Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Paul Barford, the Collector?

Paul Barford, a harsh critic of both collectors and outreach efforts like the PAS, is apparently a collector himself!

Another blog by someone named "Candice" recently revealed that information. There has been speculation whether "Candice" really exists, and whether it is appropriate for her to have a blog devoted entirely to Mr. Barford and his views. I personally think it's a bit over the top, but so too obviously is Mr. Barford's approach to the issues.

In any event, Barford has dismissed the claim his collecting of antique Japanese prints is hypocritical. He states his collecting is okay, because they are not typically archaeological artifacts, but is it as simple as that?

As I observed as a comment to Barford's collecting blog (which was posted immediately, presumably because he has not enabled a moderation feature):

Mr. Barford- This is an interesting area to collect in and I commend you for your efforts in that regard, but aren't any of these prints over 100 years old subject to the 1970 UNESCO Convention? If so, do you believe they should only be purchased if accompanied by an export permit from Japan or proof they left Japan as of 1970? I recognize you distinguish archaeological artifacts from other collectibles, but that distinction has not stopped groups like SAFE from demanding the repatriation of ethnological objects along with archaeological ones. Under the circumstances, isn’t Candice’s critique a reasonable one?

For more, see

It will be interesting to see if there is a response.

Addendum: Mr. Barford did respond with insults, but without addressing whether his collectible antique prints may be subject to export controls.

Here is how Washizuka Hiromitsu, a Japanese expert, characterized Japan’s laws at a Japan Society event:

WH: Thank you. Let me talk about protection of cultural property in Japan. In Japan, registration is undertaken under the Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties. There are two categories under the law: one is “National Treasure” and the other is “Important Cultural Property.” Once the items are registered under one of these categories, exporting them is strictly prohibited. This is how we protect traditional Japanese cultural properties. However, this does not mean to preclude exceptions. For a significant international cultural exhibition such as this one, many National Treasures and Important Cultural Properties were brought here for the exhibition. In this case we are certain that these items will be returned to Japan. For these cases, where we are certain that the objects will be returned to Japan, the director of the Agency of Cultural Affairs will issue permits to export these items.

Dealers will handle other non-registered items. In that case, the certificate of audit for export is necessary. The certificate requires a photo to accompany each item so that customs officers can identify it. The application for the certificate with a photo must be submitted to the Agency of Cultural Affairs. The Agency then verifies whether or not the item in question is registered as an Important Cultural Property or National Treasure, or neither. If it is not registered under either of the two categories, the item is available for export. In the case that an application comes under consideration and the Agency for Cultural Affairs has not been aware of the existence of the object, and that object happens to be extremely important, the Agency is allowed three months to decide if it should be registered as an Important Cultural Property. It also can decide to purchase the item so that the item cannot be exported. This is the current situation.

See: http://www.japansociety.org/resources/content/1/6/5/2/documents/gallery%20transcript.pdf

Sorry, Mr. Barford, it seems to me that antique prints may potentially be subject to Japanese export controls. At best, the issue is unclear, and if so, isn’t the burden on Mr. Barford to prove the negative, under the same guilty until proven innocent standard he foists on others?


Alexander said...

Well, there's a response from me. The hypocrite should return these artifacts immediately. Or do a long and anguished mea culpa about his conflicted self. Poor Mr. B., hoist on his own canard.

Warm regards,


Judith Weingarten said...

I don't see the comparison at all. The prints were made by artists in multiple copies in order to sell them, either in book form or individually. You might complain of a book being torn apart (I certainly would) but mainly because that would violate the maker's intention as well as destroy its context.

If a country such as Japan were to place prints +100 years under export controls, that would be a different matter (obeying the law) but, otherwise, a collector -- even one as opinionated as Mr B. -- is not hypocritical, imo.

Cultural Property Observer said...

Dear Prof. Weingarten- Thanks for your note. Coins (like prints) were made in multiples too (many more multiples than prints in fact) and often are not subject to export control. The only diffence is that these can be considered archaeological objects, depending on type. Yet, Mr. Barford is quite insistent about them solely on that basis, which is quite irrelevant as far as UNESCO is concerned. I'm no expert on Japanese law, but from what I can tell, prints may be subject to export control if they are deemed significant. There has been more comment on Mr. Barford's own blog on this point.


Peter Tompa

PS I do occasionaly read and certainly enjoy your blog about Zenobia.

Cultural Property Observer said...

By way of background, the UNESCO Convention allows countries to designate categories of objects as subject to export controls:

For the purposes of this Convention, the term ”cultural property” means property which, on religious
or secular grounds, is specifically designated by each State as being of importance for archaeology,
prehistory, history, literature, art or science and which belongs to the following categories:


(g) property of artistic interest, such as:


(iii) original engravings, prints and lithographs;


(h) rare manuscripts and incunabula, old books, documents and publications of special interest
(historical, artistic, scientific, literary, etc.) singly or in collections;

Mr. Barford has now enabled comment moderation so it is unclear whether he will respond to my request that he clarify his contentions about what he calls the "Article I lie" and his views about Japanese law. He also has yet to respond to my point about theft and due dilligence.

Judith Weingarten said...

Just to clarify (for myself as well), prints or etchings can be designated as important cultural objects, but a great many, even +100 years, are not designated, and should not be, because they are neither of national significance nor rare. Unlike coins, they were made to be sold (not just circulate, but be actively sold),in multiple copies, which means that a secondary market is bound to arise. That harms no one, and what does not harm others should not be outlawed -- or even licensed.
Am I missing something? Judith

Cultural Property Observer said...

Based on what I could determine, I agree with you up to a point. I don't know if you posted before reading the Japan Society piece, but it appears that Japanese authorities expect non-registered items to be presented to them before export so they can make their own determination whether they can be exported or not. This is an export control which is different from an export bar.

I'm not sure I get your point about coins. They are made in many multiples (and presumably exist in much greater numbers of extent examples) than these prints. They were "sold" by the government into the stream of commerce. No one considered them national treasures when made, and I'm not aware that coins are considered so today (thought they may be subject to export controls or bars, depending on the country).

It looks like despite all his bluster, Mr. Barford is so unsure of himself on Japanese law that he has written the Japanese Embassy. It will be interesting to find out exactly what he asked, and whethter they will respond in any definitive fashion.

Judith Weingarten said...

Not to drag on with my vague thoughts on the matter, but I did not understand which kinds of objects the Japanese expert said need to be shown to customs before being exported. Surely, not everything 'made by hand' or +100 yrs old.

You may argue about collecting coins (that they will be or were illegally dug up)... but prints and etchings are privately produced (with very rare exceptions): the artist surely has the right to sell his own stuff and the buyer has the right to resell etc; unless it turns out to be of major cultural significance, in which case, tant pis pour lui.

I confess I still see no parallel but, then, I do have a few old prints; sadly, none are 'national treasures' :-).

Cultural Property Observer said...

You are correct, the Japanese expert did not specifically define them. The lack of clarity is something collectors and people in the trade often face when it comes to export controls. And what the law seems to say is not always how Customs implements the law either. Often, it is a matter of practice that may depend on the views of an individual customs official. Mr. Barford has not cited to me a specific exemption for his collecting interest. In the past, he and others who think like him have appeared to have suggested that one must assume the item is subject to restriction if it is not clear. As I said, it will be interesting hear about any report he may give on his inquiry to the Japanese Embassy. I suspect if they answer at all, they will just say "it depends...."

I guess we could debate the coins more, but let's leave that for another day.

Best regards,

Peter Tompa