Mar 31, 2011

Urice and Adler on the "Disjunction between Cultural Property Policy and Law"

Stephen Urice and Andrew Adler have posted a working paper titled "Resolving the Disjunction between Cultural Property Policy and Law: A Call for Reform". In the piece they continue to point out what they call the "increasingly lawless" cultural property policy in the United States.

Here is the abstract:

Cultural property policy in the United States has become increasingly lawless, for lack of a better term. In recent years, the Executive Branch has aggressively restricted the movement of cultural property into the United States, but it has repeatedly done so without regard for constraining legal authority. The result is a troubling disjunction between the Executive Branch’s current cultural property policies and the existing legal framework established by Congress and the Judiciary. We document that disjunction in this Article.

We explain, for example, how the Executive Branch has recently repatriated an Egyptian sarcophagus and an antique French automobile to their respective countries of origin, but disregarded well-established judicial authority in the process. We explain how the Executive Branch has similarly sought to repatriate cultural objects to Italy, Peru, and Southeast Asia by relying on statutory authority that Congress plainly never designed for such a purpose. And we explain how the Executive Branch has imposed comprehensive import restrictions on cultural property from around the world without satisfying all of the statutory requirements mandated by Congress.

In addition to documenting this disjunction between policy and law, we situate it in its broader context. We submit that the disjunction reflects that the legal framework is outdated. That framework is the product of the 1970s, when the cultural property field was still forming, and it has not incorporated the dramatic political and normative developments of the last three decades. We further explain how the Executive’s willingness to disregard statutory constraints raises serious and unresolved separation of powers concerns. This precarious constitutional dynamic undermines the democratic process and invites arbitrary policymaking. We therefore argue that statutory reform is necessary to resolve the disjunction, modernize the legal framework, and restore the rule of law. We conclude by offering suggestions for reform.

Mar 29, 2011

Seventh Circuit Rules Terrorist Victims Attachment Request Against Iran was Overbroad

Clay Tablets from Persepolis, Similar to the Objects at Issue
David Grann reports for the Chronicle of Education on the Seventh Circuit decision which will make it exceedingly difficult for victims of a 1997 bombing in Jerusalem to secure Persian antiquities to satisfy their default $90 million judgment against Iran. The underlying dispute involved the plaintiffs successful action against Iran for supporting Hamas. Iran did not appear at the civil trial.

Today's ruling dealt with the more limited question of whether the plaintiffs can use pieces of cultural heritage currently situated in the United States to satisfy the judgment against Iran. As a result you have the unlikely combination of Iran, the Field Museum, the University of Chicago and the Oriental Institute all arguing that these objects are immune from suit.

I was quoted in the story, and as I wrote Grann this afternoon, Museums holding objects from other nations are breathing easier. The long-standing principle in U.S. law is that property of foreign nations is immune from suit in the United States. Courts were given some guidance in 1976 when Congress passed the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act which outlined the circumstances under which this immunity could be lifted. Yet as the three-judge panel held today, the orders by the Magistrate and the District court both conflicted sharply with the FSIA, as they ordered what the court called a sweeping discovery request. That request would have forced Iran to detail all of its assets in the United States.

The opinion is a big win for Iran and the museums which currently hold the Persian antiquities. The Seventh Circuit—which agreed with a prior holding in 2006 in Rubin v. Islamic Republic of Iran—has said these objects are presumed to be immune, and even if Iran decides not to challenge the attachment, a court even on its own must look for a good exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act. Courts are going to be very cautious when attaching the property of foreign nations, as that really falls squarely under the foreign policy authority of the Executive Branch.

Other courts have been similarly disposed to claims of domestic plaintiffs seeking attachment of Iranian cultural heritage in the United States. (Rubin v. Islamic Republic of Iran, 456 F. Supp. 2d 228 (D. Mass. 2006). Hamas claimed responsibility for the bombing in question, and the Rubin plaintiffs brought civil actions against Hamas, and also to Iran for providing material support and finance for the bombing. Experts testified that Iran provided both economic assistance from between $20 and $50 million dollars, and also terrorist training.


