Loot

Peru: Recovery of Cultural Heritage Increases

Peru: Recovery of Cultural Heritage Increases

by Paola Pinedo García via “InfoSurHoy

In January, the Peruvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs handed over 47 cultural artifacts repatriated from overseas to the Ministry of Culture. Highlights include a Moche-style jug and ceremonial cup from the former north coast of Peru, repatriated by the Consulate of Peru in San Francisco in the United States. (Courtesy of the Peruvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

LIMA, Peru – Peruvian cultural artifacts illegally sold on the international black market are being returned to museums and archeological sites from where they never should have left.

The joint efforts by the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have led to the repatriation of 3,018 pieces belonging to Peru’s cultural heritage since 2007.

Alongside the repatriated items, an additional 31,640 artifacts were recovered in Peru, according to Katie Navarro Vásquez, the director of recoveries in the General Directorate of Cultural Heritage Defense at the Ministry of Culture, which is dedicated to preventing and controlling the illegal trafficking in artifacts, and recovering and repatriating them domestically and internationally.

Prevention and security measures are carried out at three units the Ministry of Culture has established in Peru – at Lima’s Jorge Chávez International Airport, the Santa Rosa complex on the southern border with Chile and in the Postal Services office (Serpost) in the Peruvian capital.

“Our figures for rescued and repatriated items lead us to believe that our control units at strategic exit points from the country have definitely deterred traffickers from trying to smuggle heritage items through these points,” Navarro said.

Ongoing luggage and parcel checks at these three places are carried out by Ministry of Culture personnel alongside officers from the National Police and Customs, she added.

“Peru realized that the loss of its heritage is like somebody ripping out the pieces of our living jigsaw puzzle,” said Cecilia Bákula Budge, former director of the National Institute of Culture of Peru – today the Ministry of Culture – and current head of Peru’s Central Reserve Bank Museum. “I am confident that though we still have a lot to do, we are making progress on an uphill battle in terms of recoveries.”

Thanks to this, 340 cultural pieces destined to be smuggled out of the country were prevented from leaving Peru between January and May after 1,044 pieces were kept from being smuggled out of the country in 2013 and 1,870 in 2012.

“There has been a downward trend since 2007 in trafficking of cultural artifacts,” Navarro said. “This [is due to] our three units’ work. Now, [those] trying to smuggle cultural heritage are aware that we are at the main departure points in the country and that deters them. For us, it’s important that cultural heritage does not cross the border since, once outside, rescuing the pieces – though not impossible – is certainly more difficult [due to] long repatriation processes.” . . . .

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“TRADITIONAL HERITAGE HOUSE IN SANA’A PLUNDERED AS YEMENI HERITAGE COMES UNDER INCREASING THREAT”

“TRADITIONAL HERITAGE HOUSE IN SANA’A PLUNDERED AS YEMENI HERITAGE COMES UNDER INCREASING THREAT”

by Amal Al-Yarisi via “Yemen Times

“Arwa Othman, head of the Traditional Heritage House in Sana’a, spent two years collecting traditional artifacts to fill the museum. She was devastated when it was robbed earlier last month. The padlocks were broken and glass windows were smashed. Important collectibles were found scattered around the house and precious silver items were missing, along with rare traditional clothes.  

Established in 2004, Othman says the museum is one of a kind and contained important pieces of Yemen’s rich heritage. Museums in Hadramout, Seyoun, and Al-Dhale have also been robbed in the past, Othman said. 

“On May 16, I was surprised to find the house robbed by unknown individuals. Some other collectibles were tampered with. So far, we have not identified who did it,” said Othman. The problem of robberies is particularly acute at the moment, given that the government’s hands are full in dealing with multiple crises and it cannot pay much attention to matters of heritage. What happened to the Traditional Heritage House is a case in point. 

Othman said the house is a cultural entity that was formed to help safeguard the spiritual and material heritage of Yemen. She said she aims to preserve it and make it accessible to researchers. 

Othman has been interested in Yemen’s history since she was a teenager. She used to save her allowance and buy traditional collectibles. “Every time my family gave me YR50 ($0.23), I headed to the market in Taiz where I was living. I used to buy many old items,” Othman recalled.  . . . .”

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Metropolitan Museum of Art Found to House Looted Art

“The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Python bell-krater acquired in 1989 matches object documented in confiscated Medici archive, according to forensic archaeologist Christos Tsirogiannis: “The evidence suggests that the vase has most likely been unlawfully removed from Italian soil”

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin via “ARCA

The Classic Greek mixing-bowl attributed to the artist Python (active ca. 350 – 325 BC) of Poseidonia (Paestan) on display in Gallery 161 of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City should be returned to Italy because it has no collecting history before 1989 and has been matched with photographs in the possession of a convicted art dealer, according to the work of University of Cambridge’s Christos Tsirogiannis. (You can see The Met’s description of the object online here ). 
This terracotta bell-krater, described in detail in Dr. Tsirogiannis’ column “Nekyia” in the Spring 2014 issue ofThe Journal of Art Crime, appears with soil/salt encrustations in five photographs from the confiscated Medici archive – including one Polaroid image. Then, “The object was auctioned by Sotheby’s in New York in June 1989 and the same year appeared as part of The Met’s antiquities collection,” Dr. Tsirogiannis reports.
Art dealer Giacomo Medici was convicted in 2005 of participating in the sale of looted antiquities. The story of how illicit antiquities were sold to art galleries and museums in Europe and North America was told in the 2006 book by Peter Watson & Cecilia Todeschini, The Medici Conspiracy: the illicit journey of looted antiquities, from Italy’s tomb raiders to the world’s greatest museums(Public Affairs). The Medici archives (or “Medici Dossier”)  were described as “thirty albums of Polaroids, fifteen envelopes with photographs, and twelve envelopes with rolls of film … [along with] 100 full rolls of exposed film … [for] a total of 3,600 images” found in Medici’s warehouse of antiquities in Geneva in 1995. . . . .

