Emily Duffy the Intern! Spring 2018

Emily 1.jpg

My name is Emily Duffy and I was born and raised in Houston, Texas. I am one year away from graduating from the University of Dallas with an Art Studio Degree in Printmaking and a concentration in General Business. I have been passionate about art my entire life and look forward to turning it into a career after I graduate. I  studied abroad in Rome during my time in college thus sparking my love for traveling.  During my down time I like to spend quality time with friends and family. I look forward to gaining new experiences and knowledge during this internship. 


Archaeology Spring 2018

world's oldest bridge.jpg

1. LONDON.- The world’s oldest bridge is to be saved for future generations thanks to a pioneering project as part of the British Museum’s Iraq Emergency Heritage Management Training Scheme. The bridge at Tello, in the south of Iraq, was built in the third millennium BC and will be preserved by British Museum archaeologists and Iraqi heritage professionals who are being trained to protect ancient sites that have suffered damage at the hands of Daesh (or the so-called Islamic State). Working with the Iraq State Board of Antiquities and Heritage, it is hoped that restoring the 4,000-year-old bridge will be a potent symbol of a nation emerging from decades of war and could one day lead to the site welcoming tourists from around the globe to learn about Iraq’s rich heritage.
The bridge will be restored in the latest phase of the successful Iraq Emergency Heritage Management Training Scheme, or simply ‘Iraq Scheme’, created by the British Museum. The Scheme sees the British Museum provide state of the art training to Iraqi archaeologists, so that they can stabilise, and potentially rebuild, heritage sites that were damaged or destroyed by Daesh as they come back under Government control. The work to conserve the bridge will be part of the fourth phase of the Scheme, with field training of two groups of trainees beginning in the autumn. These latest trainees are the first female archaeologists to be trained as part of the Scheme.
The project will also see the creation of a visitor centre at the site, which it is hoped will lead to the return of international tourists to the region, who stayed away during the war with Daesh. With the new visitor centre, which will explain in both English and Arabic how the bridge has contributed to world history, it is thought tour groups from outside Iraq could begin to visit the site by 2020.
Sebastien Rey, Lead Archaeologist, Iraq Scheme says: “This is a hugely important project to ensure the long-term sustainability of the world’s oldest bridge, which is an incredibly clever piece of ancient engineering on a grand scale. The full conservation programme will not only provide access to the site for the local community and tourists, but it is hoped that it could yield unprecedented finds that may lead to a new cultural centre of interest in the region – one of the poorest provinces of Iraq. It is also an important emblem of Iraq’s heritage and restoring the bridge is a symbol of a brighter future for the Iraqi people.”
Built for the ancient Sumerian city of Girsu, the bridge was only rediscovered in 1929. Described at the time as an ‘enigmatic construction’, it has been variously interpreted as a temple, dam, and water regulator. Recent studies using 1930s photographs as well as recently declassified satellite imagery from the 1960s, alongside new research at the site, have led to the confirmation that it was a bridge over an ancient waterway and it is, to date, the earliest-known bridge in the world. Since the excavations nearly 90 years ago, the bridge has remained open and exposed, with no identifiable conservation work to address its long-term stability or issues of erosion, and no plans to manage the site or tell its story to the wider world.
The need to protect the bridge arose from preliminary work by the first two Iraq Scheme excavation seasons. The preliminary assessment stressed the urgency of carrying out a larger and more ambitious conservation programme, including emergency excavations. Even during this early phase, two trenches were uncovered, containing well-preserved deposits of the prehistoric Ubaid period dating to the fifth millennium BC. These contain a wealth of information on the origins of Girsu and, consequently, the birth of urban centres in Mesopotamia, one of the earliest known civilisations. This would improve international recognition of the rich and important heritage of Iraq.
The next group of Iraq Scheme participants that will carry out this vital work are eight female heritage professionals from the Mosul region. They will arrive in London in April 2018 to train at the British Museum in all aspects of archaeological fieldwork and emergency archaeology. It is hoped they will go on to continue the success of the Scheme so far, such as one graduate who was appointed by the Iraqi State Board to lead the assessment of the site of Nimrud.


earth quake damage to Monte Alban.jpg

2.  More than $1 million for earthquake-damaged Monte Alban
NEW YORK, NY.- World Monuments Fund announced today more than $1 million in funding to support disaster response and restoration efforts at Monte Albán Archaeological Site in Oaxaca, Mexico.
The new project is the latest in WMF’s long history of supporting cultural heritage sites damaged or destroyed at the hands of natural disaster – beginning with the floods of Venice in 1966. Fifteen structures within Monte Albán and the northern section of Atzompa were affected by a devastating September 2017 earthquake, with five showing severe damage that required emergency structural shoring to prevent collapse. The site was included on the 2018 World Monuments Watch as part of the Disaster Sites of the Caribbean, the Gulf, and Mexico, with the goal of mobilizing heritage conservation efforts in the aftermath of a string of hurricanes and earthquakes.
WMF will launch a partnership with the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) to address the long-term stability of Monte Albán, including physical conservation, documentation, and geological assessment. The program will also emphasize training and capacity building, giving local technicians the skills they need to effectively repair and prepare Monte Albán for future natural disasters. Local architecture and engineering students in their last semester will carry out research and documentation in the first phase of work.
Leadership gifts from American Express, Roberto Hernández Ramírez and Claudia Madrazo de Hernández, and The Robert W. Wilson Charitable Trust, and additional generous donations from Charities Aid Foundation of Canada and Fundación Mary Street Jenkins, will make the program possible.
“For more than fifty years, World Monuments Fund has been helping people restore the buildings and places that define their values following natural disasters,” said Joshua David, President and CEO, World Monuments Fund. “Now we have the opportunity to safeguard one of Mexico’s most important archaeological sites while empowering its community. We are thankful for the support of leadership donors American Express, Roberto Hernández Ramírez and Claudia Madrazo de Hernández, and The Robert W. Wilson Charitable Trust, as well as all of the project’s other donors, who are collectively making this effort possible.”
“For more than two decades, American Express has been a proud advocate of the World Monuments Fund,” said Timothy J. McClimon, President, American Express Foundation. “Preserving the prolific Monte Alban is a critical step in rebuilding the Oaxaca community. We are honored to serve as a lead donor for this project.”
“The cultural sites that were damaged during this tragedy don't belong only to the Mexican people; they belong to humankind,” said Ambassador Diego Gómez Pickering, Consul General of Mexico in New York. “Out of great loss and devastation, we have a chance to restore hope and optimism to the people of Oaxaca and those for whom Monte Albán is a source of great pride. We are grateful for the support to make it stronger and accessible for future generations.”
The ancient Zapotec metropolis of Monte Albán was founded in the sixth century B.C. and became a World Heritage Site in 1987. Its impressive architectural remains—terraces, pyramids, and canals—extend over some four miles, and include hieroglyphic inscriptions that provide insight into the ancient Zapotec civilization. It was previously included on the 2008 World Monuments Watch to assure the sustainability of the archaeological zone in the face of threats including looting, vandalism, unchecked tourism, and forest fires. 

14th century village in New Zealand.jpg

3.  Remains of 14th-Century Village in New Zealand Tells Tales of Maori History
The excavation, which unearthed moa bones and stone tools, helps fill a gap for researchers
By Julissa Treviño
June 1, 2018
The Polynesian people who came to New Zealand some 1000 years ago, first established themselves as the tangata whenua, which in the Maori language, means people of the land. Today, the indigenous Maori people make up about 14 percent of New Zealand’s population, and the culture’s past and present remain an integral part of the island nation’s identity.
But while much of their early history is documented through songs and stories—from tales of Kupe, who the Maori consider to be the first adventurer to navigate to the landmass, to the deep roots of the pohutukawa tree in Maori mythology—archaeological digs have also helped to piece together details of early Maori life in the land they first called Aotearoa.
Such is the case with a recently discovered 14th-century Maori village along the country’s South Pacific coastline. As The Gisborne Herald reports, the remains of the village were found in the present-day city of Gisborne, via an 8-foot-deep excavation on the edge of an old riverbed.
At the excavation site, University of Otago archaeologists uncovered bones of a flightless bird endemic to New Zealand called the moa, fish hooks fashioned from those bones, as well as stone tools made of obsidian and chert rocks that date back to the early 1300s.
In a press release, the team says the discoveries help to fill in the gaps about where the Maori people first settled in this area.
“We don’t know as much about early occupation around this part of the coastline as we do in other parts of the country,” University of Otago professor of archaeology Richard Walter says.
The archaeological work was conducted with the permission of Heritage New Zealand, which under the authority of the Pouhere Taonga Act, regulates the modification or destruction of the nation’s archaeological sites.
The area is of historical importance because it’s believed to be the first landing place of canoes which carried Maori to the district in 1350. It’s also where the first contact between Maori and British explorer James Cook took place in 1769.
As the Herald reports, the excavation took place in anticipation of the development of a wharfside log yard. “Given the port’s location, we take the protection of these significant sites within operational areas very seriously,” Andrew Gaddum, general manager of Eastland Port Limited, which is constructing and operating the new log yard, tells the paper.
The Herald reports that the found artifacts are currently undergoing analysis in university labs.

Read more: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/14th-century-maori-village-found-along-new-zealands-south-pacific-coastline-180969219/#kB2j1wM8PtAdfC68.99
Give the gift of Smithsonian magazine for only $12! http://bit.ly/1cGUiGv
Follow us: @SmithsonianMag on Twitter


child sacrifice in Peru.jpg

4.  Evidence of world's biggest child sacrifice found by archaeologists in Peru
LIMA (PERU).- Archaeologists in Peru have found evidence of the biggest-ever sacrifice of children, uncovering the remains of more than 140 youngsters who were slain alongside 200 llamas as part of a ritual offering some 550 years ago, National Geographic announced on Thursday.
The site was located on top of a cliff facing the Pacific Ocean in La Libertad, a northern region where the Chimu civilization arose, an ancient pre-Columbian people who worshipped the moon.
The cliff is located just outside the northwestern coastal city of Trujillo, Peru's third largest city which today has 800,000 inhabitants.
"While incidents of human sacrifice among the Aztec, Maya and Inca have been recorded in colonial-era Spanish chronicles and documented in modern scientific excavations, the discovery of a large-scale child sacrifice event in the little-known pre-Columbian Chimu civilization is unprecedented in the Americas -- if not in the entire world," National Geographic said.
The investigations were carried out by an international team led by National Geographic's Peruvian explorer Gabriel Prieto, of the National University of Trujillo, and John Verano, a physical anthropologist from Tulane University in New Orleans.
The team uncovered evidence of "the largest single incident of mass child sacrifice in the Americas -- and likely in world history."
"I, for one, never expected it," Verano told the magazine of the sacrifice site, known to the researchers as "Las Llamas."
"And I don't think anyone else would have, either," he added.
The excavations began in 2011 when the team uncovered the remains of 42 children and 76 llamas at a 3,500-year-old temple nearby.
By the time the excavations had finished five years later, they had uncovered more than 140 sets of child remains and 200 juvenile llamas, as well as rope and textiles dating to between 1400 and 1450.
Located about 300 meters above sea level, the site is in the middle of a cluster of residential compounds in Huanchaco, a neighborhood bordering Trujillo.
Hearts removed?
"The skeletal remains of both children and animals show evidence of cuts to the sternum as well as rib dislocations, which suggest that the victims' chests were cut open and pulled apart, perhaps to facilitate the removal of the heart," the magazine said.
Researchers determined that the children were between the ages of five and 14, although most were between eight and 12 when they died, with their bodies buried facing west -- out to sea.
The llamas were all less than 18 months and they were buried facing east, toward the Andes, they said.
"It is ritual killing, and it's very systematic," Verano said.
The Chimu civilization extended along the Peruvian coast to where Ecuador begins, with its empire brought down by the Incas in around 1475, just a few decades after the sacrifice at Las Llamas.
"Until now, the largest mass child sacrifice event for which we have physical evidence is the ritual murder and interment of 42 children at Templo Mayor in the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan," National Geographic said, referring to what is modern-day Mexico City.
© Agence France-Presse

