"X-ray of Uffizi's Artemisia Gentileschi reveals a tantalising underpainting"

 X-radiograph of Galleria degli Uffizi's St. Catherine of Alexandria  

credit: Galleria degli Uffizi for both

A scientific study of a Baroque painting by Artemisia Gentileschi owned by the Gallerie degli Uffizi in Florence has revealed an underpainting that is virtually a twin to a Gentileschi canvas recently acquired by the National Gallery in London. An Italian conservator now suggests that both works may be based on the same cartoon or drawing.

Conservators used non-invasive ultraviolet, infrared and x-ray techniques to delve below the surface of the Uffizi work, Saint Catherine of Alexandria (1618-20), says Cecilia Frosinini, the director of the paintings conservation department at the state Opificio delle Pietre Dure, which carried out the analysis.

The surface painting depicts the saint wearing a crown and gazing upwards in what the museum describes as a blend of a self-portrait by Gentileschi and a portrait of Grand Duke Ferdinando de’ Medici’s daughter Caterina. But the underpainting revealed by x-radiography portrays its subject with a turban and with her face turned towards the observer, just like the National Gallery’s Self-Portrait as Saint Catherine of Alexandria (1615-17), acquired last July for £3.6m.

The testing also revealed a “mysterious little face” on the left side of Saint Catherine’s own face, “a feature totally out of context with respect to both the finished work and the earlier version” underneath, the Uffizi says.

Restorers say that a tracing of the London painting could be neatly superimposed on parts of the underlying image in the Uffizi work. “We believe that she had a cartoon or at least a preparatory drawing that she reused several times, adding some changes or some variation from one to the other,” Frosinini says.

Gentileschi (1593-1653), once all but omitted from art history texts, has recently risen in the canon and is now acknowledged as one of the first female artists to have had a broad following among 17th-century patrons.

Letizia Treves, the curator of later Italian, Spanish and French 17th-century paintings at the National Gallery, said that her museum had provided the tracings of its self-portrait to the Uffizi and to the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Connecticut, for the sake of comparison. (The Wadsworth Atheneum owns the Gentileschi painting Self-Portrait as a Lute Player from around 1615-18, which also portrays its subject at half-length, seated with her face turned toward the observer.) The arms in the National Gallery’s tracing align with those in the Uffizi’s underpainting, Treves says; the head aligns with the one in the Wadsworth Atheneum’s painting.

“It became very, very clear, to the millimetre, that these areas overlapped perfectly, so she must have used some sort of drawing method to transfer sections,” Treves says.

While no startling fugitive image was found in the London portrait, testing revealed that Gentileschi made changes in the sitter’s draperies and in the original hue of the sleeve of her dress, Treves says. The artist’s father, the painter Orazio Gentileschi, similarly altered his paintings as he went along, she notes, and would paint the same figures on different canvases.

“These artists would start a picture and then paint over it with something else and then move on to another canvas,” reusing some figures, she says. “It was quite fluid—they were responding to what patrons wanted.”

Still, much research remains to be done. “Artemisia’s artistic process, the more technical side of her art, has not had the same kind of focus as other artists,” Treves notes. “Any new thing that you’ve found, you’re breaking new ground.” The dating of the Florence, Hartford and London portraits is only approximate, so which came first “is a big question that we’ll have to think through”, she adds.

Following restoration at the Opificio, Saint Catherine of Alexandria will be on permanent display at the Uffizi. The National Gallery’s self-portrait, which was cleaned and restored last year, will be part of an Artemisia Gentileschi exhibition planned at the museum next year. In March, the painting embarked on a UK pop-up tour at Glasgow Women’s Library to mark International Women’s Day; it is due to travel to four further venues this spring and summer, including a girls' school and a health centre.


"Patronage without pretension abounds at the 2019 edition of the Dallas Art Fair"


Sculptural cutouts of cats collaged with cacti photos greet visitors outside of the 11th edition of the Dallas Art Fair, which opens to the public today, and these photogenic felines by Chicago-based artist Stephen Eichhorn are a fitting introduction to the scene inside. As art fairs go, this is a fun and relatively unpretentious one, known for showcasing emerging galleries beside heavy-hitters, though the blue-chip turnover rate trends higher. The current 95 booths, however, house big British-based newcomers like Lisson Gallery, Sadie Coles HQ and Blain Southern.

For most galleries, the opportunity to tap into this booming collector base is the fair’s biggest allure. “We came because we want to meet people here,” says Lieselotte Seaton, the sales director at Sadie Coles HQ, which sold works by Jordan Wolfson, Laura Owens and Ugo Rondinone during yesterday’s VIP preview. Lisson Gallery says it also immediately sold several works to Dallas clients—including a looping video by Cory Arcangel for $60,000—and many had others on hold.

The fair’s roster has had some notable absences in the last couple of editions. Gagosian, Lehmann Maupin and Kasmin gallery are a few of the global heavyweights who declined to return after just one visit. But these departures can likely be attributed more to the fickle nature of art fairs rather than to concerns specific to the Dallas art market, Carrie Secrist gallery, which represents Eichhorn and has attended the fair every year since its inception says “Dallas has some of the best collectors in the country, if not the world”, noting that sales have consistently been strong. “There are moments of fair fatigue elsewhere, and Dallas has been relatively untouched by that,” she says.


Among those who came back after a successful debut last year are James Cohan, Rachel Uffner and Van Doren Waxter, who all cite the city’s supportive community as a major draw. “We were surprised by the level of engagement from seasoned and new buyers last year,” says Augusto Arbizo, a partner at Van Doren Waxter. “There’s a tradition of patronage, and it seems that’s been instilled in a younger generation.” The gallery has sold three works to private collections, including a Richard Diebenkorn gouache ($200-$250,000) and an early work on paper by Anne Truitt ($30-$40,000).

For Dallas-based dealer Erin Cluley, here for her fourth year, the fair is more than a sales opportunity; she describes it as “a relationship fair,” ripe for networking, adding that “you can sense the fair’s investment in the art community”.

It is clear that the fair’s organisers are determined to maintain this sense of investment in the city. The fair recently launched 214 Projects, its own permanent, year-round exhibition space; since 2016, it has granted the Dallas Museum of Art funds to shop at the fair. With a budget of $150,000 this year, the institution bought eight works by artists like Sheila Hicks, Don Dudley and Nobutaka Aozaki. Chris Dorland of New York’s Magenta Plains, which represents Dudley, notes that collectors have since expressed great interest in the acrylic-on-plywood works.

For Galleri Urbane, the fair’s growing reputation is undeniable—the decade-old Dallas space stopped participating in 2016 to focus on other markets, it knew it had to return this year. “The caliber of galleries keeps getting stronger,” owner Ree Willaford says. “I thought I’d better get back while I can.”


"Why Madame X Scandalized the Art World"


In 2019, it’s hard to see why John Singer Sargent’s 1883–84 painting Madame X scandalized Paris. If you visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s American wing, where it now hangs in an ornate gold frame, you’ll see a simple composition of a porcelain-skinned woman with an updo standing against a brushy brown background. She wears a plunging black gown with gold straps, one hand clutching a fan while the other rests on a round table. Her face is in profile, the line of her long nose leading the viewer’s eye slantwise out of the picture.

Today, the painting looks elegant—a woman with immaculate skin and patrician features, clothed in what appears to be an expensive, well-constructed dress. That perception belies the sordid history of its model, Virginie Amélie Avegno Gautreau, and the brouhaha surrounding the portrait’s debut at the 1884 Paris Salon. The public’s reaction was so vehement that Sargent moved out of the country, and his high-society model’s reputation was forever tarnished.

This response was partially due to what now seems like an innocuous detail: Sargent’s picture initially showed one of the dress straps hanging seductively from its subject’s shoulder. Yet the painting’s lewdness probably wasn’t what offended Parisian society. The artwork was something worse—downright tacky.

Sargent was born in Italy in 1856 to an American doctor and social climber mother. “Dr. Sargent and his wife didn’t have the financial means of the gilded expatriates,” Donna M. Lucey writes in her 2017 book, Sargent’s Women: Four Lives Behind the Canvas, “but the couple socialized at the edges of that class, with Sargent’s mother cutting a slightly ridiculous figure as she tried to keep up.” The family moved around Europe, outsiders in both national and financial terms.

Nevertheless, Sargent’s mother ensured that her son attended a prestigious Parisian atelier. He first applied for the city’s annual, tastemaking Salon exhibition in 1877, with a portrait of his childhood friend, Frances Sherborne Ridley Watts. After his success at the Salon, the artist began to receive more portrait commissions, and soon had a profitable career painting upper-class women who had the funds for such vanities.

Despite the demand for his portrait services, Sargent had his own artistic ambitions. He first met Gautreau, a society figure who went by Amélie, in the 1880s. He was captivated and decided he had to paint her—not for a commission, but for his own satisfaction.

In the mid-20th century, Sargent biographer Charles Merill Mount circulated a rumor that the artist was introduced to Gautreau by a prominent gynecologist named Samuel-Jean Pozzi, with whom she may have been having an affair. Sargent had painted a portrait of the doctor, titled Dr. Pozzi at Home, in 1881. In the painting, the doctor is dressed in particularly ornate loungewear: a long red robe tied with tassels, and pointy red-and-silver slippers as a scarlet curtain ripples behind him.

Yet in Diva and the Doctor God: Letters from Sarah Bernhardt to Doctor Samuel Pozzi (2010), Caroline De Costa refutes Mount’s story, suggesting that Gautreau and Pozzi were merely friends. In her 2003 book Strapless, Deborah Davis asserts that Sargent launched a full campaign to convince Gautreau to sit for him, enlisting multiple mutual acquaintances in his request.

Regardless of how Sargent met Gautreau, sources agree that she was a particularly difficult subject. As the Chicago Tribune relayed in a 1987 article, Sargent’s subject didn’t want to be painted in Paris and made the artist wait until she and her husband were summering at their country estate in Brittany. Gautreau was restless throughout the process, a state communicated in a particularly revealing study by Sargent, in which she is lying in languid repose on a couch.

As Davis describes, “Amélie was impatient with the interminable, boring process, the frequent sessions of enforced stillness. She had difficulty paying attention to Sargent’s directions, and the household was chaotic… there was the rigorous social calendar… and of course, visits to the beach and boardwalk.”

Sargent traveled to and from Paris as he too became frustrated with the process. He once wrote to his friend, the writer Vernon Lee, “Your letter has just reached me, still in this country house struggling with the unpaintable beauty and hopeless laziness of Mme. Gautreau.”

After creating numerous preparatory sketches and several painting attempts, Sargent managed to finish his picture for the 1884 Salon, which he originally titled Portrait of Mme***. The reception was poor. As De Costa writes, “After the Salon, fame briefly morphed into infamy, and Madame Gautreau was subject to derision and jeers in the drawing rooms of Paris.” Viewers understood the subject’s bare shoulder, with its dangling strap and exposed cleavage, as a nod towards Gautreau’s loose sexual morals.

This wasn’t a new claim: Gautreau already had a reputation as an adultress. Davis writes of Gautreau’s rumored liaisons with French statesman Léon Gambetta and diplomat Ferdinand de Lesseps. Not all contemporary writers fault her for this alleged promiscuity: Her wealthy husband, as Miranda Seymour wrote in the New York Times, was “small, singularly ugly and twice the age of Amélie Avegno.” Yet such a public, visual display of her sexuality brought Gautreau additional disrepute.

Parisian tastemakers recoiled not just from the subject’s revealing clothing, but from her ghostly skin-tone as well. Like other fashionable women of her day, Gautreau may have been ingesting arsenic to lighten her skin (although Davis believes she more likely used rice powder). In a review of the 1884 Salon, the Times reported, “Sargent is below his usual standard this year… The pose of the figure is absurd, and the bluish coloring atrocious. The features are so exaggerated that the natural delicacy of outline is entirely lost.” Under Sargent’s brush, the “so-called beautiful” subject looked like a mere “caricature.”

