Sunday, November 29, 2015

Chilkat Robe Returning to Alaska

Texan eBay seller artist George Blucker was offering  a sacred Chilkat robe a metre and a half across once used by native Americans (Tlingit, Haida or Tsimshian)  of Southeast Alaska. Similar robes have sold for upwards of $30,000 at auction.
  Blucker purchased the robe at a flea market in Illinois approximately 25 years ago. “I saw the blanket lying on top of a VW bus and at first I thought it had to be a fake,” said Blucker, who holds a master’s of fine arts and has worked in art conservation. “But I knew it could not be a fake with that kind of weaving - who could fake that?” The flea market seller told Blucker he had bought it at an estate sale in the 1980s. The robe was acquired by a grandfather of the estate’s heirs. The grandfather had traveled to the Yukon gold rush in the late 1800s to seek his fortune and came home with the robe. The robe appears to be a funerary object because of the frayed edges at the top where it may have been attached to a plank and fixture that was placed above a gravesite. It was first thought to be a Raven design, but it might be a Hawk, Eagle or Thunderbird, according to experts. There is no record associating it with a clan or community.
Tribal members alerted Sealaska Heritage Institute to the auction on November 16 and SHI decided to try and buy it, but was able to raise only the reserve amount of $14,500 through donors. Staff contacted the seller, imploring him to sell the robe to SHI at the reserve price and immediately end the auction, given the significance of the piece. After researching SHI and learning that the robe was sacred, even though bidding had already by this time reached a higher sum, the seller opted to sell at the reserve price.
“When I found out that it had religious significance and it had a spiritual presence, that’s when I thought I would put it where it should go,” said Blucker, who has since received messages from buyers who were peeved that the auction ended early and who were prepared to pay a high price. “This is unheard of,” [SHI President Rosita] Worl said. “It is remarkable that a seller would take a loss to do the right thing and repatriate a sacred object to the tribes. We are indebted to him for his noble act of kindness.”
Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) will hold a public ceremony on Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015 for the return of the sacred Chilkat robe.

'Sacred Chilkat Robe Returning Home' SIT News November 29th, 2015

Mike Dunham, 'Southeast Alaska cultural group buys Chilkat robe that showed up on eBay' Alaska Dispatch November 19, 2015
Hat tip Donna Yates

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Cornelius Gurlitt Collection: Reconstructing Collecting Histories

Philipp Jedicke 'Task force investigating art trove inherited from Nazi collector achieved 'embarrassing' results' Deutsche Welle, 26.11.2015
Since 2013, a task force, soon to be disbanded, has sought to clarify ownership of the artwork found in Cornelius Gurlitt's apartment. Now people are asking: what has it achieved, and where do we go from here? [...] Berggreen-Merkel's team of researchers has been able to determine the exact provenience of four works, and a fifth was mentioned at the parliament hearing. Regarding slightly over 500 of a total of 1,497 works found in Schwabing and Salzburg, the task force rules out "appropriation as a result of Nazi persecution." Clarifying the origins of the rest has proven impossible. Regarding 104 works, 114 concrete claims and 300 requests from Germany and abroad have been filed with the task force.
The "Süddeutsche Zeitung" criticised the team suggesting that auction houses are able "to determine proveniences within 48 hours." I'd say that "determine" is perhaps not always the right word here....

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Queen may face legal challenge over Koh-i-Noor - stolen cultural heritage

A lobby group made up of Indian businessmen and actors is mounting a legal challenge against Queen Elizabeth II demanding the return of the world famous Koh-i-Noor diamond to India. The 105-carat stone, believed to have been mined in India nearly 800 years ago, was presented to Queen Victoria during the Raj and is now set in a crown belonging to the Queen’s mother on public display in the Tower of London. [...]The Koh-i-Noor, which means “mountain of light,” was once the largest cut diamond in the world and had been passed down from one ruling dynasty to another in India. But after the British colonisation of the Punjab in 1849, the Marquess of Dalhousie, the British Governor-General, arranged for it to be presented to Queen Victoria. The last Sikh ruler, Duleep Singh, a 13-year-old boy, was made to travel to Britain in 1850 when he handed the gem to Queen Victoria.
In 2013 British Prime Minister David Cameron while on a visit to India, defended Britain’s right to keep it saying he did not believe in “returnism”.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Looted marble bust returned to Poland

The bust (in the window) in the palace before the war
Julia Michalska.'' The Art Newspaper 2 November 2015
A marble bust of the goddess Diana has been returned to Poland. The 18th-century sculpture by Jean-Antoine Houdon, which was part of the collection of King Stansilaw August, was taken from the Royal Lazienki Palace by the Nazis in 1940. It was listed on Interpol’s database of stolen works of art.  Employees of the Polish ministry of culture spotted the work in a catalogue of the Viennese auction house Im Kinsky where it was offered for sale in the summer. [...] The Houdon sculpture, along with 56 paintings from the National Museum of Warsaw, was seized by the Nazis and transported to the headquarters of the general governor Hans Frank in Krakow. Polish authorities estimate that around half a million works were plundered or destroyed by the Nazis during the Second World War.
The bust was recovered from the market due to the efforts of  Christopher Marinello, the chief executive of the London-based Art Recovery Group and will be returned to the Polish government at a ceremony in Warsaw later this month.