  1. David Glenn, U. of Chicago and Museums Win Key Ruling in Legal Battle Over Iranian Antiquities, The Chronicle of Higher Education, March 29, 2011, http://chronicle.com/article/U-of-ChicagoMuseums-Win/126923/ (last visited Mar 29, 2011).

The Getty Returns a Work to Goudstikker Heir Marei von Saher

The Getty has voluntarily agreed to return a work it purchased—in good faith they claim—in 1972. According to  Mike Boehm's report in the L.A. Times, the Getty stands as the first North American Museum to voluntarily return a work to the Heir of Jacques Goudstikker. The work, Landscape With Cottage and Figures, by Mieter Molijn, dates to the 1640s. It is unclear how the disputed painting came to light, but the return of this work stands in contrast to the ongoing dispute between von Saher and the Norton Simon:


The Norton Simon Museum's "Adam and Eve" also were among the Goudstikker-owned works the Allies repatriated to Holland after the war. But the Dutch government subsequently sold them to an heir of Russian nobility who claimed that his family, the Stroganoffs, had a prior claim on them, having owned them before they were seized by the Bolsheviks during the Russian Revolution. Goudstikker bought them at an auction in 1931, then lost them to the Nazis. Whether "Adam and Eve" had belonged to the Stroganoffs during the early 1900s is part of the dispute between Von Saher and the Norton Simon Museum. The museum's founder and namesake bought them from the Stroganoff heir for $800,000 in 1971; the museum has had them appraised at $24 million. 
In the "Adam and Eve" case, a federal judge in Los Angeles ruled in 2007 that Von Saher had filed her claim too late to meet the three-year statute of limitations for suing to recover allegedly stolen art, and that a 2002 California law suspending the statute of limitations for Holocaust-era art-restitution claims filed through the end of 2010 was unconstitutional because it intruded on the federal government's sole prerogative to set foreign policy and war policy. 
The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed in 2009 that the California law was unconstitutional, although it directed the trial judge to reconsider whether Von Saher nevertheless has a legitimate claim under the regular statute of limitations. 
Von Saher has appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court in hopes of reinstating the voided state law. The high court indicated in October that it is considering whether to take up the case, but first it asked the U.S. solicitor general to file a brief giving the federal government's view. Kaye, the Von Saher attorney, said the brief hasn't been filed yet.
So the Getty has voluntarily returned the work to the dispossessed heir, and should be praised for doing the right things. Yet that decision surely was much easier given that the painting was never displayed. The Norton Simon has decided to fight to retain possession of its disputed works—which are more valuable, and have a much more complex history, touching both the Bolshevik revolution and World War II.

  1. Mike Boehm, Getty Museum: Getty Museum agrees to return painting looted by Nazis, L.A. Times, March 29, 2011, http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/la-et-getty-painting-20110329,0,2892909.story (last visited Mar 29, 2011).

Asking (politely) for the Fano Athlete

The Bronze Athlete
Governor Gian Mario Spacca, president of the region of Marche where this bronze athelete was brought ashore in 1964, visited Los Angeles to seek the return of the object. Catherine Sezgin reports on the visit for ARCA here and here.

The context for the visit is an ongoing seizure action in Italy which the Getty is appealing. Even if the appeals process runs its course, and the object is ordered returned, it appears unlikely that a U.S. court will enforce the seizure order.

And so into that context comes a friendly visit from Spacca saying, as reported by Jason Felch in the L.A. Times:


"We are not here to declare war on the Getty," Spacca said in a statement to The Times. "We are here to resolve the dispute in a way that will benefit the museum, the people of Italy, and most important, art lovers around the world." 
Getty spokesman Ron Hartwig described the meeting as "a good discussion" but said serious talks would be possible only after the court case ends and would need to involve the Italian Ministry of Culture. 
"We were clear at the start of our conversation that the statue of a "Victorious Youth," known as the "Getty Bronze," was not a matter for discussion since legal issues regarding this object are ongoing in Italy."

