AC Joins Letter Calling on Secretary Yellen to Appoint Permanent FinCEN Leadership

On March 8, the Antiquities Coalition joined the Financial Accountability and Corporate Transparency (FACT) Coalition and 24 others in co-signing a letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. 

The letter urges Secretary Yellen to appoint a permanent director of the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), the office responsible for setting national anti-money laundering standards and serving as the country’s financial intelligence unit. Stable leadership is needed to ensure the bureau sets rules to effectively curb the illicit trade in art and antiquities.

The letter emphasizes that without steady leadership, the bureau will not be able to fulfill its mission and reach its full potential, specifically stating:

“For nearly two years, the Bureau has gone without permanent leadership, contradicting both the gravity of FinCEN’s mission and the stated national security, economic, and criminal justice objectives of the Administration. Lack of a permanent director complicates endeavors to set a clear vision and direction, build and maintain a collaborative leadership team, and ensure staff are best able to deliver for the American people.”

The continuing exemption of the art and antiquities market from standard laws and oversight, which now cover all industries of comparable risk and size, is a documented and growing threat to our national security and integrity, as well as the vast majority of legitimate collectors, dealers, auction houses, and museums. FinCEN is vital to ending these financial crimes to protect our shared history, national security, and global economy.

The Antiquities Coalition will continue to work alongside anti-money laundering organizations to provide recommendations for the U.S. government to combat cultural racketeering.

Learn more and read the letter here.

AC’s Tess Davis Featured in New ICIJ Met Investigation

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (the Met) is home to “1.5 million works of art spanning 5,000 years of culture around the globe.” The museum’s notable collection makes it uniquely responsible to lead the Western response to the illicit trade of art and antiquities, yet the Met’s reputation continues to erode.

A recent investigation from the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), Finance Uncovered, and other media partners uncovered new concerns about the provenance of the Met’s collection. Their findings revealed that at least 1,109 pieces in the museum’s catalog have close ties to individuals indicted or convicted of antiquities crimes, and 309 of these suspect artifacts remain on display.

One antiquities dealer identified in the report is Robert E. Hecht. The Met began acquiring objects from Hecht in the 1950s before Hecht was charged with antiquities smuggling in Italy in 1959 and 1961. Despite his involvement with looted and stolen objects, the Met continued buying from him. This is unfortunately not the only incident of this kind.

Tess Davis, Executive Director of the Antiquities Coalition, was quoted in response to the growing controversy surrounding the Met’s catalog:

“The Met sets the tone for museums around the world … If the Met is letting all of these things fall through the cracks, what hope do we have for the rest of the art market?”

The Antiquities Coalition continues to call for “strong, concrete, and immediate action” from the Met, including other specific recommendations that the museum could take to regain public trust. Read the full investigation here.

The AC: The Met Museum Must Continue to Enhance Transparency of its Collection

The Antiquities Coalition welcomes a new feature from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (the Met), which seeks to explain how it came into possession of its “1.5 million works of art spanning 5,000 years of culture around the globe.”

In the release, published on March 13, 2023, the museum’s Director Max Hollein recognizes that “The Met is responsible for how we build and steward our collection,” and pledges that its actions will “reflect this responsibility.” The resource also stresses that the museum is fully “committed to responsible collecting,” going “to great lengths to ensure that all objects entering the collection meet our strict standards,” including not only “all legal requirements” but key ethical guidelines put forward by the Association of Art Museum Directors and others. A new website also helps the public learn about repatriations, including examples of both returned illicit antiquities and Nazi-looted art. These include a thirteenth-century wooden Temple Strut with a Salabhinka and a tenth-century stone sculpture, Shiva in Himalayan Abode with Ascetics, returned in 2021 and 2022 to the Government of Nepal; the Coffin of Nedjemankh, returned in 2019 to the Government of Egypt; two tenth-century Koh Ker stone statues of “Kneeling Attendants,” returned in 2013 to the Kingdom of Cambodia; and others. 

This step comes as the Met faces increased scrutiny of its collecting practices from such varied sources as law enforcement, investigative journalists, activists, and even comedians like John Oliver. In recent years, a police probe spanning several countries has implicated the museum in a transnational trafficking ring operating out of Egypt and war zones such as Libya, Syria, and Yemen. While no charges have yet been brought in the United States against any museum officials, including those at the Met, a related criminal case is moving forward in France against Jean-Luc Martinez, former head of the Louvre. In connection with the investigation, U.S. authorities have also seized millions of dollars worth of Egyptian treasures from the Met, alleging they were evidence of the criminal possession of stolen property and conspiracy. 

