Antiquities Coalition Mentioned in ArtNet News Weekly “Movers & Shakers”

The AC was mentioned in this week’s Art Industry News round-up as part of the “Movers and Shakers” list. 

The article stated: 

“Experts Urge G20 to Tackle Illicit Antiquities Trade – An international coalition of experts has released a new report detailing nine steps the G20 should take in order to crack down on the trade of illicit antiquities. The recommendations for strengthening global policy include creating a roadmap to tackle the problem on a national and international level and identifying and strengthening weak links. (Press release)”

This report was released as the G20 began its annual Summit in Rome, where for the first time, heads of state and government gathered to close loopholes in the $50 billion international art market—still the largest unregulated market in the world.

The report seeks to support the G20 in this important work. It highlights risks posed by the illicit trade through a case study illustrating how armed groups plundered ancient sites in Syria and then laundered cultural objects into unsuspecting global marketplaces. More importantly, based on lessons learned from Syria’s tragedy and others, it calls for new policies, priorities, and practices to be considered by the G20, its Member States, and the private sector as they work together to support the communities victimized by this transnational crime.

Read the report here.

G20 Leaders’ Declaration Includes Statement on Culture, In Line with AC Report Recommendation

World Leaders Address Culture as they Adopt the Rome Declaration at the 2021 G20 Summit

On October 30-31, world leaders met in Rome for the 2021 G20 Summit. At the conclusion of the summit, the G20 leaders adopted the Rome Declaration. The Declaration is a culmination of the work undertaken by the Italian G20 Presidency over the course of this year. 

Under Italy’s leadership, the G20 has prioritized making culture part of the post-COVID recovery, as well as incorporating it into the institution’s broader work to secure economic integrity and transparent markets. Protecting history and heritage from the illicit trade, as well as other major threats such as climate change, is an identified pillar of this broader mission. To that end, on 29-30 July in Rome, Italian Minister of Culture Dario Franceschini brought together the G20 Member States for a cultural ministerial meeting, part of a series of high-level events on the illicit trade that led up to the G20 Summit. 

Culture remained in focus at the Summit, and was reflected in the Leaders’ Declaration: 

“56. Culture. Recalling that culture has intrinsic value, we underline the role of culture and of cultural and creative professionals and businesses as drivers for sustainable development and in fostering the resilience and the regeneration of our economies and societies, stressing the importance of international efforts to safeguard and promote culture, with a key role to be played by UNESCO, and the need to support workers, including in the cultural field, also by facilitating access to employment, social protection, digitalization and business support measures. We emphasize the importance of addressing threats to irreplaceable cultural resources and protecting and preserving cultural heritage damaged, trafficked or endangered by conflicts and disasters, recalling the objectives of UNSC Resolution 2347. We ask our relevant institutions to further pursue the G20 cooperation on culture.”

This statement is in line with the first recommendation from the AC’s new report, Safeguarding Cultural Heritage in Conflict Zones: A Roadmap for the G20 to Combat the Illicit Trade in Cultural Objects. The report, co-authored with international experts, called for the G20 to Build Political Will through a statement in the final declaration: 

“Building on the July 2021 Rome Declaration of the G20 Ministers of Culture, leaders could issue a strong statement in the 2021 Rome Summit communiqué that recognizes looting and illicit trade of cultural objects as serious crimes, prioritizes disrupting and dismantling criminal networks, and advances a long-term strategy to combat the illicit trade’s root causes.”

Leadership at the highest levels is needed to make safeguarding cultural heritage an international priority. By demonstrating the political will to combat looting and trafficking from the top down, the G20 has laid the foundation for all its other work. The AC commends the Italian Republic and the G20 for making this issue part of its agenda and work this year. 

Read the Leaders’ Declaration 

Read our Report

The Pandora Papers: AC Mentioned in Series of News Articles

In light of the release of the Pandora Papers and exposes by a group of investigative journalists, the AC has been featured and mentioned in recent news articles. In the Guardian‘s “Offshore loot: how notorious dealer used trusts to hoard Khmer treasures,” Tess Davis, the Executive Director of the Antiquities Coalition, was featured for her comments on the lack of accountability being taken by museums for their potential participation in the illicit trade:

Tess Davis, the executive director of the Washington-based Antiquities Coalition, who has extensively researched Douglas Latchford and Cambodian looting networks, says that with a few exceptions, the response of museums worldwide has been “deafening silence”.

The Guardian wrote more on Latchford, the late art dealer, and the whereabouts of his infamous collection in an article on Australian galleries and in a feature on the successful repatriation of Cambodian relics.

Artnet News wrote on the issue as they explored how the leak of the Pandora Papers brought to light revelations on the channels through which dealers like Latchford could sell antiquities from Cambodia. Their feature on the Denver Art Museum’s repatriation of Cambodian antiquities represented the values of the city’s gallery, making a statement on accountability as a model to other museums. The Met followed suit as they launched a review of 45 pieces of art about which “new information” had come to light, as reported by Artnet News.

The New York Times reported on Cambodia’s call for the return of a series of antiquities currently in possession of the Met in New York City, stating they were looted from Khmer heritage sites.

The Art Newspaper revealed the wide range of museums that are alleged to hold antiquities that were looted or trafficked by antiquities dealer Douglas Latchford, as well as the call for repatriation of the relics to their heritage sites in Cambodia.

Hyperallergic looked into the Pandora Paper’s reports on the use of offshore accounts to trade looted antiquities, many of which can be found on display at the Met and the British Museum.

ABC News Australia stated that other actors were involved, too: an art dealer based in Sydney worked with Latchford as the Aussie dealer attempted to conduct online sales without disclosing the relics’ connection to the notorious cultural racketeer.

The Colorado Sun wrote more on the work being done by the Denver Art Museum to ensure that all ties to art looters and traffickers are being cut off. The explanation of Cambodia’s history and how conflict has left cultural heritage sites vulnerable to theft brings to light the importance of repatriation and ethical sourcing of art.

Business Insider revealed that the connection between Latchford and the British Museum had been ongoing since the early 1970s. The author states that “dozens” still remain in their collections, as well as in the possession of the Met museum in New York City.

Stay tuned for more news updates as the Pandora Papers continue to unravel.