Committee for Cultural Policy Update

Pause Before STOP 2: Proposed Art Law Would Harm Museums, Collectors, and Tribes


A new and revised version of the Safeguard Tribal Objects of Patrimony or STOP Act (S. 1400) was introduced by Senator Martin Heinrich on June 21, 2017. ATADA, a professional organization representing many of America’s top tribal and ethnographic art dealers and auctioneers, says that although the new STOP Act (STOP II) is an improvement on the 2016 bill in some ways, it remains seriously flawed.

ATADA president John Molloy says, “ATADA supports returning important objects needed for tribal spiritual activities. That’s our policy, and we’ll continue it whatever happens to this bill.” But he continues, “This bill wasn’t thought through. It won’t achieve the tribes’ goals of bringing back important sacred objects from overseas, it will discourage the legitimate market, and it sends totally the wrong message to museums and collectors.”

ATADA representatives have been meeting directly with tribal leaders for months to discuss both legislation and voluntary returns. Molloy stressed ATADA’s continuing desire to work closely with lawmakers to improve the bill. However, he noted that like the 2016 bill, STOP II would create dangerous legal uncertainties for private owners of a wide range of American Indian art and artifacts: by failing to provide adequate notice of what items would be illegal to export, STOP II would violate the due process guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

The new STOP Act includes a federalized returns program that ATADA Voluntary Returns Program manager Bob Gallegos finds alarming. Gallegos told CCP, “It’s absurd to make a federal policy that says everything Native American should go back to tribes.” Gallegos said that ATADA is very supportive of voluntary returns of sacred objects essential to tribal community well-being. “We have already returned dozens of important objects to tribes. We ask the help of tribal members on protocol for returns, and no matter how many years of expertise we bring to this, we can’t know what’s truly sacred. Creating a giant federal bureaucracy will make things worse, not better.”  more....


Art Professionals Oppose Draconian EU Proposal


A European Union proposal to “regulate” the ancient art market is on a fast track to destroy it. Arts organizations such as the International Association of Dealers in Ancient Art (IADAA) say that the European Commission’s regulation is based upon its unquestioning acceptance of fake news and phony numbers. They say that the EU Commission failed to consult market experts, and that the Commission’s lack of the most basic understanding of how the art trade works will result in destroying the legitimate trade. The proposal for an EU Regulation is presently being submitted to the European Parliament and the Council of the EU.

On July 13, the European Commission announced new rules, “Cracking down on the illegal import of cultural goods used to finance terrorism.” As justification for new regulation – “cracking down on financing terrorism” is no justification whatsoever.

Vincent Geerling, President of IADAA, states in a letter to the Antiques Gazette, “The reason given for these measures, is to cut off the financing of terror with the revenues of cultural goods (coming from conflict zones), however the EU Commission does not present ANY proof or reliable figure for this, neither do they for the size of the “problem”.

The EU Q&A release states that, “the total financial value of the illegal antiquities and art trade is larger than any other area of international crime except arms trafficking and narcotics and has been estimated at €2.5 – €5 billion yearly.”

IADAA has documented that here is no basis for such a claim – simply none. Vincent Geerling confirmed in an email: “I personally handed in Brussels to high officials working on the subject, three independent reports denying any (substantial) terrorism financing with cultural property is taking place.” More

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