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March 19, 2007

History for Sale

Prax_2 Now we're talking. Ron Stodghill has written an interesting article in the Sunday Times about the Aboutaam brothers, two seasoned antique art dealers whose lives are being made increasingly complicated by the new realities of the art trade. The subject, it so happens, is one that I am currently investigating for my new book, "Stealing from The Pharaohs," about the tug-of-war between museums and countries whose antiquities were carted off by Western powers. The article explains that with all the concerns over looted art and otherwise illegally obtained antique objects, it has become terribly difficult to conduct commerce even for reputable antiquarians. (Photo at left is of a sculpture by the Greek artist Praxiteles, currently in Cleveland at the Museum of Art, but which Greece is claiming to be of problematic origin.)

In other words, no more swashbuckling art dealers who flit between Beirut and Geneva and New York with priceless, 2,000-year-old bronzes stuffed in their shaving kits. The implications for the great Western museums are daunting. They will have to take a much closer look at their own collections of Greco-Roman, Near Eastern, Egyptian and other art, and explain where they came from, and how. Stay tuned, there'll be more on this to come...