Association of Dealers & Collectors of Ancient & Ethnographic Art

  • Thu, June 02, 2016 10:38 AM | ADCAEA (Administrator)

    Fiona Rose-Greenland,Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Chicago, has worked to outline the framework of ISIS’ antiquities trade, and discusses how an "overactive collective imagination" has inflated looting estimates to around 7 billion when it is probably closer to "several million".  Read the full article here: https://www.rawstory.com/2016/05/how-much-money-is-isis-actually-making-from-looted-art/

  • Thu, May 05, 2016 1:12 PM | Susan McGovern-Huffman (Administrator)

    The United States Department of State has proposed a renewal of its current Memorandum of Understanding (“MOU”) with the Hellenic Republic (Greece) for another five (5) years. Once again, individuals will be afforded an opportunity to comment on whether the MOU should be extended. 

    ADCAEA believes the MOU is not working to achieve the principles proposed by its governing legislation. There is no evidence to support the position that the current MOU has deterred illegal excavation within Greece, nor have there been any reports of seizures at US borders of any culturally significant material thought to have been illegally excavated in Greece in recent years. Furthermore, its interpretation by U.S. federal authorities often prevents the legal importation of common artifacts freely traded on the legitimate commercial market.

    Is the existing MOU working?

    ADCAEA acknowledges there is a history of objects belonging to Greece being stolen, destroyed or illegally sold and this has created a universal determination to keep Greece’s cultural heritage intact by means of legislation and enforcement.

    Domestic and international legislation for the protection of archaeological and numismatic objects should strike a balance between the need to protect the heritage, rights of owners and the encouragement of a thriving art market.

    ADCAEA believes the protection and preservation of cultural objects for future generations is essential. The efforts of private collectors and museums is vital to the preservation of archaeological objects by promoting further scientific, cultural and educational study of our inherited cultural history. U.S. art collectors and museums are major sponsors for the excavation, scholarship, and preservation of ancient sites across the world. Whether currently residing in public or private collections, this material carries legitimate collection history, is lawfully on the commercial market and subject to private ownership in Greece. In its paper, “Art Museums, Private Collectors and the Public Benefit” (January, 2007) the Association of Art Museum Directors states “More than 90% of the art collections held in public trust by America’s art museums were donated by private individuals”.

    The U.S. governing statute 2602 requires that restrictions made by it be consistent with the “general interest of the international community in the interchange of cultural property among nations for scientific, cultural, and educational purposes”.

    However, misapplication of the MOU import restrictions has disadvantaged and discouraged U.S. dealers and collectors by wrongly restricting their ability to freely engage in the scientific, cultural and educational exchange of archaeological and numismatic objects.

    Sledgehammer approach

    19 U.S.C. 2604 and the provisions of the 1970 UNESCO Convention, codified into U.S. law as the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act, gave rise to the bilateral agreement with Greece in December 2011 to protect archaeological objects of “cultural significance” “first discovered within” and “subject to the export control” of Greece.

    However, these principles have been distorted to embargo the importation of common artifacts traded on the legitimate commercial market in the US, Europe and in particular within Greece. The list of restricted items found at 76 Fed. Reg. 3012 (Jan. 19, 2011) includes, regardless of cultural or monetary value, common archaeological and numismatic objects that possess no special or rare features of form, size, material, decoration, inscription or iconography thus reducing legal and commercial trade. These objects exist in numerous quantities, were exchanged over substantial geographical areas in antiquity that now encompass many nations, and cannot be realistically deemed of any cultural, historical, or scientific importance to Greece. Furthermore, collectors in the EU, including Greece, have no similar restrictions when importing archeological and numismatic material. Cultural objects can be freely imported into Greek territory provided the provisions of the Paris Convention of 1970 as well as other rules of international law are not violated.

    Remedies less drastic than the application of the restrictions set forth in the MOU should be considered, such as a system akin to the the UK Treasure Act and Portable Antiquities Scheme; a voluntary program run by the United Kingdom government to record the increasing numbers of small finds of archaeological interest discovered by members of the public. Many previously unknown archaeological sites have been identified through this scheme and it has contributed greatly to the level of knowledge of the past.

    Public Opinion

    ADCAEA is concerned with current public opinion concerning unsubstantiated claims that “too many of those stolen works end up in the United States, where unethical middlemen earn vast profits from their sale”. Such misinformation is echoed by the international press whose unlimited appetite for sensationalism and mayhem is fed by the anti-trade enthusiasts thereby impacting government decisions. ADCAEA recognizes and agrees with the importance of ensuring cultural material remains within its country of origin and our strict code of conduct requires that looted and illegal objects are not to be knowingly handled by the legal trade. Ethical issues aside, these objects have no commercial value and are therefore not worth dealing with.

