Friday, November 13, 2009

Interim Review of Italian MOU

I attended the Cultural Property Advisory Committee's interim review of the Italian MOU. The hearing was called to allow the public to comment on Italy's obligations under Art. II, but at times the hearing strayed well beyond the subject of whether Italy has held up its end of the bargain. What is abundently clear is that now that the AIA has forced the museums and the antiquities dealers to adopt clear provenance standards, its attention has now focused entirely on coin dealers and collectors. The particular issue of whether CPAC should reconsider its prior two decisons against extending import restrictions to Greek and Roman coins from Italy should be discussed in more detail at a promised forthcoming CPAC hearing related to Art. I.

Three speakers (Pearlstein, Tompa and Wetterstrom) spoke on behalf of dealers and collectors. Four speakers (Anderson, Vikan, Conforti and Feldman) spoke on behalf of the AAMD. Four speakers (Gerstenblith, Heath, Elkins and Leventhal) spoke on behalf of the archaeological community. One speaker (De Caro) spoke on behalf of the Italian cultural ministry.

Bill Pearlstein spoke on behalf of certain antiquities dealers. He argued that the Carabinieri's successes against looters made the extension of the MOU unnecessary. He also noted that the MOU is discriminatory to Americans because Italy has no internal provenance requirements for sales of ancient artifacts.

Peter Tompa spoke on behalf of IAPN and PNG, two trade associations for the small businesses of the numismatic trade. First, he highlighted the failure of Italy to care for its own cultural patrimony, including coins. Second, he discussed Italy’s relative success in staunching looting, and its implications against the extension of import restrictions. Third, he advocated that CPAC again suggest that Italian authorities adopt a Treasure Trove law and Portable Antiquities Scheme. Lastly, he noted that Italy has not as promised made its own export controls more efficient.

Kerry Wetterstom (Celator Magazine) spoke on behalf of the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild. He also noted that Italy has not as promised made its own export controls more efficient.

Maxwell Anderson (Indianapolis Museum of Art) suggested the MOU should be modified to require Italy to advertise artifacts for long term loans on the Internet.

Gary Vikan (Walters Art Gallery-Baltimore) said Italy should not sequester artifacts, but should make better provision for long term loans as well as licit markets.

Michael Conforti (The Sterling & Francine Clark Art Institute) spoke about legal markets and their role in facilitating international cultural exchange.

Kaywin Feldman (The Minneapolis Institute of Arts) also spoke about the need for licit markets and better long term loans. She indicated her institution is the poorer because it had to return a long term loan of "orphan artifacts" under the AAMD's new provenance rules and due to current restrictions, that void remains at her institution.

Patty Gerstenblith (Lawyers' Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation) stated that import restrictions under Art. I cannot be tied to Italy's undertakings under Art. II. She also indicated licit markets do not help staunch looting, but in fact may help hide it.

Sebastian Heath (AIA) said Italy does not need a PAS scheme because it uploads finds on the web. He also indicated that the AIA supports the expansion of current import restrictions to include coins.

Nathan Elkins (archaeologist) indicated that there is an illicit trade in common artifacts like coins and that properly excavated ones can tell us much about ancient history.

Richard Leventhal (University of Pennsylvania) indicated that coins should be restricted because they are important parts of the archaeological record. He also indicated it would be wrong to sell redundant artifacts because such artifacts must be retained for study.

Stefano De Caro (Italian Ministry of Culture) indicated that people have come to understand that artifacts should are more than collectibles, but are important for science. He acknowledged that Italy has not always done all it could do to preserve its cultural patrimony, but suggested foreigners could help by funding projects in Italy. He indicated that a book quoting wiretaps indicated that looters treat coins no differently than other artifacts. Italy wants what Cyprus got as far as import restrictions on coins. De Caro acknowledged numismatics needs to be integrated more fully with other disciplines. Italy is launching a website of the important coin collection of the King of Italy as a token of its interest in coins. De Caro belittled the U.K. Treasure program and suggested Italy's efforts to seek import restrictions on coins was done not only on Italy's behalf, but also to defend "Pax Britannia," "Pax Africa," etc.

1 comment:

Cultural Property Observer said...

Nathan Elkins recalls De Caro referencing Britannia Romana", "Africa Romana", etc. rather than "Pax Britannia," etc. De Caro was a bit hard to understand due to language issues and where we were sitting, but this does make a bit more sense. Perhaps, the DOS will release the transcript at some point that should clear this up.