auctioned the Sekhemka limestone statue to help fund a £14m extension to Northampton Museum and Art Gallery.
    However, Arts Council England had warned the council its museum could lose its accreditation status. The Egyptian ambassador to Britain said the council should have handed the statue back if it did not want it.
    Sekhemka statue The limestone statue is 30in (76cm) high and it was "gifted" to Northampton in 1880
    Sekhemka statue The statue of Sekhemka - who was a royal chief, judge and administrator - shows him reading a scroll
    His Excellency Ahsraf Elkholy Ahsraf Elkholy, the Egyptian Ambassador, condemned the sale
    Before the auction, Egyptian Ambassador Ahsraf Elkholy condemned the sale as an "an abuse to the Egyptian archaeology and the cultural property".
    He said: "Our objection starts from this basic principle: how can a museum sell a piece in its collection when it should be on display to the public?"
    The ambassador said: "We are concerned this piece may be moved into a private collection.
    'Darkest cultural day'
    "A museum should not be a store. Sekhemka belongs to Egypt and if Northampton Borough Council does not want it then it must be given back.
    "It's not ethical that it will be sold for profit and also not acceptable. The council should have consulted with the Egyptian government."
    Christie's said it would reveal details of the new owner later.
    Protesters gathered outside Christie's before the sale said they wanted the statue to be returned to Egypt's Ministry of Antiquities.
    Sue Edwards, from the Save Sekhemka Action Group, who travelled from Northampton to the auction, said: "This is the darkest cultural day in the town's history.
    "The local authority has made a huge mistake but we will continue our fight.

    Art Fairs and Exhibitions Summer 2014

    1. LONDON.- Two of the most celebrated documents in American history, the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence, will be on display in the UK for the first time next year on loan
    from the US National Archives and New York Public Library. They will be displayed at the British Library as part of a landmark exhibition, Magna Carta: Law, Liberty, Legacy, which runs from
    13 March - 1 September 2015 and is sponsored by Linklaters, the global law firm.

    3. MOSCOW -  The British Council has confirmed that a show on the Young British Artists (YBAs) in Russia has been cancelled because of international tensions over Ukraine, as we originally reported in our June issue (The Art Newspaper, June 2014, p3). In a statement, the council
    explains that the Moscow venue for the exhibition, the Ekaterina Cultural Foundation, has “reluctantly had to withdraw due to not being able to raise the sponsorship funding they had originally been confident of achieving”. The money was promised by Vladimir and Ekaterina Semenikhin, who finance the Ekaterina Foundation. They later decided against sponsoring the YBA show because of Western criticism over Russian intervention in Ukraine.

    4. DHAHRAN SAUDI ARABIA - In March, at the Art Dubai fair, Saudi Aramco, the hugely powerful oil and natural gas company whose headquarters in Dhahran represent almost a kingdom within the Kingdom, announced further details of a cultural centre under ­construction. The King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture, named after Saudi Arabia’s first monarch, is to open in late 2015 and, according to Laila Hussain Al-Faddagh, the contemporary Middle Eastern art co-ordinator for Saudi Aramco, it will offer visitors an
    experience “unlike anything seen before in the Kingdom”.
     Over the years, Saudi Aramco has sponsored international art exhibitions including “Roads of Arabia” which first opened in 2011 and is a travelling display of archaeological finds from along the trade routes that once criss-crossed the region, as well as events organised by the Saudi Arabian Society for Culture and Arts.
    The King Abdulaziz Center has been designed by the Norwegian architectural firm Snøhetta and will have a library, archive, multimedia theatre, children’s discovery zone, a great hall for international exhibitions and an ambitious museum. This will include four specialised galleries: Funoon (Expressions), showing a selection of contemporary Middle Eastern art; Ajyaal (Generations) to focus on Saudi culture and heritage; Rihlaat (Journeys) looking at the natural and social history of Saudi Arabia; and Knooz (Treasures) concentrating on arts and crafts in the country, both old and modern.