  1. Jason Felch, Antiquities: Italian official seeks return of 'Getty Bronze', L.A. Times, March 27, 2011, http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/la-et-getty-bronze-20110328,0,7566636.story (last visited Mar 29, 2011).

Mar 25, 2011

Footnotes

    Mar 24, 2011

    Protecting Giza from Looters

    Giza
    "We are paying the price for a greedy, insatiable and unregulated market."

    So argues Sarah Marei, an antiquities inspector in Egypt. She describes firsthand the attempts to protect sites in   Egypt:


    Under normal circumstances the tourist police are responsible for guarding Egypt’s rich ancient history, from monasteries to temples, synagogues to mosques. But the police presence vanished in the revolution and has yet to return to the sites. The individual initiatives on the part of site inspectors and the townspeople from the remote areas is often the only current protection afforded to some of the world’s most unique and magnificent monuments. 
    We continue to work everyday on the makeshift salvage operation in Giza. Volunteers regularly turn up and, as we work, stories are exchanged about the looting where gangs of armed men attacked and shot the guards and plundered the site. 
    The work we are conducting is not only physically draining but also emotionally exhausting. My anger is initially directed at the looters and my thoughts keep returning to the same question: why are these criminals, who are Egyptians, looting their own history and their nation’s pride in order to sell it? Only if they stand to gain substantially would they go as far, feeding a market that is standing ready and prepared to amply reward them for their troubles; the better the object, the bigger the reward. 
    No indication of the market for antiquities is clearer than in the selection of the sites targeted by the looters in the past few months in Egypt. The overwhelming majority is Pharaonic, followed by Islamic, with Coptic and Jewish so far remaining untouched. We are struggling to protect our sites, facing armed men while we have nothing but sticks, because of a demand from personal collections (both inside and outside Egypt) and from rival institutions seeking a competitive edge.
    There's justifiable anger and frustration in the account, and familiar groups to blame: the looters and an unregulated market.

    1. Sarah Marei, Tales from the Egyptian revolution | The Art Newspaper, The Art Newspaper, March 24, 2011, http://www.theartnewspaper.com/articles/Tales+from+the+Egyptian+revolution/23394 (last visited Mar 24, 2011).

    Mar 23, 2011

    The Morgantina Goddess Returns to Aidone

    Greeted by the Carabinieri, townspeople and a brass band:




    Jason Felch reports for the LA Times:

    When the Getty bought the Aphrodite for $18 million in 1988, the statue's importance outweighed the signs of its illicit origins. "The proposed statue of Aphrodite would not only become the single greatest piece of ancient art in our collection; it would be the greatest piece of Classical sculpture in this country and any country outside of Greece and Great Britain," wrote former antiquities curator Marion True in proposing the acquisition. 
    For years, the museum clung to the implausible story that the statue had been in the family of a former Swiss policeman, Renzo Canavesi, for more than 50 years after being purchased by his father in Paris in the 1930s. 
    It took dramatic evidence of the statue's illicit origins — and an alleged link to organized crime — to destroy the credibility of that cover story and persuade the Getty's board to return the statue.
    In 2006, private detectives hired by the Getty uncovered more than a dozen photos of the statue. One shows fragments of the goddess scattered in a pile of dirt on a brown tile floor. In another, pieces of varying sizes were lined up in rows on a large, thick plastic sheet. Another photo showed the statue's marble face still encrusted with grime. 
    It is not clear who took the photos or where they were taken. But the fact that the statue had been in fragments and covered in dirt as recently as the early 1980s — the date on the photographs — was seen as clear evidence that it had been illegally excavated not long before the Getty bought it. 
    The investigators' discovery of the photos is described in a forthcoming book about the dispute. "Chasing Aphrodite: The Hunt for Looted Antiquities at the World's Richest Museum" was written by this reporter and former Times staff writer Ralph Frammolino, and will be published May 24 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

    Should be a fascinating work.


