Sunday, May 03, 2015

Art and Terrorism Spring 2015

1. Nimrud, Ancient City, Destroyed by ISIS + Video & Pics

Heavy military vehicles were used to damage the site, according to a statement from Iraq’s ministry of tourism and antiquities that didn’t provide further details.
ISIS continues to “deny the will of the world and the feelings of humanity,” the ministry said. It called for a UN Security Council meeting to discuss how to protect cultural heritage in Iraq.
alalam 635612510852680497 25f 4x3 Nimrud, Ancient City, Destroyed by ISIS + Video & Pics
Nimrud was founded in the 13th century BC as part of the Assyrian civilization and lies about 30 km south-east of the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, which was captured by ISIS in June. The destruction of archaeological and religious sites has provoked global condemnation.
The head of UNESCO has condemned the destruction of the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud in Iraq by the ISIS group, saying it amounted to a “war crime”.
alalam 635612511092114192 25f 4x3 Nimrud, Ancient City, Destroyed by ISIS + Video & Pics
Tomb of the prophet Jonah in Mosul
Irina Bokova said: “We cannot stay silent. The deliberate destruction of cultural heritage constitutes a war crime, and I call on all political and religious leaders in the region to stand up against this new barbarity.”
A tribal source from the nearby city of Mosul told Reuters the ultra-radical Sunni Islamists, who dismiss Iraq’s pre-Islamic heritage as idolatrous, had pillaged the 3,000-year-old site on the banks of the Tigris River.
A video emerged last week showing militants attacking ancient statues in the Mosul Museum with sledgehammers. The city’s library containing 8,000 ancient manuscripts is also reported to have been burnt down.
Iraq reopened its national museum in Baghdad last week for the first time in 12 years to defyISIS efforts to “destroy the heritage of mankind and Iraq’s civilization,” Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said.
Ancient Assyrian City.
Ruins of the ancient city remain at the northern Iraqi site, however, which has been excavated by a series of experts since the 19th century. British archaeologist Max Mallowan and his wife, crime writer Agatha Christie, worked at Nimrud in the 1950s.
In July it destroyed the Tomb of the Prophet Jonah in Mosul. It has also attacked Shiite places of worship and last year gave Mosul’s Christians an ultimatum to convert to Islam, pay a religious levy or face death by the sword. It has also targeted the Yazidi minority in the Sinjar mountains west of Mosul.
alalam 635612509784669411 25f 4x3 Nimrud, Ancient City, Destroyed by ISIS + Video & Pics
Tomb of the prophet Jonah in Mosul
alalam 635612509968909949 25f 4x3 Nimrud, Ancient City, Destroyed by ISIS + Video & Pics
Tomb of the prophet Jonah in Mosul

