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August 2015

ISIS Path of Destruction Continues ISIS militants continue wanton destruction of alleged “anti-Islamic” artifacts and architecture in Palmyra, Syria, an ancient city and UNESCO World Heritage Site dating back to the second millennium BC. Satellite imagery from Boston University confirmed that militants destroyed three tower tombs of historic and religious significance—the Jamblique, Elhbel and Kithot tombs, erected in 83 CE, 103 CE, and 44 CE. The destruction comes on the heels of two recent attacks on the Temple of Baal Shamin and the 2,000 year old Temple of Bel, located just west of Palmyra. Prior to ISIS’ seizure of the ancient city in May, Syrian officials evacuated the museum and hundreds of objects to undisclosed locations for safekeeping. Syrian antiquities officials reinforced certain sites with concrete, but the use of heavy explosives has inevitably posed challenges for groups such as the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. According to Maamoun Abdulkarim, Director of the Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums in Syria, “This is the beginning of the complete loss of Palmyra.”

LK 25-years-old Surveillance Video The FBI released an Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum surveillance video from 1990 in attempts to identify a suspect who may have been involved in the historical heist. The video shows a visitor being allowed into the museum during in the middle of the night by a security guard exactly 24 hours before the theft.

IT UK Saints and US Dragons The US Fish and Wildlife Service denied immunity and permission to import a loan of ivory religious works from The British Museum for a temporary exhibition at the Museum of Russian Icons in Massachusetts. The exhibit entitled “Saints and Dragons: Icons from Byzantium to Russia” would have displayed artworks created sometime between the 9th and the 12th Centuries; therefore the Federal Ivory Trafficking Ban should not have undermined the loan of pieces that have never been seen in the US before.

IT German Protection or Expropriation German Minister of Culture defended the proposed Cultural Property Protection Act, an update to the Act to Prevent the Exodus of German Cultural Property (1955/2007). The proposed act would appoint a committee to reviews Germany-related sales of artworks or artifacts valued above 150,000 euro and older than 50 years old. The proposed law would try to curb the illegal sale of antiquities and keep “national treasures” in Germany. However some artists and dealers, including Gerhard Richter (b. 1932) who’s career spans six decades are objecting to the proposed law because it may create “an international sales embargo.”

IT Restitution efforts: Who’s Next? Sindiko Dokolo, a Gongolese art collector and businessman is seeking to return African art back to the African continent. As the New York Times reports, Dokolo is tailoring his quest to the works removed from African Museums during the colonial era. Later this year, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel will hand over a stolen Durga idol to the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

IT Specific Performance The Civil Court in Rotterdam found that an oral agreement for a commissioned work between a dealer and an artist was valid and subject to specific performance. An art collector Bert Kreuk, claims he commissioned an art work from an “early blue chip” artist, Donh Vo but instead of a large installation (of cardboard boxes), Vo sent him only one gilded Budweiser box. Having labeled Kreuk an “art flipper,” the artist plans to appeal the ruling;  he is refusing to create anything for the collector. Judge Pauline Adriana Maria van Schouwenburg-Laan held that Vo had to complete the commission within one year, or be fined up to 350,000 euros, the amount Kreuk allegedly paid Vo’s gallery in the first place. The Decision can be found here. This and other international art law cases are listed in our Case Corner (below). IT