Art Forgeries Spring 2018

art forgeries meet their match.jpg

1. Where Art Forgeries Meet Their Match
By Anita Gates
May 2, 2018
Jamie Martin has some advice for criminals: “Never wear synthetic fibers while making a forgery.” They’ll show up in the lab.
And everybody knows that Vermeer didn’t wear polyester.
Mr. Martin shared that wisdom while showing a guest around his fifth-floor laboratory-office at Sotheby’s New York on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. It’s a large, windowless white room filled with technology, some of the equipment owned by only a handful of institutions worldwide.
Just past the locked door, with its laser-radiation danger warning, cameras were aimed at the vibrant oils of a Flemish old master. Mr. Martin described another painting in his office, seen only from the back, as “probably from the 16th century.” (The owners had not given him permission to show it.)
Mr. Martin, one of those lucky men who still look boyish in their late 50s, knows some forgers are careless, like the man whose supposed Jackson Pollock was sold to the Knoedler Gallery in Manhattan with the signature “Jackson Pollok.” That was part of a major 2016 art-world scandal, which Mr. Martin discussed on “60 Minutes.”
But some forgers are clever. They are the ones who fear Mr. Martin, who was called “the rock star of his field” with “no equal” in a recent Art New England article. After decades of consulting for the F.B.I., museums, auction houses and other clients, Mr. Martin is now head of Sotheby’s scientific research department. In its first year, 2017, his department examined works valued at more than $100 million, Darrell Rocha, a Sotheby’s spokesman, said.
Museums may have this kind of setup, but until now major auction houses didn’t. Sotheby’s acquired Orion Analytical, Mr. Martin’s Williamstown, Mass., company, in December 2016 and now claims 80 percent of his time, half of which he spends in New York and half either at Sotheby’s London or traveling, sometimes to examine artworks on site.
When a work comes to Mr. Martin, it begins a multipart analysis with an appraisal in visible light. Then, when he shines a bright light on the work, he can detect the presence of any optical brightening agents. Those were introduced around 1950, so if the work is supposedly older, that’s the end of that. With a black light, otherwise invisible cracks may be visible. In this Flemish old master, Adriaen Isenbrandt’s “The Flight Into Egypt,” one goes right through the Virgin Mary’s neck. Under black light, certain areas look very dark; that’s where the work has been restored.
With a shortwave infrared camera (the kind used in drones, Mr. Martin points out), you may see the artist’s underdrawing — the genius’s equivalent of a paint-by-number pattern. The lab’s second camera is less sensitive, he said, “but it sees through some things the other doesn’t.” The next step is an X-ray, done on site by an outside firm.
There’s a human factor too — in fact, a building full of veteran art specialists to consult. One told him that the “Flight Into Egypt” underdrawing looked very much like one in Isenbrandt’s crucifixion triptych at a museum in Estonia.
Mr. Martin strives for objectivity. “I don’t have any skin in the game,” he said, adding that his contract forbids bonus pay. He compared himself to an umpire, trying to make the right call.
But he does love watching the game. Asked whether he was more excited by finding a fake or confirming something as the real thing, he spoke slowly and chose his words carefully. “I get more excited when in working with other specialists we find physical evidence to support the attribution and the age.”
Mr. Martin, it turns out, does not declare authenticity. Although he has testified as an expert witness in a number of court cases, he will never be the guy who takes the stand and announces, “Yes, this is a Rembrandt!” or “This is a shoddy fake!” He answers just one question: Are there any contraindications to the claim?
For example? “We didn’t find anything inconsistent with Léger working in 1913.”
His reference is to “Dessin Pour ‘Contraste de Formes No. 2,’” believed to have been done by Fernand Léger (born 1881) in his early 30s. . It is part of a collection formed by Dr. Martin S. Weseley, a surgeon who died last year.
There, in his office, is a mosaic of its image on the screen of a seemingly standard laptop computer, where Mr. Martin uses the periodic table of elements to determine composition.
Aha, there’s calcium. That makes sense; one of the dominant paint colors in that era was bone black. (Bone equals calcium.) The whites consistently show lead and barium, which is exactly what was used in paint formulations then. Any titanium white? No. Good, because it was used only from the 1920s on.
Against one wall is the Bruker M6 Jetstream, about the size and shape of a big flat-screen TV and its stand. It examined the Léger by macro X-ray fluorescence (MA-XRF), making an astounding 1.2 million measurements overnight. Then the findings are confirmed with other analytical methods like Raman or Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy. The investigation goes deep, all the way to molecular analysis.
Growing up in Baltimore, Mr. Martin loved science and art equally, so he decided to study medical illustration at Johns Hopkins University. On his way to apply, though, he stopped at a Baltimore museum, where he bumped into (literally, as in “Sorry, was that your foot?”) a conservator. She offered him a backstage tour, after which Mr. Martin changed his plans (“I never made it to Johns Hopkins”). Eventually he was a postgraduate fellow in paintings conservation at Cambridge University. But early interests stuck; his narration abounds in medical metaphor.
If Sotheby’s were a hospital, his department would be “the E.R. or a clinic,” he said. One analysis is like an M.R.I., and another is like a CT scan. He described analyses as “noninvasive.” Mr. Martin tried to keep the discussion understandable to nonscientists, even comparing one device to a “Star Trek” phaser, but he also said things like: “Each one of the million pixels has its own spectrum.”
No scientific terminology is needed to explain Mr. Martin’s professional raison d’être. In an era when the very definition of facts is in flux, he’s after truth.
“I like living within the four corners of what’s right and what’s wrong.” he said, adding that he told people who work for him, “ ‘If you ever lie to me, you’re gone.’ ”
Correction: May 1, 2018
An earlier version of this article misstated the ownership of “Dessin Pour ‘Contraste de Formes No.2,’” believed to have been painted by Fernand Léger. It was part of the collection of Dr. Martin S. Weseley; it does not belong to the Berkshire Museum.
A version of this article appears in print on May 2, 2018 in The International New York Times. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe


frnch museum's collection is fake.jpg

2.  French museum's collection mostly fake, but is it the only one?
ELNE (AFP).- Over decades, the small museum of Elne in southern France built up a collection of works by local painter Etienne Terrus, mostly oil and watercolours of the region's distinctive landscapes and buildings.
But what was once a source of pride has turned to embarrassment after 60 percent were found to be fakes, providing a lesson about the dangers of buying art without expert skills and the ubiquity of counterfeit canvases.
"Etienne Terrus was Elne's great painter. He was part of the community, he was our painter," lamented mayor Yves Barniol on Friday as he reopened the museum and its exhibition of Terrus paintings -- minus the forgeries.
"Knowing that people have visited the museum and seen a collection most of which is fake, that's bad. It's a catastrophe for the municipality," he added.
Terrus (1857-1922) was born and died in Elne near the city of Perpignan where he painted the sun-baked Mediterranean coastline as well as the misty foothills of the Pyrenees mountains and local red-tiled homes.
While once a friend of Henri Matisse, Terrus never reached the heights of fame achieved by his contemporary, but he earned a following in art circles and regionally with his Impressionist- and Fauvist-influenced production.
The Terrus Museum in Elne began collecting his work in the 1990s and went on a spending splurge over the last five years, acquiring 80 new canvases often thanks to local fund-raising drives.
Devastated locals who helped with the effort now regret being so naive, having handed over tens of thousands of euros to local art dealers and private collectors.
Out of 140 works owned by the museum, 82 were judged to be fakes by a panel of experts, causing an estimated loss to the town of 160,000 euros ($200,000).
A global problem
But art-testing expert Yan Walther says fake art being exhibited publicly is a problem worldwide and the case of Elne, though extreme, is not unique.
"The fact that there are fakes and misattributed works in museum collections is something absolutely clear and nobody with an understanding of the field has any illusions about this," Walther told AFP.
"There are misattributed works in the Louvre (in Paris) in the National Gallery (in London), all museums in the world, but it is not in a proportion like 60 percent," he added.
A state museum in the Belgian city of Ghent was accused of exhibiting fakes in January after it put 26 works supposedly by Russian avant-garde artists such as Kazimir Malevich and Wassily Kandinsky on display.
Many experts questioned how the paintings -- the private collection of Russian businessman Igor Toporovski -- could have been amassed in secret and the museum had to cancel the show amid a police investigation.
Walther's company, Swiss-based SGS Art Services, is a world leader in using scientific methods such as X-rays and carbon-dating to help authenticate art works.
SGS mostly tests high-end paintings worth between 50,000 and sometimes tens of millions of euros and Walther says on average a staggering 70-90 percent are found to be fake or misattributed.
Misattribution can mean, for example, that a painting was produced by the workshop or assistant to an artist.
"When you acquire real estate or a car, there are a certain number of steps everyone would take: a technical assessment, background checks on the seller," he said.
"For art work, very strangely it is still not in people's minds. You can buy a an artwork for two million dollars and people hardly check anything. But it is starting to change."
Crude fakes
The fraud in Elne was discovered by local art historian Eric Forcada who said he had seen the problems immediately, with some of the paintings crude counterfeits.
"On one painting, the ink signature was wiped away when I passed my white glove over it," he said.
In another painting, there was a building that was completed in the 1950s -- 30 years after Terrus's death -- while some of the canvases did not match those used by the original painter.
Forcada alerted the region's top cultural expert and requested a meeting of a panel of experts to confirm his findings.
A police investigation is now set to focus on local art dealers who were the source of many of the paintings.
"The whole of the local art market is rotten, from the unofficial street vendors who pitch to local private collectors up to the art dealers and the auction houses," Forcada said.
Prior to the scandal, paintings by Terrus could fetch up to 15,000 euros ($18,200) and drawings and watercolours would sell for up to 2,000 euros, he said.
© Agence France-Presse


Ancient Artifacts Returned Spring 2018

1. United States officials return 3,800 smuggled ancient artifacts to Iraq
WASHINGTON (AFP).- US officials on Wednesday returned to Iraq 3,800 ancient artifacts that had been smuggled into the United States and shipped to a nationwide arts and crafts retailer.
The items include cuneiform tablets, cylinder seals, and clay bullae. Many of the tablets come from the ancient city of Irisagrig and date back to 2100-1600 BCE, officials said.
Packages of cuneiform tablets were initially intercepted by customs agents and falsely labeled as tile samples for retailer Hobby Lobby.
The company last year agreed to forfeit thousands of ancient Iraqi artifacts and pay $3 million to settle a civil suit brought by the US government, attributing its purchase of the illegally imported items to naivete.

US returns 3800 ancient artifacts.jpg

The Department of Justice says thousands of cuneiform tablets and clay bullae were smuggled into the United States via the United Arab Emirates and Israel in packages shipped to the Oklahoma-based company.
Hobby Lobby said it had been acquiring artifacts "consistent with the company's mission and passion for the Bible" with the goal of preserving them for future generations and sharing them with public institutions and museums.
Steve Green, the billionaire evangelical Christian who founded Hobby Lobby, is chairman of the Museum of the Bible, which opened last year in the US capital.
US Attorney Richard Donoghue said Wednesday that US officials "are proud to have played a role in removing these pieces of Iraq's history from the black market of illegally obtained antiquities and restoring them to the Iraqi people."
These pieces "are very important to us and they should be returned home," said Iraq's ambassador to the United States, Fareed Yasseen.
The ceremony, which took place in Washington, was the first US repatriation of cultural property to Iraq since 2015.
Since 2008, ICE has returned more than 1,200 items to Iraq, whose cultural property was heavily plundered in the aftermath of the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.
Hobby Lobby calls itself the largest privately owned arts-and-crafts retailer in the world with approximately 32,000 employees and operating in 47 states.
© Agence France-Presse



Berlin's Ethnological Museum returns grave-plundered artefacts to Alaska

Berlin  returns artefacts to Alaska.jpg

BERLIN (AFP).- Germany has restituted nine artefacts belonging to indigenous people in Alaska after determining they were plundered from graves.
The Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, which oversees museums in the German capital, said Wednesday the burial objects were brought to Berlin in 1882-1884 on commission by the then Royal Museum of Ethnology.
But "everything shows today that the objects stemmed from a grave robbery and not from an approved archaeological dig," said the foundation.
The objects, including two broken masks, a cradle and a wooden idol, were handed over to a representative of the Alaska Chugach people.
"The objects were taken from the graves then without the consent of the indigenous people and were therefore removed unlawfully," said Foundation President Hermann Parzinger.
"As such, they don't belong in our museums," he added.
The Chugach region of southwestern Alaska has been inhabited for thousands of years by the Sugpiaq people, also known as the Alutiiq.
Museums in Europe have been under pressure to return artefacts that had been acquired unlawfully or unethically.
Provenance research in Germany has largely focused on art and artefacts plundered from the Jews during Adolf Hitler's Nazi rule.
But the Prussian foundation has also begun looking into the origins of human remains, including 1,000 skulls mostly from Rwanda, brought to Europe during the colonial era for racial "scientific" research.
© Agence France-Presse


