Cultural Heritage News

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  • 16 Apr 2015 2:27 PM | Gary Nurkin (Administrator)

    Briton gives up 3,300 year-old ancient Egyptian artifact

     By Rany Mostafa

    CAIRO: A 3,300 year-old ancient Egyptian pillar fragment that once stood at Karnak temples in Luxor and was illegally smuggled to London, will return to Egypt in the next few days, Antiquities Minister Mamdouh el-Damaty said in a statement Thursday.

    Chairman of Egypt’s Restored Artifacts Department Aly Ahmed told The Cairo Post that Damaty’s announcement came “after the British citizen, who possesses the fragment, contacted the Egyptian Embassy in London he decided voluntarily to return it back to the Egyptian authorities after he found out it was original and was illegally smuggled.”
  • 15 Apr 2015 10:36 AM | Gary Nurkin (Administrator)

    New York Authorities Seek Custody of Stolen Artifacts Worth Over $100 Million

    By TOM MASHBERGAPRIL 14, 2015 The Manhattan district attorney’s office on Tuesday made public the largest antiquities seizure in American history and asked a judge to grant it custody of a startling 2,622 artifacts recovered from storage rooms affiliated with an imprisoned Madison Avenue art dealer.

    The artifacts, valued by the authorities at $107.6 million, were described in papers filed in State Supreme Court in Manhattan as having been looted from India and other places in southern Asia and smuggled into the United States by the dealer, Subhash Kapoor.
  • 15 Apr 2015 8:01 AM | Gary Nurkin (Administrator)

    Return of Kapoor loot: US keen, Oz stalling

    By S Vijay Kumar

    When Luis Martinez, public affairs officer with Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, US, spoke last week about a secret investigation into one of the largest art theft scandals in America, he let the world know the full extent of "Operation Hidden Idol." This US government operation has already recovered nearly 1,000 items, worth an estimated $150 million, linked to the art dealer Subhash Kapoor facing trial in Tamil Nadu.

    This announcement would have created a storm in any other country, but sadly it sank without a trace in India, barring a reference to the return of a few pieces from a Hawaiian museum.
  • 14 Apr 2015 1:09 PM | Gary Nurkin (Administrator)

    Christie’s withdraws over £1.2m in ancient artefacts after Glasgow academic identifies them as stolen


    The auction house Christie’s has removed over £1.2 million worth of ancient artefacts after an academic from a Scottish university identified them as being linked to criminal networks in Europe The Scotsman reports.

    Dr Christos Tsirogiannis, a research assistant at the University of Glasgow’s Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research warned Christie’s was failing to carry out checks after he found images of the stolen artefacts in archives taken from Italian art dealers convicted of art trafficking offences.

    The treasures were meant to be sold at auction in London tomorrow but have been removed after Dr Tsirogiannis informed Interpol as well as Italian authorities.
  • 14 Apr 2015 9:12 AM | Gary Nurkin (Administrator)

    UNESCO Director-General condemns destruction at Nimrud 

    UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova today denounced further destruction at the archeological site of Nimrud in Iraq, shown in graphic detail on a video circulating on social media channels.

    “I condemn this mad, destructive act that accentuates the horror of the situation. It confirms that the terrorists are not only destroying representations of figures and bas-reliefs. With their hammers and explosives they are also obliterating the site itself, clearly determined to wipe out all traces of the history of Iraq’s people.”

    The Director-General expressed her solidarity with the people and government of Iraq, and recalled UNESCO’s action to protect heritage and coordinate the efforts of the international community in the struggle against illicit traffic of cultural goods.
  • 13 Apr 2015 1:22 PM | Gary Nurkin (Administrator)

    Isis: Islamic State's war on history and the multimillion dollar global antiquities trade

    The global trade in illicit antiquities has become increasingly important to Islamic State (Isis) as revenue from oil smuggling drops in the face of coalition air strikes and the Iraqi army offensive, even if the group is far more infamous for destroying rather than trading invaluable relics of Iraq and Syria's past.

    Even as IS blew up the ancient city of Nimrud, south of Mosul, and published a video of the destruction on the internet, experts were warning that the looting and trade in antiquities out of IS-held areas of Iraq and Syria was more prominent now than ever before.