    Conclusion

    Members of our Association have had personal experience whereby current restrictions have prevented the legal importation of common artifacts traded on the legitimate commercial market. The ADCAEA therefore recommends the Memorandum of Understanding with Greece not be extended in its current form.

    However, ADCAEA would support the extension of the MOU with the following amendments:

    Legal Import with EU Documentation: The legal import into the United States of archaeological and numismatic objects of the sort lawfully available for sale in the E.U. when they are accompanied by an EU export permit or other documentation evidencing legal export from an EU member state.

    Customs Limitations: An emphasis on the fact that U.S. federal authorities are unauthorized to detain shipments when “satisfactory information”, as defined by the statute, has been provided. U.S. federal authorities are implementing an ad hoc anti-trade policy whereby objects are assumed to be “stolen” without proof of the circumstances and subsequently seized. “Seizure of an object can result in forfeiture and repatriation based on an alleged breach of foreign law, without any proof of critical facts, foreign law or the merits of the claim.”

    Restricted Items: Modify the list of list of restricted items to exclude common archaeological and numismatic objects that possess no special or rare features of form, size, material, decoration, inscription or iconography that can be shown to have a legitimate history of trade on the legal commercial market.

    Education: By the time an object has reached the United States, archaeological context has been lost. It is therefore necessary for the Greek government to provide greater public awareness as to the importance of antiquities, whereby local people help protect important sites and they are supported by a police force trained to view illegal excavations as a high priority. Public awareness is a field where Greece still has much need of additional investment.

    Further official information about a May 24, 2016 Cultural Property Advisory Committee meeting and how to comment by the May 9, 2016 deadline can be found here:

    https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2016/03/14/2016-05671/notice-of-meeting-of-the-cultural-property-advisory-committee


  • Sat, September 26, 2015 6:30 PM | ADCAEA (Administrator)

    ADCAEA is proud to welcome our latest member to the board, Richard Banks.  Based in Virginia,  Richard is an avid collector of ancient art and a strong supporter of ethical collecting standards. While his primary focus is classical antiquities, he is a second generation collector and grew up in the world of tribal art so has a keen understanding of the differences in how both collecting worlds view “ethical collecting”.  For the last 10 years he has worked exclusively with associations helping them to define and execute charter driven strategies.

  • Fri, July 24, 2015 8:43 AM | ADCAEA (Administrator)

    Germany is planning to strictly regulate the international sale of art and artifacts deemed of significant cultural value.

    Amendments to the law on the Protection of Cultural Heritage will impact the collecting of cultural objects by private individuals as well as traditional collecting fields such as books, stamps, furniture, ceramics, coins, classic cars and paintings.

    Retroactively, this new law will impose due diligence guidelines impossible to follow even for the most meticulous collector.  When it comes to a dispute, the law will require the owner of a “cultural good” with a value of at least 2,500 euros to provide proof as to the item’s provenance for the past 20 years; for “archaeological cultural goods” the value is as low as 100 euros.  

    This legislation further restricts art imports and exports.  Only objects accompanied by an export permit from the source country can be imported into Germany, and all art exports from Germany will require an export license even within the European Union.   

    Such requirements are unrealistic since very few objects in circulation over the last century have export permits from source countries.   These provisions will make most of the objects currently traded in full accordance with the law on domestic and international art markets, illegal. 

    We therefore demand a law on the Protection of Cultural Heritage that observes the following principles:

    • No retroactive effect of the law
    • No reversal of the burden of proof
    • A clear definition of the term “national cultural heritage” and a limit to claims by the state to “national cultural heritage” only
    • Free movement, unimpaired by bureaucratic obstacles, of cultural goods which are not classified as “national cultural heritage”, EU-wide, according to the free movement of goods
    • Appropriate participation by the parties representing collectors and dealers in the law-making process

    Throughout history and specifically within the last three hundred years, cultural material has been collected by private individuals and public institutions providing the foundation for the great art collections treasured throughout the world. Collecting was directly responsible for preserving objects for study and appreciation, with art collectors and museums throughout the world being major sponsors for the excavation, scholarship, and preservation of ancient sites. The freedom to collect is currently being threatened by the latest drafts of the new German law on the Protection of Cultural Heritage.