Chilkat Blanket Return.jpg

Chilkat Blanket Return: Myths, Legends and Facts
Highly Publicized Gift to Native American Tribe More Than It Seems
Guest author: Thomas Cleary - May 21, 2018
There are many falsehoods surrounding the collecting of American Indian Art. These myths are often perpetuated by the media and cemented in the minds of an ill-informed public. A more nuanced understanding of the roles certain objects play in Native American culture is therefore necessary.  This brief essay highlights a particular event in which myth, reality and a number of convenient assumptions collided.
On September 25, 2017, an article about an American Indian wearing blanket from the Pacific Northwest Coast – known commonly as a Chilkat blanket – appeared on the KUOW website. It was entitled, “Seattle teen calls out her dad’s Native American art. He learns she’s right.”
The article told the story of an impassioned Seattle high school senior who learned in an art history class that Chilkat blankets were used in ceremonies by Native Americans. She grew concerned that a similar Chilkat blanket, owned by her father and displayed in their home, was an example of theft of another community’s culture – an exploitative example of ‘cultural appropriation.’
The article was quickly picked up on national news and social media.
The Chilkat blanket belonged to a Seattle-based collector, named Bruce Jacobsen. He purchased this Chilkat in the 1990s from a local dealer. In 2017, the story goes, Jacobsen’s daughter convinced her father to give the textile to the Tlingit people. She had seen a similar example in a text book, learned about the textile’s cultural importance and felt that her family was “trespassing on traditional Native culture”.
The Jacobsen’s gift received national media attention and the textile was instantly hailed as “sacred” by its Tlingit recipients. The Jacobsen family was in turn celebrated for doing the “right” thing by returning the blanket. While this was certainly a gracious gesture, was Mr. Jacobsen’s act of buying and owning the Chilkat illegal or unethical? According to Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) – an organization which promotes the preservation of Southeast Alaskan Native Culture – there is certainly an emotionally compelling argument to be made for returning it. (The Tlingit and SHI reclaimed another Chilkat, incidentally, which surfaced on eBay, for which they paid 14,500 dollars.) Sealaska Heritage Institute has been vocal about proclaiming Chilkats as rare, “sacred” cultural heirlooms: objects imbued with the spirits of their ancestors, or “cultural patrimony.”
But, there is another side to this story. These blankets were initially made by the Tsimshian people of Northwest Coast, but the garment was adopted by many surrounding tribes, most notably the prolific Chilkat Tlingits, after whom the textile is named today. Chilkat blankets were status-symbols worn typically by male elites at potlaches and ceremonies. Owning one necessitated incredible wealth, as the blankets take a year to make. Because of their importance, they were sometimes hung outside of grave houses to honor a high-ranking, deceased tribal member.
However, SHI’s claim that Chilkats are somehow “sacred” is misleading. “Sacred” has specific legal connotations under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act which would suggest that Chilkats are deserving of repatriation from federally funded museums. But Chilkat blankets are neither illegal to buy nor illegal to sell in the private sector. They never have been.
Historical accounts dating as far back as the mid-19th century indicate that Chilkats were made for commercial sale. In fact, reports indicate that in the mid-19th century they cost as much as $30 dollars to own. (This substantial sum was close to a year’s pay for an officer in the United States army at that time.)
A collection tag from a late 19th century Chilkat recently acquired by the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, California, indicates not only the name of the wearer, but also that the Chilkat was likely purchased directly from the weaver.
Another Chilkat was bought at a Parisian auction for $27,368 dollars by the Canadian Heritage Fund and then gifted back to the originating tribe. Canadian media asserted this item was “repatriated”. To use the term “repatriated” is misleading, because it implies some sort of wrongful ownership. Rather the textile was bought legally and then donated. It turns out that this textile had documentation which supported the idea that it was made for commercial sale, as the weaver helped to run a trade shop with her Anglo husband.
The irony of all this is that, up until recently, you could buy a contemporary Chilkat directly from the Sealaska Heritage Institute website for eighty dollars.
The Jacobsen Chilkat story illustrates an important paradox surrounding the collecting of American Indian Art. It also highlights the importance of using precise language when we describe these objects.  Was the media right to say the Jacobsen Chilkat was sacred? How can something be sacred if there is substantial evidence to also suggest that the same object type was made for commercial purposes? How do we ethically navigate a confused collecting climate in which an earlier generation of indigenous artists can sell something as a trade object, but a later generation feels justified in reclaiming it later?
There is a long established history of Chilkats being made by Native American artisans for public consumption by both indigenous and non-indigenous buyers. It is for this reason that many Chilkats currently reside in institutions and private collection throughout the country. In many instances, their collection histories date go back into the 19th century. Older examples continue to come on the market from collections and they continue to be sold for various non-traditional purposes.  I have even heard of one that was used as a theatrical prop for an extraterrestrial set at a Hollywood Studio. How are some Chilkats more sacred than others? And which ones deserve to be returned?
In today’s market, Chilkats hardly seem to be the rare or non-marketable specimens that the media has suggested. Since the Jacobsen and eBay Chilkats were returned to the Tlingit, a number of examples have emerged at public auction. A top-tier example sold at Sotheby’s, New York, in November of 2017 for $62,500 dollars; another sold this April at Cowan’s Auctions in Ohio for $23,370. Another is scheduled to be sold at the auction house Skinner’s in Boston on May 5th, with an estimate of $35,000 to $45,000 dollars. Having sold in the past for upwards of $250,000 dollars for masterworks, their reduced sales performance in the marketplace may be due to the erosion of owner confidence related to the highly publicized Jacobsen return.
Antique Indian art is an incredibly expansive field.  Ninety-nine percent of this material falls outside of the scope of either the sacred or the illegal. But it’s the 1% that can sometimes be contentious. In this realm, words like “repatriation”, “sacred”, “illegal”, “stolen”, and “cultural patrimony” can be used without much thought. These terms have very specific meanings. They should be used only where appropriate – not where they mislead. It’s especially important not to use words that imply that a crime exists where it does not.
I wanted to use the example of the Jacobsen Chilkat to highlight the following key idea.
Tribal people, art historians, anthropologists, archaeologists, and sociologists have all weighed in over the decades on how we look and talk about Native American objects. And the debate is ongoing, because it remains unclear as to how we should view these objects: should we treat them as artifacts to be studied to illuminate the past? Should they instead be viewed as the sacred living embodiment of an ongoing cultural heritage?  Or, should these objects be seen as Art?
Equally important: to whom should Native American material belong, particularly when something can be perceived as culturally significant or “sacred”? Whatever your answer, follow it through, and consider the long term consequences, be they legal, academic, as they play a role in Native communities, and as they exemplify a key part of American history.
Thomas Cleary owns Thomas Cleary LLC, a Santa Fe, NM brokerage firm specializing in buying, selling, and appraising American Indian art for private clients and museums. He was formerly Director at H. Malcolm Grimmer in Santa Fe. Cleary has written and spoken prolifically on American Indian art. The excerpt below is a transcribed and edited version of the speech he gave at the School for American Research in Santa Fe, delivered on April 26, 2018.
See a short video on Chilkat weaving from the Smithsonian Museum. And a video of weaving students dancing with their creations.

Top Tribal Art Auction Results Spring 2018

Christies- sale 16282
Sale total 1,986,750
146 lots 121 sold

Mezcala temples.jpg

Christie’s Paris presents the Prigogine Collection of unique Mezcala, Chontal and Olmec artefacts. Important Pre-Columbian works will also be offered in the Arts d’Afrique, d’Océanie, et d’Amérique auction.
The art of Mezcala and Chontal, from the mountainous region of Guerrero, Mexico, is known for its stone sculptures including animal effigies, masks, architectural models and most specifically, figurines dating from 300 to 100 BC. Little is known about these people, their language or the intended purpose of their artefacts. Like many Mesoamerican cultures, they were most probably ritual offerings for the hereafter.
Nobel Laureate Ilya Prigogine and his wife Maryna started acquiring a variety of Mezcala, Chontal and Olmec works in the mid-1960s. The collection, carefully assembled over the course of 30 years, comprises 149 lots and is curated by the renowned Mezcala art scholar Carlo Gay. Many of the sculptures on offer have appeared in major Pre-Columbian art publications as well as several international exhibitions.
A conference about the Collection will be given on 5 April by Arthur Alex, Publishing Director of Tribal Art Magazine.


Important personage Debout (lot 80)
estimate -EUR65,000-85,000
Price realized EUR 439,500

Personnage Debout (lot 77)
EUR 30,000-40,000
Price Realized- EUR162,500

Personnage Debout (lot 83)
EUR 30,000-50,000
Price realized-EUR 162,500



Auction 16150-lot 12.jpg

Christies sale 16150
Sale total incluing buyers premium USD 1,754,250
13 lots,  6 lots sold

Highest lot- The Coray-Kerchache Kota-nadassa Reliquary Figure (lot 12)
Estimate- USD 900,000 1,500,000
Price Realized 972,500

The Bouffard Guro Mask (lot 3)
Estimate 150,000-250,000
Price realized 480,000


The Penot Nalawan mask (lot 1)
Est 60,000-90,000
Price realized- 56,250
 -sold lower than estimated



Auction 16061- Lot 91.jpg

Christies sale 16061
Sale total including buyer’s premium EUR8,349,875
91 lots- 63 sold

Tabwa Mask
Est- On request (lot 91)
Price Realized- EUR 2,913,750

A Fang Reliquary Figure (lot 53)
Est- EUR 1,500,000-2,500,000
Price Realized- 2,632,500



Auction 9855- lot 16.jpg

Sotheby’s 09855
Sale Total-USD 8,399,125
29 lots – 27 sold
A lot sold way over the estimated price

This superb collection of 29 objects, formed over the last 50 years by the New York couple Howard and Saretta Barnet, is comprised of masterpieces of African, Oceanic, Pre-Columbian, and American Indian Art, alongside Classical and Near Eastern Antiquities.
Covering an astonishing span of time and geographic range, the collection synthesizes widely disparate human cultures into a universal aesthetic of beauty.  Each work is of exceptionally high quality, many have been extensively published and exhibited and are icons of their respective genres.
Following the highly successful auctions “The Color of Beauty”, which presented the contemporary paintings from the Barnet collection last fall, and “The Line of Beauty”, which presented their extraordinary collection of Old Master Drawings in January 2018, Sotheby’s is delighted to conclude the series with The Shape of Beauty, paying tribute to the unique vision of Howard and Saretta Barnet, and providing an unmatched opportunity for today’s collectors.

Auction 9855- Lot 10.jpg

Fang-Mvai Ancestor Statue by Master of Ntem (lot 16)
Est- USD 3,000,000-5,000,000
Sold- 3,495,000

Shaman’s Mask (lot 10)
EST- 300,000- 500,000
Sold- 1,515,000

Olmec Mask Fragment (lot 12)
EST- 200,000-300,000






Sotheby’s sale 09856
Sale total 3,402,000
90 lots- 89 lots sold

Auction 9856-lot 122.jpg

Our annual various-owners auction in New York will include a curated selection of the arts of primary cultures from around the world, including important sculpture from sub-Saharan Africa, the Pacific Islands, ancient Mesoamerica and North America. The auction is timed to coincide with the marquee week of Contemporary Art and Impressionist and Modern Art auctions in New York, in a celebration of the historical connections and aesthetic affinities that the arts of these cultures share with modern and contemporary art.  The auction on May 14 will immediately follow The Shape of Beauty: Sculpture from the Collection of Howard and Saretta Barnet.


Pole Club (lot 122)
Est- 200,000-300,000
Sold 399,000

Dogon-Tintam Statue (lot 158)
EST- 250,000- 350,000



Skinner Sale 3099B
Sale total – not sure
384 lots- not sure how many sold
All three of the highlights mentioned by skinner which were lots 78,132, and 328 were not sold
The highest bid was 39,975 but the sale prices declined significantly from there

Our May American Indian & Ethnographic Art auction features three significant collections of African art, the Richard Newman collection of Akan goldweights, the Arnold Crane collection of African sculpture and metalwork, and the Mauricio Lasansky collection of African art which includes a significant group of Ivory Coast figures and masks; as well as an important Songye power figure from the Jean-Marie Biebuyck collection in Boston. The auction also features a wide range of American Indian art, from weavings, pottery, and baskets to beadwork from the Plains and Eastern Woodlands. Also on offer is a Chilkat robe from the Northwest Coast and a number of interesting Eskimo artifacts from Alaska including an early Yup’ik seal gut parka.