2. NIMRUD NORTHERN IRAQ An Updated Analysis of What Remains of Nimrud's North West Palace of Ashurnasirpal II
As news of the Nimrud explosion video produced by Daash, ISIL, Deash, ISIS, Daaesh, Islamic State gets press time.  Rearchers and journalists are beginning to comment on the missing chunks
and slices of the Assyrian reliefs seen from the video's imagery of the North-West Palace of Ashurnasirpal II.  Social Media has been abuzz with speculation that these pieces may have been
removed in advance of the explosion, for sale on the illicit antiquities market.   While this might partially prove to be  true, it is premature to speculate on this before cross referencing and
doing so just adds to the shock and horror propaganda the militants want to demonstrate.
 Sam Hardy has excellent Day One analysis of the attack on Nimrud as does Paul Barford who asks when this video was made.  A new PDF report analyzing relief and object damage was published by Simone Mühlon on April 15, 2015 and can be downloaded here.   Assyrian reliefs, stone slaps and epigraphic remains in the form of cuneiform texts can also be found in private and museum collections throughout the world.  ARCA has listed a fairly comprehensive listing of the 76 known public collections and 6 private collections which contain material culture from this archaeological site.
 Abegg Foundation, Bern
 Amherst College, Amherst
 Archäologisches Institut und Archäologische Sammlung der Universität Zürich, Zurich
 The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago
 Arts & Culture Centre, Memorial University
 Arkeoloji Müzeleri, Istanbul
 The Art Museum, Princeton University
 Ashmolean Museum, Oxford
 Bhau Daji Lad Museum, Mumbay, India (formerly Victoria and Albert Museum)
 Bowdoin College, Brunswick, Maine
 The British Museum, London
 Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn,
 Burrell Collection. Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow
 Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, Mumbay, India (formerly Prince of Wales Museum of Western India)
 Christ Church College, Oxford
 Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk
 Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati
 Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit
 Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge
 Fleming Museum, University of Vermont
 Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University
 Glencairn Museum, Academy of the New Church, Bryn Athyn
 Hood Museum, Dartmouth College
 Idemitsu Museum of Arts, Tokyo
 Kalamazoo Valley Museum, Michigan
 Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth
 Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), Los Angeles
 Louvre Museum, Paris
 Magdalen College, Oxford
 Manchester University, Museum, Manchester
 Memorial Art Gallery, University of Rochester
 Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
 M.H. De Young Museum, San Francisco
 Miho Museum, Kyoto
 Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis
 Mosul Museum, Mosul, Iraq (Condition unknown)
 Middlebury College, Middlebury
 Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley
 Museo Civico di Archeologia Ligure, Genoa
 Museo Barracco, Rome
 Museo Gregoriano Egizio, Rome
 Musées royaux d’Art et d’Histoire, Brussels
 Musei Vaticani, Rome
 Museum and Art Gallery, Bristol
 Museum Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisbon
 Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg
 Museum of Art, Cleveland
 Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
 Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
 Narodowe w Warszawie, Warsaw
 National Car Museum of Iran, Tehran, Iran
 National Museum of Iraq, Baghdad (Condition unknown)
 Nationalmuseet, Copenhagen
 National Museums Scotland, Edinburgh
 Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen
 Oriental Institute, University of Chicago
 Royal Ontario Museum of Archaeology, Toronto
 Saint Louis Art Museum, St. Louis
 Skulpturensammlung, Dresden
 Staatliches Museum Ägyptischer Kunst, Munich
 State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg
 Swedish National Museum, Stockholm
 Tyndale House, Cambridge
 University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Philadelphia
 Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond
 Virginia Protestant Episcopal Theological Seminary, Alexandria
 Vorderasiatisches Museum, Berlin
 Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford
 Walters Art Museum, Baltimore
 William Rockhill Nelson Gallery of Art, Kansas City
 Williams College Museum of Art, Williamstown
 Weingreen Museum of Biblical Antiquities, Trinity College
 Worcester Art Museum, Worcester
 Yale University, New Haven
Private Collections:
 Anonymous (3)
 Fred Elghanayan, New York,
 Collection Merrin, New York
 Collection Samuel Josefowitz, Lausanne

3.. TUNIS Tunisia: Museum attack ends with death of 17 foreign tourists and 2 Tunisians at National Bardo Museum of Carthage artifacts and Roman mosaics Posted: 18 Mar 2015 08:22 AM PDT
 Update: CBC News: "Tunisian PM: 17 foreign tourists, 2 Tunisians killed in attack" at the National Bardo Museum. This is also confirmed by the International Business Times and other sources
on Twitter (search #Bardoattack). Italian tourists on cruise of Mediterranean were reportedly inside the museum at the time of the attack. Radio Mosaique FM reported the death of 15 people: 13 tourists of various nationalities and two Tunisians. Leila Fadel, Cairo Bureau Chief for NPR is on the scene
The National Bardo Museum has artifacts from Carthage and a large collection of Roman mosaics. The museum's website describes its "101 masterpieces" in both French and English.
CBC has reported that "Tunisian officials say museum siege is over; 2 gunmen killed" (breaking news via CBC's mobile application for news). The Associated Press (AP) reported the death of two gunmen, a security officer, and several tourists. 

4..Islamic State burns libraries in Iraq

and has tweeted: "Stand off at bardo museum over. Police killed two of the gunmen and captured one. #Bardoattack" BBC reported earlier here:At least seven foreign tourists and a Tunisian have been killed after gunmen targeted a museum in the the Tunisian capital, officials say. Tourists from several European countries were taken hostage, a local radio station reported. The shooting happened at the Bardo Museum, which is next to the parliament building in central Tunis.
Historic collections on science, culture, poetry and even children’s books are reportedly destroyed in Mosul

