Art Pottery, Politics and Food
Wednesday, April 23, 2003
Today is the 1st day of the American Art Pottery Association’s annual convention to be held within the Art Deco masterpiece of Cincinnati, Ohio’s Neatherland Hilton Hotel. Attendees are sure to have a wonderful time in a widely misunderstood city that none the less is a great American city with a very rich artistic and cultural history that remains vital in these too modern days.

Rookwood Pottery, Butterfat glazeline
by Elizabeth Barrett, 1925

I only hope I can attend tonight’s opening Banquet. Of course, as a food freak I’m hoping for more than rubber chicken but, the real draw is Keynote Speaker Riley Hummler, Cincinnati Art Galleries, Director and one of the PBS Antiques Roadshow art pottery experts and his topic: Rookwood During The Last 50 Years.
This will be my first AAPA convention and I’m wondering if the Iraq Museum looting will be a topic of conversation among the buying, selling, trading, collecting and, I’m sure, kibitzing dealers and collectors of American Art Pottery? Stay tuned…

Cambridge Tile Works Portrait Tiles
by Clement Barnhorn, circa. 1900

On the Iraq Museum looting front, the Washington Post has an article containing an interesting quote and an interesting statement.
On April 16th I posted a link to pfaffenBlog and a lengthy quote from the April 15th post of Bryan Pfaffenberger a professor at the University of Virginia’s Division of Technology, Culture and Communication.
The posted quoted contained these sentences:

A group of art traders, calling itself the American Council for Cultural Policy (ACCP), recently met with Defense Department officials. Scholars fear that the meeting "was an attempt by the influential dealers to ease restrictions on Iraq's antiquities laws. The group's treasurer has called current policies 'retentionist,' and favors the export and sale of some of the world's oldest treasures to the US."

Here is the interesting quote from this morning’s Post headlined, The Disappearing Treasure of Iraq:

"Every dealer in this country knows that these things are radioactive from a legal point of view," said William Pearlstein, co-counsel for the National Association of Dealers in Ancient, Oriental and Primitive Art, a lobby founded in 1975 with the express aim of softening U.S. laws on the importation of antiquities…Pearlstein drew sharp criticism from U.S. and British museum curators before the war when he was quoted as saying he hoped Iraq's post-Hussein government would relax its "retentionist" export regulations to allow more antiquities to reach foreign buyers.

The Washington Post doesn’t mention that Pearlstein is apparently the treasurer of the American Council for Cultural Policy and that the “retentionist” statement was made in Italy as members of the ACCP sat waiting for war to begin. Pearlstein is also identified as ACCP’s treasurer in an April 15th Berliner Zeitung article.

The first question that pops into my mind is, “Who are the other members of ACCP and, less importantly, of NADAOPA?” And, any connections between these members and friends of the DOD esteemed friend Ahmad Chalabi or other wealthy connected Americans?

In this morning’s AP list of key developments in the war against Iraq on the pages of the New York Times this item:

-- U.S. soldiers arrested fighters of the U.S.-backed Free Iraqi Forces after they were found looting abandoned homes of former members of Saddam's regime.

It looks very shamefully likely that there could be American connections to the rapid looting of the pricier Iraqi antiquities. Come on media…this could be juicy and packed with scandal…any extremely wealthy, exocentric and politically connected American collectors of ancient Middle Eastern Art?

The excellent Post article (except for the odd statement I’ll mention later) went on to say:

Despite scattered rumors of artifacts turning up from Tehran to Paris, not a single one of the 90,000 or 120,000 or 170,000 plundered artifacts -- no one knows for sure how many -- is known to have been offered for sale anywhere in the world…It's a market that no art dealer in the world admits serving but one that has swallowed up the art of ancient cultures from Peru to Cambodia to Mali in a trade estimated to be worth as much as $3 billion a year…"They're not going to try to get this stuff out of the country right away. I think they're going to sit on it until some of the pressure dies down," said Robert Wittman, an FBI agent who has worked on several cases of art and antiquities theft and is headed to Iraq next week…Antiquities dealers say some of the choicest and more portable artifacts taken in the two days of frenzied looting have probably left Iraq and may already be headed for the homes of collectors who don't care that the pieces are virtually impossible to resell or show publicly…In legitimate markets, "the major pieces are absolutely unsellable because they're so well known," said Jerome Eisenberg, owner of New York's Royal-Athena Galleries and founding editor of Minerva magazine, which covers the antiquities business. "But I could visualize some multimillionaire hiding a piece away and gloating over it." Looters and smugglers sometimes wait years for market conditions to improve before selling their plunder. Items looted more than a decade ago in Iraq during the first Gulf War are still "dripping onto the market"…The best items could sell on the open market for as much as $20 million, dealers said. But because of the circumstances, the price could be driven down to perhaps a few million, they said.

Here’s the odd statement in the Post article on looted Iraqi antiquities:

The London-based Art Newspaper published images of 300 objects on its Web site Monday

I posted a link to TheArtNewspaper’s Iraqi photos on April 17. A link, I’ll bet, that was published the day before.
Oh, Mr. Getler, should I write another email? A terrific story full I information I want to know but with two little slips that make me doubt overall story veracity. I wish Kay would haunt the halls at night and screw up offending staffers’ blotters.

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