Auction 3099b - lot 291.jpg

Fine Plains Catlinite Stem and Bowl (lot 291)
Est- 15,000-20,000
Sold 39,975

Punu-Lumbo Female Reliquary Figure (lot 155)
Est- 8,000-12,000

Hemba Male Figure (lot 241)
Est- 25,000-35,000
Sold – 22,140

Hemba Knife (lot 152)
Est- 2,500-3,500


On Exhibition Spring 2018

First written treaty between the U.S. and a Native American Nation on view at the American Indian Museum

Treaty between US and a Native American Nation.jpg

WASHINGTON, DC.- The first written treaty between the United States and an Indian Nation, the Treaty with the Delawares, 1778, is on display at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. The original document, on loan from the National Archives and Records Administration, will be on view through September as a part of the exhibition “Nation to Nation: Treaties Between the United States and American Indian Nations.”
In an effort to gain support for the Patriot cause, the Continental Congress of the United States dispatched U.S. treaty commissioners to negotiate a treaty of peace, friendship and alliance with the Lenape (Delaware), whose lands were strategically located between present-day Pittsburgh and British-held Detroit. Among other things, the treaty asked that the Delawares provide safe passage for American troops across their tribal lands in exchange for the recognition of Delaware sovereignty and the option of joining other pro-American Indian nations to form a 14th state with representation in Congress. Three Lenape leaders, White Eyes, John Kill Buck Jr. (also spelled Killbuck) and Pipe, signed the treaty Sept. 17, 1778, at Fort Pitt. Eleven Americans, most of whom were military officers, witnessed the signing. Ultimately, many Delawares ended up supporting the British in the War of Independence. Yet the treaty set an important precedent for U.S.–Indian diplomacy. Henceforth, the U.S. would deal with Native Nations as it did with other sovereign nations: through written treaties.
Displaying original treaties in “Nation to Nation” is made possible by the National Archives, an exhibition partner. Several of the treaties required extensive conservation treatment by the National Archives’ conservator prior to loan. There are a total of over 370 ratified Indian treaties in the National Archives. The next treaty to go on display at the National Museum of the American Indian will be the Fort Laramie Treaty with the Sioux, 1868, in fall 2018.
The treaty currently on display is the Treaty between the United States Government and the Navajo Indians Signed at Fort Sumner, New Mexico Territory, June 1, 1868. This treaty allowed the Navajo people to return to their original homelands in the Four Corners region, where Navajo Nation is based to this day. The document has been on display since Feb. 20, 2018. This treaty will be on loan to the Navajo Nation Museum in Window Rock, Arizona, for the month of June.

Auctions Coming Soon! Spring 2018

sothebys 6.13.18 auction.jpg

Arts d'Afrique et d'Océanie
13 JUNE 2018,  4:00 PM CEST ,  PARIS

Following the success of the last auction in December, Sotheby’s Paris is pleased to announce the next dedicated sale of important African and Oceanic artworks from various collections. The sale will take place in Paris on 13th June. Each work, whether unpublished or well known, has been carefully selected to celebrate the infinite richness of styles and the tremendous artistic genius of the anonymous sculptors from these regions who so deeply influenced 20th century artists.
From Papua New Guinea to Polynesia, from Côte d’Ivoire to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the artworks in this group, each chosen for their remarkable artistic qualities, will emphasize the ravishing and creative interpretation of the artist, their impressive sculptural achievements and their eloquent aesthetic sensibility. Each lot will form a dialogue between strength and sensitivity, stylistic archaism and innovation, and individual genius and the influence of traditional canons.

4 Jun 2018, starting at 11:00 PDT .
Los Angeles

Brian Lebels old west events
June 23-24, 2018
 At the Santa Fe Community Convention Center

Journalist Accused of Stealing! Spring 2018

NYT journalist accused of stealing.jpg

Whose Truth? NYT Journalist Accused of Stealing Cultural Property
CPN Series on Censorship: How A Group of International Scholars Supported Government’s Right to Control History
CCP Staff - May 22, 2018
Recently, a series of investigative reports in the New York Times by foreign correspondent Rukmini Callimachi has prompted acclaim by most and criticism by a few for her use of abandoned documents recording the non-military activities of ISIS in their occupied territories. Interestingly, some of the loudest criticisms of the Times’ publication of this original source material have come from The Middle East Studies Association (MESA) Committee for Academic Freedom.
After ISIS abandoned the city of Mosul, in Iraq, they left behind thousands of documents from their time as occupiers of the city. Callimachi travelled to the city in 2017 to collect those documents, in order to understand how ISIS had held onto the region for so long. These papers record the administrative and bureaucratic activities that sustained an army of terrorists and helped to keep their conquered territories in order and under control. Academic analysis has focused less on the nature of the information and its usefulness in understanding ISIS, and more on how the papers have been used by the Times and who really owns them and should have possession.  Some critics have asserted that only the current Iraqi government has the right to define the “Iraqi narrative,” a not-so-oblique alternative descriptor for “the history of Iraq.”
The information Callimachi collected has overturned false claims about ISIS’ funding sources repeatedly made in the press in the past (including in the New York Times).  To give an example hugely pertinent to cultural property issues, these false claims – that the sale in looted antiquities from Iraq and Syria brought in hundreds of millions of dollars to ISIS’ coffers – continue to be used to establish public policy hostile the collecting of ancient art of all kinds. Heavily publicized but unsubstantiated claims about the art trade have resulted in blanket bans on the importation of Middle Eastern antiquities to the US and other countries, and have been repeatedly cited in attacks on the character and practices of antiquities dealers, collectors, and museums. Callimachi’s discoveries provide new evidence of the groundlessness of claims that the antiquities trade can be blamed for funding terrorism.
No other journalist or academic, in or outside of Iraq, has done the work that Callimachi did to bring the facts about ISIS’ administration and funding to light.
The Middle East Studies Association Committee for Academic Freedom argued that although Callimachi was given permission by the Iraqi officials she traveled with to take the documents, the people who gave her permission were not the proper authorities, and that removal of documents from Iraq is contrary to Iraqi law.
It is true that Iraq has a domestic law on antiquities, the Law No. 55 of 2002 for the Antiquities and Heritage of Iraq. This law prohibits removal not only of what is commonly thought of as “antiquities” but also has a classification called “Heritage Material,” which consists of “the movable and immovable property, less than 200 years of age, possessing a historical, national, religious and artistic value.” And this law states, under Article 18, that a Heritage Manuscript, although allowed to be sold, should not be published without permission of the Antiquity Authority. Reading further in Iraqi heritage law, it is clear that a manuscript, under the law at least, means an antique manuscript. (See the IFAR Country Summary for Iraq, a subscription resource.) The text of the law gives no clue whether recent administrative documents from ISIS warehouses fit the category of “Heritage Material.”
More alarming, is that the Middle East Studies Association Committee for Academic Freedom appears to be arguing that not only do the documents Callimachi was given belong to the government of Iraq, but also that her actions are ethically and morally wrong because the government of Iraq – and the scholars it approves of – are the only legitimate arbiters and narrators of the history of Iraq.
MESA states: “removing these documents from Iraq, with no clear plans to return them to a repository that will be accessible to all Iraqis, once again empowers outsiders to unduly influence, or even control, the narration of Iraq’s history.” (CPN’s emphasis.)
There is more at stake here than the reputation of the antiquities market, or the details of ISIS’ funding system; the dispute over these documents raises challenges to journalists’ and historians’ mission to report the truth, without fear or favor.
SIS Funding Comes from Taxes, Not Oil or Art
After ISIS abandoned Mosul in 2017, Rukmini Callimachi made 5 separate trips to the region to collect the records from the city’s time under Islamic State rule. After working with outside experts to verify their authenticity and analyzing each of the 15,000 documents, the New York Times’ team came to a surprising conclusion: “It was daily commerce and agriculture — not petroleum — that powered the economy of the caliphate.”
According to Callimachi’s article The ISIS Files, ISIS had created a highly efficient bureaucracy by taking the existing infrastructure and its employees and compelling them by threats of violence to return to their regular work and do their jobs. In addition, they instituted a tax, fee, rental and fine system on almost every aspect of daily life, meticulously recording every transaction. The surviving records describe “how the militants monetized every inch of territory they conquered, taxing every bushel of wheat, every liter of sheep’s milk and every watermelon sold at markets they controlled.”
ISIS’s strict interpretation of Islam gave them grounds to confiscate all manner of real estate and personal property from non-Sunni inhabitants of the occupied regions, chiefly Shi’a Muslims and Christians. The property they confiscated was sold or rented to benefit the Islamic State’s income stream – or given to ISIS fighters as rewards.
The United States-led coalition against ISIS had long operated under the assumption that the Islamic State was funded by oil. As part of their strategy, oil installations were routinely bombed. Callimachi’s work has revealed why that strategy failed, “The group drew its income from so many strands of the economy that airstrikes alone were not enough to cripple it.”
Although one of the documents found, which listed some new administrative departments created by ISIS, mentioned one dedicated to looting antiquities, the remainder of the documents paint a picture of an army funded chiefly by the appropriation of non-Sunni homes and the imposition of heavy taxes on all economic activity and private property. Callimachi’s article makes no mention of any of ISIS’ income coming from black-market antiquities deals.
Comments on Callimachi’s reporting in her New York Times articles have been overwhelmingly positive – with a few notable exceptions.
The Middle East Studies Association (MESA) Objects
The Middle East Studies Association (MESA) is a non-profit organization, whose mission is to support scholarship on the Middle East, protect and promote independent research, and encourage cross-cultural interaction, understanding, and intellectual collaboration.
MESA’s Committee on Academic Freedom’s stated goals are to “foster the free exchange of knowledge as a human right and to inhibit infringements on that right by government restrictions on scholars.” MESA does this by “monitor[ing] infringements on academic freedom on the Middle East and North Africa world wide. Such infringements include governmental refusal to allow scholars to conduct scholarly research, publish their findings, deliver academic lectures, and travel to international scholarly meetings.”
These are all worthwhile goals, particularly in light of the consistent oppression of academics in Middle Eastern countries over the last thirty years. Matthew Schwitzer’s 2013 Al Jazeera article The Destruction of Iraq’s intellectuals discusses the shocking decline of academic institutions in that country since the imposition of international sanctions in 1990. After the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 there was some hope that the universities would be restored, but according to Schwitzer, conditions for intellectuals went from bad to worse. Universities were looted, libraries were burned, and professors were increasingly restricted in what they could teach, some even killed to keep them silent.
However, this MESA Committee on Academic Freedom is now, confusingly, objecting to Callimachi’s study of the ISIS documents. They feel that Callimachi should not have taken the documents from the country, and that her use of the documents for journalistic investigation infringes on the right of the Iraqi government and Iraqi scholars to be the arbiters of Iraqi history. This raises two key questions, one about access to research materials and the other about censorship by governments.
For the sake of a free and accurate press, and for academic freedom, researchers must have access to original sources. It is a journalistic maxim – and an academic one as well – that you are only as good as your sources. Callimachi’s article – whose findings impact not only our understanding of recent Iraqi history, but will likely shape future strategies in the fight against terrorism and insurgencies – could not have been written without the documents she has been criticized for appropriating.
Allowing any government, whether democratic or dictatorial, stable or tottering, to assume control of scholarly research has historically proven to be disastrous for the freedom of its people. Nevertheless, MESA argues that “representatives of the Iraqi state, and certainly not foreign journalists … should control the disposition of any documents.” In war zones, surely the first priority should be to secure any documents safely, and to get quick use of the information they contain, not to apply for permission from a government bureau before undertaking standard journalistic investigation.
MESA’s letter also made the point that the publication of images of many of these documents, without redacting the names and personal information of the Iraqis mentioned, could endanger human lives. It does appear that the New York Times chose carefully which documents to publish online, and which to withhold from immediate public view. Caution is warranted, but MESA’s argument, that Iraq will protect its citizens while the Times will not, is a bad one.
The Iraqi government has long condoned through inaction the oppression, torture and extrajudicial killings of its citizens by various police, military and paramilitary groups. The notion that Iraqi ‘collaborators’ with ISIS will somehow be safer from reprisals if the Iraq government had possession of the documents is absurd.
The whole world has benefited from the work of foreign researchers studying the histories of other countries, other periods, and other cultures. Certainly academics can criticize the method through which information was brought to light but they should not restrict the interpretation or who can interpret the information. MESA’s position on this matter seems directly contrary to its stated purpose: to “foster the free exchange of knowledge as a human right.”
Access to researchers is crucial. Although the New York Times has said they are “working to make the trove of ISIS documents publicly available to researchers, scholars, Iraqi officials and anyone else looking to better understand the Islamic State,” one of MESA’s points is well taken. If Iraqi access to the trove is not ensured through digitization or some other means of access, it will leave a gap in the understanding of Iraq’s history. MESA has noted that other U.S. institutions have taken archival material from Iraq for safekeeping and have not yet returned the material or made it available online. The Times promises to do a better job, and all eyes will be on it.
Some US holders of documents, particularly the US military, have failed to provide access to researchers. Others, such as the Hoover Institution’s collection of Baath Party archives are fully accessible to scholars, and because of their political nature would not likely have been made available if held in Iraq. Nor has Iraq a positive history of digitizing historical documents – or granting access to international scholars.
MESA’s letter also fails to note the Iraqi government’s history of denying rights of access to scholars because they are viewed as political enemies. For decades, this has been the fate of Jewish scholars who wanted to study artifacts held in Iraq. It also fails to mention the example of the treatment of the Iraqi Jewish Archives, which consisted of documents of ordinary life as well as religious texts that were seized one midnight in the early 1980s from a Baghdad synagogue housing them for safekeeping from anti-Jewish forces. These archives were rescued by U.S. forces from a flooded basement in a building of the Iraqi secret police.  They were brought to the US, conserved, and digitized by the US National Archives. There are no Jews left in Iraq, but its government wants these papers back, supposedly because the government wants them to “tell the history of Iraq.” Are such promises to be believed, when past promises to Iraq’s forcibly expelled Jewish community have been broken every time? Will Iraq’s government honestly answer the questions, “Why are there no more Jews in Iraq?” “What happened to them?”, when the true answers are so shameful?
How did the media get ISIS’ funding so wrong?
In a Marketplace® edited transcript of a conversation between host Kai Ryssdal and Rukmini Callimachi, The ISIS regime you’ve never seen, Kai poses the question: “How did we get the financing so wrong and think that it was all oil?”
Callimachi responded: “It’s just that this idea of the black market oil, I think it really captured the imagination. It seemed to fit what people thought of this group. You know, this big, bad group that is doing criminal things. So it was black market oil smuggling, it was ransoms for hostages. People were obsessed with these exotic forms of financing. And in fact, it was just something much more mundane: It was the dirt under their feet, the people that they controlled who were forced to pay taxes and the commerce that those people generated, which in turn was also taxed.”
The same is true of the exotic and ill-founded claim that ISIS was funded by selling antiquities. It may simply be the power of repetition, and the lure of a juicy story, that has led to the wide acceptance of the assertion that oil and antiquities are funding ISIS, without any hard and fast evidence. Once a seemingly creditable article cited an outrageous (and therefore exciting) number for the ISIS profits made off antiquities, it was probably inevitable that so many followed.
See a major report by Cultural Property News, Bearing False Witness: The Media, ISIS and Antiquities, December 1, 2017, another Cultural Property News’ article Facts on Terrorism and the Art Trade August 24, 2017, and also an independent report commissioned by the Dutch National Police, Central Investigation Unit, War Crimes Unit entitled Cultural Property, War Crimes and Islamic State which challenge and discount the media’s dominant ‘antiquities looting funds terrorism’ narrative.
These more credible analyses have largely debunked the myth that the antiquities trade funded ISIS. Now, thanks to Rukmini Callimachi, we know the real key to ISIS’ financial success came through the efficient and brutal management of their taxation bureaucracy, something we might never have known if the documents had stayed in Iraq. Callimachi’s article provides another refutation of the false claims of ties between terrorists and large-scale antiquities smuggling, and a stirring examples of the importance of a free press and of scholarly research, unfettered by government restrictions or bureaucratic repression of primary source material.