“The Met, as the largest and most-visited art museum in the Western Hemisphere, should be leading the fight against cultural racketeering,” said Deborah Lehr, Chairman and Founder of the Antiquities Coalition. “We appreciate that museum leadership is listening to calls to strengthen transparency with regards to its collections practices, but it has an opportunity—and obligation—to do more. We urge the Met to convene a task force of distinguished experts to uncover why past ethical and legal lapses happened, and more importantly, ensure they never happen again.”

The Antiquities Coalition has long called for “strong, concrete, and immediate action” from the Met, including other specific recommendations that the museum could take to regain public trust. This is even more critical given breaking news: today, March 20, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) revealed that at least 1,109 pieces in the museum’s catalog have close ties to individuals indicted or convicted of antiquities crimes. 309 of these suspect artifacts remained on display.

Newly Signed Cultural Property Agreement Will Shut the American Art Market to Illicit Antiquities from Tunisia

The Antiquities Coalition commends the United States and Tunisia for building law enforcement cooperation and strengthening their diplomatic ties in the fight against the looting and trafficking of ancient art and artifacts.

On March 17, 2023, U.S. Ambassador to Tunisia Joey Hood and Minister of Cultural Affairs Hayet Guettat Guermazi signed a bilateral cultural property agreement, committing both countries to combating the illicit trade. The Government of Tunisia had requested the agreement on November 7, 2019. 

This agreement closes U.S. borders to illegally acquired or exported Tunisian antiquities. It does not affect the legal trade, as antiquities exported legally may still enter the U.S. market. In fact,  the agreement will open new opportunities for responsible cultural exchange between the two nations, such as traveling exhibitions and museum loans.

Tunisia, while the smallest country in Northern Africa, is home to eight world heritage sites, including the extensive archaeological site of Carthage, a Phoenician city founded in the 9th century BCE.

By restricting the import of undocumented cultural objects, cultural property agreements fight cultural racketeering, while allowing the legitimate trade to continue and thrive. In doing so, they protect the vast majority of responsible collectors, dealers, galleries, auction houses, and museums from being misused by criminals.

With this signing, the United States now has agreements with six countries in northern Africa, also including Algeria (2019), Egypt (2016), Libya (2017), Mali (1993), and Morocco (2021)—demonstrating the region’s desire to work with international partners to fight cultural racketeering, while also sharing its rich heritage with the world.

FATF: US Should Apply Anti-Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Laws to High Risk Actors in the American Art Market

The Antiquities Coalition welcomes a new study from the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) on Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing in the Art and Antiquities Market. The 57-page report explores the links between money laundering, terrorist financing, and cultural property, identifying several factors that make the USD $65.1 billion market attractive to criminals and terrorists seeking to launder illegal proceeds or otherwise fund their activities. It notes that some countries have taken proactive action to mitigate these risks, but concludes more needs to be done: many jurisdictions do not have sufficient awareness and understanding of the risks, resulting in a lack of law enforcement resources and expertise, as well as difficulties pursuing cross-border investigations.

FATF warned that the art and antiquities market is vulnerable to this misuse, and likewise that governments are currently ill positioned to fight back, due to a number of challenges such as:

  • difficulties in tracing the origin of cultural objects;
  • a history of privacy and the use of third-party intermediaries in the sector;
  • inadequate measures, or none at all, to identify and verify customers;
  • a low number of suspicious transaction reports filed with Financial Intelligence Units;
  • a lack of prioritization of investigations in this area;
  • limited resources, awareness, and expertise by operational authorities; and
  • difficulties with cross-border investigations.

The report urges countries to strengthen their understanding of the current threats, while providing advice on successful strategies for responding. It also identifies several risk indicators that can help public and privacy sector entities identify suspicious activities, and highlights the importance of strengthened anti-money laundering (AML) and counter-terrorist financing (CFT) measures. It additionally stresses the importance of rapidly identifying and tracing cultural objects involved in money laundering or terrorist financing to aid the seizure and confiscation of items, as well as any associated illicit proceeds.

The report includes some good practices that countries have taken to address the challenges they face, including:

  • the establishment of specialized units and cross-disciplinary networks of experts;
  • enhanced domestic and international information sharing;
  • access to relevant databases; and
  • cooperation with experts and archaeologists to help identify, trace, investigate and repatriate cultural objects.