    1. Jason Felch, Getty's Aphrodite is returned to Sicily, L.A. Times, March 23, 2011, http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/la-et-return-of-aphrodite-20110323,0,6998689.story (last visited Mar 23, 2011).

    Mar 21, 2011

    Stolen Icons Discovered in London

    Six stolen Byzantine-style icons have been discovered in London near the Greek embassy.

    The plundered art was revealed after a telephone call from a woman claiming to recognise one of the icons – a famous rendition of the Virgin – on the website of the Temple gallery in west London.
    Further investigation showed that the immaculately preserved gold-edged painting was among six icons reported missing from Greece that the specialist was selling for up to £5,000 each. 
    Richard Temple, who owns the gallery and is acknowledged as London's foremost dealer in icons, said that when he bought them he had "absolutely no reason" to suspect they were stolen. 
    "I've been in the business for 51 years and I'm too well known as a gallery to take any risks at all," he said. "We are an obvious target. We had gone through the correct protocols, but one has to have a certain amount of trust as business is conducted in good faith. I know the seller – he is somebody I deal with and I think he, in turn, was duped." 
    Upon presentation of documentation showing them on display in Greece, the art dealer voluntarily gave up his rights to the icons last week. "They left last Thursday in the hands of Scotland Yard," he said. "It was very painful and unfortunate."
    So Mr. Temple blames the sale on another unnamed dealer, who was also "duped". Another unfortunate example of incomplete history. If the dealer was in fact duped he would have a remedy against the unnamed dealer.
    1. Helena Smith, Stolen Greek relics found in London | Art and design | The Guardian, The Guardian, March 20, 2011, http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2011/mar/20/stolen-greek-relics-in-london (last visited Mar 21, 2011).

    Mar 18, 2011

    Footnotes

    Mar 17, 2011

    U.S. Initiates Forfeiture

    The Mask on Display in St. Louis
    As expected the United States has initiated a civil forfeiture action over the Ka Nefer Nefer mask purchased by the St. Louis Art Museum in 1998. The government holds a number of important advantages in these forfeiture proceedings, which is why the Museum brought a suit last month to preclude a forfeiture, based on a lapsed five-year limitations period. As the government's complaint explains, the mask was professionally excavated, so this is not a case of looting and destruction of context. Rather the mask was either stolen later or was given to one of the archaeologists working at the site.


    The government's filing outlines what it suspects happened next: that the mask was stolen sometime between 1966, when it was shipped off to Cairo for an exhibit, and 1973, when the Egyptian Museum in Cairo ran an inventory and discovered it missing. Box number 54, in which it had been packed, was empty. 
    In 2006, Egyptian officials learned the St. Louis museum had bought the mask from Phoenix Ancient Art, in New York. 
    The museum has said it thoroughly researched the mask's ownership history before buying it, and was given no indication that there were questions about how it arrived in the U.S. 
    The museum's research showed the mask was part of the Kaloterna private collection during the 1960s, before it was purchased in Switzerland by a Croatian collector, Zuzi Jelinek, who then sold the mask to Phoenix Ancient Art in 1995. 
    It also maintains in its lawsuit that the government's statute of limitations for seizing the mask has expired.


    1. U.S. demands art museum hand over Egyptian artifact | Reuters, Reuters, March 16, 2011, http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/03/17/us-museum-mask-idUSTRE72G06E20110317?feedType=RSS&feedName=domesticNews (last visited Mar 17, 2011).
    2. Jennifer Mann, Government sues to seize St. Louis museum's mummy mask, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 17, 2011, http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/metro/article_98d72244-9976-5b8a-a73d-5c211c6a771b.html (last visited Mar 17, 2011).