    5. LONDON.- Specialist tribal & ethnographic fair sets up a new home, re-launches as Tribal Art London. The UK’s only specialist top-flight tribal art event re-launches this year as the Tribal Art London fair with a new home at The Mall Galleries, London SW1 from 10-13 September 2014.This exciting new Fair for UK
    art collectors will feature a wider range of tribal art than ever before, encompassing early ceremonial objects, adornment and for the first time ethnographic photography and contemporary art. The exhibitors are leading and well-respected experts in their field from the UK, Europe and Australia, and will include:

    7. DALLAS, TX. Hopper's Nighthawks tops the list for Art Everywhere US: Largest outdoor art show ever
    - People throughout the United States have voted for the works of American art they most want to see installed in Art Everywhere US, the initiative that will transform billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms, airport dioramas, movie theaters and more into a free, open-air art gallery across the country. The artwork that received the most votes is Nighthawks (1942) by Edward Hopper. A nationwide celebration of America’s artistic legacy, Art Everywhere US will begin on August 4, 2014, with a launch event in New York’s Times Square, where digital billboards will display all 58 of the selected artworks. For the
    subsequent four weeks, through August 31, Art Everywhere US will be installed on as many as 50,000 displays, both static and digital, in all 50 states. The full list of 58 selected artworks will be officially presented to civic leaders at an event on Saturday, June 21, in Dallas, at the annual meeting of the United States Conference of Mayors.

    Auctions Around The World - What's Trending and What's Not

    1. LONDON.- The Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale took place on the evening of 24 June at Christie’s London, realising £85,784,000/ $146,004,368/ €107,230,000 and selling 67% by
    lot and 71% by value. The top price was paid for Ja – Was? – Bild („Yes-What?-Picture‟), 1920, by Kurt Schwitters which sold for £13,970,500/$23,777,791/ €17,463,125 setting a new world
    record price for the artist at auction (estimate: £4- 6 million). In total, 22 works of art sold for over £1 million / 32 for over $1 million.

    2. DALLAS, TX.- An 1860 campaign flag for Abraham Lincoln and his running mate Hannibal Hamlin (est. $20,000+) highlights Heritage Auctions’ American Political Item Collectors National Convention Auction, July 30-Aug. 2 in Denver. The American Political Items Collectors (APIC) is a non-profit membership organization, dedicated to promoting the collecting, preservation and study of materials relating to political campaigns and the U.S. presidency. Bidding will be held July 30 online via HALive! and from the convention floor at the Crowne Plaza Denver International Airport Hotel & Convention Center.

    3. DALLAS, TX.- Two paintings by Chinese artist Lui Liu sold for more than $311,000 in Heritage Auctions' $1.9+ million Fine & Decorative Arts Including Estates Signature Auction in Dallas.

    4. DALLAS, TX.- The original artwork featuring the first ever appearance of Wolverine, by artists Herb Trimpe and Jack Abel, on the final page of The Incredible Hulk #180 (1974), arguably the most important debut of a comic book character in the last 40 years, realized a world record price for any page of American comic art, and a world record price for any page of interior comic art, by far, when it brought $657,250 (including 19.5% Buyer's Premium) on May 16, 2014, at Heritage Auctions in Dallas.

     5. LOS ANGELES, CA.- Exceeding expectations at the Coins and Medals auction on June 2, the 1859 PCGS Proof 62+ Cameo $20, one of the finest and great rarities in the US Coin Series, was
    purchased by a salesroom bidder for $210,600, reaching above its high estimated value. The coin was featured as the front cover image of the sale's catalog and was a special item in the Kernochan Family Collection along with the 1795 Small Eagle AU58 PCGS $5 coin, which sold for $57,330. This 1795 issue date marks the premier year that gold coins were struck at the U.S. Mint for half-eagle ($5) as well as eagle ($10) coins.

    6. DALLAS, TX.- A group of 24 personally owned objects from the personal collection of moonwalker Alan Bean sold for $625,375 in Heritage Auctions' $1.1+ million Space Signature Auction in
    Dallas May 14. The collection of 24 objects was led by a rare pair of Apollo 12 Lunar Module Flown and Surface-Used Scissors with Lanyard, which sold for $100,000.

    7. HONG KONG.- Julian King, Sotheby’s International Specialist of Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art Department, said, “We are delighted with the results of our first series of Chinese works of
    art sales at Sotheby’s Hong Kong Gallery, which follow on from the spectacular success of our Spring sales of the category in April that totalled HK$934.9 million / US$119.9 million. ur gallery space was perfectly
    suite to the presentation of the pri ate collections on offer , and attracted a truly international group of collectors, who competed for the finest pieces against determined online bidding. The sales were a great success, achieving a total of HK$121.3 million / US$15.6 million, nearly double the low estimate of HK$62 million / US$8 million.