In January, an Iraqi man looks at books on al-Mutanabi Street, home to the city's book market in central Baghdad. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim)
In a further attack on cultural heritage, Islamic State has begun burning books and manuscripts in Iraq. In January, militants broke into the Central Library of Mosul, and took away more than 2,000 books to be destroyed, including children’s stories, poetry, philosophy and scientific volumes, some dating from the Ottoman Empire, the Associated Press reports. Residents near the Central Library of Mosul were told by an Islamic State official that “these books promote infidelity and call for disobeying Allah. So they will be burned,” a local man told AP on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation from IS.
A few days later, the group staged a similar attack on the University of Mosul’s library, where they built a bonfire from hundreds of books in front of students. A history professor at the university, who also spoke to AP on condition he not be named, said Islamic State struck other public libraries in December, causing extensive damage at a Sunni Muslim archive, the holdings of the Latin Church and Monastery of the Dominican Fathers and the Mosul Museum Library, which houses objects dating to 5000 BC.

Hakim al-Zamili, the head of the Iraqi parliament’s Security and Defense Committee, compared Islamic State’s actions to the Medieval Mongols, who sacked Baghdad in 1258. They destroyed the great library, known as the House of Wisdom, and dumped its ancient tomes on mathematics, medicine and astronomy into the river, purportedly turning the waters black from the ink. “The only difference is that the Mongols threw the books in the Tigris River, while now [Islamic State] is burning them,” al-Zamili told AP. “Different method, but same mentality.”

Update: According to Charles E. Jones, who moderates the IraqCrisis mailing list, sources in Mosul and Baghdad have been unable to confirm the reports of the libraries being destroyed. Anyone with information is encouraged to contact IraqCrisis, or leave a comment below.

5. Sir, how much is that (2nd Century B.C.E.) Vase in the Window? Part II

Antiquities traffickers continue to make headlines in multiple countries in 2015.  In this three part series, ARCA explores current art trafficking cases to underscore that the ownership and commodification of the past continues. 

Part II - The Dodgy Dealer and Conflict Antiquities - Buyer Beware

Tuesday, investigative reporter Simon Cox's "File on Four" program on BBC Radio 4 featured a radio segment titled "Islamic State: Looting for Terror".  A synopsis of the episode on antiquities looting in its written form, and with accompanying video excerpts, is available on the BBC News Magazine website here. The full audio of the radio program is available in MP3 format here.
The program illustrated, with present-day examples, how illicit antiquities trafficking  sells cultural heritage objects that are often poorly protected, difficult to identify, and easy to transport across international boundaries, especially during conflicts due to the flow of refugees.  The radio broadcast featured interviews with both London and Middle East experts, one of whom, Dr. David Gill of Looting Matters, validated that conflict antiquities do make their way into the UK art market and from there on to collectors.

But rather than recount the program's content, which on its own deftly underscores that the illicit market in conflict antiquities is alive and producing devastating results for source countries like Syria and Iraq, this article focuses on the buyer's side of the market and explores the attitudes of complacent dealers who too often treat the furor over smuggled antiquities as a bothersome nuisance that interferes with their ability to make  living.
In the world of crime, morals follow money.

Not wanting to enter into the ongoing oppositional debate with antiquities dealers or collectors, I decided to spend some time listening to the folks involved in the trade as they talked with one another about collecting and the collecting market. Too often heritage protection advocates get pigeon-holed as the noisy minority of academic archaeologists who oppose acquisition of unprovenanced ancient art.  My goal was to be anything but noisy, and to merely observe.

Publicly, pro-collector blogs frequently argue that nationalistic retention laws for antiquities neither preserve sites nor objects, nor do they benefit the larger interests of civilization and mankind.  But what do collectors and dealers have to say to one another about their own responsibility to preserve site?  And how do they truly feel when it comes to merchandise that enters the art market as a result of the illicit antiquities trade?

To get a better understanding I started by reading through the websites of the International Association of Dealers in Ancient Art (IADAA) and the Association of Dealers & Collectors of Ancient & Ethnographic Arts.  Both the IADAA and the ADCAEA's mission statements advocate for the responsible and legal trading and collecting of antiquities. 