Gautreau’s mother was furious. According to the Tribune article, she lamented to Sargent, “All Paris is making fun of my daughter... She is ruined. My people will be forced to defend themselves. She’ll die of chagrin.” Melodrama ensued. Gautreau never recovered from the shameful incident and retreated from Parisian society for the rest of her life. De Costa cites a letter in which she moaned, “I will try to get over the sadness which for several days has overwhelmed me and which makes me depressed enough to die.’”

Sargent was meanwhile concerned with his own reputation. Critics so lambasted the canvas that the artist opted to make a crucial change to the composition: After the exhibition ended, he repainted Gautreau’s strap to fall properly on her shoulder. In 1886, he escaped his infamy in Paris and lived the rest of his life in London, never again taking such a risk with his practice.

He did also take a major step to limit Gautreau’s notoriety: When he gave the painting to the Metropolitan Museum in 1916, he insisted the institution continue to disguise the subject’s identity. And thus, “Madame X” has, instead of adopting the far more banal Portrait of Mme. Pierre Gautreau, retained its teasing title.

The painting has, perhaps, become more famous for the uproar it inspired than for any artistic merit. Mid-century American critic Hilton Kramer didn’t see anything special about the work. In a 1981 article for the New York Times he wrote, “No one is likely to pronounce it profound, and for its date it is a very long way from being radical in style. It is a solid and comfortable picture—a little odd in its coloring, a little contrived and self important in its pose, perhaps, but probably no more so than the subject that originally inspired it.” Kramer, however, neglects one crucial element of the painting: its relationship to modern fashion. The chic garment at the center of Sargent’s artwork may be Madame X’s true subject and its greatest legacy. Attitudes towards women’s sartorial sensuality—on the runway and in the gallery—are fickle. A good black dress is timeless.


"Phillips to Sell Hip Hop Pioneer Matt Dike’s Basquiats"


Set the wayback machine to the late 1970s and meet one of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s peers who went on to unexpected success as a DJ and creator of some the earliest Hip Hop hits. Matt Dike was a music obsessive who is considered one of the driving forces behind the Beastie Boys seminal album, Paul’s Boutique. He was also a friend of Basquiat’s and one-time assistant who ended up with a handful of his friend’s work, including the self-portrait Phillips is offering with a $9m low estimate.

Here’s a longer version of the tale from Phillips’s press shop:

Phillips is pleased to announce the sale of six works by Jean-Michel Basquiat from the Collection of the legendary hip hop producer Matt Dike. An acclaimed DJ and co-founder of the renowned West Coast label Delicious Vinyl, Matt Dike is widely celebrated as transforming the LA music scene within the course of a single decade through his involvement in such hits as Tone Loc’s Wild Thing, Young MC’s Bust A Move and the Beastie Boys’ groundbreaking album Paul’s Boutique. Over the course of his career, he developed an extraordinary friendship with Basquiat, acquiring several of his artworks. Two works from the collection will be offered in the New York Evening Sale of 20th Century & Contemporary Art on 16 May, with four works on paper being featured in the Day Sale on 15 May. Prior to the exhibition in New York from 3-15 May, the works will be on view in Los Angeles from 9-11 April. Estimated at $9-12 million, Self-Portrait leads the group and is one of the greatest self-portraits by the artist to ever be offered at auction.

Scott Nussbaum, Phillips’ Head of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, New York, said, “This selection of works by Jean-Michel Basquiat presents a cross-section of important themes for the artist and includes the largest and most complex of the ground-breaking silhouette self-portraits Jean-Michel painted between 1982 and 1985. Showcasing the extraordinary legacy of Matt Dike, these works offer long overdue insights into the valued role he played in Basquiat’s life, as well as the way the city of Los Angeles provided the artist the freedom and inspiration he sought while grappling with the pressures of fame and success. We are thrilled to have the opportunity to showcase these important works of art, many of which have never been seen publicly.”

Having moved to Los Angeles from New York in 1980, Dike transformed the L.A. music scene and the reach of hip hop at large in just ten years. His adept ear, sampling skills, and encyclopedic knowledge of music made him an extraordinary club DJ and he quickly attracted an enthusiastic following for his unique sound. It was on the strength of Dike’s DJing that the impromptu parties he initiated in the mid-1980s coalesced into the notorious Power Tools club, which attracted the likes of Andy Warhol and David Bowie and featured an early West Coast performance from the Beastie Boys.

In 1987 Dike closed Power Tools and co-founded Delicious Vinyl with Michael Ross. Working from Dike’s apartment, the upstart label quickly made hip hop history as the young entrepreneurs’ first single, Tone Loc’s Wild Thing, became a radio hit. The grainy music video they produced with a budget of only $500 became an unexpected success, reaching a wider audience than they could have ever imagined. As the first of three multi-platinum singles produced by Delicious Vinyl, Wild Thing set the stage for the label’s quick rise. Championing artists from the streets, Ross and Dike were highly influential in not just proving hip hop’s pop-crossover potential, but also launching the careers of such artists as Young MC. Dike was also a key figure in the creation of the Beastie Boys’ seminal 1989 album Paul’s Boutique, which was recorded in Dike’s apartment and is widely considered a hip hop masterpiece.

The centerpiece of Dike’s remarkable collection is undoubtedly Basquiat’s Self-Portrait, 1982-1983, a work that not only is the most resolved self-portrait the artist created within its series, but one that also speaks of the intense bond Dike and Basquiat shared in life as in work. Dike first met Basquiat in the late 1970s at an NYU party, when the artist was still emblazoning the streets with his unique graffiti under the pseudonym SAMO; by the time they met again, he had been catapulted to unparalleled art world fame. They were reunited in 1982 when Basquiat travelled to Los Angeles for his first solo show at the Gagosian Gallery. Dike—then working at the gallery during the day and DJing at night— became Basquiat’s designated chauffeur and eventually his assistant, becoming intimately involved in one of the greatest innovations in the artist’s practice – the use of wood slat fencing material for his picture supports starting in late 1983.

It was during his stay in Los Angeles that Basquiat created Self-Portrait, a work that was executed on two found doors, with one depicting the artist himself and the other featuring a rich compendium of imagery and text in which Basquiat focuses on his sense of self at a key crossroads in his short career. The creation of the work was captured in progress on film by Tamra Davis, who married Mike D of the Beastie Boys and became Basquiat’s close friend. Davis made the footage public in 2010 with her documentary The Radiant Child, providing a rare glimpse into a work that, while mentioned anecdotally in literature, has remained unknown to the art word since its creation over three decades ago.

Self-Portrait firmly takes a prime position in the pantheon of self-portraits in Basquiat’s oeuvre, one that perhaps like none other is filled with self- reflection. Moreover, Basquiat’s act of painting is often compared to a process of exorcising his creative demons, epitomized in the present work vividly with the emblazoned words “To Repel Ghosts,” a phrase the artist would return to numerous times throughout his all-too-brief career. Such was the importance of these works to Matt Dike that he never loaned them for exhibition, nor considered parting with them during his lifetime.


"Bodleian Libraries Oxford Exhibition on Translation Highlights Cross-Cultural Communication"


Babel: Adventures in Translation is the latest exhibit at the University of Oxford’s Bodleian Libraries. The exhibition runs from February 15- June 2, 2019. Presented in ten cases, displaying over 100 items, the exhibit explores a range of topics central to translation; from the tools used in translation, such as dictionaries and modern day Google Translate, to the role of myth and fantasy, to the creation of language and symbols in the present that will convey meaning to distant generations thousands of years in the future. It encourages us to think about the role translation has played in building a multi-cultural society and what is gained from the exchange of ideas in the translation process.

A translator, working with both a foreign language and culture, often has to deal with different expressions of belief, social environment and experience that are contained within a variety of cultural expressions. A person from a society with an animistic world-view would have names for the spirits that live in trees, in the mountains and in the rocks. Language equivalents would not necessarily exist for a person from a society without such a view, although as societies change, there is certainly carry-over from past allegiances and beliefs. As S. Frederick Starr asks in Lost Enlightenment, Central Asia’s Golden Age from the Arab Conquest to Tamerlane, Princeton University Press, 2013, p 97:

“Is it coincidental that Central Asians, after favoring the practical Vaibhasika school of Buddhism, with its acceptance of sensory perception, the embrace of past and future, and stress on authoritative commentaries, would later gravitate toward the more practical Hanafi school of Muslim law, and toward the writing of commentaries on the translated works of ancient Greek thinkers?”

Some terms and phrases may not be known by speakers of the same language if they are not considered useful for one’s day-to-day existence. For example, a Southern California surfer may have one word for the “snow” glimpsed in far-off mountains. A skier in those same mountains will have many words for “snow” including; powder, pow-pow, mashed potatoes, corn, freshies, and hard pack. For the skier, this information is crucial, telling them how they should adjust their technique as they head down the mountain. It also tells them if they would rather spend the day skiing or wait for conditions more to their liking. The surfer may have a different language to describe water conditions that helps them to navigate the waves. However, if the surfer takes up skiing, then learning the skier’s language about edging in hard pack or floating in pow-pow could increase their enjoyment and keep them out of the hospital.

The exhibit, Babel: Adventures in Translation, is arranged in a series of cases organized around different themes. Case 1, A Confusion of Tongues, explores different means used cross-culturally and even locally within the same language to bridge communication. The 1604 English to English dictionary, A Table Alphabeticall, was created to help Christian men and women to understand the new “harde English wordes” in the sermons; words that had been commandeered from Latin, Hebrew, Greek or French as there were no English equivalents.

so on display in Case 1 is the Codex Mendoza. Prepared for Emperor Charles V to document Spain’s conquest of Mexico, the document utilizes pictograms, a Mexica form of language to document the history of Aztec conquest and the annual tribute from 400 towns to the Aztec Empire. The Codex also showed the Aztec social life and customs from birth to death through all social strata. A Spanish priest, who spoke Nahuatl and could elicit the images’ meanings from the indigenous painters, annotated the pictograms in Spanish to facilitate the Emperor’s understanding. (Interestingly, Charles V never received the Codex as the French captured the ship that carried it. The book circulated in France and England before it was gifted to the Bodleian Libraries in 1659.)

Case 2: Building Babel showcases a 17th century image of the biblical tower of Babel when its construction was still coordinated by a universal language. The display invites the viewer to consider the long held desire for a universal language that would express a shared understanding of our world.

In Case 3, a clay tablet and a stone bowl from second millennium Crete are used as representatives of “Lost and Found Languages”. The early Greek Linear B script on the clay tablet can be translated while that of the stone bowl, in Linear A is still undecipherable.

The failure to translate Linear A has become an object lesson for philologists, and may have inspired Case 10: Translating for the Distant Future. This case explores the creation of language and symbols today that will retain their meaning in future millennia, when our present day languages may no longer be understood. Here it addresses the problem of how to warn about the presence of nuclear waste, which though buried deeply underground will still be a radioactive threat for hundreds of thousands of years.

Beyond Languages is the theme of the 4th case. Here, different ways of communicating are explored. From math to pictograms to lingua franca such as Esperanto, the exhibit asks the viewer to consider the limitations of “universal” communication, pointing out that few things are inherently understandable without some manner of instruction into their meaning.

A beautiful play of script and pattern illuminates a Qur’an on a page from a sixteenth-century manuscript in Case 5: Translating the Divine. This part of the exhibition raises questions of how the divine communicates with humans and juxtaposes the Qur’an – a document considered to be revealed, fully formed in Arabic and untranslatable– with the English King James Version of the Bible; a document created via a translation committee of 47 individuals from texts translated from the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek.

An additional point that could have been raised in the exhibition with respect to the process of codification of sacred texts, is that Central Asians, who were not native Arabic speakers, were the key scholars who codified of the Hadith of the Prophet Muhammad, Islam’s second most important text, or note the Central Asian dominance as translators into Arabic (and the preservers) of key Greek scientific, medical, and mathematical texts. Throughout history, a great many important translations have been made by individuals who were not native speakers of either the original or the translated versions.

The introduction to Case 6: Traversing Realms of Fantasy in the excellent Teacher’s Guide to the exhibit makes the statement “…that fantasy and magic are uniquely well suited to being passed on from one cultural group to another. Translators play a vital role in that process – and it’s often futile to distinguish rigidly between translation, retelling and creation.” From the Tower of Babel to Brexit, Bodleian Libraries exhibition explores the power of translation, from the Oxford Arts Blog, notes that the exhibition highlights include, “Different versions of Cinderella – by Charles Perrault, the Grimm brothers, Shirley Hughes, and in pantomime and film – showing how stories have been transferred across cultures, resulting in new interpretations across time, space and different media.”