    8. DALLAS, TX.- The Lauren Stanley Collection of Fine American & Mexican Silver, a rich selection of the finest examples from the 19th and 20th centuries, brought $988,000 in Heritage Auctions ' May 8-10 Fine Silver & Vertu Signature Auction. The three-day Dallas event totaled $1.3 million and was 91 percent sold by value and by lot.

    9. LONDON.- Sotheby's London Old Master and British Painting Evening Sale soars over estimate to realise $117.1MThe top lot of the evening was George Stubbs’ Tygers at Play, which realised £7,698,500 ($13,194,459/€9,677,046) (est. £4-6m/ €4.9-7.3m / $6.7-10m). Painted circa 1770-75, this
    masterful depiction of two leopard cubs ranks among Stubbs’ most popular subjects. The painting had rarely been seen in public, having been exhibited only four times since its original appearance at the Royal Academy of Arts in London. Coming from a distinguished British aristocratic collection, it had remained in the possession of a single family until 1962, when it was acquired by the past owners. Tonight it was acquired by an Asian private collector.

    10. SYDNEY.- Record price for Chinese 'dragon box' stuns crowd at Bonhams Asian Art Sale in Sydney. A rare piece of blue-and-white Chinese porcelain sourced in Melbourne sold for more than 140 times its estimate during heated bidding at Bonhams’ Asian Art sale in Sydney yesterday.

    11. LONDON.- A rare Louis XV vari-coloured gold and enameled snuff box was sold for £158,500 at Bonhams Fine Silver and Gold Boxes sale in London yesterday (18 June). It had been estimated at £100,000-150,000.

    12. BEVERLY HILLS, CA.- New Orleans double eagles are highly sought after whenever they appear at auction, as was especially evident in Heritage Auctions' June 4-8, 2014 U.S. Coins Signature

    13. LONG BREACH - Long Beach Coin and Collectibles Expo, where an 1854-O $20 AU55 NGC brought $381,875, amidst spirited bidding, to lead the offerings.

    14. DALLAS, TX.- Heritage auctions part I of Gardner collection for $19.6 million. The sole finest known JR-1 variety 1796 dime led all results in the June 23 auction of The Eugene H. Gardner Collection Part I when it sold for $881,250. Overall, the coins in this auction sold for $19,627,872 million, an impressive result for any auction and doubly so for only 637 coins. All prices include a 17.5% Buyer's Premium.

    15. PARIS.- Today at Sotheby’s Paris, the extremely rare and powerful work, by the important Italian 17th century Baroque artist Artemisia Gentileschi, achieved €865.500 ($1.179.832) against a pre-sale estimate of €200.000-300.000 – World Auction Record for the Artist. This masterpiece was rediscovered by Sotheby’
    s Paris Old Master Department in an old collection in the South of France, after being hidden from view for 80 years.

    16. NEW YORK, NY.-1776 Silver Dollar and 1792 Silver Center Cent sell for $1.41 million each at Heritage Auctions.  A 1776 Continental Dollar — the finest of only four silver Continental currency dollars known to exist from the birth of the American Republic — and a 1792 Silver Center One
    Cent piece — one of the earliest and most famous of all 1792 Pattern Coins — both realized $1.41 million as the undisputed stars, May 16-17, 2014, at Heritage Auctions in the $11+ million Selections from the Eric P. Newman Collection IV Signature Auction. The Continental Dollar realized the highest price ever paid for a non-gold American colonial coin.

    17. LONDON: Christie's Evening Sale of Old Master & British Paintings in London realises $77 million
    More Information:

    18. LONDON (AFP).- Artist Tracey Emin's unmade bed sells for $3.8 million at Christie's sale in London. British artist Tracey Emin's controversial 'My Bed' sold for £2.2 million ($3.8 million, 2.8 million euro), almost double its guide price, at an auction in London on Tuesday.
    More Information:

    18.LOS ANGELES (AFP).- California treasure trove found in eight cans makes over $1 million for lucky finders. A California couple who unearthed a treasure trove on their property are at least $1 million richer after buyers seized on the ancient gold coins sold at auction. The unnamed couple uncovered eight cans filled with more than 1,400 coins in March, in what is believed to be the most valuable treasure trove ever discovered in the United States. On Tuesday night they went on sale, and made over $1 million within the first hour, said Don Kagin of Kagin's Inc, a firm specializing in ancient coins, which valued the whole horde at $10 million.