    Mar 16, 2011

    Book Contributors Wanted

    I'm currently working with a co-editor gathering authors for an edited volume examining legal and enforcement efforts from various localities. The chapters themselves will discuss specific thefts, instances of looting, and crimes and examine the laws at work.  The book will include the legal framework, but also be accessible to non-lawyers.  Chapters will be written in a fluid, accessible style so that they may be understood by readers from a variety of professional and academic backgrounds, not exclusive to law.  The chapters will give practical guidance and present a starting point for interested readers, scholars and lawmakers to combat heritage crime.  Citations and footnotes should provide specialized readers with further information that may not be necessary to readers from other fields.  Each chapter will be 3000-7000 words in length, excluding citations and bibliography, and should will contain a bibliography for further reading and thorough citations that will be useful as reference points.  


    I am particularly interested in getting authors from Africa, South America or Asia to contribute their expertise. 


    If you are interested, or know an expert who might be, please email me at derek.fincham "at" gmail.com.

    Mar 11, 2011

    Footnotes

      A Monumental Ewer from a Controversial Smithsonian Exhibit, Arthur M. Sackler Gallery

    Mar 10, 2011

    Moctezuma's Crown

    This Headdress the "Mona Lisa of anthropology" may be returning to Mexico for the first time in 500 years
    Mexico and Austria may be nearing an agreement which would allow this stunning crown to be returned to Mexico. This feaethered headdress, or kopilli ketzalli currently sits in the Vienna Museum of Ethnology. It was sent there by Hernán Cortés in the mid 16th century as a gift to Charles V, the Kindg of Spain and the Holy Roman Empire. There are over 400 Quetzal feathers in the headdress. The gold helmet attached to the feathers was melted down. But there are obstacles to the return of the headdress:

    Two issues need to be resolved before a loan can be arranged. The first hurdle is legal, since there is a long-standing Mexican law that forbids the re-export of any archaeological material from the country. Initially it was hoped that the headdress would not be regarded as archaeological, but the Vienna museum needs assurance that its return would not be blocked. A special presidential decree on the headdress was discussed, but this might not be legally binding on future presidents. The Mexican government is now considering a change in the law on the re-export of antiquities.
    Austrian and Mexican conservators also need to agree to the loan. The headdress was remounted on a display board in 1992 and cannot be easily detached. Conservators are reluctant to do so until a decision has been made on a new backing. This will depend on whether it has to be fit to travel. The feather vanes are fragile so a vibration-free case would have to be devised.


    1. Martin Bailey, Heading back to Mexico a step at a time, The Art Newspaper, March 10, 2011, http://www.theartnewspaper.com/articles/Heading+back+to+Mexico+a+step+at+a+time+/23243 (last visited Mar 10, 2011).

    ARCA 2011 Annual Conference Call for Presenters, July 9-10 2011, Amelia Italy

    Embedded below are the details for the 2011 ARCA annual conference in Amelia, Italy. Each of the past two years the conference has been a terrific event, and I encourage you to consider submitting a proposal to me at derek.fincham "at" artcrime.info.

    Conference Announcement

    Mar 9, 2011

    Should Street Art Stay where it was Made?

    New York and Detroit are both encountering the difficulty which arises when street art achieves recognition.

    In Detroit, a group removed a Banksy work from near an abandoned Packard plant. The 555 Non-profit gallery which cut away the wall is now engaged in a legal dispute with the owner of the Packard site over the mural. The dispute brings to mind so many interesting questions. Banksy may have intend his mural to be temporary, and only seen for a limited time in the context of the decaying auto plant. Did the gallery strip the mural of its context by removing it? How is that removal much different than the stripping of pre-Columbian stelae from central and south America? The techniques of sawing are probably similar, and we are left with a decontextualized panel in a different space, left to imagine what the work would have looked like in its original, though perhaps threatened, context.
    5 Pointz in Queens

    In Queens, a similar difficulty may be emerging. The owner of this warehouse space in Long Island City has announced his intention to develop the warehouse into a residential project, supermarket, and space for artists. As Marlon Bishop reports for WNYC "Since 1993, the former warehouse space in Long Island City has served as an informal training ground and gallery for street artists from around the city. The space is regularly visited by graffiti and hip-hop fans from around the world, earning it a reputation as a street art mecca."