Similar issues are raised in Case 8: An Epic Journey: Translating Homer’s Iliad & Odyssey and Case 9: Tales in Translation as in Case 6:Traversing Realms of Fantasy. All three cases explore stories, that like Cinderella, “have been transferred across cultures, resulting in new interpretations across time, space and different media.”

The Bodleian exhibition team is also working together with the Arts and Humanities Research Council as part of the Open World Research Initiative to explore the interconnection between linguistic diversity and creativity. The exhibition catalog, Babel: Adventures in Translation, by Dennis Duncan, Stephen Harrison, Katrin Kohl and Matthew Reynolds, will be available from Bodleian Library Publishing after 15 February, www.bodleianshop.co.uk.

As an adjunct to this review, Cultural Property News has included in this month’s news a translation of the Cinderella story collected in Uzbekistan from an early 20th century guild text. See Central Asian Cinderella, the Tale of Bibi Seshanbe, by Kate Fitz Gibbon.


"Egypt Rejects Accessible Database of Art in Circulation"


The Government of Egypt has effectively distorted the purpose of a proposed database of Egyptian art by ignoring the existence of Egyptian laws which allowed lawful export until 1983. The Egyptian government does not acknowledge these legal exports and claims virtually all Egyptian art in circulation as ‘stolen.’ Yet antiquities have been lawfully exported from Egypt in greater numbers than any other type of ancient art in circulation. Antiquities were exported at various times under both Ottoman and colonial rulers, as well as shared out in partage agreements with archaeologists. The largest numbers of objects were exported in the 20th century by the several hundred art dealers in Cairo and Alexandria licensed by the government to sell antiquities.

Egypt’s government continues to be overtly hostile to the art trade. According to art world sources, the Egyptian government has not only discounted the legitimate art trade’s efforts to support a politically-neutral, factually-based database, but insisted on removal of the logos of art trade professional organizations and auction houses from the original British Arts Council press announcements regarding the British Museum-managed database.

To cap it all off, UNESCO’s Secretariat de la Convention 1970 is promoting a misleading article in Artnet, “Looters Beware: The British Museum Is Leading an International Task Force Fighting the Illicit Trade in Egyptian Antiquities,” that entirely ignores art dealer backing for the database as well as incorrectly asserting that illicit trade is on the increase. As originally intended, the database would not only assist the Egyptian government in identifying stolen art, but would also facilitate trade in legitimate, documented artifacts. As a 2018 article in the Art Newspaper made clear, “the presence of antiquities on the database will not mean that they are either clean or tainted, it will assist enforcement officers and police in tracking down provenance.”

Sudan, a second governmental participant in the project, is apparently more willing to make records on objects known to be stolen publicly available, which would greatly facilitate their recovery, and which is already permitted under current laws. Regrettably, the government of Egypt refuses to share any internal information it holds about stolen antiquities. Many suspect that behind this refusal lies the fact that Egypt either does not know what has been taken from its storerooms (witness its allegation, beginning only in 2006, that an object in the St. Louis Museum had disappeared from government storage in Egypt sometime between 1966 and 1973), or because the Egyptian government would be embarrassed to acknowledge the degree of “insider” theft that has taken place over the years. Such insider thefts from museum storerooms appear to have been a common source of stolen objects. The digitalization program was strongly supported by art trade organizations, because it held the possibility that stolen artworks could be identified and kept out of the stream of commerce.

Meanwhile, the failure of representatives of the British Museum involved in the database project to publicly reassure trade participants about how the digitization project will operate has left some members of the art trade wondering why they should be involved. There are widespread concerns that the trade’s assistance will continue to be misrepresented and that the facts regarding the legal circulation of Egyptian antiquities will be hidden or obscured. (See Egypt Demands Review of TEFAF Artworks, Cultural Property News, November 27, 2018, for information on the groundbreaking academic study by Danish scholars Frederik Hagen and Kim Ryholt, The Antiquities Trade in Egypt 1880-1930, The H.O. Lange Papers, which sets forth the commercial basis for the lawful circulation of Egyptian art in trade today.)

In late 2017, the British Museum announced receipt of a £998,769 grant from the Cultural Protection Fund (a partnership between the British Council and the UK’s Department of Digital, Culture, Media & Sport) for the creation of a database of Egyptian and Nubian antiquities in circulation in private collections and on the international art market. The project also brings trainees in provenance documentation from Egypt to the British Museum, and provides on-site training in Egypt and Sudan to antiquities staff from Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities in Egypt and Sudan’s National Corporation for Antiquities and Museums (NCAM).

Funding for the project was encouraged by the Antiquities Dealers Association (ADA) and the International Association of Dealers in Ancient Art, (IADAA), both of which were active partners in its development. The British Museum and Arts Council agreed to acknowledge the art trade’s participation and the initial announcement on its website listed Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Bonhams auction houses as well as the IADAAA and the ADA as Project Partners.

However, the Egyptian government objected to acknowledging the art trade’s association with the project. At this point, the Egyptians have vetoed any mention of the trade’s involvement in setting up the project. Egypt has also eliminated any proposal to make the database available to the wider public. The names of auction houses and trade associations have been removed from the Arts Council website.

Subsequently, the Art Newspaper published an article that quoted Neal Spencer, the British Museum’s keeper of Ancient Egypt and Sudan, as stating, without providing any evidence, that there was “a serious increase in the illicit trade in pharaonic antiquities in recent years.” While there is certainly more reporting on illicit trade, the reporting almost invariably focuses on smuggling that actually took place long ago. The Egyptian government now focuses on shifting blame for all losses to the art trade. Accusations of “looting” by the art trade is treated as colonialist or neo-colonialist, and contribute to Egyptian government efforts to play identity politics, and even to claim objects that have long histories of circulation. These include items held in the UK and the U.S. for over 100 years.

(For example, Egypt is now claiming that a casing stone from the Great Pyramid was ‘stolen’ after it was uncovered in a rubbish heap during road building work by British engineer Waynman Dixon, who was engaged in the survey of the Great Pyramid. The stone has been in Scotland since 1872.)

According to online art blog Master Art in May 2018, the database was designed to be “free for the public to search” and its purpose “not to locate looters or thieves, but it is rather to help establish the provenance of legitimately collected artefacts”, a goal that now seems to be reversed.

Also in May 2018, Marcel Marée, the British Museum curator running the project, told the Art Newspaper that the British Museum “will not be proactively chasing criminals, which is the role of law enforcement agencies, but we will make the market more transparent.” As noted, however, the Egyptian government has also objected to making the database of antiquities in circulation publicly accessible, an element supported by the art trade precisely to make the art trade more transparent.

Then in January 2019, an article appeared in Artnet’s online magazine which said the project was “employing a team of curators solely dedicated to spotting looted ancient treasure,” and portrayed the art trade as both hostile and as “enabling smuggling.” In the same article, curator Marcel Marée was quoted as saying that the art trade was characterized by “patterns of laxity, misconduct or obfuscation.”

So far, the misleading characterizations of the trade in the Artnet article have gone uncorrected. Nor have the Department of Ancient Egypt and Sudan of the British Museum or representatives of the British Arts Council stepped in to clarify the record.

For years, the British Antiquities Dealers Association and the International Association of Dealers in Ancient Art have supported and promoted efforts to create a database of ancient artworks in circulation for the purpose of establishing genuine provenance and deterring criminal activities. Both organizations have been leaders in developing international standards of ethics and due diligence programs for the antiquities trade. They have worked for many years in cooperation with police authorities to provide expert advice in order to advance factually-based public policy in Britain and the European Union. In a joint statement to Cultural Property News, the organizations said that:

“The Antiquities Dealers Association (ADA) and the International Association of Dealers in Ancient Art (IADAA) believes that there should be “greater transparency in record-keeping of items in circulation among collectors, dealers and auction houses”, and that it would benefit the lawful circulation of art by “facilitating research and the identification of objects, availing of the Egyptological expertise of the British Museum and its partners.”

The IADAA stated that it viewed the worthy objectives of the project as essential for “reducing crime; enhancing due diligence; and promoting constructive relations between collectors, dealers/auctioneers, museums, law enforcement and antiquities officials.”

Privately, members of the trade told Cultural Property News that they are concerned that the British Museum has failed to credit the trade’s vital input to the database project in its own official online press release, instead referring vaguely to support from dealers and auction houses.

According to industry sources, when IADAA signed off a letter of endorsement in June 2017, this visible support opened the door to the £998,769 grant being awarded. One of IADAA’s chief aims in supporting the project was to establish better relations with the Egyptian authorities. Many in the art world have expressed hope that the British Museum and British authorities will work to bring the Egyptian government on board with a politically-neutral, cooperative program that will be an effective resource for all.


"EU Parliament Holocaust Restitution Proposal Threatens Circulation of Ancient Art"


A European Parliament Resolution entitled “Cross-border restitution claims of works of art and cultural goods looted in armed conflicts and wars” (2017/2023(INI) recommended major changes to EU laws on January 17, 2019. Press coverage has focused on provisions that exempt Holocaust art returns from statutes of limitation, develop cataloging systems, fund provenance research, define ‘looted’ art and establish an EU-based database for it – all potentially positive steps.

However, implementing other elements of the EU proposals could severely limit sales of ancient and ethnographic art and non-European antiques. What the EU Resolution actually seeks is to restrict import and trade in categories of art and cultural goods far broader than the title implies – virtually the entire antiques and antiquities markets – and to enable ‘restitution’ to countries of origin in adherence to the principles of the 1995 UNIDROIT Convention on the Return of Stolen or Illegally Exported Cultural Objects.

The EU Resolution does not state specifically which ‘principles’ of the 1995 UNIDROIT Convention should direct EU policy, but it does imply that the EU should enforce other nations’ blanket export control laws and accept those nations’ definitions of what constitutes cultural patrimony. (In the U.S. under the 1983 Cultural Property Implementation Act, the U.S. Congress chose to make an independent decision about which cultural objects are threatened by pillage, and barred specific types of objects from import.) The 1995 UNIDROIT Convention places the burden of proof on the possessor of an object to show that he “neither knew nor ought reasonably to have known at the time of acquisition that the object had been illegally exported” (Art. 6.1), regardless of how the possessor acquired the object, for example, as an inheritance, as the latest in a long line of purchasers, or, in the case of a museum, as the recipient of a donation.

The EU Resolution’s scope is expanded by conflating the trade in art without documented export permissions from countries of origin, with the Nazi looting of Jewish-owned artworks. The EU Resolution states that, “according to Interpol, the black market for works of art is becoming as lucrative as those for drugs, weapons and counterfeit goods.” However, it neither dates nor cites the source for this Interpol claim, nor does it identify which works of art it is talking about – an important point, since the market for antiquities is a tiny fraction of the art market as a whole, being well under 1%. The antiquities trade, in which hundreds of thousands of artworks have circulated over many decades without documentation of the original export, is seen as equal to the wartime looting of cultural heritage. “Looted” and “illicit” are the terms applied to objects that have been traded without documented permission for export.

For example, The Resolution states as one of its premises that, “80 to 90 % of global antiquities sales are of goods of illicit origin.”

Yet very few sales of global antiquities are of objects that have recently entered the market. Within the market, a traceable ownership history showing that an object has not been recently taken out of a source country substitutes for an export permit. Such permits were rarely issued in any case, and if they were, are very unlikely to have been retained for decades. The importance of having a documented ownership history is shown by the fact that objects without it not only have the lowest market value, being virtually unsaleable in the U.S. and Europe, but are the least desirable to collectors and unacceptable as gifts to museums.

The EU Resolution is said to be an emergency measure in light of a supposed increase in looting for the Western market, stating that, “valuable artworks, sculptures and archaeological artefacts are being sold and imported into the EU from certain non-EU countries, with the profits potentially being used to finance terrorist activities.”