  • promote awareness and understanding of ancient and ethnographic art collecting through open communication with members and the public.
  • support the preservation and protection of cultural objects around the globe through responsible and legal trading and collecting.
  • educate and inform members on policies and laws that affects the international movement of cultural property.
  • advocate and support the establishment of clear, transparent and fair laws governing acquisition, ownership and commercial disposal of artifacts.
  • promote a Code of Conduct that underscores the professionalism of our members through responsible and ethical practice.
  • advocate the establishment of a comprehensive digital database register within the USA to secure appropriate title to art and artifacts for museums, dealers and collectors and restore legitimacy and value to objects registered.
Good objectives to strive for even if I found their December 29, 2014 blog post a lot more threatened and defensive as this opening paragraph shows.
As a result, several American museums have been coerced into giving objects to foreign governments that have claimed them as their rightful property purely for political purposes.  American collectors and art dealers as well have been forced to repeatedly defend themselves against all manner of claims by foreign governments for countless pieces of art work that have been dispersed around the globe.  Increasingly, Americans have had to defend themselves in costly litigation against foreign governments who use American lawyers, US Customs, and Homeland Security, and the Press to pursue spurious claims against US citizens.  At the same time these foreign nations do very little to protect their archaeological resources or stem the tide of illicit excavation on their own soil.  The old paradigm of “antiquities collecting equals destruction of cultural heritage and therefore must be abolished” is naive at best and slanderous at worst.
To understand the reason for this defensiveness among dealers and collectors I thought it worthwhile to listen to them chat amongst themselves in non-official capacities, perhaps learning about what drew them individually to the field rather than assume I understood how dealers and collectors truly feel by looking at their safety-in-numbers mission statements.  Wording for large public statements often makes for adversarial lines in the heritage protection sand.   

I joined several collecting groups in hopes of better understanding "their side of the story".  Clearly heritage protection professionals and dealers and collectors should be able to solve their differences if if there is goodwill on all sides.

But is there?

One of the first comments I came across discussed Muslim militants threatening ancient sites in Iraq and Syria.  One dealer staunchly stated over email...
The lesson is clear here. The best overall strategy to preserve mankind's shared global heritage is NOT to keep it all concentrated in the original source countries, but rather to widely distribute it around the world.
"Widely distributed" having the added benefit of also generating revenue for dealers and a source of joy for the buyer.  Each doing their part to salvage history away from the ongoing conflict. But was their viewpoint a noble one?   The rest of the email is listed below for the reader to decide...

Hopefully they will loot and sell them first rather than destroying them! But then we dealers would probably be charged with funding terrorism by our wonderful politically correct governments.
Further in the same conversational thread another mid-level dealer replied...
I have bought many ! objects of ' fetishes and gods' from Moslem Runners who have no problems selling these pieces; nor do I have in buying then.
apparently referring to the secular nature of some Muslim looters and smugglers who don't necessarily subscribe to the religious ideology of Isis, Isil or Da'ish when selecting antiquities for trafficking.

Perhaps in jest, or perhaps by way of introduction, another dealer wrote a How-to email on how to smuggle antiquities from Egypt saying...
 Hello to you all.

I would like to share with you my thought regarding how a piece you end up buying in auction like Bonhams or Christie's is actually looted.

- A poor farmer in Egypt finds it while plowing his land.

- He is scared to report it considering the hell he will go through, confiscating his land , ending up in jail , family dying from hunger etc... so he sells it to the local dealer in the village

- Local dealer sells it to the middle man in Cairo

- Middle man sells it to the big boss in Cairo.

- Big boss smuggles it to an Arabian gulf country, e.g. Qatar, Dubai (UAE), Bahrain

- Piece then shipped to a stupid European country , e.g. Portugal.  sorry, stupid meaning = level of customs awareness

- Then an invoice is made from a dealer in another European country e.g. Belgium, to this Portuguese dealer for the piece, of course nobody checks, it's an EU transaction, no tax , no customs.

- Based on the Belgian invoice, the Portuguese dealer make an export license to U.S.A from ministry of culture, piece origin from Belgium, this totally cancels the fact that the piece came from the Arabian gulf.

- Item received in the U.S, no trouble, legal ,

- Item sold in auction  + old European collection, legally entered to U.S , customs paid.
Do ethics even enter into collector-dealer purchase discussions?  For some yes, but too frequently no.

In listening to collectors' observations I found that not all were black sheep.  While some over-sharing group members aired their profession's dirty laundry, others called for restraint in purchasing and recommended that dealers and collectors stick to objects with verifiable collecting histories.  Some dealers and collectors reached out to one another to help determine if a piece had value, was original or knew someone in the business who might have information on the object's past in the antiquities marketplace.   At face value their motive appears to be less driven by ethics and more by the desire to preserve value for money on object purchases and investments. Objects with sketchy pasts are still money spent in purchase but make for risky investments.