Neolithic Chinese Jade Ritual Vessel. Spring 2018

5000 Yr old Chinese jade ritual vessel.jpg

5,000 year old jade ritual vessel tops Bonhams Hong Kong Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art Sale
HONG KONG.- Bonhams Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art auction on 29 May in Hong Kong got off to a remarkable start with the sale of a very rare archaic jade ritual cong vessel from the Liangzhu Culture (3,300 to 2,250 BC) dating back to the Neolithic Period, which was sold for a staggering HK$21,700,000 (US$2,765,886) against a low estimate of HK$3,000,000 to HK$4,000,000 (US$380,000-510,000).
In a crowded saleroom, the auctioneer hammered the lot following frenzied bidding from in the room and on the phone. The important vessel returns to its original area, as it was bought by a collector from Hangzhou, the location of the Liangzhu Culture.
Xibo Wang, Head of the Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art department, Bonhams Hong Kong said, “While there was strong interest from collectors in this piece, the outcome surpassed all our expectations. However, it is not surprising, considering its rarity and exceptional craftsmanship, which is particularly notable in the very delicate and precise quality of the carving and incised decoration, enhanced by the lustrous patina formed on the surface over thousands of years.”
The sale’s 63 lots totalled HK$88,142,500 (US$11,232,440), including premium, and achieved 80% sold by lot. The rare ceramics and works of art represented the breadth and depth of China’s cultural heritage from the Neolithic Period to the Qing Dynasty, including important private collections formed in Europe and Asia.
Asaph Hyman, Global Head, Chinese Art, commented, “Bonhams has successfully built a strong reputation for the quality of its sales in Asia. We have realised strong prices and selling rates for our sellers and offered important and rare objects for our buyers, superbly researched and presented in our catalogue and when on display. We are grateful to the continuous support of the global collectors and their appreciation of the outstanding Chinese works of art on offer, including some of the best of Chinese artistic history.”
Another prized object among collectors was the front cover lot – an exceptional Imperial white jade ‘phoenix’ vessel, gong, Qianlong (1736-1795), which sold for HK$11,140,000 (US$1,419,906) against a pre-sale estimate of HK$8,000,000-12,000,000 (US$1,000,000-1,500,000). The vessel masterfully inspired by archaic bronze forms can be numbered amongst the very finest jade carvings made during the Qianlong reign, in line with the Emperor’s personal taste.
An unusual European private collection consisted mainly of carved jade boats and rafts. The collection was formed in the 1930s-1950s and has not been seen on the market since it was formed. The highlight of the collection was a magnificent Imperial white jade carving of Zhang Qian on a raft, incised with Qianlong seal mark and of the period (1736-1795). After fierce bidding, it was finally secured by an Asian collector, selling for HK$7,540,000 (US$961,049) against an estimate of HK$1,200,000-1,500,000 (US$150,000-190,000).
Key highlights from the auction included:
• A large gilt-bronze figure of Guanyin and Shancai from the 17th century, which achieved HK$6,100,000 (US$ 777,507) (estimate at HK$5,000,000-8,000,000/US$640,000-1,000,000);
• A very fine and rare white jade carving of two boats from 18th/19th century, which made HK$3,700,000 (US$471,602) (estimate at HK$500,000-800,000/US$64,000-100,000).
Upcoming auctions will take place in San Francisco with Fine Asian Works of Art on 26 June and Asian Decorative Works of Art on 27 June; and in New York with Fine Chinese Snuff Bottles on 10 September.

Artemis Gallery Sale Spring 2018

Artemis Gallery sale surveys Pacific Northwest Coast, Pre-Columbian and tribal art

Artemis gallery sale-dance mask.jpg

BOULDER, COLO.- Ancient ceremonial objects, masterfully carved and painted mythical figures, and other fascinating cultural artworks will take center stage on May 24 at Artemis Gallery’s Northwest Pacific Coast, Tribal and Pre-Columbian Art auction. The fully curated offering of 341 lots features prized holdings that were privately amassed over many years by respected collector and dealer Joseph Alphabet. Start time is 10 a.m. Eastern, with Internet live bidding available through LiveAuctioneers.
The stunning beauty of pieces created by Native-American peoples of the Pacific Northwest sets the tone for this sale of colorful, extremely high-quality art. Among the most visually appealing entries is an early 20th-century Haida painted, carved-wood helmet. It is topped by a three-dimensional stylized wolf with a collar of silvery fur and bares a tooth-filled mouth. Most recently part of a Newport Beach, California, private collection, it is estimated at $1,850-$2,750.
A fabulous figural pairing, either Tlingit or Haida in origin, consists of a three-dimensional Potlach Ceremony frog-form hat and matching Janus-form rattler. “The Tlingit have great respect for frogs and believe they bring good luck and fortune,” explained Teresa Dodge, managing director of Artemis Galleries. This particular duo, painted in a gorgeous peacock-blue color with red, yellow and black accents, was exhibited at the 1910 Vancouver (Canada) World’s Fair. Estimate: $3,250-$5,000
Several totem poles are offered from the featured collection, including a huge (27.5in high by 24in wide) example from the Namgis subgroup of the Kwakwaka’wakw or Nimpkish, peoples of Yalis (Alert Bay), British Columbia. This majestic 20th-century artwork displays an eagle with wings spread atop a grizzly bear that holds a rival chief in his paws. Its auction estimate is $3,000-$5,000.
A collecting category of greatly increasing interest is the art and relics of Oceania, including Papua New Guinea, New Zealand, Tahiti, Hawaii and other Pacific islands. The exceptional array of handcrafted pieces in the May 24 sale includes ancient Hawaiian basalt adzes (circa 1400) used for cutting, smoothing and carving wood; as well as many later objects of the 18th and 19th century.
An especially important Oceanic artwork is an ornately carved 20th-century Maori oyster-shell pectoral that was presented to the legendary Hawaiian swimmer and five-time Olympic medalist Duke Kahanamoku (1890-1968) during a visit to New Zealand. Kahanamoku, who is forever known as “The Big Kahuna,” is credited with having popularized the sport of surfing. Presented on a custom stand, the pectoral is expected to make $2,500-$4,000.
Poi is a staple of the South Pacific island diet, and the implement used to point taro root to prepare poi was a revered implement to Tahitians of the 17th to 19th centuries CE. A rare and outstanding example of a poi pounder, Lot 28A, is made of volcanic stone and has a beautiful, smooth surface from centuries of use. It is estimated at $3,600-$5,000.
A fine selection of African carved figures, masks, vessels and beads is highlighted by a Mbulenga female figure from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lulua peoples. Carved from single piece of hardwood and standing 10.25 inches high, it dates to around the late-19th or early 20th century CE. The pre-sale estimate is $4,500-$6,000.
Intriguing and certainly unusual in that its mandible is articulated, a late-19th-century African Dan-Wobe face mask was hand-carved from hard wood and features an enormous nose, large bulging eyes with narrow slit-form openings, and conical cheek protrusions.
“The Dan people, who occupy portions of Liberia and Cote d’Ivoire, traditionally produced masks reflecting nearly every occasion or significant aspect of their society, including education, war, peace, and entertainment,” Dodge noted. “Dan artisans, when crafting these masks, looked to the natural world for inspiration because such masks were created to connect the owner with a specific spirit believed to offer guidance and protection.” The auction example is estimated at $2,000-$3,000.
Pre-Columbian art from a variety of Central and South American cultures takes pride of place in the May 24 auction. A set of superb Nayarit (western Mexico) matched male and female terracotta shaft-tomb figures, circa 300 BCE to 300 CE, displays vibrant colors and tripodal construction. The same open-eyed expression is shown on both faces, but there is little historical information to confirm exactly what figures of this type were meant to represent, e.g., were they religiously connected, mediators between the living and the dead, effigies of actual humans, etc.? “Whatever their purpose, they are beautiful artworks and reminders of a mysterious culture,” said Dodge. Estimate: $3,750-$5,000
A prime example of silver artistry, a matching pair of Sican/Lambayeque (north coast of Peru) silver keros or beakers dates to circa 750-1370 CE and has a total weight of 76.6 grams. Each kero has a gently flared rim and is decorated with a band of seabirds and heads of Lambayeque founder Naymlap in relief. Such vessels were used to drink “chichi,” a fermented beverage used in religious and ritual ceremonies. Estimate: $8,000-$12,000
A small but select grouping of fine art includes some real gems, like a circa-1840 Karl Bodmer (Swiss-born, 1809-1893) original hand-colored aquatint engraving titled Woman of the Snake Tribe, Woman of the Cree Tribe. It comes from the atlas to the journal of Prince Maximilian of Wied’s Travels in the Interior of North America, published 1839-1842. From a Colorado private collection, the engraved double portrait is cataloged with extensive background information and a $2,000-$3,000 estimate. Also noteworthy are a signed and dated (1949) Dan Lelooska Smith painting on cloth depicting Warren “Lefty Wild Eagle” Warren Sr., of the Chemawa tribe, $950-$1,400; and D.F. Barry’s (American, 1854-1934) cased photo portfolio titled Custer, Prominent Military Structures, And The Men Who Fought the Sioux Wars, 124/150, $1,000-$1,500. “The images seen in the Barry photo portfolio, which is complete, will never again be reproduced, because the Denver Public Library, which has had the Barry negative collection since 1934, retired the use of the original negatives upon completing the 1982 edition,” Dodge said.
Absentee and Internet live bidding for Artemis Gallery’s Thursday, May 24 auction will be available through LiveAuctioneers.com. All auction lots will transfer with a gallery COA. Artemis Gallery unconditionally guarantees each item it sells to be “as described” in the catalog and legal to purchase, own and, if desired, resell. For additional information, call Teresa Dodge at 720-890-7700 or email teresa@artemisgallery.com.

Allen Stone Sale Spring 2018

Tribal art from the renowned collection of Allan Stone to be sold at Rago

Stone sale Fiji.jpg

LAMBERTVILLE, NJ.- Rago Auctions announced a sale of Tribal Arts from the Collection of Allan Stone to be held on Friday, October 19, 2018. Vetted and catalogued by John Buxton, the sale encompasses 300+ lots, mostly African in origin, but also Oceanic, Asian, North and South American. Selected property from various other owners is also included. The catalog will be available in print and online in early September. Exhibition begins on October 13. Bidding by phone, left bid, in-room and online.
This sale exemplifies Rago's commitment to serving not only dedicated collectors, but also sophisticated buyers of fine art and design. Our international clientele mixes contemporary and classic, ancient and modern in their homes and offices, and values tribal works as both material culture and sculptural objects.
"It's always a privilege to offer artworks from the Collection of Allan Stone. Stone was one of the great collectors of the 20th century. Tribal arts was one of his passions." said David Rago, "This sale continues a long and successful relationship, with Rago representing property from Stone’s collection across multiple categories. We're eager to bring this sale to market."
Among the sale's highlights: The Flores Island couple featured as the frontispiece in The Eloquent Dead: Ancestral Sculpture of Indonesia and Southeast Asia; a well-known Fiji Island figure with provenance to the James Hooper Collection, along with other important artifacts from Melanesia and Polynesia; many fine objects from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, notable among them a Kongo nail fetish collected between 1907 and 1909 and an important Songe kifwebe mask; a Royal Bamileke sculpture; a fine Lobala drum; and an important Igbo totemic Ikenga post.
Over the course of 50 years, the eminent art dealer and collector Allan Stone amassed an art collection unrivaled in diversity and depth. A self-proclaimed ‘art-junkie’, Stone was neither influenced by money nor swayed by opinion in the pursuit of art. He collected work that spoke to him. Stone was an early supporter and recognized authority on Abstract Expressionism, but this was hardly his only focus; Stone’s tastes were famously wide-ranging. He was equally drawn to photorealism, junk sculpture, tribal and folk art and Americana as well as Bugatti automobiles - all of which he exhibited in his gallery.

stone sale luba mask.jpg

World Art News-Vandalism and Record Breaking Sales! Spring 2018

rockefeller collection record smashing.jpg


Rockefeller Collection sold for record-smashing $832 million
NEW YORK (AFP).- In what was billed as the "sale of the century," the art collection of Peggy and David Rockefeller, comprising 1,500 pieces, sold at auction for a record-breaking $832.5 million, Christie's said Friday.
The figure eclipsed the previous record held by the collection of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Berge which sold for $484 million in 2009.
Coming after the extraordinary $450 million sale last November of Leonardo da Vinci's "Salvator Mundi," also at Christie's, there had been some speculation that the billion dollar threshold could be crossed by this sale.
Organized over 10 days, including online sales, it nonetheless broke numerous records, testament to the rude health of the global art market.
The collection's crown jewel was auctioned Tuesday for $115 million, the sixth most expensive ever sold: Pablo Picasso's "La fillette a la corbeille fleurie," a part of the Rockefeller Collection since 1968.
Claude Monet's "Nympheas en fleurs" fetched $84.6 million, a new record for the French impressionist master, surpassing a previous high of $81.4 million.
The auction also saw a record breaking sale for Henri Matisse's "Odalisque couchée aux magnolias," which went for $80.7 million.
Latin American art meanwhile also hit a new peak with the sale of Diego Rivera's "Los Rivales" for $9.7 million, a new record for art from the region.
David Rockefeller, the grandson of the legendary magnate John Rockefeller, died last year aged 101, more than 20 years after the death of his wife Peggy.
He had embraced his family's tradition of philanthropy and inherited his taste in art from his mother, who co-founded New York's Museum of Modern Art.
The proceeds will go to a series of nonprofit organizations, including David Rockefeller's alma mater Harvard University, as well as Maine National Park, which was beloved by the family and to which he donated a thousand acres for his 100th birthday.
© Agence France-Presse


New York Art Sales near 3 Billion.jpg

New York art sales near $3 billion in two weeks as uber-rich hunt trophies

NEW YORK (AFP).- Global buyers have dropped nearly $3 billion on art in New York in two weeks, a record haul rooted in a billionaire thirst for trophies, Chinese purchasing power and growing diversification.
Christie's chalked up $1.79 billion in sales, including every single item from the iconic collection of the late David and Peggy Rockefeller which, for the first time, spread their flagship May sales across two weeks.
Sotheby's sold $859 million, including $157.2 million for a Modigliani nude -- the most expensive lot of the season, after Christie's last November smashed records by selling a single Leonardo da Vinci for $450.3 million.
"It's colossal. It really is huge and especially after the dip of 2016," says Georgina Adam, author of the "Dark Side of the Boom: The Excesses of the Art Market in the 21st Century."
"It's long as the auction houses have really managed to do their marketing very well and reach a big audience of collectors, the top end of the market is still doing very well," says Rachel Pownall, a professor of finance at Maastricht University School of Business and Economics.
Christie's sold the Rockefeller collection for $832.5 million, breaking the previous record for most expensive private collection -- that of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Berge which went for $484 million in 2009.
The Rockefellers' jewels included a $115 million Picasso, the seventh most expensive artwork sold at auction, and new auction records for work by Claude Monet at $84.6 million and Henri Matisse at $80.7 million.
"The Rockefeller did have an influence. Those were very, very good works and they had this really fantastic provenance," Adam said. "I think that sort of set the scene for the whole week."
'Diddy' wins
The 21st century art market is a global one.
Christie's said 38 countries and six continents took part in its Post-war and Contemporary Evening Sale, which scored seven world auction records for lesser-known artists such as Richard Diebenkorn and Joan Mitchell.
Sotheby's sale of Kerry James Marshall's "Past Times" for $21.1 million set a record for Marshall and any living African American artist. Rap mogul Sean "Diddy" Combs was identified as the buyer by Marshall's dealer.
"There's more diversity occurring in the market, which is great," says Pownall. "If you're finding more diversity in the buyers, then they're also looking for more diversity in who they're buying," she added.
The super-rich invest in art as a status symbol but also to make money, hoping for big returns on their down payment.
The 1917 Modigliani "Nu Couche (sur le cote gauche)" for example, sold for $157.2 million but had been bought by its seller for $26.9 million in 2003.
"People who spend serious money on this generally didn't become rich by being stupid," says Jean-Paul Engelen, co-head of 20th-century and contemporary art at the much smaller auction house Phillips.
The US market is still the biggest, but new money from China is moving in and their aggressive bidding helps to push prices up.
Sotheby's said a quarter of all works sold at its Impressionist and Modern Evening Sale were acquired by Asian private collectors. Christie's said 40 percent of buyers at its own Modern Evening Sale were from Asia.
Trophy assets
Big names -- namely Picasso, Monet and Van Gogh -- are the most coveted, giving what Adam calls a "bragging aspect" to acquisitions.
"We have very, very rich people fighting over a few trophy assets, a few what they call 'blue-chip' artists," she told AFP.
A strong market means improving supply, as sellers look to capitalize.
"We see... our clients responding to things that are completely fresh to the market, and that have been owned and loved for many, many years," said Sara Friedlander, Christie's head of postwar and contemporary art in New York.
"There's tremendous appetite," acknowledged Simon Shaw, co-head of impressionist and modern art at Sotheby's.
But the market as a whole has deviated little over the last 10 years. While the top lots fetch astronomical prices, Adam warns the bottom is falling out of the $50,000-500,000 bracket.
Professional and banker buyers are being priced out, no longer able to afford the art they admire.
"We are seeing is the closure of the mid-market galleries and this is really quite serious," she warned.
© Agence France-Presse


Vandalised Ivan the Terrible Painting.jpg

Russian police arrest man who vandalised Ivan the Terrible painting
MOSCOW (AFP).- Russian police on Saturday said they arrested a man for vandalising one of the best known works of 19th century painter Ilya Repin, depicting Ivan the Terrible killing his son, at a gallery in Moscow.
Police said the man used a metal pole to break the glass covering Repin's world famous painting of the 16th century Russian Tsar, titled "Ivan the Terrible and his Son Ivan on November 16, 1581."
The Tretyakov Gallery said the work was "seriously damaged" as a result.
"The canvas has been ripped in three place in the central part of the Tsar's son. The original frame suffered from the breaking of the glass," the gallery said in a statement.
"Thankfully the most valuable part was not damaged," it added, referring to the face and hands of the Tsar and his son, the Tsarevich.
The statement added that the incident took place late on Friday, just before the museum closed.
"The man entered the already empty Ilya Repin room. He bypassed staff who were scanning the rooms before the closing, and hit the glass of the painting several times with a metal pole," the gallery said.
Russian state news agency TASS reported the man, a 37 year-old from the central city of Voronezh, did so for "historical reasons."
Police later released a video of the man, who said he acted under the influence of alcohol.
"I came to look at it (the painting). I went to the buffet in the evening, I wanted to leave. Then I drank 100 grams of vodka. I don't drink vodka and something hit me," the man said.
Not the first attack
Ultra patriotic groups have protested against the painting before, notably in 2013 when monarchists demanded for it to be removed from the gallery.
The gallery refused to remove it and reinforced security around the work.
It is not the first time the painting has suffered an attack. In 1913, a man stabbed the work with a knife, ripping the canvas in three places. Ilya Repin was then still alive and participated in the restoration of his painting.
Since 1913, the painting has been protected by glass.
Russian state officials have lobbied for the rehabilitation of the medieval ruler's image, who led Russia from 1547 to 1583 and earned the moniker "Terrible" due to his brutal policy of oprichnina, which included the creation of a secret police that spread mass terror and executed thousands of people.
He also killed his own son, most likely by accident during a violent rage.
In June 2017, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the story was a "legend" used by the West against Russia.
"Did he kill his son? Did he not? Many experts say he did not and that this was invented by the Pope's Nuncio who came to Russia for talks and tried to turn Orthodox Rus to a Catholic Rus," Putin said.
In October 2016, Russia inaugurated a controversial monument, the first of its kind, to the 16th century tyrant in Oryol, a city some 335 kilometres south of Moscow.
© Agence France-Presse



The Gold Show at the DMA! Spring 2018

The Power of Gold: Asante Royal Regalia from Ghana

April 15, 2018 to August 12, 2018 | Chilton I Gallery

the Gold Show.jpg
The Gold Show 2.jpg

“The DMA hopes to bring renewed attention to the Asante and deepen public appreciation and understanding of their history, culture and aesthetics.” Gold has shaped the Asante culture through art, trade and other daily aspects that can be seen throughout this exhibition. Gold was a " key driver of the Asante economy, and an incredibly important part of Asante culture”. The people used “sophisticated techniques in excavating it, and  incorporated gold across many different areas of their lives, but most significantly in royal regalia and ceremonial objects.” In this collection, “there are over 250 gleaming gold items of regalia, colorful and intricately woven silk kente cloth, ceremonial furniture, state swords, linguist staffs, and other significant objects related to Asante royals from the 19th through the 21st centuries. Founded around 1701 with wealth derived from the gold trade with North Africa and Europe, the Asante Kingdom was a very powerful polity in West Africa. The Power of Gold: Asante Royal Regalia from Ghana, inspired by works in the DMA’s collection and featuring objects from public and private collections, reveals the splendor of Asante regalia, much of which is made of gold.”


My Word Spring 2018

129 Days until the Allan Stone Auction

JB initials.jpg

The Antiques Roadshow has now completed four of its scheduled 5 city tour having shot at Ringling brothers in Sarasota, Florida, the Philbrook Museum in Tulsa, Churchill Downs in Louisville, and Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego. Next week we shoot at Meadow Brook Hall (Home of Matilda Dodge Wilson widow of automobile maker John Dodge) in Rochester, Michigan. It has been a fascinating three months with challenging shoots that will bring a new edge to Roadshow that I believe you will enjoy.