    19. LONDON Christies Auction House - A 4,000-year-old Egyptian statue expected to raise about £6m has sold for £15.76m at Christie's of London. Northampton Borough Council auctioned the Sekhemka limestone statue to help fund a £14m extension to Northampton Museum and Art Gallery.
    However, Arts Council England had warned the council its museum could lose its accreditation status. The Egyptian ambassador to Britain said the council should have handed the statue back if it did not want it.
    Sekhemka statue The limestone statue is 30in (76cm) high and it was "gifted" to Northampton in 1880
    Sekhemka statue The statue of Sekhemka - who was a royal chief, judge and administrator - shows him reading a scroll His Excellency Ahsraf Elkholy Ahsraf Elkholy, the Egyptian Ambassador, condemned the sale Before the auction, Egyptian Ambassador Ahsraf Elkholy condemned the sale as an "an abuse to the Egyptian archaeology and the cultural property".He said: "Our objection starts from this basic principle: how can a museum sell a piece in its collection when it should be on display to the public?"
    The ambassador said: "We are concerned this piece may be moved into a private collection.
    'Darkest cultural day' "A museum should not be a store. Sekhemka belongs to Egypt and if Northampton Borough Council does not want it then it must be given back.
    "It's not ethical that it will be sold for profit and also not acceptable. The council should have consulted with the Egyptian government."
    Christie's said it would reveal details of the new owner later.
    Protesters gathered outside Christie's before the sale said they wanted the statue to be returned to Egypt's Ministry of Antiquities.Sue Edwards, from the Save Sekhemka Action Group, who travelled from Northampton to the auction, said: "This is the darkest cultural day in the town's history.
    "The local authority has made a huge mistake but we will continue our fight.

    18. CLEVELAND, OH.- The gloves that Muhammad Ali wore in his 1971 Championship bout against Joe Frazier — the first of three fights between the two giants of pugilism, which would culminate in the legendary "Thrilla in Manila" — brought $388,375 on Thursday night, July 31, 2014, in Heritage Auctions' Sports Collectibles Platinum Night Auction at The House of Blues in Cleveland, OH. "'The Fight of the Century,' as it was billed, more than lived up to its billing despite the fact the Ali lost," said Chris Ivy. "I can think of no piece of memorabilia associated with it that could be more evocative than the gloves the Ali wore. Yes, he was defeated, but the fight really changed Ali as a man, starting the transition from a brilliant, rash rabble-rouser into the most beloved sports figure of the 20th century, if not of all time." At the time, both fighters owned a legitimate claim to the Heavyweight Championship of the World, though only Frazier held the ... More

    Repatriations at the Boston Museum of Fine Art

    Comments: I have printed below articles from and Chasing Aphrodite. The repatriation issue is an important one and requires not only careful analysis of the relevant national and international laws but also an understanding of history and how all this developed. There is no doubt that some objects have been looted and should be repatriated to the countries of origin. That fact does not necessarily mean that because the originating country says that something has been stolen that it should immediately be accepted as such without solid documentation. One of the primary laws in this country that is the National Stolen Property Act which in the past has required proof that an object has been stolen before enforcing the act. Recently our government attempted to force the St. Louis Art Museum to return an Egyptian mummy mask. The museum legally resisted the US attempts to force SLAM to return the mask as being stolen property. The courts disagreed and SLAM will keep their mask. (See the article in this issue on this) . I consider Charlie Davis a good friend, so I contacted him regarding the Aphrodite quote which was as follows:  

    “Maybe now is the time to do it.” Would he support such an effort? “I’m behind it 100%. It would be nice if there’s a tax incentive to do it. I think here could be a worldwide program to encourage us to  that…I would be first to do it.”. Certainly now is the time for this discussion." Is it the time for repatriation, I think not." I am 100% behind a selective repatriation program in the future that respects the right for the whole world to understand, appreciate and enjoy this special language. We are all temporary custodians of this great art and all that really matters is that it will exist forever."

    Davis clarified his position in an email.

    "I was misquoted by omission or misunderstanding. The repatriation program I proposed to Susan Vogel years ago was about the return of archaeological material to Mali. The repatriation discussed  was about archaeological material whose ownership is claimed by the state.  I also made it very clear to Jason Felch that Africa at this time is not politically safe for the return of material nor in most cases are they trained or equipped to preserve the art."