The 60-page report was published on February 27 and reinforces many of the Antiquities Coalition’s findings and recommendations from its 2020 Financial Crimes Task Force Report. Indeed, in that study, the Antiquities Coalition called on FATF to generate a typology report to identify money laundering and terrorist financing vulnerabilities related to the art and antiquities trade. Other recommendations reinforced in the FATF report include calling on the public and private sectors to: 

  • work together to strengthen information sharing, including having national customs and law enforcement agencies contribute data on their cultural property seizures to the World Custom Organization (WCO), for inclusion in its annual Illicit Trade Report;
  • update guidance and training for law enforcement to include the unique risks and opportunities presented by the art market;
  • use FinCEN’s existing tools, such as targeted record-keeping and reporting requirements, to better understand threats to the art market from financial crimes; and
  • apply AML/CFT requirements to high-risk art market participants.

The American art market remains largely excluded from the U.S. Bank Secrecy Act (BSA), the 1970 statute that still governs AML and CFT efforts in the United States. The 2020 AML Act was the first major update to the BSA in almost twenty years, and among many other things, added antiquities dealers to the list of individuals that must assist the U.S. government in preventing and detecting financial crimes. In addition to expected businesses like banks, the BSA had already applied to sellers of precious metals, stones, jewels, automobiles, planes, and boats, as well as to casinos, real estate professionals, travel agencies, and pawn shops. 

The 2020 AML’s Act inclusion of antiquities dealers was just one small part of a wider legislative overhaul, that has left Treasury with enormous tasks before it in the months and even years ahead. FATF’s report on Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing in the Art and Antiquities Market reinforces the need to prioritize the regulation and protection of this market in the United States.

Read the FCTF Report here.

AC Congratulates Advisor Dr. Zahi Hawass on Latest Discovery

The Great Pyramids have remained a mystery for thousands of years. Experts are even divided on how exactly the pyramids were constructed. Although they have been studied extensively for years, new research methods continue to uncover fascinating details about their interior structure.

After eight years of exploring, Dr. Zahi Hawass, Advisor for the Antiquities Coalition, and his team have uncovered a new tunnel in the Pyramid of Khufu. This work was made possible by recent scanning technology allowing researchers to look at unexplored areas without disrupting  the Pyramid itself. This achievement brings us one step closer to learning more about these significant pieces of history, their construction, and those who built them. 

This discovery also showcases the importance of preserving and protecting cultural heritage sites to allow for the detection of historical objects without causing harm. The Antiquities Coalition congratulates Dr. Hawass on this wonderful revelation and looks forward to future contributions from his team.

Watch the press conference here.

Dynamite Doug Podcast Exposes Douglas Latchford with AC’s Tess Davis

Cambodia’s rich cultural heritage was ravaged during years of Civil War and sold into the illicit antiquities market by numerous smugglers. However, one stands out among the rest for his severe crimes against the nation’s history: Douglas Latchford.

For more than 40 years, Latchford was the world’s foremost dealer of Cambodian antiquities, even allowing some to end up in prestigious institutions like the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Met) in New York and the British Museum. The Antiquities Coalition worked extensively alongside the Pandora Papers investigation in exposing Latchford’s dark legacy on a global scale in 2021.

On March 1, Project Brazen launched Dynamite Doug, a new podcast series diving into how Latchford carried out the greatest art heist in history – the looting of Cambodia’s entire cultural heritage. The six episodes were informed by Latchford’s emails, secret audio recordings and over 30 interviews to serve as the most explosive account yet of his actions. 

Hosted by actor Ellen Wong, the series features cultural heritage experts including Tess Davis, Executive Director of the Antiquities Coalition, in conversations on how Latchford got away with destroying Cambodia’s heritage for his own gain.

Cambodian dancer Sophiline Cheam Shapiro staged a protest in the Met to accompany the podcast launch, spotlighting the nation’s attempts to reclaim its heritage as she danced alongside statues looted by Latchford and on display.

Learn more about the podcast and listen here.

AC’s Deborah Lehr and Tess Davis: On Anniversary of Ukraine Invasion, We Must Close Loopholes to Stop Russia from Exploiting the American Art Market

This blog post is authored by Deborah Lehr, Chairman and Founder of the Antiquities Coalition, and Tess Davis, Executive Director.

Today, February 24, marks one year since Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine. 

As Russia continues to attack Ukraine by land, sea, and air, we must remember President Volodymyr Zelensky’s warning that Vladimir Putin is aiming to “erase Ukraine, its history and its peoples”— including his country’s rich cultural heritage. Russia is seeking to achieve this goal through both the intentional, targeted destruction of sites and collections as well as pillage and theft. The latter has the added advantage of providing a potentially lucrative source of financing.

And despite the U.S. government’s efforts to isolate Russia’s economy, a major blind spot remains: the American art market.

In 2020, a Senate report revealed how a pair of Russian tycoons laundered millions through the American art market in a full evasion of U.S. sanctions. The report, and many others, refer to the $28.3 billion American art market as the largest unregulated industry in the U.S. and, arguably, the world.

Headlines of this expose tell you much of what you need to know: 

The pair in the report are Arkady and Boris Rotenberg, two Russian billionaires, who over the years amassed a fortune in contracts and investments tied to the Kremlin due to their childhood friendship with Vladimir Putin. After Russia invaded Ukraine and annexed Crimea in February 2014, the United States quickly followed with sanctions on Putin and his inner circle, including the Rotenbergs.

By July 2020, when the Senate report was published, these sanctions targeted over 700 Russian individuals and entities. The U.S. government generally feels that sanctions are a powerful tool to force behavior change without military action, yet there had been growing concern in Congress that these particular sanctions weren’t working. 

For too long, the American art market has not been subject to the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA), our country’s primary anti-money laundering (AML) law. This weakness is exploited by bad actors, like the Rotenbergs, to evade U.S. sanctions. 

The Rotenberg scheme hinged on the concept of beneficial ownership of both corporations and art, using shell companies and art intermediaries. Shell companies are businesses that exist only on paper, and it’s important to stress they’re not necessarily illegal, but they can certainly be useful tools for illegal acts. These companies make it incredibly difficult, even for U.S. investigators, to determine who funds and profits from them, especially if they are formed in “offshore” jurisdictions with lax reporting requirements. The Senate investigation states that they don’t think they even found all of the Rotenbergs’ shell companies. 

The brothers also used an art intermediary, in this case, an American expatriate in Moscow by the name of Gregory Baltser. Again, this is a common practice that is not illegal, but a role that can be abused. Baltser, or his art agency, would bid on works for the Rotenbergs at auctions or negotiate with private dealers. They would purchase the pieces, using Rotenberg money disguised through the shell companies, and transfer the title to the Rotenbergs or one of their corporations.

From May to November 2014 alone, these shell companies were used to purchase at least $18 million plus worth of art in the United States, potentially giving the Rotenbergs major financial assets in the country.

The BSA requires high-risk individuals and institutions to assist the U.S. government in detecting and preventing financial crimes, however, major auction houses do not have to comply. If Baltser had been buying precious metals, stones, and jewels (or even an automobile, boat, or plane), U.S. law would have required the sellers to confirm the identity of the actual buyer and taken basic steps to ensure the transactions were not covers to launder money. 

The Rotenberg case study shows that this current art market exemption is not working for our national security and economic integrity — and it’s not working for the art market. The European Union, United Kingdom, and Switzerland have all already applied their AML regimes to the art market, why haven’t we?

If the United States doesn’t act, we risk our jurisdiction continuing to be a safe haven for criminals like the Rotenbergs. As we think about the devastation Ukraine has faced and will continue to face, we urge policymakers to consider closing this pathway to protect our shared history, economic integrity, and global security.

AC Discusses the Role of Cultural Heritage Professionals in Protecting Ukraine’s Heritage

February 2023 marks one year since Russian forces invaded Ukraine. Among the many tragedies of war, including the countless lives lost, the communities and cities decimated, and the ruin of the economy, the plunder and destruction of the country’s rich cultural heritage is another devastation.

UNESCO reports that over 230 sites of cultural significance have been damaged or destroyed to date. Last month, it was reported that more than 15,000 pieces of art and artifacts have been pillaged, including a body of Scythian gold and nearly the entire collection of the Kherson Regional Art museum.

Priceless to the Ukrainian people, these treasures have the potential to be a valuable commodity to the cash-strapped Russian State and may greatly undermine the U.S.-led sanctions regime, Deborah Lehr, Chairman and Founder of the Antiquities Coalition, warns.

On February 6, the Antiquities Coalition gathered cultural heritage experts to observe one year of this international crisis and discuss the responsibility the U.S. and all of us have to better support the Ukrainian people and their heritage.

Moderated by Tess Davis, Executive Director of the Antiquities Coalition, the panel of speakers included:

  • Dr. Kate Harrell, an archeologist working in international cultural heritage protection, investigator with the Conflict Observatory, and co-author of a recent policy brief for the AC Think Tank.
  • Dr. Sam Hardy, a cultural property criminologist and Head of Illicit Trade Research at the Heritage Management Organization, working closely with colleagues on the ground in Ukraine.
  • Dr. Chris Jasparro, a geographer and archaeologist specializing in cultural property protection and transnational security issues on the faculty of the U.S. Naval War College. Dr. Jasparro is also the co-author of another Think Thank policy brief.
  • Damian Koropeckyj, a consultant in cultural heritage risk management and co-author of the same policy brief as Dr. Harrell.

Davis emphasized that the American art market, valued at $28 billion and making up 43% of the global market, is likely the end destination for illicit objects looted from Ukraine or other areas of conflict. 

“When faced with similar crises, Washington has closed U.S. borders to suspect cultural material by requiring that at-risk imports have proof of legal export and authorizing law enforcement to seize those that do not,” Davis said. “This simple but effective step has made a major difference in past crises, but it has yet to happen today.”

The panelists shared tangible ways that foreign agencies, including governments and NGOs, and cultural heritage professionals can positively impact heritage preservation in Ukraine or other areas of conflict:

  • Inventory your current collection. There’s a growing reliance on the internet to understand what lives in museum collections, but bad actors like Russia can cut off the internet and eliminate the ability to determine what’s still secure. Specific to Ukraine, Saving Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Online (SUCHO) is an initiative of over 1,500 international volunteers who are collaborating online to digitize and preserve Ukrainian cultural heritage.
  • Cooperation with other international heritage organizations. Rather than offering individual solutions to solve the Ukraine crisis, our panelists say working together on a global solution could achieve more effective results.
  • Employ Ukrainians in Ukraine. Our panel flagged that applications for funding get rejected because of the risk to workers, but Ukrainians desire to support their communities. These individuals will likely continue their work to preserve and protect their heritage, but will they have the support to safely do so?

As global conflicts continue to threaten communities and their unique heritage, the Antiquities Coalition hopes cultural heritage professionals will better understand how to play a role during times of crises to better preserve and protect our shared history. Watch the full webinar here.

Live Webinar: One Year After the Ukraine Invasion – How Can Cultural Heritage Professionals Play a Role?

Join us for this free webinar on February 6 at 10:00 AM New York 

February 24, 2023, marks one year since Russian forces invaded Ukraine, resulting in the immense destruction of livelihoods, communities, and cultural heritage. As efforts to strip Ukraine of its cultural identity continue today, the Antiquities Coalition will convene cultural heritage experts on February 6 to reflect on and discuss strategies for preserving and protecting the country’s history.

Speakers include Damian Koropeckyj and Dr. Kate Harrell who recently co-authored a policy brief for the Antiquities Coalition’s Think Tank. In their brief, Harrell and Koropeckyj call on cultural heritage professionals to play an active part in the ongoing conversation about taking down cultural monuments (or monument removal), given the field’s wealth of knowledge regarding the care, conservation, documentation relocation, storage, and removal of cultural property. The authors provide a series of recommendations to support heritage professionals in developing such principles based on what has worked in the museum context, which have relevance not only for the situation in Ukraine but also around the world.     

“Moving forward together as an international community of experts in heritage is particularly important in the face of issues as fraught as monumental removal,” Harrell and Koropeckyj write. “The policy recommendations that follow should be considered a call for action for both heritage workers and their executive organizational bodies.”

In addition to the destruction of monuments and sites, experts also report that the invasion represents the biggest art heist since the Nazis in World War II, with tens of thousands of pieces looted, including avant-garde oil paintings and Scythian gold. Looting and destruction of cultural heritage has huge implications for the war—in 2022, Dr. Christopher Jasparro warned in his co-authored policy brief for the AC Think Tank that historical propaganda and the exploitation of cultural heritage have become a central component of the Kremlin’s information warfare campaigns. Jasparro will join the webinar to provide an update on this situation, along with Dr. Samuel Hardy, a cultural property criminologist who is conducting research on Ukraine.

From recent conflicts in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, and now, Ukraine, the international community has seen the catastrophic impact of war on cultural heritage. Ukrainians will face significant challenges in recovering their art and artifacts and rebuilding their communities. Law enforcement, governments, heritage professionals, and the art market can play a role in protecting Ukrainian heritage. The Antiquities Coalition looks forward to your participation in this important conversation. 

Moderated by Tess Davis, Executive Director of the Antiquities Coalition. 

AC Explores International Policy to Combat Looting During AIA’s Annual Meeting

In April 2003, looters broke into the National Museum of Iraq, stealing and destroying nearly 15,000 objects, of which only an approximate one-third have been recovered. Iraq’s cultural heritage continues to suffer looting and damage throughout conflict and beyond, exposing significant gaps in and prompting reevaluation of U.S. and international cultural heritage protection efforts from all sectors, including law, policy, academia, government, military, and the public.

Tess Davis, Executive Director of the Antiquities Coalition, and Helena Arose, Project Director of the Antiquities Coalition, explored the scope of developments in cultural heritage protection over the past 20 years during the Archeological Institute of America’s (AIA) Annual Meeting from January 5-8, 2023.

Arose and Davis organized the session Cultural Heritage Protection After Iraq: Advances And Developments Over The Past 20 Years, where both spoke alongside other cultural heritage protection and preservation experts, including:

  • Dr. Patty Gerstenblith, research professor of law at DePaul University and director of its Center for Art, Museum & Cultural Heritage Law.
  • Larry Schwartz, AC advisor and Former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Diplomacy at the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs.
  • Dr. Catherine P. Foster, Executive Director for the Cultural Heritage Coordinating Committee (CHCC) in the U.S. Department of State Cultural Heritage Center.
  • Corine Wegener, the director of the Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative (SCRI).
  • Dr. Brian I. Daniels, AIA’s Vice President for Cultural Heritage.
  • Dr. Neil Brodie, a top expert in the field of antiquities trafficking and a Corresponding Member of the AIA.

Davis detailed the Antiquities Coalition’s partnerships with the State Department, ministries of foreign affairs, defense, intelligence, and law enforcement communities and what is still needed in international policy to effectively mitigate the illicit trade of art and antiquities. 

The looting of Iraq’s National Museum marked the beginning of widespread pillage at archaeological sites across the country by everyone from opportunistic criminals to terrorist groups like Al Qaeda. This event changed the global conversation on cultural racketeering, raising awareness among the general public and policymakers, directly and indirectly leading to concrete changes in law and policy around the world. 

A report by the Antiquities Coalition and Dr. Brodie, Safeguarding Cultural Heritage in Conflict Zones: A Roadmap for the G20 to Combat the Illicit Trade in Cultural Objects, emphasized that the illicit trade in cultural objects is not a preservation failure, but a failure of governance, law, diplomacy, civil society, and markets.

A lack of political will remains the main obstacle to positive change, but convening world leaders to raise awareness and grow support for coordinated action will help to recognize that antiquities trafficking is not just a threat to our shared history, but to human rights, national economies, and global security.

The Antiquities Coalition thanks the AIA for hosting and sponsoring this vital conversation and looks forward to playing a role in future policy developments to preserve and protect our shared history.





AC Founder Explores China’s Relationship with Archaeology in New Publication

Every country is home to a wealth of cultural masterpieces that represent thousands of years of history. As bad actors continue to loot and destroy heritage across the world, global cooperation and respect for one another’s culture are key to fighting the illicit antiquities trade. 

The China-Europe-America Global Initiative recently tackled this issue with regards to China in its third volume of China and the World. Edited by David Gosset, Founder of the CEA Global Initiative, the publication is authored by 20 global cultural and art experts, including Deborah Lehr, Chair and Founder of the Antiquities Coalition.

Lehr contributed Chapter 13, The Role of Archaeology in the Relationship between China and the World. In it she writes, “China’s role as a powerhouse in the global art market means that they are uniquely well positioned to take on a more proactive role in fighting the illicit trade of artifacts from other ancient societies that share their goal.” She also notes that, “Ultimately, it is critical to remember that cultural racketeering is not just a threat to the legitimate art market, but to our shared history, human rights, national economies, and global security.”

Other chapters focus on the global opportunity for partnerships, building a shared culture, the role of art and design, and more.

Gosset emphasized the goal of the publication during the launch event, saying, “Culture is the keystone of what we are doing and what we should do.”

The Antiquities Coalition previously collaborated with the CEA Global Initiative in 2022 for a global dialogue on National Museum Day. The event explored the vital responsibility of museums in the fight against cultural racketeering, featuring remarks from Lehr and Davis.

Learn more and purchase the book here.