    Please support the right to collect and sign the petition:


  • Thu, March 19, 2015 3:34 PM | Susan McGovern-Huffman (Administrator)

    Memorandum of Understanding

    MOU with Italy up for 5-Year Renewal

     Comments and Appearance Deadline is March 20

    Make your views known by sending written comments for the Committee to consider.  It is easy to make a Comment on the proposed renewal electronically.   Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal (http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=DOS-2015-0010-0001) and click the Comment Now button to the right.   You must comment by March 20 at 110:59 p.m. (EDT).

    Comments submitted in electronic form are not private. They will be posted on the site http://www.regulations.gov. Because the comments cannot be edited to remove any identifying or contact information, the Department of State cautions against including any information in an electronic submission that one does not want publicly disclosed (including trade secrets and commercial or financial information that is privileged or confidential pursuant to 19 U.S.C. 2605(i)(1)).

    If you wish to make an oral presentation at the open session, you must request to be scheduled by the above-mentioned date and time, and you must submit written comments, ensuring that they are received no later than March 20 at 11:59 p.m. (EDT), via the eRulemaking Portal, to allow time for distribution to Committee members prior to the meeting.

    Oral comments will be limited to five (5) minutes to allow time for questions from members of the Committee. All oral and written comments must relate specifically to the determinations under 19 U.S.C. 2602, pursuant to which the Committee must make findings. The open session will be held at 2200 C St. NW., Edward R. Murrow Conference Room, Washington, DC 20037. Plan to arrive 30 minutes before the beginning of the open session.

  • Thu, March 19, 2015 3:30 PM | Susan McGovern-Huffman (Administrator)
    The Government of Italy has requested the US to grant a further 5-year extension of the Memorandum of Understanding blocking the importation of cultural property from Italy into the US. An MOU with Italy halting US imports has been in place for almost fifteen years.

    The Cultural Property Advisory Committee meeting for the Italian renewal will be on April 8th-10th. The public session at which interested speakers could appear before the committee will be on April 8th. There will be a public session during that time frame. Papers and a request to attend and or speak must be provided by March 20th.

    The 2001 Italy MOU is located here. Last 5-year extension here. The current designated list of items restricted from import is here.

    ADCAEA do not support the renewal of the Memorandum of Understanding between the US and the Republic of Italy and will be making an oral presentation and will answer questions at the April 8th meeting. Our presentation is reproduced below:



    I write on behalf of the Association of Dealers and Collectors of Ancient and Ethnographic Art (ADCAEA) regarding the Cultural Property Advisory Committee’s (“CPAC’s”) review of a renewal of a Memorandum of Understanding (“MOU”) with the Republic of Italy (“Italy”). ADCAEA’s principal objective is to advance the responsible and legal trading of ancient and ethnographic art.

    ADCAEA fully support practical measures to eliminate the illegal removal of cultural material from a country of origin. We applaud the Republic of Italy on practices introduced to stem the tide of illicit excavation within their country and the reported lack of new criminal investigations by the Republic of Italy regarding unlawful trade suggests these measures continue to be successful.

    Throughout history and specifically within the last three hundred years, cultural material has been collected by private individuals and public institutions providing the foundation for the great art collections treasured throughout the world.  Collecting was directly responsible for preserving objects for study and appreciation, with US art collectors and museums being major sponsors for the excavation, scholarship, and preservation of ancient sites across the globe. Whether currently residing in public or private collections, such material carries legitimate collection history, is lawfully on the commercial market and subject to private ownership in the Republic of Italy.

    ADCAEA believe the protection and preservation of cultural objects for future generations is essential. ADCAEA believe the efforts of private collectors is vital to the preservation of archaeological objects and promotes further scientific, cultural and educational study of our inherit cultural history. In their paper, “Art Museums, Private Collectors and the Public Benefit” (January, 2007) the Association of Art Museum Directors state “More than 90% of the art collections held in public trust by America’s art museums were donated by private individuals”.

    The current MOU significantly restricts the ability of private US collectors to assist in the preservation and study of archaeological and numismatic objects. No other nation has taken similar steps to the US to restrict importation of archaeological and numismatic materials. Nor does the Republic of Italy impose the same level of export controls on the archeological and numismatic materials blocked by the US Memorandum of Understanding in their comprehensive designated list of items. This suggests remedies less drastic than the application of the import restrictions authorized in section 19 U.S.C. 2606 are available (19 U.S.C. 2602, I.(C).(ii)).

    Moreover, the application of the MOU import restrictions authorized in section 2606 are not consistent with the general interest of the international community in the interchange of cultural property among nations for scientific, cultural, and educational purposes. By blocking the acquisition of such material, these restrictions disadvantage and discourage US collectors and museums compared to lawful owners in other nations resulting in a decrease in overall participation of scientific, cultural and educational exchange of cultural material (19 U.S.C. 2602, I.(D)) over the past fifteen years.

