Tuesday, December 22, 2009

AAMD Testimony on Interim Review of MOU with Italy

The AAMD has posted the testimony of its members who appeared during CPAC's interim review of the Italian MOU. See http://aamd.org/advocacy/documents/TestimonytoCPAC110909.pdf

Here are some interesting quotes.

From Maxwell Anderson, Indianapolis Museum of Art:

AAMD has long supported responsible collecting, and endorsed the early MOUs which followed the intent of the Cultural Property Implementation Act. Yet more recent MOUs have, in AAMD’s view, gone beyond the intent of the CPIA. Italy’s request covers about 13 centuries and almost all objects from that period.

It is difficult to maintain that all objects from all centuries are indispensable to a country’s protection of its cultural heritage.
...

The only art museums that have benefited from long-term loans are those that have recently transferred works to Italy in recognition of their dubious or falsified title. Desirable though these loans are, they do not satisfy the requirement of the MOU for long-term loans; they satisfy only the one-on-one agreements made with individual museums.

In order to increase U.S. access to Italian cultural heritage, the CPAC review must in our view specify how many long-term loans have been made, to which museums and for how long. Under the CPIA (section 306(g)(2)(B)), CPAC has the right to recommend changes to an agreement to make it more effective. We suggest that CPAC require Italy to make available, for loan, not less than a precise number of objects to not less than a precise number of accredited museums between this review and the end of the MOU.

From Michael Conforti, The Sterling & Francine Clark Art Institute:

The intent of Article II of the current Memorandum with Italy is to move beyond mere study of the issue of legal markets and towards creating a legal market abroad for Italian objects sold legitimately in Italy. There are several viable models for functioning legal markets: Japan as well as England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland have legal markets, as does the U.S. and other countries.
....

I urge that these examples and others of successful legal markets be considered by the Italian government as new ways to approach cultural policy as outlined in Article II. Further I recommend that the Memorandum be made more specific. In particular, I recommend that the Committee consider amending the current Memorandum by specifying a “more than” number of export certificates be issued under Article II and at the same time urge the Italian government to adopt a true system to create a legal market, overseen by the Italian government that allows for the legal sale and purchase of archeological and other works of art. We feel this supports the underlying principles of cultural exchange and will ultimately benefit the public in the U.S. and in Italy.

From Kaywin Feldman, Minneapolis Institute of Arts:

The spirit of support and cooperation emphasized in the MOU would be much better served if American museums could acquire redundant antiquities and borrow objects for long-term loan from Italian museums. AAMD believes that the United States government should encourage developed countries, such as Italy, to make redundant antiquities available to the legitimate market as a way to curtail looting. Article II calls for the Italian government to reduce bureaucracy and facilitate the export of legitimate archaeological items sold within Italy. AAMD institutions have not experienced any expedited process or increased availability of export permits. We would encourage CPAC, therefore, to confirm that the Italian government is indeed facilitating the export of legitimate archaeological items by verifying the actual number of export permits granted for antiquities. It is certainly not in the spirit of cooperation to sell antiquities legally within Italy, but then to claim that if these works are sold in another country, they necessarily cause looting.
...

To further enhance cultural exchange and to conform to the MOU, Italy should make true longterm loans available to US museums. A lively program of exchange would lead to the exchange of information among researchers and increased collaboration on scholarly projects. We have found almost no evidence of long-term loans to large AAMD museums, except for the institutions that have individual agreements resulting from the transfer of works. The Italian loans made as a result of American Museums transferring objects to Italy are not truly long-term loans since these loans are not made to satisfy Article II of the MOU, but instead to satisfy an agreement with an individual museum. We would urge CPAC to ask the Italian government to provide precise information on how many long-term loans have been made outside of those made to museums transferring material and for how long such loans were made. Longterm loans to museums often run as long as 20-40 years in order to give several generations of scholars and audience the opportunity to study and truly learn from the works on view. Needless to say, American art museums are willing to work with the Italian government to facilitate such loans.

From Gary Vikan, Walters Art Museum:

I served on the Cultural Property Advisory Committee, from 2001 to 2003. My first meeting addressed a request from Bolivia. As we got deeply into the ethnographic material of relatively recent date and low monetary value whose movement into the United States would be (and in fact was) interdicted by this expansive agreement, I recalled my days in Romania in 1974-75 as an IREX Fellow, during the time of the dictator Nicolae Ceau┼čescu. Foreigners, like me, could visit the antiquariat shops of Bucharest, but objects 100 years old or older, no matter how culturally insignificant, were displayed in a restricted area, to which we could not gain access. As I sat there considering Bolivia’s request, it occurred to me that the movement of cultural material across borders was like the movement of people, and of ideas – since artifacts are the bearers of ideas. For Ceau┼čescu and his kind, both were forbidden. And I thought: what if all Russian music were confined to Russia, all French painting to France, all English literature to England, and all American movies to the United States?

In 2003, the Walters Art Museum, in cooperation with the State Department, hosted a “convening” of regional academics and museum professionals with a group of their Italian counterparts. The intent was to explore practical ways to realize the laudable outcomes articulated in the Italian MOU; and specifically, institutional collaborations and long-term loans. There was a warm and enthusiastic mood in the room, and an eagerness shared by all to move forward. But at every turn, the dreaded word: BUREACRACY. Along the way, though, the conversation took an interesting turn, as we together began to explore the distinction between owning and experiencing an artifact – the idea that you don’t have to own something to experience it and learn from it. The two Italians to my left described the recent enthusiasm in Rome for “car sharing.” Like-minded people would together lease a car, but each would use it only when he or she needed it. The parallel was obvious to us all.

But sadly, in the six years since that convening our high hopes for collaborations and long-term loans have not been realized. Indeed, in a recent AAMD survey, few museums reported any long-terms loans from Italy; moreover, no museum reported any effort on the part of the Italians to engage in joint projects, excavations or studies. There were, however, a few prominent exceptions in the survey; namely, those American museums that have recently transferred works to Italy and are now enjoying the benefit of long-term Italian loans in return. Clearly, there is a mechanism in place – outside the boundaries of the current MOU – to make that happen, provided that there is the will to make it happen. So now, isn’t the time for that mechanism and that will to be expanded from those few museums to the vast majority of American museums who have not, and almost certainly never will, transfer works to Italy? This is especially important for museums in regions of the United States, mostly west of the Mississippi, where population migration and growth have taken place on a vast scale since the era of the licit antiquities trade and partage.

What do we recommend? We urge that what has happened recently for a few in the future become commonplace for many; that long-term loans of archaeological material from Italy to American museums become routine. How will this dream become reality? We believe that this will happen only if we agree on real goals and commit ourselves, on both sides of the Atlantic, to rigorous oversight. Toward that end, we urge members of this Committee to explore with the CPAC staff the Memorandum of Understanding drafted in 2000 between the United States and El Salvador. Article II of that document has a much higher degree of specificity than does Article II of the current MOU with Italy, including real, measurable outcomes. It can and should provide a model going forward, holding us collectively accountable for the realization of our shared goals. And finally, we strongly urge that this Interim Review be made part of the public record, available to all, to endorse or criticize.


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