 

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“Battles Loom Over Crimea’s Cultural Heritage”

“Battles Loom Over Crimea’s Cultural Heritage”

via Reuters

“YALTA, CRIMEA/KYIV — From the 16th-century Tatar Khans’ palace in Bakhchisaray to the former tsarist residence that hosted the World War II Yalta conference, Crimea’s heritage sites have become a source of bitter contention since Russia seized the region from Ukraine.
 
For Kyiv, which does not recognize Moscow’s annexation of Crimea, losing the cultural and historic legacy of the Black Sea peninsula would be another major blow and Ukraine is readying for long legal battles with Russia.
 
“We will never give up the valuable heritage in Crimea because that is the property of Ukraine,” the country’s prosecutor general, Oleh Makhnitsky, told Reuters on Wednesday.
 
Ukraine’s Culture Minister, Yevgen Nishchuk, said Kyiv was amending its laws to seek justice internationally should Russia start removing cultural goods from Crimea or take over formal supervision of the region’s heritage sites.
 
One exhibition, put together by five museums – including four in Crimea – and currently on display in Amsterdam, has already fallen hostage to the conflict over the region, the worst stand-off between Russia and the West since the Cold War.
 
Both Crimea’s pro-Russian authorities as well as Kyiv claim ownership of the exhibition, titled “Crimea – Gold and Secrets of the Black Sea”, which features golden artifacts and precious gems dating back to the fourth century BC.
 
The show is operated by the University of Amsterdam and spokesman Yasha Lange said a legal investigation was going on to determine to whom the collection should be returned after it closes at the end of August.
 
“The exhibition should return to Crimea,” said Valentina Mordvintseva, who works for Ukraine’s National Academy of Sciences in Crimea’s provincial capital of Simferopol and who helped Amsterdam’s Allard Pierson Museum set up the exhibit.
 
“So it has become a political issue,” she told Reuters. “If the things end up held in Kyiv, I think it would be bad for Ukraine itself because it would look like vengeance.”
 
She was referring to a March 16 referendum in Crimea, an impoverished region of two million with a narrow ethnic Russian majority, which yielded an overwhelming victory for those advocating a split from Ukraine to join Russia.
 
Kyiv and the West dismissed the hastily arranged vote as a sham but Moscow used it to justify formally incorporating Crimea on March 21.
 
Crimea has since then introduced the Russian ruble as its currency and switched to Moscow time, while Russian troops have taken over Ukrainian military bases, forcing Kyiv to pull out its soldiers with their families.
 
Tatars, Tsars and Stalin
 
Prosecutor Makhnitsky said the Justice Ministry in Kyiv was preparing to register lawsuits with international organizations to assert its rights to the historic and cultural sites in Crimea.
 
The ministry refused immediate comment on what exactly it plans to do, but any such endeavor is likely to be an uphill battle as Russia controls the region.
 
Underscoring how any efforts from Kyiv could face further obstacles, some directors of Crimea museums have welcomed unification with Russia in the hope it will lead to increased budget support from Moscow.
 
Valery Naumenko, director of a museum housed in the historic residence of the Crimean Khans in Bakhchisaray, complained that Kyiv had not allocated any funds for the upkeep of the palace, which is dominated by two slender minarets. (more…)

Lost Art Internet Database

With the seemingly constant discovery of new artwork looted by the Nazis and lost to time, it is important for the original owners to keep their eyes out for their pieces.  As such, the German government, via the Koordinierungsstelle Magdeburg – Germany’s main office for recording lost/stolen cultural resources, has just set up a new website to record these losses. (And can I just say I love a language that has 20 letters in a word). The Lost Art Internet Database was set up to carefully record/photograph/register all the pieces of cultural property that were looted during WWII.

The are two parts to the database: the “Search Requests” and the “Found-Objects Report.”  The Search Requests is a place where “public institutions or private individuals or institutions” who lost their cultural property because of the “National Socialist rule” or WWII can post a search request on the website. The website will publish this as a world-wide request that people keep an eye out for your property.  The Found-Objects Report is where cultural art/artifacts are listed when it is verified (or where the lack of knowledge about their history suggests) that they are stolen property.  You can go here and skim through the lists to see if your art/cultural piece is on the list.  

Apparently the website was so popular, it’s actually crashed a couple of times due to the vast numbers trying to get on. (1) Do you remember the cultural pieces discovered in Munich recently? Well that’s what triggered the new interest in the site, as the government is posting photos and details of the works in hopes that people who recognize and claim them.  As of the 11th, 25 paintings were listed, and as many as 590 more could be added from that collection over time. Apparently the US State Department (why them, I’m not sure) is urging Germany to “publish the list of works, eliminate the country’s 30-year statute of limitations on stolen art and establish a formal claims process for victims to recover their works.” (2) At least the first part is done; now we’ll see what happens to the second half of that request.  Germany has said that it will arrange a task force with “at least six researchers specializing in [sic] tracing the ownership of artworks.” (3)  Hopefully, careful organization will ensure that these works find their way into the right hands.

Please note that it seems that the website has undergone quite a bit of change recently. A lot of stuff that used to be there isn’t anymore (they might be re-adding it over time). If you are interested, you can plug in the URL to the WayBack Machine” and find earlier versions of the site. Note-worthy is the lack of “Publications” on the new site, as well as a more complex layout. Luckily, there’s been an English version of the site for a while!  So if you are interested in more than the recent publication of the Munich items, then the older version might be worth checking out.

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