    But now that space is being re-purposed by the owner of the building. The warehouse itself may be in need of serious repair anyway, as an external staircase collapsed in 2009. As the owner of the building, Jerry Wolkoff would ordinarily be free to do what he wishes with his building. Yet the artists are upset that their creative space is disappearing and may seek to have the building declared a historical landmark. Will the re-purposed developoment continue to serve the same function of bringing together artists? Surely not. And part of the excitement of the street art scene was its newness and how it emerged as a new art form breaking free of conventions. Yet wider appreciation for street art, and the commodification of these works, are slowly imposing the conventions anyway.
    1. Matthew Dolan, If You Take Street Art Off the Street, Is It Still Art?, wsj.com, March 9, 2011, http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704071304576160544164062176.html#articleTabs%3Darticle (last visited Mar 9, 2011).
    2. Marlon Bishop, Queens Graffiti Mecca Faces Redevelopment, WNYC, , http://culture.wnyc.org/articles/features/2011/mar/07/queens-graffiti-mecca-faces-redevelopment/ (last visited Mar 9, 2011).
    Video from Detroit after the break:


    Mar 8, 2011

    Archaeologist Pleads Guilty to Artifact Theft

    Daniel Amick, an assistant professor at Loyola Chicago pleaded guilty to violating the Archaeological Resources Protection Act after removing 17 prehistoric objects from federal lands in New Mexico. He was sentenced to a year's probation.

    Johna Hutira, vice president of Northland Research and a member of the Society of American Archaeology, said she didn't feel comfortable commenting on this particular case, but added that these kinds of allegations are troubling for archaeologists. 
    "It's a short jump from a person removing artifacts to wholesale looting," Hutira said, adding that one of the primary roles of archaeology is the preservation of historically significant artifacts that offer insights into early civilizations. 
    In general, "if you want to go collect information, you need to get an archaeological permit," Hutira said. "If it's federal lands, you have to play by federal rules." 
    Amick's attorney asserted that the professor's decisions were driven by academic pursuit. And had Amick applied for a research permit, he would have been granted one, his attorney said.
    Amick is one of two archaeologists on staff at Loyola's anthropology department. 
    According to the Loyola website, he received his Ph.D. from the University of New Mexico in 1994. Amick teaches introductory anthropology courses, including Anthropology 101, as well as more advanced classes such as Archaeology Lab Methods.
    1. Erin Meyer, Artifacts stolen: Loyola professor pleads guilty to robbing archaeological site, Chicago Tribune, March 1, 2011, http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/ct-met-loyola-guilty-0302-20110301,0,7965373.story (last visited Mar 8, 2011).

    Guns, Degas, and Legal Disputes

    A work purportedly by Degas, at the center of a legal dispute in Florida
    Details of an odd art dispute are unfolding in Florida. A law firm is being sued by its client for failure to release this work, allegedly by Degas. All the red flags are up in this case, yet it wasn't the auction house Sotheby's which delayed the auction, but rather a dispute over legal fees and a $1 million retainer.

