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Do you know about UNDROIT?
What is the Unidroit Convention?
The Unidroit Convention (1995) is an international agreement for the return of stolen or illegally exported "cultural objects." It includes among the items defined as "cultural objects:"
An important provision of this convention defines any object that has been excavated or otherwise discovered and not reported to authorities, contrary to the law of the State in which it is discovered, as "stolen."
Why are antiquities dealers and collectors concerned about the Unidroit Convention?
Have a look here:
There is important information here:
A letter from George Ortiz
A response to a paper written on 4th February 2004 for distribution at the British Council Conference entitled
"Not for Sale" Looted artefacts: making the new laws work". organised in collaboration with Art-Law Centre.
Geneva, 5-6 February 2004
Making the new laws The Unesco Convention looses sight that the essential for the past is its preservation. There is an obligation to preserve, protect, restore, exhibit, publish and share.
The greatest destroyer of the past throughout History is Iconoclasm. Iconoclastic destruction is always politically and religiously correct in the country and at the time it takes place. Examples: Afghanistan – Tibet - etc…
The Unesco Convention can do nothing about this.
The Convention categorises art as National Patrimony. This is reactionary, erroneous and destructively divisive. It gives priority to retention over considerations of conservation, truth and access.
It overlooks chance finds, the consequence of the colossal economic development of the world over the past 50 years during which the world’s wealth has multiplied by 15.
General human activities : agricultural such as ploughing, planting and irrigation (from ditches to concrete and plastic over millions and millions of miles) , industrial developments, highways, airports, buildings of all nature: public and private, etc…
Chance finds ought clearly to be differentiated from illicit digging: the deliberate act of searching for commerce or pleasure the remains of the past that are underground.
The Convention refuses to acknowledge chance finds, 80% of what is found, only saved in the measure they were by the existence of an outlet, the market.
With no outlet almost all, if gold or silver, will be melted, and the rest destroyed, unless some items survive by black market trade with all and any information lost.
Since almost all source countries claim everything as National Patrimony, there is no allowable export or trade. Consequently there can be no purchase in good faith of an archaeological item.
UNESCO is highly irresponsible: no vision, no action.(Already in Afghanistan, three years before the destruction of the Museum, Cultural authorities in Kabul made a request, through the French Embassy in Pakistan, for the removal of the Museum’s collections to a third country for safe keeping. UNESCO refused to even consider the request. And when they were about to do something, the Museum had just been destroyed.)
In Iraq, they called back their cultural representatives just before the US invaded. The looting in Iraq was the consequence of the lid blowing off the kettle after 25 years of a torturing tyrant’s carryings on and the unbelievable intensity of the US bombing in Baghdad. Many of the inhabitants went berserk.
The Museum and the archaeological sites were associated with Saddam. The Museum had a great portrait of Saddam in the hallway of its entrance. The dictator considered the Museum and the archaeological sites of Iraq a pride for his regime.
Obviously humans being as they are, stimulated by financial need and hunger, a few tried to sell artefacts and works of art from the Museum and various sites.LORD RENFREWLord Renfrew maintains that only data matters, an item without context is valueless.
Yet, 11 years ago he publishes a major Cycladic collection that forms a wonderful museum in Athens, all coming from illicit digging by farmers and fishermen, who by their very findings have destroyed all the data and contexts.Today, Lord Renfrew apparently says he is ashamed and wouldn’t do it again.
Tomorrow, I hope for Lord Renfrew that he won’t regret that he will be vastly responsible for the destruction of the past for future humanity.
With assertions such as: that, the antiquities trade (archaeological material) 150 million dollars per year comes just after the drug trade, 500 hundred billion dollars per year,
that, archaeological material is used to launder drug money,
that, to consider that the remains of the past that are art is subjective, emotional, irrational and valueless.
Lord Renfrew's assertions are simply nonsense! Art is essential to man, leading to understanding and acceptance of the other, an answer to his fundamental need in confronting the cosmos
There is a dimension to art that is like poetry, music, falling in love, fundamental to man and his survival.
May I finish by saying that the globalisation of art is ethical and moral, for dissemination saves because it enables works of art to survive the precariousness inherent to our planet such as natural cataclysms, wars and revolutions.
Of course it is evident that one must fight against and prevent the depredation of world heritage sites.
Of course it is evident that one must fight against illicit and clandestine digging, against the theft of works of art in the classical sense of the term.
However, the un-authorised export of any work of art that doesn’t come under the above three, can in NO WAY be considered a crime or the equivalent to theft.
I am opposed to the Unesco Convention because it is flawed and unfortunately ideological and simplistic, in contradiction with history and reality.
I am for the free movement of works of art and their protection,
I am for Human rights, the dissemination and preservation of art.
Collector & humanist
Go to discussion forum on these issues
The position in the UK
In December 2003, the British Parliament passed legislation making it a criminal offense to dishonestly import or deal in any cultural object that has been illegally excavated or illegally removed from a monument, a building of historical, architectural or archaeological interest, or an underwater wreck. The offense applies irrespective of whether the illegal removal took place inside or outside the United Kingdom, and irrespective of which country's law was violated by the removal. This last provision has important consequences, particularly for shipwrecks found in international waters, where several different countries may potentially have jurisdiction.
But The Portable Antiquities Scheme is more thoughtful
In fact they have a rather interesting website.
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