    Pursuant to 19 U.S.C. 2604 and the provisions of the 1970 United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Convention, codified into U.S. law as the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act (Pub. L. 97–446, 19 U.S.C. 2601 et seq.), the objective of the bilateral agreement with the Republic of Italy on January 19, 2001 was to protect archaeological objects of “cultural significance” “first discovered within” and “subject to the export control” of the Republic of Italy (19 U.S.C. 2601).

    This has since been perverted to embargo the importation of common artifacts traded on the legitimate commercial market both in the US, Europe and in particular within the Republic of Italy. The list of restricted items found at 76 Fed. Reg. 3012 (Jan. 19, 2011) includes, regardless of cultural or monetary value, common archaeological and numismatic objects that possess no special or rare features of form, size, material, decoration, inscription or iconography. Such objects exist in numerous quantities, were exchanged over substantial geographical areas in antiquity that now encompass many nations, and cannot be realistically deemed of specific cultural, historical, or scientific importance to the Republic of Italy.

    In conclusion, ADCAEA confirm the implementation of the Memorandum of Understanding with the Republic of Italy in 2001 has impacted the legal importation of archaeological and numismatic objects into the US; objects that are freely traded throughout the rest of world.

    For the above reasons, ADCAEA therefore recommend the Memorandum of Understanding with the Republic of Italy not be extended.

    Sincerely,



    Sue McGovern-Huffman, President

    Association of Dealers & Collectors of Ancient & Ethnographic Art




  • Mon, December 29, 2014 9:25 PM | ADCAEA (Administrator)

    The trade in ancient artifacts and artwork is the most heavily maligned, scrutinized, and regulated of the entire art and antique market.  It is also among the most financially insignificant sectors of the art market.  The antiquities trade has long suffered from disparaging criticism from a small but extremely vocal group of detractors who insist that collecting ancient art invariably encourages looting and destruction of archaeological sites.  In recent years this unsubstantiated claim has gained remarkable traction.  

    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 naïve at best and slanderous at worst.  The time has come to reassess the situation.  

    First, the often repeated assumption that all antiquities in US museums and private collections were ‘looted’ from sites in foreign countries is absurd.  The inhabitants of archaeologically rich areas like Egypt, Greece, Turkey, and Italy have recognized the wealth beneath their feet since the demise of ancient civilizations.  Mining of ancient sites for dressed stone, metal, and anything else of value has occurred without interruption since the Middle Ages.  Most early Medieval churches were built on the foundations of demolished Greek and Roman temples.  Virtually all of the tombs in the Valley of the Kings were ransacked centuries before Europeans ever came upon them.  

    By the 18th century, when curious Western European travelers began to explore the Eastern Mediterranean, they found local inhabitants in the advanced stages of destroying their archaeological heritage.  They began to purchase, collect, and study the objects that were continually coming to light in these lands from locals who often had little interest in them.  It was these first collectors who cherished these ancient objects that created the modern discipline of Archaeology.  Through the 19th and 20th centuries collections were formed that through donation or purchase became the cores of the great art collections of not only western museums but also those in source countries.  Museums in Athens, Cairo, and Rome are filled with objects from private collections that were not scientifically excavated.  Collecting in this case was directly responsible for preserving objects for study and appreciation for many generations to come.  An object found by chance and donated to a museum in Turkey is as well preserved as the same object donated to a museum in Chicago.  Museums and private collectors need not be ashamed of purchasing and looking after antiquities that may not have come to light through documented excavations.

    Second, it is often repeated, but seldom explained, that once an object has been divorced from its archaeological context or find spot, it has lost all of its invaluable academic information.  In reality this is only true in the rarest of cases.  An Athenian vase, in the hands of an expert, can tell us when, where, and by whom it was made regardless of whether it came from a tomb in Tuscany, Athens, Libya, or the Crimea.   The data is preserved within the object whether it is in a museum in Greece or on the auction block at Sotheby’s.  In fact the piece on the auction block at Sotheby’s is much more available to academics than a piece that is in the storeroom of an underfunded museum in a small Greek town.  An Egyptian statue can tell us exactly when, where, and for whom it was made regardless of where it is now.   The argument of repatriation is untenable as evidenced by recent political events.  Our shared cultural heritage is better spread around the globe than stored in one place.  By the same logic used by archaeologists, France should claim that every French impressionist painting must be returned to France.  The argument has been taken to its most absurd limit with the recent implementation of statutes by which nations like Italy and Greece can claim any one of the millions of ancient coins that were minted in ancient cities that fall within the borders of their current nations as their sole property regardless of where they were excavated and when.  It is quite a task for US customs officials to gain doctorate level knowledge of ancient numismatics so that US collectors do not obtain any ancient coins that the rulers of modern foreign nations claim as their own property.   It is bad enough that a modern Greek citizen who finds an ancient Greek coin worth $100 while digging in his vegetable garden is required to hand it over to a government official or risk imprisonment, but now the US collector has to worry that he may be held accountable to the same Draconian foreign law that would be unconstitutional in our own country.  In response to the recently implemented US memorandum of understanding with Greece instituting these impractical trade regulations on ancient coins, an overwhelming majority of US citizens who voiced their opinion on the memorandum disproved, but to no avail.

