Monday, June 14, 2010

Collecting Histories and the Market for Classical Antiquities

The spring number of the Journal of Art Crime 3, 1 (2010) is now available [subscription details].

This includes my paper, "Collecting Histories and the Market for Classical Antiquities", pp. 3-10.

Abstract
The use of the term “provenance” when applied to archaeological material has been related to previous ownership. The collecting histories of over 120 items returned to Italy from North American collections have demonstrated the need for the careful and rigorous documentation of individual pieces. Such a history would chart the “life” of the object from the moment that it is discovered to the point when it is sold at auction or acquired by a museum or private individual. The impact of the scandal surrounding the “Medici Conspiracy” led to the withdrawal of lots from a London sale in 2008, and a series of seizures from a New York auction house in 2009. The lack of collecting histories for individual objects suggests that the pieces were removed from their archaeological contexts, such as graves, by unscientific methods. The study argues that the widely used term “provenance” is essentially obsolete when applied to antiquities.


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