ADA adviser Ivan Macquisten has written a detailed analysis on the upcoming changes in data protection regulations for the EU for The Art Newspaper. This includes the Information Commissioner’s Office advice on what steps for businesses to take now. These changes will affect all businesses operating in the market to some degree. You can read Ivan’s article at this link.
The Committee For Cultural Policy has highlighted the devastating theft of Viking material from the University Museum of Bergen. The burglary took place on the weekend of August 11-13 when the thieves climbed scaffolding to a seventh-floor window, broke in and stole 400 artefacts that were in temporary storage.
Full details available from the Committee For Cultural Policy website.
Further theft alert
This Egyptian stele, pictured right has been stolen from the Musée de Marseille. It is 24cm x 17.5cm x 7cm. Please contact the police if you see it.
Collector Matthew Polk, a board member of the Committee For Cultural Policy and trustee of a number of museums, has written a detailed paper on how the war on terror has shifted cultural property policy from preservation to enforcement, with a number of unwarranted and unfortunate policies that have the potential to damage the trade and museums.
From grossly exaggerated figures for the revenues raised by ISIS from looted artefacts to the silencing of dissent on such topics, Polk studies their sources and effects, and notes how law enforcement policy has moved from evidence-based debate to political expediency.
“Reading this you could be forgiven for thinking that museums should just give up and close their doors,” writes Polk. “Museums take their public missions seriously and should be at the forefront of world cultural heritage preservation efforts. Instead, museums are being pushed aside as legislative efforts driven by a fear of terrorism create a nightmarish regulatory environment in which museums, their staffs, trustees and donors are often portrayed as villains.”
Proposals under the US TAAR Act are even worse: “It is a shocking but real possibility that US citizens and institutions could suddenly find themselves subject to thousands of foreign laws not even available in English which could be applied retroactively at the whim of government officials as will apparently now be the case in the EU,” Polk notes.
He also accuses law enforcement of preferring “high profile actions, such as the Elliot Ness style raids conducted during 2016 NYC Asia Week or Fish and Wild Life’s SWAT raids on Gibson Guitars in 2009 and 2011” and says this suggests that “they are more interested in high profile press coverage than in seeking cooperation to help stamp out illegal or destructive activities”.
“This is unfortunate as it has created an atmosphere of fear bringing less transparency to the art markets when what we need is more,” he concludes, adding: “Enforcement has also relied increasingly on civil forfeiture actions to seize objects even when no crime has been proven and customs continues to use administrative obstacles and minor paperwork errors as justifiable cause for seizing objects entering the country without having to prove they are in any way illegal.”
The full article appears on the Committee For Cultural Policy website.
The European Commission’s 199-page Deloitte report into tackling cultural property trafficking now confirms that there is no evidence at all that terrorism-related cultural goods are entering the EU, or that an illicit market in cultural property run by organised crime exists.
Despite this, the European Commission plans to press ahead with more restrictive import/export legislation from January 2019 to tackle a problem it has identified does not exist, even though the Deloitte report acknowledges this will damage the international art market.
Read Ivan Macquisten’s latest blog summarising the issues at hand.
The European Commission has announced that it will press ahead with controversial proposals for restricting the import of cultural property to members states. The news comes on the back of a survey of stakeholders across the European Union, including the art and antiques trade, to gauge the impact of such changes. As Ivan Macquisten’s latest blog explains, submissions by the ADA, IADAA and others appears to have been ignored in favour of poorly researched and inaccurate evidence.
The International Association of Dealers in Ancient Art, supported by CINOA and the ADA, has written to the Regulatory Scrutiny Board (RSB) that assessed the impact assessment for this exercise and found it seriously wanting yet ultimately passed the measures. The letter asks the RSB to reconsider its position and re-evaluate the evidence in order to avoid a damaging outcome.
COMMENT: A perceived lack of regulation, the rise of art as an alternative asset class and conflict in the Middle East present a triple whammy for an unprepared art market. What has happened to the market? And what must happen now? asks Ivan Macquisten
The international trade in antiquities has been the focus of sustained criticism over the past few years as a result of the wars in Syria and Iraq. Anti-trade campaigners – academics, archaeologists, politicians and others – who have been trying to shut down the legitimate trade for years, have seized this opportunity to lobby hard for new regulation, ever-tighter restrictions on trade and more draconian punishments for even slight infringements. There have been calls for the private ownership of antiquities to be made socially unacceptable.
The dissemination of biased or badly conducted research and questionable relationships with the media, much of which appears complicit, or at least complacent, has not helped. This is part of the widely recognised ‘fake news’ issue, as 24-hour rolling reporting combined with declining resources within the media – particularly in the press – rob journalists of the opportunity to investigate in any depth or check facts. This makes them increasingly vulnerable to unscrupulous interests that want to present propaganda as news. Outlandish figures relating to the size of the problem of looted material coming out of Syria, for instance, have been widely accepted as utterly unfounded by all sides in the debate for some time now, yet continue to be peddled by a number of quite prominent sources.
