The Antiquities Coalition’s Ten Most Wanted Antiquities list—our brand new “illustrated guide to some of the most significant looted, stolen, and missing artifacts from around the world”—was featured in an article published by The Art Newspaper on October 29.
TAN Editor Helen Stoilas interviewed Antiquities Coalition Chairman and Co-founder Deborah Lehr about the motivations behind the campaign.
“It was important, we believe, to highlight that there are still countless missing masterpieces in the world,” Antiquities Coalition Chairman and Co-founder Deborah Lehr told Stoilas. “Given the impact of social media, we wanted to reach out to the general public to raise awareness about these missing antiquities and enlist their support in finding them.”
The Antiquities Coalition consulted with leading experts to select the most “infamous cases of cultural racketeering,” Lehr said. “Based on the feedback, we chose to use high-profile missing items from different parts of the world to illustrate how this is a global issue that requires a global and widespread response.”
Among the cultural objects listed is an alabaster stone inscription, ripped from the floor of the Awam Temple between 2009 and 2011.
“Yemeni antiquities remain under critical threat due to the ongoing civil war and humanitarian crisis,” Lehr said, referring to a report the Antiquities Coalition and Yemen released in March 2019, which showed that “more than 1,600 objects were missing just from the country’s museums due to looting.”
Lehr also referenced Yemen’s September 2019 requests for emergency import restrictions and a full memorandum of understanding. The former request was granted this February. As for the latter, Lehr said, “a full bilateral MOU is still a work in progress, and is much needed.”
An MOU is especially warranted in the chaotic era of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has sparked a rise in looting and other illicit activities, as the Antiquities Coalition reported in May and August.
“Looters are taking advantage of the pandemic to pillage ancient artefacts from archaeological ruins, while art thieves target masterpieces in metropolitan museums,” Lehr said. “While the coronavirus has largely shuttered above-board dealers, galleries and auction houses, the international black market stays wide open for business.”
Many of these works have been missing for a number of years—but, according to Lehr, “there is always hope” that they will be recovered, as “access to technology may bring up new leads.”
“Social media allows us to reach out to the general public, who have shown great interest in this topic, and enlist their support to recover these missing treasures,” Lehr said.For more information about the Ten Most Wanted Antiquities list, including how you can help us locate missing cultural objects, click here.