While the EU Resolution does recognize that, “further investigation is needed to shed light on the dark field of illicit trade in cultural property and to obtain better information about its scale, structure and size.” Unfortunately it takes as its example the ILLICID Project in Germany, which is focused on documenting financial flows in the field of organized crime and terrorism, rather than examining the realities of the art trade as a whole.

After years of unsupported claims in the media about Middle Eastern looting for profit by ISIS in the hundreds of millions, even billions of dollars, it has been accepted by many authorities that such claims were unjustified.

Even in 2016, when ISIS was at the height of its powers, the Dutch National Police, Central Investigation Unit, War Crimes Unit reported in Cultural Property, War Crimes and Islamic State:

“These claims are largely not supported by available government reports. (International and National) Customs Authorities have not reported growing influxes of illegal cultural property over their borders. Law enforcement agencies have not reported growing arrests of criminal art dealers or seizures of illegal cultural property from Syria and Iraq. Policy papers and studies do not present evidence that the illegal (online) art market flourishes and is overwhelmed with Syrian or Iraqi artefacts. Most museums have been evacuated and collections were hidden in secret storages, to prevent destruction and plunder. Media reports are rarely based on primary sources but rather copy each other’s headlines, leading to over exaggeration and unfounded estimates of IS revenues. Despite the lack of evidence for a large-scale illegal trade network benefiting IS, governments stress the importance of fighting this assumed vital source of income for IS.”

Most recently, the January 15, 2019, twenty-third report of the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team pursuant to resolutions 1526 (2004)and 2253 (2015), states:

“82.Despite systematic consultation with Member States, the Monitoring Team has been unable to establish that ISIL ever generated significant funds from human slavery or sexual violence, although it was certainly massively engaged in such crimes on a basis internal to the so-called “caliphate”. Member States also broadly share the analysis that ISIL did not systematically or fully exploit the funding potential of looting and trading in antiquities and cultural goods. Nevertheless, it will not be possible to draw firm conclusions on this until more is known about what was taken, and until enhanced detection and enforcement efforts have yielded more information.”

Coming from the UN, that is a dramatic change in assessment, but the EU Commission and Parliament do not appear to have got the message.

The recently adopted Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the introduction and the import of cultural goods alleged that there was a flourishing trade in antiquities supporting terrorism, these claims were not even supported by its own research, commissioned with Deloitte. In perpetuating this media myth, this EU regulation approved in December 2018 [Update: and adopted by the European Parliament on March 12, 2019] states that, “Looting of archaeological sites has always happened, but has now reached an industrial scale.”

These premises, however unsupported by fact, make clear that the EU’s January 17, 2019 Resolution is the result of continuing political pressure within in the European Parliament to eliminate the European antiquities market through a variety of legislative and policy vehicles, including by urging passage of new laws whose documentation requirements will simply be impossible for dealers and collectors to provide.

The Resolution makes note of the horrors of Nazi and other looting in wartime and the destruction of monuments by Daesh (ISIS) and government forces in the Middle East. It then enumerates the international and European conventions and laws enacted to halt these atrocities, from the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict to the 1998 Washington Conference Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art, and the European Parliament’s Action Plan against terrorist financing of 2 February 2016 (COM(2016)0050). It states that only 1000-2000 artworks have been restituted to Jewish former owners since the 1998 Washington Conference, and that some 100,000 Nazi-looted artworks are still missing.

Using the example of the acceptance of principles of restitution to individuals who lost art during the Holocaust, the Resolution urges that similar principles should apply regarding the restitution of cultural objects to source nations. Curiously, however, the EU Resolution fails to mention the seizure of Jewish individual and communal property by Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) nations during forced expulsions of Jewish populations after the creation of Israel and the Six-Day War. Nor does it address the demands by members of expelled Jewish and Christian communities of rights to their art and artifacts, which have been nationalized by Iraq, Syria, Libya, Egypt, Algeria, and other MENA nations today.

The EU Resolution states that currently, claims for artworks are hampered by “the expiration of post-war restitution laws, the non-retroactivity of conventional norms, the lack of any definition of looted ‘art’, statute of limitations provisions on claims or the provisions on adverse possession and good faith.”

It acknowledges that UNESCO, museums and collectors are doing provenance research in order to return works to their owners, but regrets that there has been insufficient follow-up within the EU system to develop, “civil and procedural law rules, provenance research, cataloguing systems, alternative dispute resolution mechanisms and the value of creating a cross-border coordination administrative authority.”

The EU Resolution calls on the European Commission to “protect, support and encourage cross-border restitution claims of cultural assets displaced and misappropriated as a result of state-sanctioned acts of plunder or looted during armed conflicts.”

There are some obvious contradictions within the EU Resolution. It states that EU legislative action should apply only to future transactions and not apply retroactively, while at the same time urging EU Member States to “harmonise the rules on provenance research and to incorporate some of the basic principles of the 1995 UNIDROIT Convention on stolen or illegally exported cultural objects.” UNIDROIT allows states to claim objects as unlawfully exported 75 years or more after the fact. At the same time, the EU Regulation also “welcomes” the EU regulations on import of cultural goods which came into force in December 2018, and which will deny EU import licenses to cultural goods without proof of lawful export from source countries unless the export took place prior to 1972.

The EU Parliament has thus effectively categorized all art without documented history of lawful export as “illicit.” Yet vast numbers of antiques and antiquities have entered global commerce since the 18th century.

The range of objects that would be covered if this proposal is adopted is vast. Almost all art-source nations outside of Europe and the US adopted laws in the late 20th or early 21st century nationalizing all art over 50-100 years of age and prohibiting its export. Few took actions to actually curb exports, and even fewer created export permitting systems except for restoration or temporary loans.

Regardless of the date of export, very few artworks and antiquities still have paperwork showing the terms of export in sufficient detail to meet EU standards for legal export. Egypt, the source of the largest number of antiquities in circulation, allowed legal export until 1983, but did not provide documentation sufficient to identify individual objects, merely certifying to boxes or cases of antiquities.

Together with the EU regulations adopted in December 2018, the January 17 Resolution institutionalizes myths about the art trade unsupported by evidence and discounted by the EU’s own investigations and research. It is regrettable that the positive steps urged by the EU in regard to return of Holocaust items and artworks looted in conflicts are undermined by its inaccuracies regarding the historical circulation of antiquities and antiques, and its unjustified characterization of public and private collections and the art trade as 80-90% illicit.


"UK to Change Treasure Act – New Restrictions Proposed"


The UK’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport announced plans to modify Britain’s 1996 Treasure Act to “allow more artefacts to be acquired by local and national museums and put on public display.” The changes include classing objects worth over £10,000 as Treasure, regardless of the material of which they are made.

Britain’s ancient common law of treasure trove gave the Crown all finds of gold or silver that had been deliberately hidden, where the original owner intended to return and collect it, but could not be found.

Britain’s 1996 Treasure Act modernized the common law: it required finders to report gold and silver objects over 300 years of age, for which no one claimed ownership. The Treasure Act also made finders and landowners eligible for a reward if objects went to a museum.

The Treasure Act works in combination with the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS), run since 2006 by the British Museum (in Wales, the Amgueddfa Cymru, the National Museum Wales manages finds). The PAS is the world’s first country-wide proactive mechanism for recording archaeological finds, including accidental discoveries and finds by metal-detectorists and amateur archeologists. (In England and Wales, metal detectoring is legal if regulations are followed. In Northern Ireland, it is illegal to search for archaeological objects without permission.)

The proposed changes to the Treasure Act were prompted by an extraordinary number of large and important finds in recent years, including objects that were exceedingly valuable, but which did not fit the law’s definition of treasure, which still rested on old-fashioned notions about treasure meaning gold and silver. One such found object, an exceptionally fine 1,700 year old Roman era bronze helmet was found by a metal detectorist in 2010. Because the helmet was made of a copper alloy it could not be considered Treasure under the law and was sold to a private buyer for 2.3 million pounds.

Government officials say that the scheme’s success requires changes to be made. The UK earlier required metal detectorists to report finds, but compliance was low. By incentivizing reporting through PAS, the number of reported Treasure finds had increased 1500% and a more efficient process was needed to manage them.

The British Museum’s Michael Lewis told the Telegraph that the change, “offers a chance to strengthen the Act in terms of law enforcement and to further normalise the treasure process, recognising we now have a network of archaeologists across England responsible for logging public finds, including treasure.”

According to the publication by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, “Revising the definition of treasure in the Treasure Act 1996 and revising the related codes of practice,” while the vast majority of metal detectorists and other who find archaeological materials are in compliance with the law, a few “unscrupulous” individuals fail to report and sell items in online venues. Under the existing law, they cannot be sanctioned.

Since officials believe that the current law is being followed, the proposed amendment to require a permit for all digging by professional archaeologists as well as amateurs and metal detectorists could add significantly to the government’s administrative burden and discourage the thousands of hobbyists who have voluntarily contributed data to the PAS scheme, without hampering the “unscrupulous” individuals who would likely fail to apply for a permit in the first place.

The government is seeking commentary from individuals and organizations interested in the treasure process, including but not limited to “archaeologists, coroners, curators, Finds Liaison Officers and metal detectorists.” Comments will be accepted until April 30, 2019. The survey can be answered online, by downloading the form, or by email. Commenters will find the written report very useful and should review them first. In addition, the government suggests that commenters read The Treasure Act 1996: Code of Practice. For questions, the contact address is treasure@culture.gov.uk.

In summary, under current law, the Portable Antiquities Scheme website defines Treasure as:

Any metallic object, other than a coin, provided that at least 10 per cent by weight of metal is precious metal (that is, gold or silver) and that is at least 300 years old when found. If the object is of prehistoric date it will be Treasure provided any part of it is precious metal.

Any group of two or more metallic objects of any composition of prehistoric date that come from the same find.

Two or more coins from the same find provided they are at least 300 years old when found and contain 10 per cent gold or silver (if the coins contain less than 10 per cent of gold or silver there must be at least ten of them).

Any object that would previously have been treasure trove, but does not fit the categories above. This would be objects that are less than 300 years old, that are made substantially of gold or silver, that have been deliberately hidden with the intention of recovery and whose owners or heirs are unknown.

What are the proposed changes?

The UK’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport published its proposed changes as a Consultation that includes the survey questions for the public. The stated aim of the Act is to preserve significant finds for public collections. The proposed changes are to make the treasure process more efficient and rational – and to ensure that a workable system exists for the future.

Key proposed changes:

Adding a regulation applying in England and Wales similar to the one pertaining already Northern Ireland under which archaeological digging of any sort (both by professional archaeologists and others) is only allowed by permit.

The Act would change the date to which the Treasure Act applies from 300 + years old sliding date to pre-1714, the date that the first Hanoverian king, George, came to the throne.

A second class of Treasure would be objects that meet the age criterion (i.e. are at least 200 years old when found) and have a value of over £10,000. Changing archaeological objects of any material to Treasure means that a found object becomes Crown property. However, a reward would still be paid based upon its market value.

Another class of Treasure would be single gold coins dated between AD 43, the beginning of the Roman period, and 1344, the year that Edward III successfully re-introduced English gold coinage.

Inclusion of base-metal Roman objects as Treasure if two or more are found in a closed deposit.

Exemption of objects from classification as Treasure if found in Church of England contexts, for example, moveable articles connected to cathedrals, churches and land, including burial grounds

Creating a duty on a person who acquires a find that they reasonably believe to be treasure to report it to the coroner. This would create a criminal offense of failing to notify the coroner where a possible treasure finds has been acquired and there has been no investigation.

The finder has a duty to report possible treasure within 14 days where there are reasonable grounds to believe that an article is treasure.

The inquest process would be simplified, especially if no museum expressed an interest in the object(s).

Placing narrow time limits for museums to express an interest (28 days), hold off inquests until time for interest has passed, for interested parties to provide further information on valuation (28 days after parties are informed of provisional valuation).

Establish new rules defining treasure status (for example, “a number of extremely rare Roman millefiori glass bowls were only declared treasure because they were found with a bronze vessel with a very small silver component that fell within the definition of treasure in the Act. For this reason a partial hoard cannot be disclaimed until after it has been declared treasure.”)

Other changes are practical measures, such as that the Treasure Secretariat should screen lower value finds to avoid situation where cost of valuing the finds averages £115 per find, but in some cases the valuation is only £5 or £10.