    If a government official sells art, can another government official void that sale years later. It's a legal question that is beyond my training. I have not seen the Boston documentation, but it seems reasonable that good faith purchasers should have some property rights to be considered as part of the debate. I encourage anyone to follow 

    A number of these repatriated objects were owned by Bill Teel, an important patron of BMFA who recently passed away. I wonder if BMFA recognizes a claim on some of the Teel Africa art will this same enthusiasm extend to repatriating the Lehman donation which Nigeria has been demanding be returned since it was donated. Museums have accepted the UNESCO date of 1970 as the firewall for protecting their collections from being repatriated. If you accept the premise of NSPA as being the instrument for acknowledging and repatriating property as being stolen, what difference does it make if it entered your collection in 1980 or 1920? This is a mess that will get worse unless some thoughtful legal internationally accepted boundaries are in place.

    1. BOSTON, MASS.- The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, has reached an agreement with the National
    Commission of Museums and Monuments, Nigeria (NCMM), transferring to the Commission eight antiquities of Nigerian origin that are believed to have been the subject of illicit trafficking.

    The antiquities include two Nok terracotta figures and a terracotta Ife head, archaeological materials that are known to be at high risk for theft and looting. The group also includes an ekpu, or ancestral figure dating to the 18th or 19th century, which was part of the collection of the Oron Museum, near Calabar, Nigeria, as late as the 1970s; and a bronze altar figure of about 1914, which was likely stolen from the Royal Palace in Benin City in 1976. Two terracotta heads produced in the Kingdom of Benin and a group of Kalabari screen figures appear to have been illegally exported.

    The MFA received the objects in the bequest of a local collector of African art, who acquired all eight objects in good faith in the 1990s from dealers in the United States and Europe.

    The Museum began the process of researching the provenance (or history of ownership) of the objects after receiving notification of the bequest. Recognizing that these eight objects were probably illegally removed from Nigeria in recent years, and that their export would have been regulated by Nigeria’s National Commission for Museums and Monuments Act (chapter 242) of 1990, the MFA contacted the NCMM to seek its authorization before proceeding with their acquisition. The NCMM swiftly responded that the export of these objects had not been approved; and, indeed, that several documents which purportedly authorized their sale and export were forged. Upon receipt of this information, the MFA began to arrange for the return of the objects to Nigeria, which were received by Nigerian authorities earlier this month.

    The objects transferred to Nigeria from the MFA are:

    1.Head. African, Edo peoples, Nigeria, Benin kingdom, about 1750

    2.Memorial screen (duen fubara). African, Ijaw Kalabari peoples, Nigeria, late 19th century

    3.Head. African, Nok peoples, Nigeria, About 500 B.C.–A.D. 200

    4.Head of an Oba. Edo peoples, Benin Kingdom, Nigeria, 19th century

    5.Male Figure. African, Nok peoples. Nigeria, About 500 B.C.–A.D. 200

    6.Portrait head. African, Yoruba peoples, Ife Kingdom, Nigeria, 12th–14th century

    7.Oron Ancestral Figure (Ekpu). Oron peoples, southeastern Nigeria

    8.Altar figure. Benin peoples, Nigeria

    The Teel Collection at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
    The MFA received the eight Nigerian objects as part of the bequest from the late William E. Teel. The Teel bequest includes more than 300 African and Oceanic works, along with several Ancient American and Native American pieces and a small group of European and American works on paper. Teel and his wife Bertha, who passed away in 1995, were enthusiastic collectors who fostered appreciation of the art of sub-Saharan Africa and Oceania in Boston and beyond. The Teels built an outstanding collection, and played a significant role in placing such works in the domain of fine art in the city. As a result of their long-term support, including the endowment of a curatorial post for African and Oceanic art, the MFA has been able to significantly build its collection of African art. A selection of works from the bequest, mostly from west and central Africa, is now on view in the MFA’s recently refreshed Arts of Africa Gallery.

