Thursday, January 24, 2008

Museums Raided

From the Los Angeles Times:

"Federal agents carried out coordinated raids on four Southern California museums and a Los Angeles art gallery early today, the first public move in a five-year investigation of an alleged smuggling pipeline that authorities say funneled looted Southeast Asian and Native American artifacts into local museums. Shortly after 7:30 a.m., search warrants were served on the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Pasadena's Pacific Asia Museum, the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana and the Mingei International Museum in San Diego. The warrants gave agents broad authority to search the museums' galleries, offices, storage areas and computer archives for objects and records related to the primary targets of the investigation: an alleged art smuggler, Robert Olson, and the owner of a Los Angeles Asian art gallery, Jonathan Markell. Markell's Silk Roads Gallery on La Brea Avenue was also raided."

Derek Fincham of the Illicit Cultural Property Blog says "this could be the first major antiquities prosecution in the United States since the conviction of antiquities dealer Fred Schultz. It goes without saying though that this kind of massive investigation is unprecedented."

JL at Modern Kicks has a one word reaction: "Wow."

Richard Lacayo
sees this as the "money quote": "The alleged crimes described in the warrants continued amid and after the Getty scandal became public, suggesting some American museums have not changed collecting habits known to be illegal or at least questionable. The new allegations could also carry much more serious consequences for those implicated because they are being investigated by U.S. authorities on American soil."