This has led to criticism from anti-trade campaigners themselves. Dr Neil Brodie’s article for the European Union National Institutes for Culture, says the propagandists exaggerate the problem to attract government attention and more funding. This leads to inappropriate policy, which in turn damages the very nations and cultural heritage institutions they seek to protect.
Even government research and publications, in the US, Germany and elsewhere fall short of the standards that should be expected. Recently, Homeland Security Today, the news and views website for the eponymous US department, published my critique of Homeland Security’s report last October, Cash to Chaos, dismantling ISIS’ financial infrastructure.
The report’s small section on antiquities was riddled with inaccuracies, the footnotes quoting out-of-date and long-discredited media articles as primary sources of evidence to support the claims. In some cases, the reports mentioned in the footnotes did not contain any of the evidence referred to at all. If this can happen with Homeland Security, whose report was leapt on by campaigners as further proof of the antiquities problem, who else can be trusted?
Many of those who want to see an end to any trade, legitimate or not, dedicate most of their working lives to this cause. They tend to be very well funded and organised, and have the ear of governments, law enforcement and NGOs, which do not appear to appreciate the distinction between those who trade lawfully and those who do not.
The effectiveness of these campaigners is not to be underestimated, especially as the antiquities sector in particular and the art market in general have been woefully unprepared to tackle such unrelenting criticism.
All of this is not helped by the perception that the wider art market is fairly lawless. True, it is not directly regulated in the way that finance, health, insurance and the law are, but there is direct regulation, and plenty of it (see the British Art Market Federation’s list of regulation. A dealer’s liability under the new Cultural Property [Armed Conflicts] Bill is a case in point: potentially, they can be jailed for up to seven years for even unintentionally breaking the law.
How it all changed in 2008
What the art market has failed to understand until quite recently is that everything changed in 2008. When the markets crashed and pulled the rug out from under gilts and bonds, those traditional safe havens of wealth, the relative risk of art as a store of value diminished, making it much more attractive as an alternative asset class. The banks and wealth managers started to advise clients to diversify their portfolios.
Where money heads, attention follows – and not just from investors. Regulators, governments and criminals also turned their gaze on the art market as a significant influx of cash created the potential for money laundering, market manipulation and other undesirable activities. Transparency became the buzzword of any discussion about the market, but transparency is just the outward manifestation of the real problem: lack of trust.
The market generally was unused to such scrutiny and ill equipped for what it would mean: media attacks, tighter controls, new laws and wider attempts at regulation. Many continue to bury their heads in the sand, but others have realised they must act now to build confidence with the authorities and public before it is too late.
Despite this, most have still not accepted that such a programme requires a significant investment of money and time, the sort of commitment on which the other side in the debate has long been able to rely.
Against this background, and the emerging Syrian conflict, the antiquities trade found itself in the front line. What makes life even harder for the trade is the role antiquities now play in international diplomacy. Nation states are using cultural property or heritage as a political tool in negotiations, to curry favour with other countries or to burnish their credentials as virtuous campaigners for the greater good.
The trade fights back
Around two years ago, the Antiquities Dealers Association (ADA) in the UK and then the International Association of Dealers in Ancient Art (IADAA) recognised that they needed to fight back. As such, they realised they must revisit their own codes of conduct and improve procedures and methods of communication, whether via their websites, direct mail, PR and media opportunities or their relationships with the various authorities.
They have been very effective in doing so, leading the way in raising wider art market standards – as parliament has recognised – and shaping debate with lawmakers, law enforcement and the media at national and international levels.
Their success can be attributed in part to their thorough research and presentation of arguments supported by independently verifiable evidence, in part to the dedication of their representatives, and in part to the fact that the anti-trade campaigners have not been used to having their propaganda challenged and so are sometimes inattentive when it comes to detail.
Nonetheless, rich and powerful anti-trade interests – supported by countries such as Egypt that wish to reclaim their cultural property, regardless of whether it now rightly belongs to others – have persuaded governments to introduce major changes in the law in Germany, the UK and the United States, laws introduced as a result of mistaken views of where problems lie.
The rather less well-funded antiquities trade is fighting an effective rear-guard action, but very much against the odds. What the trade does have is a network of knowledgeable experts, a sophisticated strategy and a wealth of evidence and data to support its case; it is also getting better organised, with disparate groups in the USA coming together to fight for better understanding and a fairer deal. It needs better financial and strategic support as the trade improves its own relationships with decision-makers further and continues to fight for recognition in national and international debate.
Trade organisations have already tried to engage with their fiercest critics, but the signs so far are that campaigners have no intention of giving any ground. I can understand this: they have had unrivalled success so far and can’t see any reason to compromise. It is clear that many simply believe that any trade whatsoever means providing cover for the crooks. What may surprise them is that legitimate trade is the arch-enemy of the crooks, as criminal activity damages the reputation of those who trade lawfully.
The wider art market needs to wake up fully to its challenges, as demonstrated so clearly already in the microcosm of the antiquities market. That means better self-regulation in the form of codes of conduct, ethical behaviour and transparency, as well as a more effective public charm offensive, with the trade associations taking a prominent role.
This article first appeared in the July/August 2017 issue of the RICS property Journal
See also www.imacq.com