    2. BOSTON - Chasing Aphrodite - MFA’s Provenance Research Reveals The Illicit Trade In African Antiquities
    Last month the Boston Museum of Fine Arts voluntarily returned to Nigeria eight works of art — ranging
    from a terra-cotta Nok head dating to 500 B.C. to a wooden Kalabari memorial screen from the late 19th century — that the museum concluded had been stolen or looted. The returns were not the result of a claim made by Nigeria but proactive research by the museum’s staff and curator of provenance Victoria Reed, who spent 18 months researching more than 300 objects bequeathed to the museum by William Teel, a wealthy benefactor and MFA overseer until his death in 2012. As part of the review, Reed also checked the provenance of 108 objects previously donated by the Teels and the rest of the museum’s African and Oceania collection. Most objects had clear title, Reed said. About five objects  remain under review, including a terra-cotta sculpture of a Pregnant Ewe from Mali that has been described as a looted fragment combined with a modern addition.
    The MFA should be commended for the proactive research that led to the returns. For decades, the Boston museum bought looted antiquities and dismissed questions about those objects from foreign countries, academics and investigative reporters – showing little regard for the public trust that comes with tax-exempt status. While there is more work to be done on the MFA’s collection, the museum’s recent behavior makes clear it has turned the page on that ugly history.
    To address the mistakes of the past, more museums should follow the lead of the MFA and the Dallas Museum of Art by doing what they have done with Nazi-era paintings: proactive, transparent research into the provenance their antiquities collections.
    The Nigerian returns shed light on a branch of the illicit antiquities trade that receives relatively little attention: African art, which in the United States grew in popularity in the 1980s and – after many countries in the region had passed laws to protect their cultural heritage.
    The MFA’s research concluded that all eight objects had been looted, stolen or removed from Nigeria without government permission, at times using what appeared to be falsified documents.
    Oron EkpuOne of the objects was an Oron ancestral figure, or ekpu, that survived the Biafran war and was in the Oron museum as of 1970.  In 2001, Teel’s records show the figure was acquired by Galerie Walu in Zurich, Switzerland, now owned by Jean David. It was accompanied by a document stating that the National Commission of Museums and Monuments had waived Nigeria’s ownership right to the object. The MFA contacted the commission and found that was not the case, suggesting the document was falsified. In an
    email, David said the object was sold by his father from his private collection, not through the gallery. David said he continues to research questions about the authenticity of the documents and has offered to get back to me with additional information.
    A 13th century Yoruba portrait head sold to the Teels by Montreal gallery Lovart International was said to have been in a private collection by 1980. But the MFA’s research suggests that a document allegedly signed by the former Director General of Nigeria’s National Commission for Museums and Monuments is not authentic. The gallery could not be reached for comment.
    The Teel’s Nok terracotta head (right) dating perhaps as early as 500 B.C. was said to have been found near Kaduna State, Nigeria and taken to Europe, where it was acquired by the dealer Marc Leo Felix in Brussels. In March, 1994, Felix sold it to the Teels. Felix has not yet responded to my questions about the object.
    The remaining five objects returned by the MFA came through the Davis Gallery in New Orleans. The gallery is owned by Charles Davis, a leading seller of African art since the 1970s.
    A brass altar figure from the Benin people, seen at the top of his post, was apparently stolen from an ancestral altar in the Royal Palace of Benin City before the Davis Gallery acquired it in 1997. As the MFA states, “Although the figure was accompanied by documentation that appeared to authorize its sale by the chief of the guild of Benin City’s brasscasters, or Igun Eronmwon, inconsistencies within the bill of sale, as well as recent correspondence from the office of the Director General, National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria, have cast doubts upon the authenticity of this document.” An 18th century Edo head, below, was also acquired by the gallery in 1990 from the Benin brass casters.
    In 1994 the gallery sold a 2,000-year-old Nok sculpture (below) to the Teels on behalf of a dealer named Charles Jones. “Although documentation that appears to authorize the export of this object from Nigeria was issued in 1994, recent correspondence from the office of the Director General, National Commission for Museums and Monuments, Nigeria, has cast doubts upon this document’s authenticity,” the museum found.
    I recently spoke with Charles Davis about the MFA’s returns and his role in the market for African art over the years.
    Charles and Kent Davis
    In the early 1970s, Davis was the director of a Virginia zoo. He and his wife Kent discovered tribal art while traveling across Africa in a Land Rover taking photos. “We traded with the pygmies, with tribes in Zaire,” he recalled. “We didn’t have money so we traded our clothes.”