Some dealers and collectors outed dealers known to have sold fakes or to have had problems with previous law violations like Mousa Khouli who also goes by the name Morris.  Dealers reminded new members of the group that Khouli had sold through  Windsor Antiquities as well as Palmyra Heritage, and through eBay as palmyraheritagemorriskhouligallery.

Several group members pointed out pieces that they found problematic on Khouli current auction events such as this listing for an Ancient Roman Egyptian Painted stucco Mummy Mask c.1st century AD and this Palmyran Limestone Head Ca. 3rd-5th century A.D.  I myself notice he trades in Syrian coins, ancient glass and mummy cartonnage.
Khouli is not new to the art and antiquities profession.  He moved to New York City with his family from Syria in 1992 and opened a gallery specializing in the ancient world in New York City in 1995. His father had a gallery in Damascus for 35 Years, and he learned the business from his grandfather who also worked in the art and antiquities collecting field.  When prosecuted in 2012 he was already a seasoned and substantial seller in the New York market.

But Khouli eventually pled guilty to smuggling ancient Egyptian treasure and to making a false statement to law enforcement authorities.  He was sentenced to six months home confinement, one year probation, and 200 hours of community service, along with a criminal monetary assessment of $200.  Today he continues in the business he knows, the buying and selling of history. 

The response by his peers for his misdeeds?....   
Everyone's at it, he just happened to get caught.
Interestingly, like with the How To Smuggle recipe the earlier dealer described, Khouli's smuggled objects were imported via Dubai.

Maybe the one thing heritage workers and the collection community should agree on is that the "white" (clean) art collecting trade is dirtied when black market antiquities are circulated via suspect dealers and purchasers. Singular source countries, acting alone, cannot tackle all of the triangulations between looter, smuggler, dealer and buyer without the active support of neighboring countries, law enforcement and the art collecting community themselves.
Yesterday's Cambodia, is today's Syria and tomorrow's Ukraine, as the grey market of antiquities shifts from one vulnerable nation or one conflict zone to another.

by Lynda Albertson

Heritage Organizations Bicker Over Afghanistan’s Past: the Bamiyan Buddhas

January 17, 2015.   Archeological organizations and government interests in several nations are in conflict over the fate of the remains of Afghanistan’s giant Buddhas. Two giant standing Buddha statues in Bamiyan, Afghanistan were deliberately destroyed in March 2001 by Pakistani Taliban forces, who used first rocket launchers, then anti-tank mines and dynamite to reduce the 175 foot and 115 foot tall statues to rubble. Their destruction was captured on video by the Taliban and watched with horror around the world. The same month, Taliban destroyed most of the pre-Islamic art remaining in the Kabul museum by smashing it with sledgehammers.
Over the past 13 years, disagreement about what to do with the remains of the statues and the damaged site has been rife. International organizations UNESCO, ICOMOS (the International Council on Monuments and Sites), and the government of Afghanistan have all clashed over the choice to restore, rebuild, or simply to memorialize the statues' remains. Read more... Image: The Art Newspaper

Rescued Manuscripts from Timbuktu at BOZAR Brussels
January 4, 2015  Sixteen original manuscripts from Timbuktu are on view until February 22, 2015 at the Centre for Fine Arts in Brussels in a special exhibition, Timbuktu Renaissance. The manuscripts are just a few of the hundreds secretly transported to Bamako the Malian capital, by representatives from the 32 private family libraries. The manuscripts were smuggled out of Timbuktu at the height of the 2012 conflict with jihadists who destroyed numerous shrines in Timbuktu. Timbuktu was a center for Islamic learning and law in the 15th and 16th centuries, and many small libraries preserving texts were established among families who held hereditary responsibility for their care. Thanks to the rescue operation, the majority of the ancient manuscripts were safely removed before jihadists broke into and set fire to known libraries.
The Brussels exhibition was organized and curated by Abdel Kader Haidara, a scholar and specialist in old manuscripts and director of the Mamma Haidara library in Timbuktu. Haidara spearheaded the manuscript rescue operation in collaboration with other family library managers.  Read more...  Image: Cour de la mosquée de Djingareiber, Tombouctou, 2005, By KaTeznik (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.0 fr, via Wikimedia Commons

No comments: