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Friday, December 19, 2014

Arts and Artifacts Indemnity Program for Museum Exhibitions: New Budget Law Sets Higher Limits

The Arts and Artifacts Indemnity Program received a significant boost from lawmakers on Capitol Hill this week, and museums are sure to take note.

Tucked within the 1600 pages of the $1.1 trillion budget bill signed into law on Tuesday is a section that raises the indemnity limits for America's largest art insurance program.

Administered by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Arts and Artifacts Indemnity Program protects temporary museum exhibitions against loss or damage and saves nonprofit cultural institutions $30 million dollars a year in costs they otherwise would have spent on expensive commercial liability policies.

That estimate is given by Ford Bell, president of the American Alliance of Museums, who told senators in May that only $100,000 has ever been paid from the federal treasury over the last four decades of the art insurance program's existence.

Congress originally passed the indemnity law in 1975 to cover foreign art on loan to American museums. The statute was expanded in 2007 to cover domestic artworks as well. The law's text is codified at 20 U.S.C. Chapter 26A and 45 C.F.R. Part 1160.

The newly enacted Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2015 increases the aggregate of loss or damage to art or artifacts from $10 billion to $15 billion for international exhibitions and from $5 billion to $7.5 billion for domestic exhibitions. Coverage for a single international exhibition, meanwhile, goes from $1.2 billion to $1.8 billion. The indemnity limit for a single domestic exhibition rises from $750 million to $1 billion.

The new indemnity limits reflect the higher prices that have been paid in recent years for objects sold on the fine arts and antiquities marketplaces.

Photo credit: Anna Hunter

Text copyrighted 2014 by Cultural Heritage Lawyer. Blog url: culturalheritagelawyer.blogspot.com. Any unauthorized reproduction or retransmission of this post without the express written consent of CHL is prohibited. CHL is a service of Red Arch Cultural Heritage Law & Policy Research, Inc.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Cultural Heritage Trafficking Requires Deterrence

Police officers are good at tracking down and arresting criminals. Prosecutors are good at securing convictions, even in some of the most complex cases. So why aren't police and prosecutors routinely investigating and prosecuting cultural heritage traffickers?

HSI officials returned smuggled cultural artifacts to the Turkish government
during a ceremony held last week in New York City. Source: ICE
Last week Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) repatriated ancient arrowheads, coins, and jewelry to Turkey, which were smuggled into Newark International Airport in February 2013. The objects represented some of the "more than 7,150 artifacts [that] have been returned to 27 countries" since 2007, which HSI touted in a press release.

No arrests were announced. In fact, the number of criminals taken into custody over the years for heritage trafficking has been infinitesimally small. That may be why HSI does not regularly report the number of arrests or convictions resulting from its cultural property, art, and antiquities investigations.

The impact of HSI's "seize and send" policy is that criminal infrastructures are left intact--i.e. bank accounts, smuggling routes, transshipment points, warehouses, and the like--while looters, smugglers, fences, couriers, and other offenders are returned to their criminal enterprises without consequence.

Cultural heritage trafficking needs to be deterred. It is the job of police and prosecutors to apply the law to combat this criminal activity, holding accountable those who illegally import contraband heritage and methodically dismantling the frameworks that facilitate trafficking operations.

Text copyrighted 2014 by Cultural Heritage Lawyer. Blog url: culturalheritagelawyer.blogspot.com. Any unauthorized reproduction or retransmission of this post without the express written consent of CHL is prohibited.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Nicaragua and Mali on CPAC's Agenda


The Federal Register has posted the following announcement:
There will be a meeting of the Cultural Property Advisory Committee January 21-23, 2015 at the U.S. Department of State, Annex 5, 2200 C Street NW., Washington, DC. Portions of this meeting will be closed to the public, as discussed below. 
During the closed portion of the meeting, the Committee will review the proposal to extend the Agreement Between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the Republic of Nicaragua Concerning the Imposition of Import Restrictions on Archaeological Material from the Pre-Hispanic Cultures of the Republic of Nicaragua (“Nicaragua Agreement”) [Docket No. DOS-2014-0027]. An open session to receive oral public comment on the proposal to extend the Nicaragua Agreement will be held on Wednesday, January 21, 2015, beginning at 11:00 a.m. EST. 
Also, during the closed portion of the meeting, the Committee will conduct an interim review of the Agreement Between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the Republic of Mali Concerning the Imposition of Import Restrictions on Archaeological Material from Mali from the Paleolithic Era (Stone Age) to Approximately the Mid-Eighteenth Century (“Mali Agreement”). Public comment, oral and written, will be invited at a time in the future should the Mali Agreement be proposed for extension.
Text copyrighted 2014 by Cultural Heritage Lawyer. Blog url: culturalheritagelawyer.blogspot.com. Any unauthorized reproduction or retransmission of this post without the express written consent of CHL is prohibited.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Controversial Egyptian Statue Fails to Sell at Sotheby's Auction

An Egyptian statute failed to sell at Sotheby's Egyptian, Classical, and Western Asiatic Antiquities auction held today in New York. Valued at over $400,000, bidding for "Lot 6" collapsed at $350,000 and did not reach the reserve price.

CHL has been probing the history of the curious piece for several weeks and expects to publish its findings in a future blog post.

In the meantime, this week Glasgow researcher Dr. Christos Tsirogiannis found the archaeological artifact listed in the Schinoussa archive. That is the set of photographs seized by Italian authorities in 2006 at the villa of antiquities dealers Robin Symes and Christos Michaelides. Click here for Peter Watson's article about the pair. The archive catalogs suspicious antiquities.

The Egyptian statue was one of six lots that did not sell today.

Purchasers found a few bargains at today's event, but many pieces commanded high prices. A small clay tablet containing cuneiform script and valued at $9000 sold for $43,750. An Egyptian black granite statue valued at $30,000 fetched $137,000. And a red-figured krater was purchased for $137,000, more than double its appraised value of $50,000.

Text copyrighted 2014 by Cultural Heritage Lawyer. Blog url: culturalheritagelawyer.blogspot.com. Any unauthorized reproduction or retransmission of this post without the express written consent of CHL is prohibited.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Dinosaur Skull Forfeited by Federal Judge in Eastern District of NY

Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch wrapped up another cultural property case yesterday. The matter of U.S. v. One Alioramus Dinosaur Skull came to a conclusion after a federal district court judge in Brooklyn ordered the dinosaur head's forfeiture.

No claimants appeared in court to oppose the civil forfeiture, even though French dealer Gefossiles, Inc. once tried to convince American authorities that all was proper with the company's dinosaur shipment. U.S. Customs seized the dinosaur skull in Newark, New Jersey in 2004.

The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York alleged in its forfeiture complaint filed in September that the head had been illegally imported into the U.S., and it was stolen property originating from Mongolia. A full description of the prosecution's allegations can be found here.

"Smugglers will falsify documents and lie about the origin and value of a cultural artifact just to get it across our borders to sell to the highest bidder," remarked James Hayes, Jr., Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent-in-Charge in New York. His team investigated the case. No arrests were made.

Now that the district court has forfeited the skull, it is expected to be sent back to Mongolia. Foreign officials first must file a petition for remission to have the object repatriated.

Text copyrighted 2014 by Cultural Heritage Lawyer. Blog url: culturalheritagelawyer.blogspot.com. Any unauthorized reproduction or retransmission of this post without the express written consent of CHL is prohibited.