    Over the years, Davis “cultivated friendships with tribal people, traders, and African dealers and began to bring out fabulous objects,” recalled William Fagaly, the New Orleans Museum of Art curator of African Art, in an interview with Antiques magazine. “At that point, everybody stood up and took notice and in short order he became a dealer’s dealer, supplying work to the big boys who dominated the trade.”
    Davis Gallery
    The business of African art was slow until the 1980s, when the opening of the Michael C. Rockefeller Wing
    at the Metropolitan Museum of Art put it on the map, Davis said. “When the Met anointed it as fine art in 1981 by opening the Rockefeller Wing, the U.S. recognized it as fine art. Other than that it was worthless.” (Needless to say, parts of the Rockefeller Collection were gathered under questionable circumstances.)
    Davis estimates he has sold some 10,000 African objects over the years, acquired during more than 150 buying trips to Africa. He says he’s been out of the African art business since 2005, when Katrina devastated his adopted home of New Orleans, where he operates the Davis Gallery out of his 1845 Greek Revival mansion (above) on the banks of the Mississippi. The business of African art has now largely moved to Paris and Brussels, he says.
    Asked about the MFA’s returns, Davis is philosophical.
    “I’ll take the hit,” he said. “I knew it was coming. I knew we were getting politically correct that nothing should be exported, and the people be damned.”
    “I think the MFA has made a mistake,” he said. “To see American institutions to return a lot of the material in this political atmosphere….is going to be disastrous for these objects.” He notes unrest in the region:the terrorist group Boko Haram is active in the area; and during the Biafran war of the late 1960s, he said, a large part of the museum in Oron was looted.
    “This is African language,” he said. “Africa never had a real written language. Their art was their way of communicating. There are great notions like abstraction that we’ve learned from. To deny this to the rest of world would be a travesty. Without these wonderful objects, without the story being told, there would be no Pablo Picasso. To put prohibition on these things is a step way over the line.”
    Besides, he said, the trade in African art has greatly benefitted Africans. “The word stolen and looted is incorrect. I’ve seen Sotheby’s catalogs in remote villages. These things are sold as free expressions of their culture. They culminate in very high prices for these objects. They’re very aware of what these things are worth. Dealers like me have pumped millions of millions into Africa so they can buy the medicine they need. It’s a big enterprise and I’m proud that Africans have done extremely well. This is a renewable resource for Africa. People in Africa are very happy with the ability to sell things and realize a great benefit.”
    How does Davis explain the falsified documents that apparently came with his objects? “A lot of these items have been sold by government officials. I’ve worked with very high officials who claimed to have the right to
    do so. I have provided those letters to people when I sold the objects.”
    One of the pieces, a set of Kalabari screen figures (seen above), dates from the late 19th century, he said. “There were three wooden figures owned by men’s association. They were totally not used and discarded. Someone from that region realized these people wanted to sell them and they did…they worked their way through the pipeline to me. You can return all the archaeologics you want. But to have something as recent as 20 years ago decaying, to have that returned doesn’t make sense.”
    Who was this middleman? “I don’t want to name the middleman…he was a government official, a member of Parliament….I’m going to protect my sources because philosophically I think they’ve done the world a great service. We’re trying to make sure these objects will survive millennia.”
    A Campaign of Repatriation
    Despite his opposition to the MFA’s returns, Davis says he firmly believes many archaeological objects now in Western collections should eventually be returned to Africa. In the 1980s, he said he proposed a massive campaign of repatriation of antiquities to Mali.
    “I wrote a book called Animal Motif. I worked hand in glove with the Musée national du Mali. They told me the French were going to help them build a museum, so I went to see Susan Vogel,” a leading Africanist in the United States.
    Davis says he proposed setting up a non-profit foundation so that American collectors could return their objects while receiving a tax benefit. “If clients could donate back to the country of origin and get a tax write-off they would go for it. I think it would be a good program. They can go back to encourage collectors to donate back to the country of origin, rather than having art seized and repatriated.”
    But Vogel and other American museum curators discouraged him. “She thought it would not be workable,” he recalled. “Let’s watch and wait,” she told him. Others said: “Repatriation to Africa is not advised…The only thing that matters is the conservation of this art.” “We’ve been watching and waiting ever since,” Davis said. “Maybe nows the time to do it.” Would he support such an effort? “I’m behind it 100%. It would be nice if there’s a tax incentive to do it. I think here could be a worldwide program to encourage us to do that…I would be first to do it.”