With six months (129 days) to go until the Allan Stone Tribal sale at Rago Auctions in New Jersey we are well underway preparing the catalog and photographic materials for our promotional visit to Santa Fe in August. I will be in Santa Fe from August 9th and August 18th to answer questions and look at objects for future sales. Note the article in this issue of the Newsletter.

We are pleased to be working this summer with new intern Emily Duffy who has been a great addition to the gallery. Her expertise has been appreciated in purging old files, working on our Historic Pueblo Pottery project, and helping on the Spring newsletter. Emily will be with us at least until the end of the summer. Our kudos to the University of Dallas intern program for all the great candidates they have proposed over the years.

Kim Kasten is no longer with the gallery having left to start her own appraisal business in March of this year. While the departure was disappointing, the subsequent re-structuring of the gallery has been very positive in allowing us to focus entirely on the sales, appraisal, authenticating and cataloging of tribal art. No offense to my good friends in fine art, but it was a distraction from what we built over the past 44 years since we opened in 1974. We are very excited about the opportunity to focus on our core services in the coming years.

Many of us were convinced that Christies lost its mind with the offering of the Pre-Columbian Prigogine collection of Mexican stone objects. The market is nuts, the sale was a great success and I humbly eat my words. As appraisers and catalogers, it is very difficult to know with certainty what will happen in any given sale. As the recent auctions proved, the only almost sure thing is top notch well provenance fresh material… and sometimes that doesn’t do what you think it will do.. JB

My Word 2018

JB initials.jpg

This year has started busier than any year in my memory. Work continues for the Allan Stone sale in October. We will soon feature highlights in the newsletter. We also are collaborating on an auction series called Curious and Curiouser with Rago auctions in Lambertville. This sale will encompass everything from self taught  and outsider art to medical curiosities, natural history, and fabulous early automatons. This has been fun to work on. The first in the series was  a very successful sale Rago held last year under the same name. We also are collaborating with Quinns auction in Lambertville which is planning three auctions for ethnographic and folk art.

This issue of the newsletter has been  challenging sorting out all the interesting stories that we thought you might be interested in following. Certainly among the biggest is funding for NEA, NEH, and PBS which concerns me greatly. I believe the moronic move at the very least gave the President a rationale to be real force against the arts. Obviously this President has not shown much sensitivity in this area, but the golden toilet certainly haqsn't helped the situation.

Kim Kasten (Kolker) has departed the gallery after 12 years to start her own business Kim K Art and Design LLC and to focus on her art art. Kim is a highly competent appraiser having attained the highest CAPP (Certified Appraiser of Personal Property) credentials with the International Society of Appraisers. We wish Kim well and know she will be successful in her new venture.

Our new website (arttrak.com) is attracting a great deal of attention as is our free online resource for research on Southwest Pueblo Pottery. Thank you for your support.

I am about to start my 23rd years on Antique Roadshow  which now tapes in April, May, and June. So for the first time in over two decades I will see most of you in Santa Fe where I will be from August 8th to the 19th. promoting the Allan Stone sale.

This easily could be the best year we have had since opening our doors in Dallas in 1974. We appreciate your support and comments both positive and negative. JB


Human Migration Winter 2018

Sun River Camp Alaska.jpg

For decades, archaeologists have hypothesized that humans entered the Americas from Asia using Beringia (the first man to suggest the existence of a land bridge was actually a 16th-century Spanish missionary named Fray Jose de Acosta). But even as more sites of occupation were discovered in Siberia and Alaska, pointing to human occupation and the movement from west to east, questions remained. When exactly did the migration happen, and how did it happen? In one wave, or many?
In January 2017, researchers at the Canadian Museum of History concluded that a horse jawbone found in the Bluefish Caves of the Yukon bore human markings from 24,000 years ago, meaning that early Americans had settled here by 22,000 BC. That would push back the date of human occupation in North America by 10,000 years. But those findings—like so many in this field—proved controversial, and haven’t been universally accepted by the archaeology community.
The new report on Xach’itee’aanenh T’eede Gaay complicates this narrative further. While she may be “just” 11,500 years old, she provides incontrovertible evidence for the timing of human migration.
Within her genome is the story of a newly discovered population of early Americans whose ultimate fate remains a mystery, as their genes are no longer visible in modern populations. “This individual represents a previously unknown population, which is also the earliest known population of Native Americans,” says Eske Willerslev, an evolutionary geneticist and one of the authors of the new study. “We can address fundamental questions such as when people came into North America because this population is related to everyone else.”
The Upward Sun River girl, buried next to an even younger infant in a ceremonial grave with red ochre on both of them, is a member of what researchers are calling the Ancient Beringians. Prior to sequencing her genome, scientists had identified two main groups of Native Americans: Northern Native Americans and Southern Native Americans, who split off sometime after entering the continent. This infant child belongs to neither of those two groups. That means that, somewhere along the way, another split must have occurred to create this unique Ancient Beringian group.
Using demographic modeling, the researchers concluded that the founding population of Native Americans began splitting from their ancestors in East Asia around 36,000 years ago. By 25,000 years ago, they had made a complete split. By 20,000 years ago, another divergence had happened, this time between the Ancient Beringians and the rest of the Native Americans. And within the next 3,000 to 6,000 years, the Native Americans further divided into Northern and Southern groups.
All this, from the ancient DNA of one long-dead child.
image: https://thumbs-prod.si-cdn.com/dLhvUTIShct4bR-_qeotCbWRRq4=/1024x596/https://public-media.smithsonianmag.com/filer/cb/1d/cb1d6282-611c-46c1-9a0b-5ea64237530c/excavation_wide.jpg
Members of the archaeology field team watch as University of Alaska Fairbanks professors Ben Potter and Josh Reuther excavate at the Upward Sun River site.
Members of the archaeology field team watch as University of Alaska Fairbanks professors Ben Potter and Josh Reuther excavate at the Upward Sun River site. (courtesy Ben Potter)
“Now we have these bounds on the formation of Native Americans,” says Victor Moreno Mayar, another author of the paper and geneticist at the Center for GeoGenetics. “We think the explanation for this pattern, the one that requires the least movement, was that Native Americans were somewhere in Beringia 20,000 years ago. The best supported archaeological site in Alaska is only 15,000 years old, so we’re pushing the dates back, and it will be controversial because of this.”
The authors were well aware of the possibility for controversy going into the study. To that end, they included two different models to explain how the Ancient Beringians came to be. In one version, the Beringians split from the rest of the Native Americans before crossing the land bridge into North America, meaning multiple waves of migration. In the second, the group traveled across Beringia as one group, only splitting afterwards. Archaeologist Ben Potter, one of the authors, favors the former.
“I tend to support that on the archaeological side because that fits with the vast majority of archaeological evidence we have,” says Potter, who has worked at the Upward Sun River site since 2006 and was the one who discovered the children in 2013. “It’s not just a lack of sites [on Beringia and North America], it’s also the presence of a robust dataset of sites that shows a clear expansion from northeast Asia into the Aldan region, into northeast Siberia, and then finally into Beringia at around 14,500.”
But how can two such different scientific interpretations coexist side by side? Welcome to the real struggle with the story of human history: the question of whose facts come first, those of archaeologists or those of geneticists. As Potter puts it, genetics provides information about the populations and their splits, while archaeology points to the physical location of these populations and how they interacted with their environment.
Today, scientists find themselves having to incorporate these two strands of information in ways that don’t always seem to agree.
“We should remember that the earliest proven trace of human activity in eastern Beringia dates to around 14.1-thousand-years-ago, making the Upward Sun River site nearly 3,000 years too young to be representative of the initial human colonization of the New World,” said archaeologist Brian T. Wygal of Adelphi University by email. “Based solely on the archaeological data, human variability in the late Pleistocene was already quite diverse by the time of the Upward Sun River child burials.”
Geneticist and archaeologist Dennis O’Rourke of the University of Kansas, whose lab sequenced the mitochondrial DNA of the Upward Sun River infants several years ago but wasn’t involved in this study, agrees that there are some growing pains in the field now that archaeology and genetics are becoming more mixed.
“It’s a continuing challenge to figure out how to integrate these different types of data and ways of approaching the past,” O’Rourke says. “Questions can be raised [with this paper] where the archaeological and the genetic data might point to different geographic populations, but I think those will ultimately be resolved with more archaeological and genomic data from different geographic regions.”
This isn’t the first time such questions have been raised. As East Asian historian Nicola Di Cosma writes for the Institute of Advanced Study, “The tendency to explain the distribution of genes according to assumed patterns of behavior of certain peoples and societies is quite common in ancient DNA studies. Ultimately, these assumptions go back to historical, anthropological, and archaeological models, and sometimes not the best of them.”
That leads to the other issue with this new research: it relies on a single sample. “We could know something about the extent of diversity in this early Beringian population with greater certainty if we had multiple genomes,” O’Rourke says.
Di Cosma is even more blunt. “The samples from which the ancient DNA information is extracted are miniscule: how relevant are they to population movements across Eurasia over a couple of millennia?” he writes.
But ancient remains are exceedingly rare, and even when they’re found, using them for science is fraught with ethical complications. Perhaps most well known is the Kennewick Man, a 9,000-year-old man discovered in Washington who ignited a legal battle between scientists and local indigenous groups who wanted to rebury him. Willerslev ultimately used DNA samples to prove the genetic link between the ancient skeleton and modern Native Americans, allowing him to be returned under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.
Potter and the rest of the team worked hard to avoid any missteps in their analysis of the Upward Sun River children, cooperating with the local tribes before doing any testing and trying to answer questions they might be interested in. Smithsonian.com reached out to the Tanana Chiefs Conference, a consortium of 42 member tribes in Alaska that includes the region where Upward Sun River is located, but didn’t receive a response before publication.
The team’s analysis has already uncovered fascinating insights. For instance, findings from Upward Sun “represents the first evidence of human use of salmon in the New World,” Potter says. “One of the elements we can develop through the bones is that we want to look at the mother’s diet and potential changes through time that might let us understand if people were storing salmon over the winter.”
In the end, the most valuable knowledge from this and future discoveries will likely be some combination of genetics, artifacts and paleo-environmental data, says O’Rourke. Taken all together, the amalgam of sciences could show how humans created material culture to interact with and survive in their environment.

Maya Discoveries Winter 2018

 Tikal with jungle over growth

Tikal with jungle over growth

1. GUATEMALA CITY (AFP).- Experts using an aerial high-tech laser scanner have discovered thousands of ancient Maya structures hidden under the thick jungle of northern Guatemala, officials said Thursday.
Some 60,000 structures were found over the past two years in a scan of a region in the northern department of El Peten, which borders Mexico and Belize, said Marcello Canuto, one of the project's top investigators.
These findings are a "revolution in Maya archeology," Canuto said.
The new discoveries in this Central American country include urban centers with sidewalks, homes, terraces, ceremonial centers, irrigation canals and fortifications, said Canuto, an archaeologist at Tulane University in the United States.
Among the finds was a 30-meter high pyramid that had been earlier identified as a natural hill in Tikal, Guatemala's premier archaeological site. Also discovered in Tikal: a series of pits and a 14 kilometer-long wall.
The Maya civilization reached its height in what is present-day southern Mexico, Guatemala, and parts of Belize, El Salvador and Honduras between 250 and 950 CE.
Researchers now believe that the Maya had a population of 10 million, which is "much higher" than previous estimates, Canuto said.
The project relied on a remote sensing method known as LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging). Aircraft with a LiDAR scanner produced three-dimensional maps of the surface by using light in the form of pulsed laser linked to a GPS system.
The technology helped researchers discover sites much faster than using traditional archeological methods.
"Now it is no longer necessary to cut through the jungle to see what's under it," said Canuto.
Details of the research will appear in a documentary to air on February 11 on the National Geographic channel, said Minister of Culture and Sports Jose Luis Chea.