    In August, a pleasantly cool month in Chile, Bonati was in Santiago, where he and McInnis boarded the chartered, nine-seat Cessna. The plane refueled in Ecuador and landed in Fort Lauderdale after the 4,000-mile flight.
    As the men headed for the terminal, they drew suspicion because of what the law firm later called their "bizarre'' conduct.
    "Bonati carried the multi-million dollar painting in his arms as the pair made their way across the tarmac . . . while McInnis walked alongside with a gun holstered at his waist,'' the firm said in a court filing. 
    "Bonati was also carrying in excess of $10,000 in cash on his person, a sum which he did not declare to U.S. Customs as required by law.'' 
    Anyone taking more than $10,000 in currency into or out of the country must file a report with customs. 
    Paintings and other original works of art also must be declared, though most are allowed to enter the United States duty-free. But with art theft a major international problem, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has stepped up efforts to ascertain the ownership of potentially valuable works. 
    In January, the agency returned to France a Degas painting stolen from a museum there in 1973. It resurfaced last fall in the catalog of a Sotheby's auction in New York. 
    That episode "shows why we take an interest in these kind of cases and if it is stolen, returning it to its rightful owner,'' says Danielle Bennett, an ICE spokeswoman.
    1. Susan Taylor Martin, Doctor's legal battle reveals potential art trove, St. Petersburg Times, March 6, 2011, http://www.tampabay.com/news/courts/civil/doctors-legal-battle-reveals-potential-art-trove/1155579 (last visited Mar 8, 2011).

    Mar 7, 2011

    Armed Attack on Antiquities Storehouse in Egypt

    After the resignation of Zahi Hawass, there are reports of looting and theft including one disturbing report from Kafr el-Sheikh on Saturday:

    Forty armed men attacked an antiquities warehouse in the northern Egyptian city of Kafr el-Sheikh on Saturday, shooting at warehouse security men and injuring several, state news agency MENA said. The attack is the second attempt to rob Kafr el-Sheikh's Tal al-Faraeen (Hill of the Pharaohs) antiquities warehouse since Jan. 25, the first day of the nationwide protests that toppled President Hosni Mubarak on Feb. 11.
    ...
    The warehouse doors were destroyed as were display cases, MENA cited the Head of the Central Department of Lower Egyptian Antiquities Mohamed Abdel Maksoud as saying. Some of the attackers had been caught, while others had escaped, he said.

    In a statement on his blog yesterday, Hawass confirmed these reports.

    So what concrete steps can be taken now? Chris Marinello and the Art Loss Register have pledged their support, but their efforts require the authorities in Egypt to notify them of the specific objects which have been taken. Larry Rothfield argues that while public statements are a necessary step, they have no real effect. He argues institutions should call on their members to help identify and reclaim missing objects, and to pool resources to hire locals and security personnel to protect storehouses and sites. He also suggest financial and logistical support could be provided by the United States to help Egyptians secure and guard their sites.
    1. Forty armed men attack Egypt antiquities store-MENA, Reuters, March 5, 2011, http://af.reuters.com/article/egyptNews/idAFLDE7240E820110305 (last visited Mar 7, 2011).

    Mar 3, 2011

    Hawass Resigns

    Kate Taylor of the New York Times is reporting that Zahi Hawass has resigned:


    After Egypt’s prime minister resigned on Thursday and the army asked his replacement to form a caretaker cabinet, Zahi Hawass, Egypt’s powerful and controversial antiquities chief, said he would not be part of the new government. His comments came after he posted on his Web site for the first time a list of dozens of sites that have been looted since the beginning of the uprising that led to the fall of President Hosni Mubarak.

    Reached by telephone Mr. Hawass, a member of the previous cabinet, said he was happy that he had made the “right decision” and lashed out at colleagues who have criticized him, including one who has accused him of smuggling antiquities.


    Egyptian Antiquities Chief Resigns - NYTimes.com

    Why Get so Worked up over the Ka Nefer Nefer Mask?

    I'm a bit puzzled by all the criticism being directed at the St. Louis Museum of Art. The looting of antiquities destroys archaeological context, but the Ka Nefer Nefer mask was not looted. Both the Museum and those who would have the mask returned to Egypt agree that the mask was professionally excavated in 1952. Egypt has claimed the mask was stolen from a storehouse at some point, while the Museum argues it researched the provenance and found no information to indicate it had been looted. One may argue that the acquisition procedures of museums are generally lacking. And we can certainly criticize the imperfect procedures implemented by the museum to ask questions of the mask in this case—though they did ask some questions in good faith. Though there was no export permit for the mask, but I'm not sure that justifies the criticism of the museum for its suit against the federal government. The museum is only asserting that the Federal government sat on its hands and waited too long to bring a forfeiture claim. This is a perfectly reasonable cause of action, particularly given the enormous benefits to the government and the claimant when a civil forfeiture is brought.

    If you are upset that no claims were brought earlier, why not criticize the U.S. government for waiting so long to bring a forfeiture proceeding? I think one of the frustrating things about these repatriation issues are what I'd call the tone deaf nature of much of the rhetoric irrespective of the merits of the claims. This claim is not the same as every other repatriation claim, they all have their strengths and weaknesses. And though I'd agree that many objects need to go back, not all of them do. Universal repatriation should not be the preferred remedy. The Museum here certainly could have checked closer into the history of the mask, but Egypt also didn't realize the mask was missing. As Mark Durney pointed out, this might be a good reason for renewed emphasis on documenting objects which are in storage. If you don't, it will be difficult to leverage the trade into ending the sale of objects completely, and that argument loses persuasiveness when the same rhetoric is used for each and every dispute, irrespective of its strengths and weaknesses.

    Conference at Cardozo Law School, Mar. 31, 2011

    A number of partners will be presenting a one day conference at Cardozo Law School on March 31 titled "On Restitution: from the Holocaust to the Haitian Earthquake". The event is sponsored by the American Society of International Law, the Lawyers' Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation, the Art Law Society of Cardozo Law School, and the Hofstra Law School Art and Cultural Heritage Club invite professionals.

    The conference welcomes "students and interested members of the public to join". This would seem to be a very promising event. The program is posted after the jump.


    Mar 2, 2011

    Congratulations (UPDATE)

    I want to pass along my thanks to De Paul Law School, the Lawyer's Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation, Patty Gerstenblith, and all the folks who worked hard to put on a super competition last weekend in Chicago. The Appellate problem was a very difficult argument, which really let all the advocates shine. It involved a Nazi-era claim, and the attempts by a claimant to overcome the Federal Immunity from Seizure Act to sue for damages while the painting was on temporary exhibition in the United States.

     I'm especially proud of the South Texas team of Judith Westmoreland, Christopheer McKinney, and Jessica Kasischke who earned the runner up best brief award, and were also runners up in the finals, after arguing against a very impressive team from Chicago-Kent. I also want to congratulate the other team from South Texas, Omar Chawdhary, Brian Evans, and Lera Grabarnik who competed hard at the competition.

    I have a lot of fun coaching the teams, as it allows me to channel my inner basketball coach. The competition also does a super job of highlighting cultural heritage law, and introducing these issues to a new group of students every year. Many thanks to all the teams and organizers for a super competition.

    UPDATE:

    I've tracked down the results of the competition, which are:


    Best Brief: Team O - Chicago Kent School of Law
    Best Brief Runner Up: Team A - South Texas College of Law
    Best Oralist: Jennifer Bloom, John Marshall Law School
    Best Oralist Runner Up: Bryan Bienias, Chicago Kent School of Law

    Competition Runner Up: Team A - South Texas College of Law (Chris
    McKinney, Judith Westmoreland, Jessica Kasischke)
    Competition Champion: Team E - Chicago Kent School of Law (Caitlyn
    Jones, Bryan Bienias, Stephen Gardner

    Congratulations again to all the teams.

    Defending Aphrodite: Enforcing International Cultural Property Law

    Embedded below you can see the conference brochure for a conference to be held in Siena, June 3-4.
    2011 Siena Symposium Brochure - Web

    Labels

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