Defending a Legitimate, Respectable Industry
Defending a No-Questions-Asked Industry
by Paul Barford (Warsaw translator and former British archaeologist)
There is a website attempting to gain signatures (target 1000) on a public "petition" created by some
"Very Concerned Collectors"
(sic) addressed to "Any agency which could take up the matter and remedy this problem" (sic!) about a New York dealer who sells antiquities online. There's a whole lot of fluff about it on the collectors' forums and I'm not going to link to it here - but the reader can find it easily I am sure. Neither am I going to mention the dealer [Sadigh Gallery] by name here (ditto). These people accuse said dealer of selling a large proportion of fake artefacts, with a few probably genuine ones thrown in for good measure. They say 95% of the things he sells from his Manhattan store (though much of his trade seems to be done online through three separate outlets - listed in the petition) are fakes, tourist souvenir type fakes in particular. The dealer has been in business over 30 years, and his items cost between $50 and $90,000. This dealer, if the authenticity of an artefact he has sold is challenged, will immediately return the money, no questions asked. The petitioners label their site "a matter of great concern, longstanding art fraud" though as far as I can see, many of the products offered by this particular dealer are far from being "art". The petitioners assert:
We speak for a large number of collectors who are very concerned about this. What do you think about this? What should be done? We feel that this matter should be taken up by the relevant authorities. Please leave a comment in the box when you sign. Thank you!
So far on the second day of the petition, there are about sixty signatures. Number one (Mar 05, 12:12) was: Mr. Carlos Regueira, FL (RIVAL DEALER - Minerva Ancient Art)
only six of these people (mostly Americans) had actually bought something from, and then felt cheated by this dealer (note also an interesting number of people from the Low Countries signing - why?). Quite why the others are concerned is less clear. Why are these people signing their names under this petition? One wonders if they are not all no-questions-asked artefact collectors. From their comments it seems many of them are unaware this is a petition and to whom it addressed, others make clear that they are unlikely to have been fooled by any of the products sold. I fail to see where this is "fraud" if one collector says in his comments:
I'm (sic) a serious collector of Greek and Egyptian antiquities for over 15 years, and I can tell with certainty that his his artifacts are not genuine.Caveat emptor. Perhaps the buyer sees what he wants to see. Surely the idea when buying art is not look at the money (or 'investment') but "buy what you like, buy what you are comfortable with". (and all antiquity collecting forums say "buy the book first"). Caveat emptor.
Perhaps the clue to this conundrum is the number (six so far) of dealers signing. As one of them, Edgar Owen, NJ, notes in his comment:
I agree there needs to be a full investigation by the press and relevant law enforcement agencies. Large scale sale of fakes as genuine antiquities harms the business of all legitimate dealers.
Also lacking in logic is the whole idea of addressing a vaguely-written "petition" to "to whomsoever this may concern" as a means of fighting what is stated to be fraud. If somebody has been the victim of fraud, there surely is in the United States of America a way for the victim to get law enforcement agencies to investigate, put a stop to the scam and if necessary prosecute. Where is the problem?
It is not clear what these "Very Concerned Collectors" actually want done.
Anyway, anything that weakens buyers' confidence in the no-questions-asked manner of buying antiquities is to be welcomed.
If dealers in all dugups had to have proper answers to these questions, selling freshly-surfaced looted material as "legitimate" would be made much, much more difficulty. THAT is why these dealers want the market to be cleared of fake sellers as they create an atmosphere when 'a-nod's-as-good-as-a-wink-trust' between buyer and seller is not going to be enough to attain a sale.
As usual Mr. Barford has managed to present his tiresome moralizing in the most offensive manner possible, replete with archaology-centric terminology such as "dealers in dugups" and a general implication that being a dealer in any sort of antiquity that might once have been buried is nearly as bad as being a convicted felon.
I won't regurgitate all of the misleading, unfair things he has said here, however there are some that do deserve comment:
> Also lacking in logic is the whole idea of addressing a vaguely-written "petition" to "to whomsoever this may concern" as a means of fighting what is stated to be fraud. If somebody has been the victim of fraud, there surely is in the United States of America a way for the victim to get law enforcement agencies to investigate, put a stop to the scam and if necessary prosecute. Where is the problem?
There indeed is in the United States of America a way for the victim to get law enforcement agencies to investigate, put a stop to the scam and if necessary prosecute. That way is to present to the responsible authorities a request (i.e. petition) asking that an investigation be conducted, leading to a prosecution if warranted.
The real victims in this case are legitimate, honorable antiquities dealers whose trade is being discredited by sellers of fakes.
Thus, Mr. Carlos Regueira in initiating this petition is actually doing exactly what Mr. Barford thinks should be done, in devising a way to voice public concern about fake antiquities to the authorities.
> Anyway, anything that weakens buyers' confidence in the no-questions-asked manner of buying antiquities is to be welcomed.
Here Mr. Barford overtly welcomes criminal misrepresentation, false advertising and fraud on the grounds that "it weakens buyers' confidence in the no-questions-asked manner of buying antiquities."
I do not think anything yet said reveals the extent of his obsessive, irrational bias against antiquities collecting more clearly than this outrageously irresponsible statement.
Such a statement could only be made by an ideologue who believes and advocates that "the end justifies the means" -- that even such evils as false advertising and fraud should be welcomed because they tend to advance his private agenda.
It is difficult for this observer to understand how Mr. Barford can expect to be taken seriously when he reveals his utter lack of objectivity and social responsibility in such an overt manner. I do not believe that any responsible archaeologist would publicly support this remark.