 Tikal as seen with LiDAR

Tikal as seen with LiDAR

2. Guatemala City - Advanced laser mapping has revealed more than 60,000 ancient Mayan structures beneath the jungles of northern Guatemala.
Set across dozens of hidden cities, the discoveries include houses, palaces and a 90-foot-tall pyramid that was previously thought to be a hill.
Made possible through special laser-equipped airplanes that can "see" through dense jungle, the groundbreaking research suggests that Mayan metropolises were far larger and more complex than previously thought.
Evidence of agriculture, irrigation, quarries and defensive fortifications were widespread, and extensive road networks point to initially unknown levels of interconnectivity between settlements.
Laser finds thousands of lost Mayan structures
Game-changing discoveries
The extent of the findings, first reported by National Geographic, may transform our understanding of how Mesoamerican civilization operated, according to one of the study's co-directors, Marcello Canuto from Tulane University in New Orleans.
"We're discovering that there is more of everything, and the scale is much bigger," he said in a phone interview. "In any given area there were more structures, more buildings, more canals and more terraces (than expected).'"
By extrapolating data from the 2,100-square-kilometer (811-square-mile) site, researchers have also revised their population estimates for the region. They now believe that 10 million people lived in the Maya Lowlands (an area covering parts of present-day Guatetmala and Mexico), a number that is "many times larger" than indicated by previous research.
Credits: PACUNAM/Estrada-Belli
"The general conceit over the last 100 years has been that the tropics were a bad place to have civilizations and that (the climate) is not conducive to sustaining complex societies," said Canuto, who has worked on Mayan archeology for more than 30 years. "There has always been this assumption that Mayan society was less populated and that there wasn't any infrastructure -- that they were small, independent city-states without much interaction.
Revealed: London's secret underground railway system
"But we're finding that this just isn't true. This research shows that, not only were there lots of people, but also lots of ways that they modified the landscape to render it more productive. The defensive structures that we're finding (also suggest) that there were lots of people and lots of resources, which can create lots of competition."
'Revolutionary' aerial mapping
Central America's thick jungle has often made large-scale surveys of historical sites logistically difficult. But recent developments in a technique known as light detection and ranging (or "lidar") are allowing archeologists to see through even dense forest.
The aerial mapping process is carried out by attaching a lidar sensor to the underside of an airplane. Using the same technology found in self-driving cars, the instrument maps the landscape by emitting pulses of laser light and the time taken for them to return.
The resulting data can reveal ground-level contours, pointing researchers toward man-made structures beneath the canopy. For archeologists, the method allows surveys of great detail and unprecedented size, Canuto said.
"This initiative is bigger than anything that has ever been done before. But it's not just big, it's also covering a wide swathe of this area, so it's actually a representative sample.
"For (archeologists) who work in the tropics, this is entirely revolutionizing the way we do everything," he added. "It's as if you were observing the sun and the stars with your naked eye and then someone invents the telescope."
Potential for archeology
Lidar sensors have previously been used to study other Mesoamerican settlements in Belize, as well as temple complexes in Cambodia. The technology may have archeological potential in other tropical areas, such as the Amazon and central Africa.
For now, the method's greatest barrier is the cost of chartering aircraft, Canuto said. His project was only made possible through funding from the Maya Cultural and Natural Heritage (PACUNAM), a Guatemalan non-profit organization that brought together a consortium of archeologists with different areas of expertise.
But as well as making research economically viable, this type of collaboration may provide new insight into the large datasets created.
"Now we're not limited to one site -- we can see everyone's data," Canuto said. "So instead of having 10 scholars working on 10 individual sites, we had 10 scholars working on individual questions across all the sites. That gives you a regional perspective that no one else has."
Advanced laser techniques have revealed more than 60,000 ancient Mayan structures beneath the jungles of northern Guatemala. Credit: PACUNAM/Canuto & Auld-Thomas
Moreover, if archeologists collaborate with experts in other fields, such as ecology and environmental science, aerial mapping may become more cost-effective and widely used.
How the Victoria and Albert Museum in China signals a new design for Shenzhen
"The data we use shows what's on the ground... but the other 95 percent of the data is providing a vertical profile of the canopy," Canuto said. "We, as archaeologists, want to know what's under there when you remove the trees. But ecologists want to see biomass and other things that archeologists don't care about."
The digital maps will later be used to carry out targeted ground research. Over the next three years, Canuto and his team hope to scan the entire Maya Biosphere Reserve, an 8,341-square-mile site in Guatemala's Petén region.


3. Guatemala City - Using a revolutionary technology known as LiDAR (short for “Light Detection And Ranging”), scholars digitally removed the tree canopy from aerial images of the now-unpopulated landscape, revealing the ruins of a sprawling pre-Columbian civilization that was far more complex and interconnected than most Maya specialists had supposed.
“The LiDAR images make it clear that this entire region was a settlement system whose scale and population density had been grossly underestimated,” said Thomas Garrison, an Ithaca College archaeologist and National Geographic Explorer who specializes in using digital technology for archaeological research.
Watch a preview for "Lost Treasures of the Maya Snake Kings."
National Geographic Channel
Garrison is part of a consortium of researchers who are participating in the project, which was spearheaded by the PACUNAM Foundation, a Guatemalan nonprofit that fosters scientific research, sustainable development, and cultural heritage preservation.
The project mapped more than 800 square miles (2,100 square kilometers) of the Maya Biosphere Reserve in the Petén region of Guatemala, producing the largest LiDAR data set ever obtained for archaeological research.
Researchers using aerial lidar sensing equipment targeted 10 parcels within Guatemala’s Maya Biosphere Reserve. Their discoveries are revealing previously unknown areas of Maya cities.

Maya City

Maya World mapping.jpg

The results suggest that Central America supported an advanced civilization that was, at its peak some 1,200 years ago, more comparable to sophisticated cultures such as ancient Greece or China than to the scattered and sparsely populated city states that ground-based research had long suggested.
In addition to hundreds of previously unknown structures, the LiDAR images show raised highways connecting urban centers and quarries. Complex irrigation and terracing systems supported intensive agriculture capable of feeding masses of workers who dramatically reshaped the landscape.
The ancient Maya never used the wheel or beasts of burden, yet “this was a civilization that was literally moving mountains,” said Marcello Canuto, a Tulane University archaeologist and National Geographic Explorer who participated in the project.
“We’ve had this western conceit that complex civilizations can’t flourish in the tropics, that the tropics are where civilizations go to die,” said Canuto, who conducts archaeological research at a Guatemalan site known as La Corona. “But with the new LiDAR-based evidence from Central America and [Cambodia’s] Angkor Wat, we now have to consider that complex societies may have formed in the tropics and made their way outward from there.”
Surprising Insights
“LiDAR is revolutionizing archaeology the way the Hubble Space Telescope revolutionized astronomy,” said Francisco Estrada-Belli, a Tulane University archaeologist and National Geographic Explorer. “We’ll need 100 years to go through all [the data] and really understand what we’re seeing.”
Already, though, the survey has yielded surprising insights into settlement patterns, inter-urban connectivity, and militarization in the Maya Lowlands. At its peak in the Maya classic period (approximately A.D. 250–900), the civilization covered an area about twice the size of medieval England, but it was far more densely populated.
The unaided eye sees only jungle and an overgrown mound, but LiDAR and augmented reality software reveal an ancient Maya pyramid.
Courtesy Wild Blue Media/National Geographic
“Most people had been comfortable with population estimates of around 5 million,” said Estrada-Belli, who directs a multi-disciplinary archaeological project at Holmul, Guatemala. “With this new data it’s no longer unreasonable to think that there were 10 to 15 million people there—including many living in low-lying, swampy areas that many of us had thought uninhabitable.”
Virtually all the Mayan cities were connected by causeways wide enough to suggest that they were heavily trafficked and used for trade and other forms of regional interaction. These highways were elevated to allow easy passage even during rainy seasons. In a part of the world where there is usually too much or too little precipitation, the flow of water was meticulously planned and controlled via canals, dikes, and reservoirs.
Among the most surprising findings was the ubiquity of defensive walls, ramparts, terraces, and fortresses. “Warfare wasn’t only happening toward the end of the civilization,” said Garrison. “It was large-scale and systematic, and it endured over many years.”
Laser scans revealed more than 60,000 previously unknown Maya structures that were part of a vast network of cities, fortifications, farms, and highways.
The survey also revealed thousands of pits dug by modern-day looters. “Many of these new sites are only new to us; they are not new to looters,” said Marianne Hernandez, president of the PACUNAM Foundation. (Read "Losing Maya Heritage to Looters.")
Environmental degradation is another concern. Guatemala is losing more than 10 percent of its forests annually, and habitat loss has accelerated along its border with Mexico as trespassers burn and clear land for agriculture and human settlement.
“By identifying these sites and helping to understand who these ancient people were, we hope to raise awareness of the value of protecting these places,” Hernandez said.
The survey is the first phase of the PACUNAM LiDAR Initiative, a three-year project that will eventually map more than 5,000 square miles (14,000 square kilometers) of Guatemala’s lowlands, part of a pre-Columbian settlement system that extended north to the Gulf of Mexico.
Hidden deep in the jungle, the newly-discovered pyramid rises some seven stories high but is nearly invisible to the naked eye.
“The ambition and the impact of this project is just incredible,” said Kathryn Reese-Taylor, a University of Calgary archaeologist and Maya specialist who was not associated with the PACUNAM survey. “After decades of combing through the forests, no archaeologists had stumbled across these sites. More importantly, we never had the big picture that this data set gives us. It really pulls back the veil and helps us see the civilization as the ancient Maya saw it.”



Technology Winter 2018

Thread genius.jpg

NEW YORK - Sotheby’s recently announced its advancements in data capabilities and strategy, including the acquisition of startup company, “Thread Genius.”
“Thread Genius” was founded by Andrew Shum and Ahmad Qamar in 2015, specializing in providing e-commerce businesses with artificial intelligence that understands taste based on visual recognition. The acquisition of the company is a continuation of Sotheby’s focus on data and technology to drive innovation and improve both internal processes and client service and experience. Transactions would come together by matching an object with an individual’s preference at a certain price point, and Sotheby’s retains data in these three areas. By uniting all data-related activities under one umbrella, the auction house hopes to accelerate innovation and provide benefits to both their internal team and clients.
The acquisition of “Thread Genius” builds on Sotheby’s 2016 acquisition of the Mei Moses Art Indices – now known as Sotheby’s Mei Moses – a database of nearly 50,000 repeat auction sales in eight collecting categories. Andrew and Ahmad, together with Richard Vibert, a data scientist recently appointed Head of Data & Analytics Strategy, will report to Jennifer Deason, Executive Vice President, Head of Strategy & Corporate Development for Sotheby’s.

Art Market Winter 2018

"it is only a matter of time before a painting sells for $1 billion (818 million euros)"

Christies Salavator Mundi.jpg

1. PARIS (AFP).- The fine art market is going through such a boom that it is only a matter of time before a painting sells for $1 billion (818 million euros), according to a new report seen by AFP Wednesday.
Driven by the record sale of Leonardo da Vinci's "Salvator Mundi" to a Saudi prince for $450 million ($550 million) in November, the market is rising in a way not seen for three decades, the authoritative Artprice index said.
"The latest spectacular all-time fine art auction record... for 'Salvator Mundi' represents the beginning of a new era for the art market in which the next big milestone will be the $1 billion threshold," it said.
"In the meantime, we are bound to see results between $179 million and $450 million in 2018," it predicted.
Artprice founder Thierry Ehrmann told AFP the revival of the market after two years of falling prices was spectacular, with prices surging across the globe in the second half of the year.
"All the indicators have never been so good for 30 years," he said, with the report suggesting everything points to "firm and durable growth".
Competition for the very best artworks between top museums -- with more and more being built across the globe -- was also fuelling the boom.
"The real motor of the market's growth is unquestionably the museum industry," Artprice said.
Museums battle billionaires
"For the first time in history, the higher end of the market is being driven not by the whims of billionaires but by acquisition strategies designed to generate future cash from museum visitor flows."
"The art market is now being partly driven by a balance-sheet logic that justifies acquisitions amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars," the report added.
Art sales in America soared by more than a half in the second half of the year, almost the same amount in France, by more than a quarter in Britain and by 20 percent in China.
The Asian giant remains the world's biggest art marketplace, said Artprice, with $5.1 billion in turnover -- more than a third of the global total -- with the US only slightly behind with $4.9 billion.
Artprice, which is partnered with the Chinese index Artron, said "intense competition between China and the US generated explosive growth in the West.
"Art clearly represents an essential element in the soft power arsenals of the US and China," it added, as well as on a smaller scale in the Gulf, with Qatar and the United Arab Emirates competing with each other by opening big new art museums.
Chinese supremacy was also marked in Artprice's index of the world's top 500 best performing artists at auction last year.
Chinese artists represent 32.4 percent of the total number compared to just 16.4 for American artists.
They made up four of the top 10 highest selling artists -- Qi Baishi, Zhang Daqian, Fu Baoshi, Zao Wou-Ki -- with Qi coming in fifth overall behind Leonardo, Picasso, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol.
As well as Leonardo, the year also saw new auction records for Basquiat, Qi, Zao, Marc Chagall, Fernand Leger and Brancusi.
Fine art is often defined as paintings, sculptures, drawings, photographs, prints, videos, installations and tapestries, but excludes furniture and traditional cultural artefacts.