    The antiquities trade is a small sector of the art market whose total annual sales has never exceeded a few hundred million dollars.  The highest prices are paid for objects with well documented provenances and lengthy publication history.  Objects with little or no provenance are rejected by dealers, collectors, and auction houses alike as bad investments.  The UNESCO agreement which was created in 1970 and ratified by the US in 1983 has proven effective at stopping the pillaging and destruction of sites in many countries.  The UNESCO agreement was enacted to protect culturally important objects but has since been perverted to include all ancient objects regardless of cultural or monetary value.  As such current customs regulations have made it nearly impossible to import antiquities even when they have documented old provenance.  The administrative apparatus constructed to combat the illicit trade continues to grow to the point where there are probably more people employed in this country to monitor the antiquities trade than there are people employed in it.  The perfectly legitimate trade in ancient art continues to shrink as the business of maligning, monitoring, and legislating against the trade continues to grow unabated.

    The level of self-flagellation over Western collector’s so-called cultural imperialism has today reached its zenith. US citizens who choose to collect ancient art do so in an environment that is the most heavily scrutinized in the world.  Whereas a Saudi, Russian, Chinese, or even Greek collector can buy pieces on the open market with little fear of being branded a criminal and being forced to forfeit his possessions, an American collector has increasingly little assurance of that notion.   It would not be of great concern to most of the public if it weren’t costing US tax payer’s money spent on enforcement, litigation, and the myriad of other costs associated with pursuing the politically motivated claims of a handful of countries which already receive millions of dollars in US tourism and outright foreign aid.  Nor is it of great concern to most that the continued witch-hunt it is jeopardizing US small businessmen’s livelihoods.   Similarly most people aren’t terribly concerned that it is causing US museums to turn away objects that would enhance their collections or send objects that were bought in good faith many years ago to foreign nations that claim them rather than endure bad press and costly litigation.  If nothing else, it may seem distasteful to most Americans that US law enforcement rather than focusing solely on the application of US laws and the protection of our citizens and borders, is spending an inordinate amount of time, energy, and money chasing after American antiquities and coin collectors.  When they are successful in doing the police work which is not done on the ground in the source countries, they repatriate the objects to nations of the people that dug them up and sold them, foremost among them are the financially strapped nations of Greece and Italy, the chaotic post-revolutionary nation of Egypt, and the war torn nations of Iraq and Syria.  There these repatriated objects will join many hundreds of thousands of similar pieces hidden in storerooms of shuttered museums that await future political stability and western largesse to pay for operating costs.

    The most basic tenet of the anti-antiquities trade camp is that the destruction of archaeological sites will diminish if American collectors and museums cease acquiring and preserving antiquities.  This ideology is flawed and naïve.  As the pace of development increases in archaeologically rich countries more and more objects will be discovered by unprofessional excavators.  No amount of chastising American collectors and museums will stop human beings from digging in the ground in countries like Egypt and Iraq where western archaeologists are completely impotent to enact change in the way that the populace regards its ancient heritage.  It is time to stop blaming US art collectors and museums who have been major benefactors of excavation, scholarship, and preservation of ancient sites across the globe.  The destruction of archaeological sites is solely the fault of nations which do not teach their people about their archaeological heritage or stand by and watch as their archaeological sites are pillaged in broad daylight with heavy machinery.  Shaming Americans will not cause Egyptians to respect their past or the unreasonable laws of their nation.  US taxpayer’s should not be paying our government agencies to do the work that source countries refuse to do themselves.  Nor should US citizens who choose to preserve ancient artwork through collecting fear their own government will act as enforcers of despots on the other side of the globe who deny their citizens of personal property rights that we hold dear in this country.

    Sed quis custodiet ipsos custodes

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