With enactment of the Portable Antiquities Scheme, or PAS, almost twenty years ago, the UK established a system that benefited both finders of objects and archaeologists. Every find is photographed, digitally recorded, and made publicly available on the PAS online database so the data is a valuable educational and research resource.

The PAS set rules for notification and documentation, gave government archaeologists the ability to excavate finds, and supported the Treasure Act by increasing opportunities for museums to acquire archaeological finds for the public benefit. The PAS’s publicly available databases houses well over a million objects.

Under the current system, if someone discovers archaeological objects, it must be reported to a local Finds Liaison Officer and a Report is made. Then it is offered to the local museum for acquisition. If a museum does not want it, then it is returned to the finder. If it is deemed to be treasure, then it becomes the property of the Crown.

Objects are not purchased by museums, but a valuation is placed on the object for establishing a reward to the finder. First an independent expert valuer and then a Treasure Valuation Committee at the British Museum will value it. An invoice is issued to the British Museum and payment is supposed to be made to the finder within 4 months.

Past PAS finds included The Frome (Somerset) Hoard of 52,503 coins, a hoard hidden in 290 AD, one of 500 Romans coin hoards discovered since the PAS scheme began in 1997. PAS data has been used in hundreds of research projects, including about 100 PhDs. It also encourages active public involvement in archaeology. Community-based volunteers assist in recording finds, in events and exhibitions to raise awareness of the educational value of archaeological context, and promoting protection of the local historic environment.

Government urges widespread participation in the Consultation

The UK’s Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has urged all interested persons and organizations to weigh in with comments on the proposals. With its Portable Antiquities Scheme, and the Treasure Act, the UK has developed the only functional and eminently successful system in the world for bringing amateurs and hobbyists, professional archaeologists, historians treasure hunting metal detectorists, and the communities together to document and preserve sites and finds for the public benefits. It is a positive model for preserving heritage around the world. If success has brought out practical and legal elements of the scheme that need improvement, changes may result in an even better and more workable model for the future.

The consultation is open until April 30, 2019 and can be accessed on this page: Open consultation:

Revising the definition of treasure in the Treasure Act 1996 and revising the related codes of practice


"UNESCO Exposed! World Heritage Committee Meeting in Baku Will Be Hosted By Cultural Destroyers"


“There are no Armenian graves in the territory of Nakhchivan. This is just an Armenian fabrication.” Azeri Parliamentarian Rafael Huseynov, Azerbaijan State News Agency, 1/24/2008.

It was December 2005. The greatest collection in the world of the Armenian Christian carved stone stele called khachkars stood within the ancient cemetery at Djulfa in Nakhichevan, in Azerbaijan. A few thousand feet away, just across the border in Iran, the Prelate of Northern Iran’s Armenian Church wept as he recited a service for the people who had been buried there for centuries, watching as Azeri soldiers used cranes and sledgehammers to destroy the ancient graveyard. Many of the thousands of intricately carved, tall, standing cross-stones, considered one of the most extraordinary monuments to Armenian heritage, were over a thousand years old.

The story of the destruction of thousands of cross-stones and 89 churches – the entire Christian heritage of the region of Nakhichevan – is detailed in A Regime Conceals Its Erasure of Indigenous Armenian Culture, by Simon Maghakyan and Sarah Pickman, just published in Hyperallergic and reported on by The Guardian.

Many readers’ first reaction to the shocking report on Azerbaijan’s destruction of this world-renowned heritage site, was to ask, why didn’t UNESCO stop them?

Unfortunately, that’s not what UNESCO does. The world thinks of UNESCO as focused on protecting international heritage for the benefit of all mankind. Increasingly, however, UNESCO defers completely to national governments over cultural heritage. It encourages demands for return of long-held objects from other nations, and at the same time, fails to insist on protections for cultural heritage within their boundaries – even, in the case of Azerbaijan, turns a blind eye when a government destroys it.

UNESCO’s support for national over international interests and the rights of governments to control cultural heritage will certainly be on show in June and July 2019, when UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee will meet in Baku, the capital of oil-rich Azerbaijan. Newly elected World Heritage Committee Chairman, Abulfaz Garayev, who is also Azerbaijan’s Minister of Culture, will chair the organization’s 43rd session.

UNESCO has never held Azerbaijan’s leaders accountable for the complete destruction of its Orthodox Christian heritage within the region of Nakhichevan. Instead, UNESCO seems eager to accept Azerbaijan’s rewriting of history. But the 2005 annihilation of Djulfa’s magnificent cross-stones is a cultural crime that neither UNESCO nor the Azeri government can deny.

The historic sites most recently demolished by government forces in Nakhichevan have already been subjected to a long history of conflict. Once known as the autonomous Republic of Nakhijevan, the region sits between Armenia, Iran and Turkey. It was considered an Armenian province when it was annexed by Czarist Russia in 1826, and then delivered to Azerbaijan in 1921 in the Turkish-Russian Treaty of Moscow. In 1919, massacres of the Armenian population and forced removals took place during the Armenian Genocide.

Throughout the 20th century, vandalism and destruction of the cultural heritage of opposing ethnic groups has occurred in both Azerbaijan and Armenia. The ancient cemetery located at Djulfa was first pillaged in 1903 to clear a path for railroad construction, destroying nearly 6,000 khachkars. That ‘cultural crime’ was not Azeri in origin; it took place under Russian Czarist administration. The apparently arbitrary allocation of lands to Armenia and Azerbaijan at the end of the Soviet period was typical of Soviet thinking, when lines were often drawn to deliberately divide populations.

A multi-ethnic state during the Soviet period, Azerbaijan had a population of almost 500,000 Armenians in 1974. Internal and cross-border strife with Armenia during the Nagorno-Karabakh war was extremely violent, resulting in thousands of civilian as well as military deaths on both sides. Today, almost all the remaining Armenians live in the breakaway republic of Nogorno-Karabakh.

The Azeri government’s policy of deliberate destruction of the cultural record of Christian culture in Nakhichevan did not begin until the last decade of the 20th century. In 1998, when the Azeri government ordered the first massive destruction of the khachkars, UNESCO delayed acting until 2002, after several thousand had been destroyed. But the protest was weak and UNESCO allowed Djulfa to be forgotten.

Then, in December 2005, UNESCO again failed to act as Azeri military descended on the Djulfa cemetery, taking a week to smash every one of the remaining khachkars with sledgehammers, load the fragments onto trucks, and dump them into the river that marked the international border. Within a few months, the ancient cemetery had been completely flattened and made into a firing range for soldiers. Despite pleas from the Armenian government and international non-governmental organizations, UNESCO did not speak up to stop this final destruction of the last of Nakhichevan’s khachkars.

As Azeri cultural officials are quick to point out, there are medieval Christian churches remaining in other regions of Azerbaijan. The Azeri position that there are not and never have been Christians in Nakhichevan, thereby justifying Azerbaijan’s territorial claims to a traditionally Armenian area, is fundamentally a political matter. For Azerbaijan, it was worth destroying an irreplaceable part of world heritage to defend its political aims.

An article penned by Peter Tase appeared in Eurasia Diary, condemning the Pickman and Maghakyan article in Hyperallergic. Tase insisted that “all grave stones were carried by Armenian nationals from Julfa region of Azerbaijan to Armenia.” He characterized the Hyperallergic article as “insidious political offensive and information warfare that is clearly orchestrated by Yerevan’s top officials,” addressing “matters that have never happened throughout ancient and modern history of Julfa and Nakhchivan.” Clearly, for Azerbaijan, this is about politics, not culture.

By holding the 2019 meeting in Azerbaijan, hosted by the same government that ordered this cultural annihilation, UNESCO is demonstrating once again that deference to a national government is more important than commitment to international goals of protection.

Azerbaijan is an oil-rich nation in the Caucasus region, north of Iran. Since independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, its government has been essentially a hereditary authoritarian state. A series of coups in Azerbaijan overthrew a democratically-elected president in 1993, leading to the rise in power of a former Soviet leader and KGB chief, Heydar Aliyev. The Aliyev family’s dominance has never waned; it is sustained by Azerbaijan’s vast oil wealth and characterized by state violence and a disregard for human rights. Heydar Aliyev’s son, Ilham Aliyev, replaced him as President in 2003. Ilham Aliyev was re-elected president for a fourth term in 2017, after terms were extended in 2016 to seven years. Four other parties boycotted the elections, which international observers stated were characterized by “serious irregularities.” The opposition party received only 3% of the vote.

The 21st century rulers of Azerbaijan do spend generously on “preserving culture,” and have restored a few Christian churches in other regions. Within Azerbaijan, however, only the cultural narrative that supports the regime counts. Despite Nakhichevan having once been a primary location for Orthodox Christian churches and monuments, none are listed today among Azerbaijan’s World Cultural Heritage Sites, or even the ten sites currently on Azerbaijan’s Tentative List.

What still remained of Nakhichevan’s Christian culture has been eliminated from history by an officially mandated cultural erasure over the last 15 years. The destruction is both physical and intellectual. At the same time that Christian monuments have been bulldozed and smashed with hammers, the regime has rewritten history and removed access to records of Orthodox Christian culture dating back to the medieval period in the enclave of Nakhichevan.

It should be noted that this cultural destruction is not necessarily based on religious antipathy. It exploits religious differences, but its true character is nationalist, and may be seen in other state actions. Take, for example, the Azeri government’s removal of Persian language inscribed tiles in 2013 from the mausoleum of Nezami Ganjavi in Ganja. The twelfth-century poet, known best as Nizami, although born and buried in what is now Azerbaijan, is revered throughout the Persian speaking world (and beyond) as the greatest romantic poet of the period. He wrote in Persian, not Turkic, and at the time, Azerbaijan did not exist as a country. Nonetheless, in justifying removing the tile inscription, Khalil Yusifli, the director of the Nezami Ganjavi Centre of Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences, stated that the tiles were being replaced with tiles of the poet’s verses translated into Azeri, to ensure that everyone understood that Nezami was a representative of Azerbaijani literature.

UNESCO’s willingness to ignore what is really going on among member nations, and its failure to demand accountability, is made abundantly clear in the lengthy report published in February 2019 by Simon Maghakyan and Sarah Pickman in Hyperallergic.

Because the sites on which Orthodox Christian churches, cathedrals, and graveyards once stood are now barren empty spaces, or the sites of brand-new mosques, the havoc wreaked on Armenian heritage by the Aliyev regime could have remained hidden forever, covered up by false statements and government propaganda.

In an amazing turn of fate, an extraordinary record of surveys, documentation, and photographs exists today, thanks to independent researcher Argam Ayvazyan. Ayvazyan began to make photographic records in Nakhichevan at the age of 17 in 1964. From that time until 1987, Ayvazyan documented the remains of Orthodox Christian, Armenian, and Muslim heritage in his native Nakhichevan, eventually publishing some 200 articles and over 40 books detailing both Christian and Muslim monuments.

During his researches, Ayvazyan often had to conceal his true interest in documenting historical materials that were already politically extremely sensitive during the Soviet period. At one point, he was stopped by police and pulled in for a talking-to by then KGB chief Heydar Aliyev, later to become the first President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, and the father of the current President Ilham Aliyev.

Heydar Aliyev told him, according to Maghakyan and Pickman, “Never again do such things, there are no Armenian-Shmarmenian things here!”

Maghakyan and Pickman’s detailed forensic report in Hyperallergic is filled with the photographic documentation collected by Argam Ayvazyan over four decades. This irreplaceable history reveals the full and tragic extent of the Aliyev regime’s deliberate destruction of Armenian Christian monuments and cemeteries.

Based upon Ayvazyan’s records and photographs, he documented – and the Aliyev regime has now deliberately destroyed – at least 89 standing churches and cathedrals, 5,840 khachkars – ornately decorated standing headstones – and an estimated 22,000 flat headstones in the region’s cemeteries. All these monuments and cemeteries were recorded by dedicated Armenia-based researcher Argam Ayvazyam from 1964 to 1987.

One of the last places destroyed was the Djulfa cemetery, home to approximately 2000 Khachkars. The cemetery was preserved longer than many in Nakhichevan, perhaps because it was on the Iranian border, and it was possible for others to keep an eye on it from abroad. According to Maghakyan and Pickman, a Scottish researcher, Steven Sim, traveled to Nakhichevan in 2005. While he was quickly interrogated and told to leave, Sim at least saw many headstones from the Djulfa cemetery from the windows of the train leaving Djulfa.

But that was not to last. Just a few months later, Iranian border patrols spotted about 100 Azeri forces with construction vehicles and sledgehammers destroying the Khachkars in the ancient Armenian Cemetery.

Thanks in part to a massive publicity campaign to deflect accusations of corruption and money-laundering by the Aliyev regime, the destruction of Armenian Christian culture in Azerbaijan has been little noticed in the UK, Europe or the US. A 2017 investigation by The Guardian revealed that this campaign included highly paid consultants from European media, business and government (“UK at centre of secret $3bn Azerbaijani money laundering and lobbying scheme,” and even EU parliamentarians. According to The Guardian:

“…the Azerbaijani leadership, accused of serial human rights abuses, systemic corruption and rigging elections, made more than 16,000 covert payments from 2012 to 2014. Some of this money went to politicians and journalists, as part of an international lobbying operation to deflect criticism of Azerbaijan’s president, Ilham Aliyev, and to promote a positive image of his oil-rich country. There is no suggestion that all the recipients were aware of the original source of the money. It arrived via a disguised route.”

Also according to The Guardian, a Bulgarian consultant, Kalin Mitrev, received “at least €425,000 for private consulting work from a local Azeri company, Avuar Co.” Mitrev acknowledged the payments and said they were for legitimate business consultancy. The Guardian also noted that:

“The revelation that her husband consulted for an Azeri company might prove awkward for Mitrev’s wife, Irina Bokova, who is the director general of Unesco… She also hosted a photo exhibition at Unesco’s headquarters in Paris, entitled Azerbaijan – A Land of Tolerance. The Heydar Aliyev foundation organised the event.”

The exhibition Azerbaijan – A Land of Tolerance, opened on October 22, 2013, four months after Azerbaijan presented UNESCO with $5 million dollars, helping to offset a serious budget shortfall after the U.S. stopped making payments to the organization in 2011. Soon after, Bokova is said to have facilitated Azerbaijani participation in the UNESCO Leaders Forum, in which President Ilham Aliyev lectured the group on tolerance. President Aliyev said, “multiculturalism is not just an idea, it is our tradition, a state policy and our lifestyle.” Bokova also made several trips to Azerbaijan to participate in the UNESCO World Forum on Intercultural Dialog, which will hold its annual meeting there again on May 2-3, 2019.

The Aliyev regime claims to be a preservers of culture, and promotes that claim through well-financed publicity campaigns in which UNESCO, wittingly or not, has colluded. Ilham Aliyev’s wife, Mehriban Aliyeva, who holds multiple top positions as Vice President of Azerbaijan, President of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, Goodwill Ambassador of UNESCO and ISESCO, has received medals and positive press coverage for supporting ‘tolerance and interfaith harmony.’ Praise for the Azerbaijan regime has come from UNESCO, the Russian Orthodox Church, and the Vatican. (Six years after the massive destruction of Orthodox Christian monuments within Azerbaijan, the Heydar Aliyev Foundation agreed in 2012 to fund the restoration of the catacombs of Saint Marcellinus and Saint Peter in Rome.) In 2010, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova presented the Mozart Medal, a top UNESCO award, to First Lady Mehriban Aliyeva.

The Djulfa Virtual Memorial and Museum is the U.S. non-profit organization that compiled the research on the destruction of Armenian heritage published in January 2019 in Hyperallergic and The Guardian. In the past, the group has also drawn attention to tactics used by the government of Azerbaijan to influence international opinion. After publication in 2017 of The Guardian’s expose of money-laundering and bribery, the organization called on Director-General Bokova to resign, based on Azerbaijan’s apparent manipulation of UNESCO, in an article published by Asbarez, a news outlet of the Armenian National Committee of America:

“While Irina Bokova has repeatedly and justifiably condemned ISIS vandalism of Assyrian, Christian, Islamic, Yezidi, and Hellenistic sites, she has failed to do so in the case of Azerbaijan’s state-sponsored, deliberate, and systematic targeting of medieval Armenian monuments despite UNESCO’s awareness of Djulfa’s destruction, as evidenced by its World Heritage Centre director Francesco Bandarin’s 2011 official correspondence with our organization…”

“…But her husband’s personal acceptance of laundered money from Azerbaijan appears to shed a light on Irina Bokova’s intransigent refusal to acknowledge, let alone seek accountability for, Azerbaijan’s destruction of medieval Djulfa and other monuments of the region’s ancient Armenian civilization.”

When the Institute for War and Peace Reporting stated that the medieval cemetery at Djulfa had been completely eradicated in 2006, the Baku government claimed the reports were false and insisted that the cemetery was still there. Since then, the regime has routinely denied access to the devastated region of Nakhichevan. Azeri authorities refused to allow a delegation from the European Parliament to Djulfa in August 2006, a trip which had been scheduled since January of that year. After his arrival in 2011 as American Ambassador, Matthew Bryza demanded to visit the region. Although the ambassador was generally seen as sympathetic to the government of Azerbaijan, he was refused permission to access the site.

The regime refuses to admit what it has done, and now denies that a Christian community ever existed in Nakhichevan. Parliamentarian Rafael Huseynov stated in 2008 that, ““There are no Armenian graves in the territory of Nakhchivan. This is just an Armenian fabrication.”

At the same time, Azerbaijan’s news coverage includes repeated reporting on the poor condition of Muslim historic sites in Armenia, along with claims that deliberate destruction of Azerbaijani heritage continues there.

Azerbaijan is one of 169 nations that has ratified (in 1992) the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which entered into force on 3 January 1976. This Covenant recognizes communities right to access science and culture, and to publicly participate in cultural life.

Azerbaijan has also ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which entered into force on 23 March 1976. The Covenant calls for the prohibition by law of any propaganda for war and of any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence (art. 20). It also calls for protection of the rights of ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities in the territories of States parties (art. 27)

With respect to the religious heritage of Azerbaijan’s Christian communities in Nakhichevan, the rights to freedom of thought, conscience and religion enshrined in these fundamental documents appears to have been tossed aside.

The meeting in Azerbaijan could be an opportunity for the world to see how the wanton destruction of cultural heritage in recent decades has not only been perpetrated by terrorist groups and other non-state actors, but also undertaken by government forces. UNESCO’s meeting in Baku could be used to challenge a regime for placing a nationalist agenda above the value of cultural heritage for humanity as a whole. So far, UNESCO shows no sign of raising the issue. State sovereignty is a pillar of current UNESCO policy – but the situation in Azerbaijan shows how weak a protection it is when governments want to alter history. UNESCO’s current policies now appear to be an obstacle to preservation, instead of a means to prevent harm to heritage.


"After 6 years, New Orleans' African American Museum set for grand re-opening in Treme"

The to-do lists on the four pieces of bright yellow paper on the wall next to Gia Hamilton’s desk are a prominent reminder of what has already been accomplished — and what is left to be done — before the New Orleans African American Museum in Treme­ celebrates its re-opening on Thursday (April 11).


The evening event, with free admission, will feature a blessing by Sula Spirit, music from DJ RQ Away and refreshments from Dooky Chase’s Restaurant.

Visitors will also experience the debut of “Everywhere We Are, Everywhere We Go: Black Spaces and Geographies," an exhibition that Hamilton, the museum's new executive director and curator, got the Amistad Research Center to curate.

Focusing on the history of Treme, a neighborhood established by free people of color in the late 18th century, the exhibition features photos of Mardi Gras Indians, musicians such as Louis Armstrong and the neighborhood, as well as art and documents pertaining to the history of Treme.

The grand re-opening is a way to celebrate a new beginning for the museum.

It’s a challenge that Hamilton is embracing, and one that is personal as well as professional.

“I talk about the museum as a passion project,” said Hamilton.

The mother of four, soon to be five, is raising her children in Treme, where she's lived since 2016. Her grandmother was born in Treme.

Hamilton volunteered at the museum as a high-school student when it opened in 1996, after being recruited by her brother. “He had come back from France, where he had gotten his master's in business, and helped on various projects, such as setting up the books, for six months before moving to another job,” she said.

Her new position? “It's really serendipitous.”

Before joining the museum in January, Hamilton was the director of the Joan Mitchell Center, an artist residency program on Bayou Road, and before that served as consulting managing director of Junebug Productions, a New Orleans theatrical company.

Both gave her experience handling budgets, wrangling donations and dealing with the everyday issues of running a museum.

In May, Hamilton will present “Welcome to the Afrofuture,” which she curated at Art Basel Miami in 2018, and Paper Monuments’ “Claiming Space.” Paper Monuments seeks to bring diverse New Orleans voices to the discussion of public monuments.

Planning for the African-American Museum is done in the museum’s blue administration building at 1417 Gov. Nicholls St., which had been renovated, but never really put to use before the museum closed.

The other buildings include the Meilleur-Goldthwaite House, which faces the administration building, the former slave quarters, three houses and the Passebon Cottage, which was a brickyard owned by free people of color before the Civil War.

The properties stretch back from Gov. Nicholls Street along North Villere Street to Ursulines Street.

When walking through the complex with Hamilton, her excitement about what can be done is evident. But first, the buildings, some in a state of neglect and disrepair, need to be stabilized. She is awaiting contractors’ bids for that and future renovation.

For now, reconnecting with the community is among the priorities, particularly through events such as the grand re-opening.

Hamilton admits not wanting to do more than the museum can handle, but is excited about having robust programming, particularly through partnerships.

“We'll be launching something called the museum takeover that actually gives organizations and/or artists and creatives an opportunity to kind of utilize the museum in creative ways once a month," she said.

The word is out about the museum. Tour operators have started sending inquiries, and a school tour has been lined up. Ideas City conference and residency will start a few days after the grand re-opening. Ideas City, founded in 2011 by the New Museum in New York City, addresses the premise that art and culture are essential to the vitality of cities. The museum will be one of its locations for programming.

Standing outside the administration building and looking across the street at the museum's other structures, Hamilton said, “Like most people who drove by, I was saddened by the deterioration and that there was nothing happening.”

But starting Thursday, something will be happening again.


"On anniversary of Lee’s surrender, ACLU calls for removal of his statue"


RICHMOND, Va. (CNS) — Tuesday marked the 154th anniversary of the Confederate Army surrendering to the Union on April 9, 1865. The American Civil Liberties Union used the event, which ended the Civil War, as another call for action: to remove the Monument Avenue statue honoring Robert E. Lee.

Lee was the commander of the Confederate Army and the man who signed the surrender at the Appomattox Court House more than a century and a half ago. He is memorialized at the center of the roundabout at Monument and North Allen avenues in Richmond.

There have been numerous attempts to remove the statue or move it to a museum or other location that critics deem more appropriate.

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney has said he wants to take down the statues of Lee and other Confederate figures on Monument Avenue. But under state law, local governments do not have authority over such monuments.

Protests, demonstrations and rallies have taken place at the Lee statue. The monument has also been vandalized multiple times.

In an “emergency” response to such events, the Virginia Department of General Services has attempted to regulate demonstrations at the monuments. The Virginia branch of the ACLU is challenging those regulations as unconstitutional.

On Tuesday, the ACLU issued a statement calling on the public to urge Gov. Ralph Northam to take action and move the monument.

“The answer to the problem of how to balance public safety and the right to free expression at this public forum is not to enact burdensome, illegal regulations,” the group said.

ACLU officials said the Lee statue, which was erected in 1890, is a Jim Crow-era symbol of racism and oppression.

Northam could use his executive authority to remove the statue from Monument Avenue, the ACLU said.

“The Lee Monument is a state-property island in the middle of Richmond, and if Gov. Northam is committed to racial equity, he should immediately remove this towering racist symbol,” the organization said.


"Mummified mice and more in latest Egyptian tomb discovery"

SOHAG (AFP).- Dozens of mummified mice were among the animals found in an ancient Egyptian tomb, unveiled Friday by the antiquities ministry with the aim of drawing tourists to the central Sohag province.


The tomb dating back more than 2,000 years was unearthed in the city of Akhmim and is believed to have belonged to a senior official.

"It's one of the most exciting discoveries ever in the area," said Mostafa Waziri, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities which sits within the ministry.

A human mummy was found inside, along with more than 50 mummified mice, cats and falcons, dating to the Ptolemaic era.

Egypt's tourism industry has been struggling in recent years and the antiquities ministry said Friday's presentation was intended to "draw the world's attention to the civilisation and antiquities of Egypt".

The country's plethora of heritage sites is a major draw for tourists and the ministry described Sohag as "one of the most historically rich cities in Egypt", where a museum opened last year.

Political instability and deadly attacks since the 2011 revolution have led to a drop in visitor numbers, although there has been a slight recovery in recent years.

Authorities regularly celebrate new discoveries, but Egypt is often accused of negligence regarding its cultural heritage and a lack of scientific rigour.


"Whitney Museum announces 300 recent acquisitions"

NEW YORK, NY.- The Whitney Museum of American Art announced today that it has acquired 300 works of art in the last six months. As a result of these acquisitions, 60 new artists and collectives have entered the collection.


Several of the acquisitions were first presented in the Whitney's ongoing series of exhibitions focused on emerging artists, including Carolina Caycedo and Lena Henke (Between the Waters, 2018), Christine Sun Kim (Christine Sun Kim: Too Much Future, 2018), Guadalupe Maravilla, Ronny Quevedo, and Clarissa Tossin (Pacha, Llaqta, Wasichay: Indigenous Space, Modern Architecture, New Art, 2018), and Willa Nasatir (Willa Nasatir, 2017).

In addition, the Whitney deepened its commitment to artists already represented in the collection by adding works by Diane Arbus, Richard Avedon, Carol Bove, Bruce Conner, John Currin, Roe Ethridge, Nan Goldin, David Hammons, Hock E Aye Vi Edgar Heap of Birds, Jasper Johns, Mark Rothko, Wu Tsang, David Wojnarowicz, Grant Wood, and others.

“The Whitney’s collection is a living, growing, and dynamic resource that allows us to continually reframe the history of American life and artistic culture. Our new acquisitions permit us to present new art histories, especially when we put those works on the Whitney’s walls so soon after acquiring them. Recent acquisitions such as Emma Amos’s Baby (1966) and Kay WalkingStick’s April Contemplating May (1972) are now displayed in Spilling Over: Painting Color in the 1960s, and an important 1959 painting by Ed Clark will reenergize our understanding of mid-century painting when it hangs this summer as part of a new collection display,” noted David Breslin, DeMartini Family Curator and Director of the Collection.

Scott Rothkopf, Senior Deputy Director and Nancy and Steve Crown Family Chief Curator added: “We’re thrilled that many of our recent acquisitions, particularly by artists new to the collection, arose through our reenergized emerging artist program. This continues our historical commitment to acquiring works by contemporary artists directly from our groundbreaking exhibitions and allows us to extend our dialogue with these artists as stewards of their work. We also are delighted that twelve of the artists in the upcoming Whitney Biennial are already in the collection, including Meriem Bennani, Barbara Hammer, Simone Leigh, and Christine Sun Kim, whose works have just entered the collection for the first time.”

The Whitney’s collection includes nearly 25,000 works created by some 3,500 artists during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. This focus on the contemporary, along with a deep respect for artists’ creative process and vision, has guided the Museum’s collecting ever since its founding in 1930. The collection begins with Ashcan School painting and follows the major movements of the twentieth century in America, with strengths in modernism and Social Realism, Precisionism, Abstract Expressionism, Pop art, Minimalism, Postminimalism, art centered on identity and politics that came to the fore in the 1980s and 1990s, and contemporary work.


"Bill Reid Gallery explores water as an essential lifeway in timely Indigenous women group exhibition"


VANCOUVER.- Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art presents qaʔ yəxw – water honours us: womxn and waterways from April 10–October 2, 2019. The premiere group exhibition is guest curated by four members of the ReMatriate Collective — Tsēmā Igharas (Tahltan), Tiffany Creyke (Tahltan), Angela Marie Schenstead (nêhiyaw), and Denver Lynxleg (Anishinaabe) — and features nine Indigenous artists. The exhibition will also feature Audrey Siegl (Musqueam) as an important contemporary Water Keeper. The show honours the important role of Indigenous women on the coast, both past and present, in a timely investigation amid ongoing debates about pipelines and Indigenous rights. qaʔ yəxw is a hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ expression that means “water honours us.”

“This exhibition highlights womxn’s unique relationship with water as child bearers, healers, doulas, and other roles key to Indigenous matriarchal societies of the Northwest Coast as we are womxn and waterways,” says the ReMatriate Collective. “Water connects us all through the seas, rivers, and clouds, and is not bound by human-imposed borders. Through art, performance, and interactive programming, we explore water as a crucial element for all of creation, as well as its historical uses for survival and sacred cycles. In addition, the artists look at the excess of contemporary resource consumption as a threat to sensitive environmental and coastal ecosystems.”

Formed in 2014, the ReMatriate Collective is dedicated to strengthening future generations of Indigenous women through positive self-representation. Their work encompasses the dissemination of public visual- and text-based works and exhibitions, including social media photo campaigns and hands-on workshops on traditional practices and skill development. Their collective work has been featured at the Western Front (2016), Arts Underground in Whitehorse (2018), and the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery at UBC (2018).

qaʔ yəxw – water honours us: womxn and waterways, features video, photography, carving, printmaking, beading, and performance by artists affiliated with various Indigenous peoples of the Northwest Coast and the interior of British Columbia. Each of the nine artists considers a unique experience with the life-giving element of water, and creates innovative works based on culturally specific practices:

Richelle Bear Hat (Blackfoot/Cree) is a Calgary based artist and a member of Siksika Nation and Blueberry River Nation. She graduated from the Alberta College of Art + Design with a BFA in 2011. Bear Hat’s artistic practice investigates ideas surrounding family relationships and the types of knowledge that are capable of being passed through them.

Krystle Coughlin (Selkirk) is currently an MFA candidate at Simon Fraser University’s school of contemporary arts. Her artistic practice blends different materials, methodologies, and symbols to create conceptual works. She is influenced by Indigenous feminism, post-structuralism, anti-colonialism, and activism.

Lindsay Katsitsakataste Delaronde (Mohawk) was born and raised on the Kahnawake reservation. Delaronde is a professional multi-disciplinary visual artist who works in contemporary Indigenous performance and as a facilitator of traditional workshops, such as moccasin making, beadwork, and Iroquois corn husk dolls. She is currently the Indigenous Artist in Residence for the City of Victoria.

Alison Marks (Tlingit) was born and raised in Southeast Alaska. She studied under master artists David R. Boxley and David A. Boxley in Kingston, Washington. Painting, woodcarving, regalia, and digital collage are a few of the mediums the artist employs. Marks is committed to the revitalization of the Tlingit language and creating works for traditional and ceremonial use.

Dionne Paul (Nuxalk/Sechelt) has a Masters of Applied Arts at Emily Carr University of Art + Design. Her thesis research focused on traditional special effects in potlatch performances. Paul’s work creates a unique lens to view Northwest Coast art, and opens a window to new possibilities of art objects and the relationship to performance.

Kali Spitzer (Kaska Dena) is from Daylu (Lower Post, BC) on her father’s side and Jewish on her mother’s side. Spitzer is currently studying at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and works with film — 35mm, 120mm, and large format. Her work includes portraits, figure studies, and photographs of her people, ceremonies, and culture.

Marika Echachis Swan (Nuu-chah-nulth) is a mother, artist, and community arts organizer of mixed Tla-o-qui-aht, Scottish, and Irish descent. Her main creative practice explores feminist Nuu-chah-nulth values through woodblock printmaking, often layered with other visual arts techniques such as carving, stencil, and photography.

Carrielynn Victor (Sto:lo) from the Chi:yom (Cheam) First Nation currently manages an Environmental Consultancy. Victor’s art is focused on maintaining Coast Salish design principles, while utilizing modern tools and mediums. Her work revolves around protection, preservation, and conservation of culture and the landscape.

Veronica Waechter (Gitxsan) grew up in Terrace, BC, on Tsimshian territory. In 2018, she graduated from Emily Carr University of Art + Design with a BFA, and soon after began working on totem pole carving with Gerry Sheena in different locations around Vancouver. Most recently, Waechter worked one-on-one under master carver Dempsey Bob.


"US returns ancient artifacts taken from Mexico"


Editor’s Note: It is highly unlikely that the FBI has information to document when and where these objects were found in West Mexico. It is equally disingenous to not acknowledge that there are thousands of similar objects from West Mexico in both recognized and published private and public collections throughout the world. It certainly appears that the public relations department of the FBI found it necessary to justify their raid by trashing Don Miller who is now dead. This is theater that unfortunately obfuscates real solutions to addressing looting and ownership of cultural peoperty.

MEXICO CITY (AFP).- The United States returned two ancient figurines to Mexico Tuesday, seized from the home of an amateur archeologist who died in 2015 with a collection of 42,000 artifacts, many of them taken illegally.

The small clay sculptures date from the Mesoamerican classical period, around 1,300 to 1,800 years ago, archeologists said at a ceremony at the US Embassy in Mexico City, where the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) handed back the figurines.

The long, strange story of their return "started with a police investigation, and concludes today with this ceremony, in which Mexico is recovering two artifacts that are part of its cultural heritage," said Mexican foreign ministry lawyer Sergio Estrada.

The artifacts were found in the US state of Indiana in the home of a collector named Don Miller, officials told journalists.

Miller, who died four years ago at age 91, spent his life traveling the world, participating in archeological digs and collecting rare artifacts, which he displayed in his basement.

But near the end of his life, the FBI -- acting on a tip -- raided his home and seized more than 7,000 of those artifacts, which appear to have been removed illegally from their countries of origin, said special agent Edward Gallant.

"In the 1960s and 1970s, Mr Miller participated in archeological digs in Mexico and Central America," and that is when he apparently took the two figurines, Gallant said -- though exactly where and when he found them is unclear.

Miller, whose collection also included items from China, Canada, Peru, Iraq and other countries, was cooperating with the FBI before he died, and was never prosecuted, said Gallant.

The FBI has established a database of the suspect items in his collection, and is slowly working through the painstaking process of trying to identify and return them.

Officials said it would take time and research to establish more about the origins and significance of the figurines, which both depict seated men clad only in jewelry.

"When artifacts are illicitly removed from their places of origin, we lose meaningful information about the study of the past. And once that context is destroyed, there is no recovering it," said Estrada.


"Germany begins 'largest' return of Aborigine remains"

MUNICH (AFP).- A German museum handed over the remains of an Aboriginal ancestral king to Australia on Tuesday in the first of three such ceremonies across Germany this month, which Canberra called a record return.


The Australian ambassador to Germany, Lynette Wood, and elder Gudju Gudju Fourmile of the Yidinji people received the skeletal remains at Munich's Five Continents museum where they have been stored since 1889.

"His journey now will be to be taken back home to Yidinji country," Fourmile said.

Yidinji representatives draped a black, yellow and red Aboriginal flag over the box containing the remains.

Skulls and bones from Australia's native peoples were removed by scientists in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and taken to museums, universities and collections in Australia and around the world.

There they were subjected to "research" purporting to explain human biological variety.

In a statement, Australia's Minister for Communications and the Arts Mitch Fifield welcomed the planned repatriation of a total of 53 Australian indigenous remains from Germany in April, saying it would be "the largest number of ancestors returned from Germany to date".

A further ceremony is planned at Stuttgart's Linden Museum on Friday for the repatriation of eight Aborigine remains.

"These ancestors will be returned to Australia under Australian government stewardship, so they can be cared for closer to home while further work is undertaken to identify their communities of origin," Fifield said.

On Monday in Berlin, 37 ancestors' remains from the Saxony state ethnographic collections as well as five ancestors from Martin Luther University will be returned to Yawuru community representatives and the Australian government.

