Home Arts Vincent Geerling on the challenges of the antique trade

Vincent Geerling on the challenges of the antique trade

by godlove4241
0 comment

Vincent Geerling opened his gallery, Archea Ancient Art, in Amsterdam in 1995 and co-organized the Brussels Ancient Art Fair and the Basel Ancient Art Fair (both now defunct). Since retiring from the trade, Geerling has been best known as the active and sometimes outspoken president of the International Ancient Art Dealers Association (IADAA), a position he has held since 2013.

As the IADAA turns 30 and the antiquities trade faces more scandalsGeerling reflects on how the industry has – and hasn’t – changed and defends its integrity.

The Art Newspaper: Take us back to 1993 and the formation of the IADAA in Ancient Art. How did it come to be?

Vincent Gerling: One of the founding fathers of the IADAA, James Ede, put it well when he described the 80s and 90s as, ironically, the best of times to be a dealer, but the huge rewards enjoyed by the more filibuster part of the trade (including auctioneers) led to a heightened awareness that a good proportion of the hardware on the market, in particularly at the high end, came from illicit sources”.

It was a time when countries of origin did little to protect cultural property and, in the absence of a widely accepted code of ethics among dealers, we recognized that we had to find a way to safely deal safety and to protect our customers. It was the first time that professionals in our field came together to establish our own rules.

What were the key milestones for the IADAA from then to where we are today?

One of the most obvious times is the invasion of Iraq in 2003. It was a time when everyone predicted an increase in looted antiquities, but the reality was that cases of looted items reaching commerce were minimal.

Likewise, with the subsequent Syrian war, there were predictions of an influx of antiquities. We continually asked members for proof and the response was always that they were offered nothing.

In terms of wider perceptions, a real change has taken place in Germany, during the preparation of a new, stricter law on cultural property (the so-called KGSG). In 2014, the new Minister of Culture, Monika Grütters, made much of stolen heritage and links to the Islamic State, and the narrative that the trafficking of cultural property came third behind drugs and weapons – and was linked to terrorism – began to build. Other unsubstantiated claims followed, such as the claim made [on German TV in 2014] by the head of the German art police, Frau Karfeld, that the trade [in illicit antiquities] was worth between 6 and 8 billion dollars. [The German newspaper] The Spiegel then surpassed it by publishing a figure of 7 to 15 billion dollars for the illicit trade [in August 2015, citing Unesco as a source].

But hasn’t this narrative increased awareness of the issues the IADAA was formed to tackle? Or at least gave the authorities the justification they needed to allocate resources to the problem?

It depends on your point of view, but publishing misleading data is a mistake. We had been writing to Unesco for two years [from October 2020] before admitting they didn’t have the evidence to back up the $10 billion figure [the amount the trade in illicit antiquities was worth, according to Unesco]which they later removed from their website [last year].

Likewise, although we work closely with and support Interpol, we challenged their claim that this form of crime was the third form of illicit trade for a year and a half before they withdrew the allegation. from their site. The reality is that these statistics and claims are [attention] capture and influence rule-making.

Does this impact dealerships in their day-to-day business?

Yes, they have to explain the truth behind these numbers to collectors all the time, [because] people think that dealers buy directly from Egypt and Greece. That’s just not true – there are millions of legally owned items. We are the link between the former owner and the future owner. I consider dealers to be great protectors of cultural property – to collect is to protect.

It also had a considerable impact on the relationship between museums, dealers and scholars. This has changed dramatically over the past decade, there is growing hostility. Museums used to buy regularly from dealers and have first choice on items, but now they’re just terrified that someone is going to prove something was looted or [concerned] that the provenance cannot be indicated as prior to 1970.

But surely that fear wouldn’t exist, in any climate, if they had undertaken enough research to confirm that it hadn’t been looted?

This is the wrong interpretation of [International Council of Museums] ICOM rule 1970; you have to make an effort to trace the provenance back to 1970. If that proves impossible, a curator is free to make his own judgement, if I understand correctly. And that has real consequences. I know of a couple with a pair of cuneiform charts that they knew had been with a relative for years, but they had no paper provenance before 1990. They ended up throwing the tablets away because no one wanted to buy them or accept them as gifts.

Speaking of owners, the pressure on commerce to “know your customer” has increased dramatically over the past 30 years. What is the impact of anti-money laundering regulations on the sector?

This area of ​​law should be about financial institutions, they are the gatekeepers, it has nothing to do with the art trade – there have been few (if any) money laundering convictions involving dealers. If you look at reports from financial intelligence units in many countries, you will see virtually no evidence of links to art. I would say that checks for transactions over $1 million would make more sense, because bureaucracy costs can be crippling for small businesses.

But if the rest of society and sectors are asked to work in this way, why should the art market be treated any differently?

We consider it unnecessary. The least liquid property you can have is a Greek Vase.

With that in mind, looking ahead to the next 30 years, what are the big opportunities and challenges facing this trade and IADAA?

The new European regulation on the import of cultural goods 2019/880 is a challenge, we are sleepwalking in a disaster, it is extremely complicated; we expect customs officers to be afraid of making a mistake and subsequently stop any cultural object. There is an opportunity, however, as the EU is currently assembling a committee of art market experts to improve lawmakers’ understanding of this important, but vulnerable community.

You may also like

Leave a Comment

@2022 – All Right Reserved. Designed and Developed by artworlddaily