Thursday, September 20, 2018

Saturday, September 15, 2018

'Surfaced' by 1955, Sotheby's Tried to Sell it

Not very nicely mounted
70cm tall head
In London, a lopped off Buddha head has been withdrawn from auction: (Simone McCarthy,'Buddha statue pulled from Sotheby’s auction on suspicion it may be from China Unesco site', South China Morning Post, 14 September, 2018). It looks like the head has been broken off a statue in the ancient Buddhist Longmen Caves, a kilometre-long system of grottoes carved in limestone cliffs in central China’s Henan province which is now aUNESCO World Heritage Site. The item was published by Japanese researchers    Tokiwa Daijo and Sekino Tadashi who documented the Longmen Caves in the 1920s and 1930s, (see: Cao Zinan, 'Chinese Buddha statue in Sotheby's resembles lost relic' China Daily 14.09.2018). In the catalogue, the broken fragment was said to have appeared  in 1955 in the auction catalogue of a French antique dealer that sells Chinese art, and was later bought by the US collector Stephen Junkunc. A large number of Buddha heads were stolen from the the Caves during the late Qing dynasty (1644-1911) and the Republic of China (1912-1949) period. According to estimates, 600 to 700 Buddha statues in the Longmen Grottoes have been damaged and stolen during the period. The estimate of this item indicates that its sellers were expecting it to raise  between US$2 million and US$3 million.
The cost of the art market to heritage values, Longmen Caves before and after
I do wonder, just where do dealers and collectors 'think' (I use the term loosely) that lopped-off statue heads like this come from?

[...] this case reflects a larger, ongoing conversation within China about the repatriation of a huge number of artworks and artefacts stolen or plundered from China by foreigners and foreign soldiers, especially in the 19th and 20th centuries. Catherine Maudsley, a Hong Kong-based curator and art adviser, has observed the growing phenomenon over the years as collectors and institutions in China look to buy back artefacts which have left the country. “When a nation gains confidence, strength, and influence, it’s natural that looking into patrimony and repatriation will occur,” she said. Maudsley attributed this interest both to China’s economic and political strength, as well as to the vastly expanded digital access to collections of museums and galleries around the world. “Globally we are now more aware of what pieces are in what museums. Anyone with a computer can do this kind of research,” she said, explaining that this had raised awareness about how many Chinese artefacts were housed outside China.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Berlin Museum Returns Artifacts to Indigenous People of Alaska

From left, a wooden mask, painted; a wooden idol; and the fragment of a wooden mask, which were returned to a representative of the Alaskan Chugach people in Berlin on Wednesday.CreditEthnologisches Museum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
Berlin Museum has returned nine artefacts to indigenous communities of Alaska. “The objects were taken from graves [in the 1880s] without permission of the native people, and thus unlawfully,” said Hermann Parzinger, the president of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, which oversees Berlin's publicly funded museums. “Therefore, they don’t belong in our museums,” he added In front of members of the media, Mr. Parzinger handed a fragment of a large wooden mask to John F.C. Johnson, a representative of the Alaskan Chugach people. Both men, wearing white cotton gloves, held the mask between them for photographers.(Christopher F. Schuetze Berlin Museum Returns Artifacts to Indigenous People of Alaska, New York Times, 16th May 2018)
The items, which included several masks, a wooden idol and a baby basket, had been in the collection of Berlin’s Ethnographic Museum, though they were never exhibited publicly. Between 1882 and 1884, they were taken by Johan Adrian Jacobsen, a Norwegian adventurer and amateur ethnographer acting on behalf of the museum. [...] The return of the items comes at a time when European museums are being called on to put more effort into provenance research and to return objects acquired in ways that were unethical and would now be unlawful.[...] In Germany, where most provenance research has focused on art looted during the Nazi years of the 1930s and ’40s, the subject of provenance research into objects taken during earlier times has been the matter of some controversy. Although Germany’s empire was much smaller than France’s or Britain’s, it had several African colonies and acquired many objects for its museums from these territories, as well as from other parts of the world. 
 Once the objects get back to Alaska, they will be returned to the Chugach community displayed in community centers or local museums.

Germany Releases a Code of Conduct for Colonial-Era Artifacts

Germany  has just released a Code of Conduct for Colonial-Era Artifacts in an effort to correct a blind spot in its cultural policies.  The 130-page guidelines “Guide to Dealing With Collection Goods From Colonial Contexts” outline methodologies for provenance research and possibilities for restitution ( Kate Brown, ArtNet News 17th May 2018).
Since taking office for a second term, Grütters has made confronting Germany’s colonial history a centerpiece of her platform. Last month, she announced that the German Lost Art Foundation—originally established to investigate Nazi-looted art in public collections—would dedicate some of its funding and research to colonial-era objects. Her effort coincides with a similar push by French president Emmanuel Macron, who has been vocal about his support of the full restitution of African colonial-era artifacts. Public outcry over Germany’s forthcoming Humboldt Forum, which will hold its Asian and ethnographic collections in the reconstructed Prussian palace in Berlin, has also played no small role in instigating the German government to become more proactive about its colonial restitution policies. Still, some critics say the new guidelines represent more talk than concerted action. They note that the code is non-binding and largely only governs objects that violated the “legal and ethical standards” in former colonies at the time. [...]  Eckart Köhne, the president of the German Association of Museums, has said that he hopes the code of conduct will generate global discussion. The association is also soliciting input from other countries, particularly those in Africa, and plans to publish a revised version of the guidelines in a year and a half.
The guidelines will be published soon also in English and French,

Saturday, May 12, 2018

German museum to return stolen grave artifacts to Alaskans

Nine Alaskan burial artifacts brought to 19th century imperial Germany are to be returned next week to indigenous Pacific coast residents. A Berlin-based museum trust has long admitted that the items were stolen ('German museum to return stolen grave artifacts to Alaskans' DW 09.05.2018).
Germany's SPK Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation confirmed Wednesday that its president Hermann Parzinger would hand over the artifacts to envoys of the Chugach peoples due to visit Berlin next week. The items, including two broken masks, a child's cradle and what is thought to be a shamanic figure, originate from Chenega Island, about 160 kilometers (100 miles) southeast of Anchorage, along the Pacific coastline of the US state of Alaska. Norwegian adventurer Captain Johan Adrian Jacobsen, who toured Alaska's southwestern coastline in 1883, brought them to the-then Royal Museum of Ethnology, the forerunner of Berlin's ethnological museum within the SPK foundation's cluster of Berlin-based institutions. "At the time, these objects were taken without the consent of the Alaska Natives and were therefore removed unlawfully from the graves of the deceased, so they do not belong to our museums," Parzinger stated last December. "From Adrian Jacobsen's travel journal, it is clear that the graves [on Chenega Island] were opened solely for the purpose of removing their contents, said the foundation in December when its board agreed on the returns.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Turkey seeking the return of more than 150,000 objects from Foreign Collections

Turkey is seeking the return of more than 150,000 objects, some exported hundreds of years ago, that are currently in museums and collections in Europe and the United States.
 A lot of items from Turkey have been stolen, now located in museums in the United States, England, Portugal, Denmark, France, Germany and Greece, one of the leading members of the repatriation commission, Serdal Kuyucuoglu, told Al-Jazeera Monday. [...]  In recent months, the Commission's members have visited museums and collections that contain items from Turkey.