"The Government would like to thank the German state governments and the collecting institutions for their commitment to recognising the significance of repatriation for all Australians, which contributes to healing and reconciliation," Fifield said.

Stepping up repatriations

Bavaria's arts and sciences minister Bernd Sibler, who attended Tuesday's event, said the German state was committed to a "transparent approach to collections from the colonial era", in coordination with indigenous representatives.

Australia's Department of Communication and the Arts said it had supported the "unconditional" return of more than 1,500 Australian indigenous ancestral remains from overseas and private collections for more than 30 years.

It said it was in talks with 35 institutions across 10 countries on the return of further remains.

Berlin's Charite, one of Europe's largest university hospitals, was the first scientific institution in Germany to sign a repatriation agreement with Australia, in 2008.

In April 2013 it handed over the skulls and bones of 33 Aborigines to Australian representatives to be returned for burial.

Germany has until now returned 51 human remains to Australia.

The native Aboriginal population, who have occupied Australia for 50,000 years, were dispossessed of their lands by the arrival of settlers two centuries ago.

As the colonisers pushed into the vast interior of the island continent, they were resisted by the local population and thousands of men, women and children were killed.

Germany is stepping up efforts to return human remains in its museums, hospitals and private collections.

The culture and foreign ministries as well as regional and local cultural authorities signed a pledge last month to speed up the return of human remains and artwork from former African colonies.

Germany has on several occasions repatriated human remains to Namibia, where it slaughtered tens of thousands of indigenous Herero and Nama people between 1904 and 1908.


"Alien Technology: Egyptian Light Bulb"


At the Temple of Hathor, Dendera, are stone reliefs showing a large lightbulb being used by Egyptians. Also referred to as the Dendera Light Bulb, the depiction is similar to the early lightbulb known as the "Crookes tube" (1895 A.D.) The relief's version of this light bulb shows a snake Inside the glass bulb in the form of a wavy line. This is believed to represent the hot filament. Snakes have been used to represent god-like knowledge and wisdom and are often used to represent rocket ships or space crafts that brought ancient aliens from the stars. Considering the lack of technological understanding of the primitive Egyptian craftsman, it is understandable how they would consider a white hot filament to be a magical snake. The filament (or snake) originates from a lotus flower (the socket of the lightbulb). A wire leads from the socket to a small box on which Shu, the Egyptian air god, is kneeling. Shu was the deity tasked with cooling and maintaining the air. How fitting that we see this god being put in charge of the likely extremely hot powering system for this amazing creation.

Beside the bulb stands a two-armed djed pillar, which is connected to the filament. This pillar is believed to be the power source for the light bulb. This pillar looks like an electric capacitor that we see today in power plants and its hard to believe the Egyptians possessed this technology.

The presence of electrical light would explain how the tomb hieroglyphs and inscriptions found under the Temple of Hathor were created without the use of burning torch light. Torches were used to give light to the artisans that created the reliefs and hieroglyphs found in the many tombs and temples of Egypt. These artisans would go to work after the construction was done. Evidence of torch use is often found in the blackened ash on the ceilings of temples and tombs. However, in Hathor, there is absolutely no ash and no burned oil markings. There is no evidence of underground fires ever having been used. And, archeologists confirm these reliefs were not carried in and placed on the walls. They are actually carved into the building stones of the structures. This work could only have been completed on-site and after construction was complete. So, then, how could the artisans spend the hundreds of hours required to produce their works in absolute darkness?

The use of light bulbs answers the question. Electric light is, in fact, the only plausible explanation for how light was generated without buring flames in the deep chambers under the Temple of Hathor.

Next, we must ask the question, "how was electricity generated to power the light bulbs?" Answer: batteries. In fact, the discover of what is called the "Badgdad Battery" shows this was exactly how the Egyptians powered the light bulb. The Baghdad Battery, sometimes referred to as the Parthian Battery, is the common name for a number of artifacts created in Mesopotamia, during the dynasties of Parthian or Sassanid or Persian Empire period, and discovered in 1936 in the village of Khuyut Rabbou'a, near Baghdad, Iraq. Through the use of copper, electrolytes and salts in a clay jar, electricity was believed to be generated.

Now we have given credibility to the use and powering of electrical light previous to 2000 B.C. Finally, we come to the most alarming question: "How did the primitive Egyptians (2000-3000 B.C.) invent electric light?" Answer: Ancient alien technology. The Egyptians did not possess the ability to heat sand to the point of melting (4200 degrees Fahrenheit) that is required to create glass until around 1400 B.C. Glass was obviously used in the Egyptian lightbulbs. So then, the ability to create glass was yet another technology given to the Egyptians by Alien intelligence.


"Mysterious Secret Tunnel Discovered Under Ancient Pyramid in Mexico"

A secret passage to the underworld may have just been discovered, at least according to the mysterious ancient civilization that built it.


Archaeologists have confirmed the existence of a hidden tunnel leading to a chamber deep underneath the Pyramid of the Moon, the massive temple located in the ancient city of Teotihuacán, near what is now Mexico City. The team of researchers believe the chamber may have been used for funeral rituals, while the tunnel may have represented the route to the underworld—a powerful concept for the Aztecs, Maya and other pre-Columbian societies.

Using a technique called electrical resistance technology, researchers from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) and Institute of Geophysics of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) mapped an image of the earth beneath the pyramid without breaking any ground. This is how they discovered the hollowed-out chamber about 26 feet under the pyramid, with a diameter of 49 feet, as well as the subterranean tunnel.

First settled as early as 400 B.C., Teotihuacán became the thriving center of the ancient Mesoamerican world by 300 A.D., around the time the city’s largest structures, including the Pyramid of the Moon, were completed. No one knows for sure who founded Teotihuacán, or why the civilization centered there suddenly and mysteriously collapsed starting around A.D. 600. By A.D. 750, the surviving members of a population that at its height may have numbered some 200,000 had dispersed, leaving their once-great metropolis and its sacred pyramids behind

The Aztecs first found the city’s ruins around 1300, and gave it its name, which means “the place where men become gods” in their Nahuatl language. Since the 17th century, the temple known in the pre-Hispanic world as Meztli Itzácual has been the site of dozens of archaeological excavations.

Built on elevated ground, the Pyramid of the Moon is the highest point in the ancient complex. This pyramid towers above 12 smaller pyramid platforms believed to be stages where both animal and human sacrifices took place. It is located at the opposite end of the so-called Avenue of Death from Teotihuacán’s largest structure, the Pyramid of the Sun.

Earlier tombs found inside the Pyramid of the Moon have contained sacrificial remains, including deformed human skulls, as well as jewelry and other grave objects made of green stone. According to Verónica Ortega, director of the Integral Conservation Project for the Plaza of the Moon, excavations of the newly discovered chamber will likely turn up similar objects.

“These large offering complexes constitute the sacred heart of the city of Teotihuacán, the reason why everyone saw it as the mecca of the civilization,” Ortega said in a statement. “What can be found inside them will help unravel the relationship this ancient metropolis had with other regions of Mesoamerica.”


"Mysterious Ships Described by Herodotus Discovered After 2,500 Years"


Around 450 B.C., the Greek writer Herodotus traveled to Egypt. His later account of the trip, included in his famous work The Histories, focused on a distinctive river barge known as a “baris,” which he said the Egyptians used to ferry goods up and down the Nile River.

Herodotus described the vessel as having a single rudder that passed through a hole in the keel, a mast of acacia wood and papyrus sails. But for centuries, scholars had been unable to find evidence that such a vessel existed—until now.

A team of researchers investigating the sunken ruins of the ancient port city of Thonis-Heracleion, located off the coast of Alexandria, Egypt, have discovered more than 70 shipwrecks. One of those wrecks, archaeologists say, is a well-preserved vessel that almost exactly matches Herodotus’ description of the baris.

Called Ship 17, it originally measured up to 28 meters long, with a crescent-shaped hull (70 percent of which has survived) and thick planks of acacia wood, held together with long wooden ribs, or tenons.

“Herodotus describes the boats as having long internal ribs. Nobody really knew what that meant,” Damian Robinson, director of the Oxford Centre for Maritime Archaeology, told The Guardian. “That structure’s never been seen archaeologically before. Then we discovered this form of construction on this particular boat and it absolutely is what Herodotus has been saying.”

Before Alexandria was founded in 331 B.C., Thonis-Heracleion (the combined Greek-Egyptian name for the city) was one of the world’s great port cities, welcoming all ships coming to Egypt from the Greek world. Built around a massive temple to to the god Amun-Gereb, the city resembled Venice, Italy, with its intricate network of canals.

But the effects of a series of natural disasters caused the city’s central island to liquify near the end of the second century A.D., and by the end of the eighth century, the last remnants of Thonis-Heracleion had sunk completely into the Mediterranean.

In 2000, a team from the European Institute for Underwater Archaeology, directed by French archaeologist Franck Goddio, discovered the ruins in Abu Qir Bay, some 6.5 kilometers off the coast of Alexandria. In addition to the shipwrecks, the underwater excavations have yielded gold coins, statues and the remains of the city’s great temple.

Archaeologist and shipwreck specialist Alexander Belov, who worked with Goddio on the excavations, recently published a book outlining the team’s findings. In Ship 17: a Baris from Thonis-Heracleion, Belov places the vessel within ancient Egyptian and Mediterranean boat-building traditions, and traces the many similarities between the wreck’s nautical architecture and Herodotus’ description of the baris’ construction.

Celebrated by many as the “Father of History,” Herodotus has also had his fair share of critics, many of whom accuse him of writing more fiction than fact. Some of his tallest tales, his detractors claim, involve the various things he said he saw during his wide-ranging travels in Egypt, Africa and Asia Minor.

To take one famous example, Herodotus claimed that in Persia he saw giant “ants” the size of foxes, which spread gold dust when they dug their mounds. After being dismissed for centuries, his story was vindicated in the 1990s, when the French explorer Michel Peissel discovered a fox-sized marmot in the Himalayas that did spread gold dust while digging, and had done so since ancient times. The Persian words for “mountain ant” and “marmot” were quite similar, it turns out, leading Peissel to conclude Herodotus had probably fallen victim to a simple error in translation.


"Divers Have Discovered an ‘Exceptional’ Trove of Artifacts Tied a Llama Sacrifice Ritual in South America’s Largest Lake"


Marine archaeologists have discovered a strikingly well preserved ancient ceremonial site in Lake Titicaca, on the border of modern-day Peru and Bolivia. Divers recovered ritual offerings, including slaughtered animals and gold ornaments, on the Khoa reef. The finds date from between the 8th and 10th centuries AD, when the pre-Inca Tiwanaku people presided over the Lake Titicaca basin. The region had a population of around 1 million people prior to the Spanish conquest.

The Tiwanaku people traveled to the reef by boat and carried out elaborate religious ceremonies there, taking in an impressive panoramic view of the lake and the surrounding mountains.


Researchers turned their attention to the reef after several amateur divers recovered ancient artifacts submerged roughly 16 feet underwater some six miles offshore of the lake’s Island of the Sun. The trove of ancient artifacts were discovered through three systemic excavations carried out beginning in 2013. They suggest that the Tiwanaku state decorated llamas with leather and gold ornaments in preparation for ritual sacrifices that also involved gold and carved stone offerings.

“What is great about these artifacts is that, beyond their beauty and the quality of manufacture, they were discovered in an undisturbed context,” Christophe Delaere, a marine archaeologist at the University of Oxford and the Free University of Brussels, told the Guardian. “This is one of the advantages of underwater heritage. Lake Titicaca protects its ancient material culture from time and man. Never before have so many artifacts of this quality been discovered. The history that these objects tell us is exceptional.”

Among the impressive finds are a lapis lazuli puma figurine, ceramic puma incense burners, a gold medallion, and other gold ornaments. There were also Spondylus oyster shells native to the oceans off Ecuador—over 1,200 miles away—suggesting the civilization was part of an impressive trade network. The research team published their findings this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“The Tiwanaku is the greatest Native American empire that many Americans have never heard of,” Paul Goldstein, an archaeologist in the Department of Anthropology at UC San Diego who was not involved in the research project, told National Geographic. “Every time we find something that reflects the complexity of the society, it adds to our deeper knowledge of the origins of complex societies worldwide.”