Letters to the editor
If a collector could go to a public archive and determine whether a prospective purchase was questionable, the object would likely remain unsold
By The Art Newspaper readers. Comment, Issue 218, November 2010
Published online: 22 November 2010
Make the Medici loot public
The “Medici ‘loot’ for sale?” article (The Art Newspaper, October, p65) includes an image of “a Polaroid seized from Medici’s warehouse” depicting an Attic red-figure pelike. Such images, from the 1995 Medici raid or the 2002 Becchina confiscation, appear periodically in the press when a similar object comes up for sale. The stigma of association with one of these convicted antiquities traffickers is often enough to result in its withdrawal.
The larger issue, however, is that US collectors, dealers, auction houses, and museums are compelled to research the provenance of any prospective purchase to ensure it is not recently looted, and yet Italy has not published the Medici and Becchina photo archives that they hold, which would make vetting much easier. Furthermore, it appears that certain individuals (like David Gill and your Fabio Isman) are granted access, with the intent of periodically embarrassing the trade. This strikes me as cynical and counterproductive if the objective is to make the antiquities trade more transparent, and looted antiquities unsaleable. If a collector could go to a public archive (the Art Loss Register, for example), and determine whether a prospective purchase was questionable, the object would likely remain unsold. —Rick Witschonke, Califon, New JerseyDroit de suite is not so taxing
Not for the first time in reports about droit de suite or artists’ resale rights you misunderstand this royalty by referring to it as a tax. It is not, and is no different from authors’ royalties. Concerns that its imposition would see Britain’s art market move out of its jurisdiction have proved unfounded (The Art Newspaper
, October, p77).
The trade may bleat about this small, capped, percentage of resales that accrues to an artist or their heirs but compare it with the forthcoming rise in (uncapped) VAT from 17.5% to 20%. No gallery or auction house has claimed this far more significant rise in costs is a threat to its existence.
Or consider the auction houses, which have been incrementally increasing their commission for several years, to both buyers and sellers. The art trade’s argument is that increases in commission are acceptable when these are distributed within the trade, but unacceptable if a similar distribution is made to an artist or their heirs. Shame on us. —René Gimpel, Gimpel Fils, LondonThese Poussins belong together
While one can have only the greatest of sympathies for the Duke and Duchess of Rutland in their struggle to maintain their magnificent seat, Belvoir Castle, it will be a tragedy if another of the paintings in their “Sacraments” series by Poussin is sold. Although the series is now incomplete, the remaining five are, nevertheless, our only insight into the coherence of Poussin’s first attempt at this unique idea of showing the origins of the Catholic sacraments. The loss of Ordination will compromise the integrity of what is left. Because the National Gallery in London and the National Galleries of Scotland have committed themselves to buying a second Titian for £50m, it is implied that the museum authorities feel that this is not the opportune moment to launch another appeal (The Art Newspaper
, October, p7).
I am in no position to comment on the wisdom or practicalities of such a decision, but the sale of the Poussin will make a first-hand study of the painter all the more difficult when yet another of the series is elsewhere. Furthermore, with both “Sacraments” series in the UK, the opportunities for studying Poussin are unrivalled.
This plea is not a matter of nationalism or chauvinism; it is about maintaining the integrity of an artist’s work, and the importance of accessibility. To fail to keep Ordination as part of the first “Sacraments” series will be an aesthetic and intellectual tragedy of the first order. —Thomas Montgomery, London
Send your letters to the editor to: 70 South Lambeth Road London SW8 1RL UK or email: j.morris [at] theartnewspaper.com
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