    "They are very practical about what they destroy. They destroy things that are not easily marketable, and sell the portable antiquities," said Boston University professor Michael Danti, who is academic director at ASOR Cultural Heritage Initiatives, a programme set up by the US State Department.
  • 13 Apr 2015 7:56 AM | Gary Nurkin (Administrator)
    ISIS and the corrupt art trade: We know cultural crimes fund terrorism — now what?

    A museum can be worth as much as an oil field, provided there is someone willing to buy looted and smuggled art

    Noah Charney

    The term “tomb raider” brings to mind a scantily clad video game heroine before most people associate it with black-clad fundamentalist terrorists.  But the people who illegally excavate archaeological sites rarely wear daisy dukes while brachiating their way, vine to vine, across subterranean chasms.  The world of antiquities looting has crossed into the realm of terrorism—the ancient pot you buy on eBay, or at a prestigious auction house, might be funding jihadists.

    The union of art and terrorism is nothing new.  In the 1970s, IRA operatives stole art on several occasions from Irish private collections, in order to sell or swap for the release of political prisoners.  In 1999, Mohammed Atta, one of the masterminds behind the 9/11 attacks, flew to Germany with photographs of looted Afghan antiquities, which he sought to sell in order, in his own words, “to buy a plane” that would have been crashed into American buildings.  Just a few weeks ago, ISIS bulldozed the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud and smashed statues at a museum in Mosul, destroying pre-Islamic monuments and artifacts, while news filtered out that they were earning “as much as tens of millions” by selling antiquities looted from territory in occupied Syria alone, to foreign buyers.  Just days ago, terrorists stormed a museum in Tunisia and killed everyone they found inside.  Stolen art and looted antiquities fund terrorist groups.  So why has it taken so long for the world to take this seriously, or even notice?
  • 13 Apr 2015 7:41 AM | Gary Nurkin (Administrator)

    Why We Have a Civic Responsibility to Protect Cultural Treasures During Wartime

    With the recent deliberate destruction of cultural treasures in the Middle East, we remember the measures taken in the past to preserve our heritage
    April 10, 2015

    Sometime in the mid-6th century A.D., an unknown artist sculpted a beautiful figure standing nearly six feet tall out of the limestone in a man-made cave in northern China. Commissioned by a Buddhist emperor of the Northern Qi dynasty, the figure was a bodhisattva, representing an enlightened human being who delayed his own entry to paradise to help others achieve their own spiritual development. It joined an array of other sculptures, forming an underground temple of Buddhist iconography and signaled the regime’s desire for divine guidance and protection.
  • 13 Apr 2015 7:04 AM | Gary Nurkin (Administrator)

    India’s deafening silence on stolen art

    Vishakha N. Desai


    If India has little concern for the protection of its ancient heritage, is it better that objects are taken care of in established art museums of the West?

    Last week, I was in Delhi discussing the value of a liberal arts education with representatives of higher education establishments, when I heard from a colleague that the Honolulu Museum of Art in Hawaii had agreed to return seven Indian art objects as part of the Operation Hidden Idol (OHI) investigation undertaken against Indian art gallery owner Subhash Kapoor. Since then, 15 museums have been actively researching their Indian art collections with a clear commitment to returning the objects they bought from Mr. Kapoor in good conscience, if they are proven stolen; and another American museum has already returned an artefact.

    What is striking in this is that OHI has been jointly undertaken since 2012 by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement department of the U.S, and its Homeland Security Investigations department, without an official request by the Indian government. In other words, no one in India was tracking the activities of Mr. Kapoor, a well-known dealer of Indian art in the U.S. since the 1980s, and no one bothered to begin an investigation into his Indian dealings. Why is it that the U.S. government is attempting to catch a potential thief who may have stolen several hundred million dollars’ worth of ancient objects from Indian temples and archaeological sites, but there is a deafening silence on the part of the Indian officials? Equally importantly, what will happen to these objects once they are returned to India?

  • 13 Apr 2015 7:01 AM | Gary Nurkin (Administrator)

    New York couple returns stolen Andean paintings to Bolivia 


    LA PAZ, Bolivia (AP) — Two colonial-era paintings that were stolen from a provincial church in 2002 have been returned to Bolivia by the New York City art collectors who purchased them unaware of their history 


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