Art Pottery, Politics and Food
Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Tom Ridge, the Director of Homeland Security, was trotted before the National Press Club this morning to again promise more after-the-fact assistance in salvaging the wreckage of the Iraq National Museum while serious global art institutions and organizations are banding into a recovery effort without the slow assistance of governments.
According to an early afternoon report from the Associated Press thru the New York Times website:
The world's top museum curators urged U.S. authorities to secure Iraq's borders to stop the flow of looted antiquities, a loss that one said was the worst calamity for a national art collection since World War II…``American control at the border is almost zero,'' said Donny George, research director of Iraq's National Museum in Baghdad. ``Anyone can take anything and go out. ....the bleeding of antiquities is still going on.'' The British Museum and UNESCO brought experts from the Louvre in Paris, New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, Russia's Hermitage and the Berlin Museums to hear a report from George and British Museum Near East curator John Curtis, who returned Monday after a week in Iraq…``This is without question the greatest disaster to a national collection since the Second World War,'' British Museum director Neil MacGregor told BBC radio earlier. In an interview with The Associated Press, Franks said it did not appear that the looting had been carried out by an organized network of thieves…But Professor Peter Stone, who advised the British military on Iraq's historic sites, disagreed, saying some of the items were probably stolen for specific clients.
``I would be very surprised if it were not the case that some of it had been stolen to order -- although I have no cast-iron evidence of that,'' said Stone, an archaeology expert at Newcastle University.

Canada’s National Post has an interesting story on loot:
According to Argos, a French insurance group, about US$10-billion worth of art treasures is stolen and traded around the world every year.
"It's become the fourth-largest illicit activity -- behind drugs, guns and fraud," says Special Agent Robert Wittman, a Federal Bureau of Investigation art crime specialist, who has been probing art and antiquities theft since 1988.

A Wired story details the interest in a searchable database of items from the Iraq Museum:
The Lost Iraqi Heritage project is a joint effort of over 80 universities, museums and individuals working to create a tool that law enforcement, customs officials and art dealers can use to prevent the sale and export of stolen objects…The effort faces severe challenges. Little is known outside Iraq about the extent of the holdings, which makes the process of learning what has been looted almost impossible.

I’ve been taking bets about the appearance of this story for the last few weeks. A Reuter’s story about Prostitutes returning to Baghdad contains this interesting story about a crackdown effort by Saddam:
Most agree on the cause of the crackdown -- foreign pornographic videos of Iraqi prostitutes wrapped in the black, white and red national flag, and, according to many versions, dancing on a portrait of Saddam.

Rounding up today’s Lost Stories of the A Section link fest is this story about a speech given by Senator Hillary Clinton Monday evening in Connecticut:
In a fiery speech, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton accused the Bush administration of having the worst economic policies since Herbert Hoover, with no real plan to end the nation's fiscal troubles…``There is an unease,'' she told the party faithful gathered at the Democrats' annual Jefferson Jackson Bailey dinner in Southington. ``People know better than what they hear and what they see.''
Art: Tribune Media
Photo: CBS

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