, director of the the Indianapolis Museum of Art, former director of the Whitney Museum and past president of the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD), responds here to Rooting Out Loot
. Keep those e-mails coming!
You’ve raised an important issue facing art museums: retrospective research on works lacking clear provenance. This has to be approached methodically, as you suggest, since there are so many issues triggered by reviewing objects often lacking more than a bill of sale.
But it seems to me that before tackling what might be involved in such a vast inquiry, it’s more urgent to agree on what’s appropriate in future acquisitions—and many directors, including me, have misgivings about the current AAMD guidelines. Because of the "10-year" rule and the blanket exception provided for works of great significance, the Guidelines are out of step with approaches being taken by our colleagues around the world.
Once we’ve agreed on a more disciplined approach to evaluating future purchases, gifts, bequests, and exchanges, we’ll be better equipped to address retrospective research. No less importantly, we’ll be in a better position to advocate two important objectives: 1) a rational federal approach that harmonizes conflicting applications of the CPIA of 1983 and the National Stolen Property Act, and 2) the promulgation of a legal market in antiquities that can reduce looting, deal sensibly with chance finds, and provide revenue to source countries for the protection, research, and care of objects in their possession.