Thursday, December 27, 2012

Sold! Antiquities that Surfaced via Robin Symes, a Name Mentioned in Illegal Trade Cases, Bring Prices Above Estimates at Christie's

The name of London dealer Robin Symes, which has been associated with people tied to illegal trade in looted antiquities, apparently doesn't dampen collectors' appetite for artifacts that passed through his hands -- at least judging from the Christie's antiquities auction in New York earlier this month.

Handled by Symes, sold at Christie's
Symes brokered such notorious deals as the sale of the Morgantina Aphrodite to the Getty Museum, one of its prize possessions until it returned the statue to Italy in 2011.  Other museums that bought works through Symes have also sent them back to their countries of origin.

Just this year, the Dallas Museum of Art deaccessioned a looted terracotta head that it had bought from Symes in 1999, which, if Italy agrees, will remain at the DMA on long-term loan before its eventual repatriation.  The head originated with Giacomo Medici, who was convicted in Italy of receiving stolen goods,  illegal export of goods, and conspiracy to traffic.

Although Symes has never been criminally indicted, he was sentenced to a two-year prison term for contempt of court for not disclosing his assets in a civil dispute.

Christie's offered three works whose first known provenance was with Symes.  A fourth that was handled by him was, according to the auction catalogue, "said" to have been collected earlier.

Three of the items sold.  Shown here is a Greek marble head that was with Symes in 2001 and that bore an estimate of $70,000 to $90,000.  It brought $182,500, including the auctioneer's premium.

Update:  Blogging has been light because I have been working on some long articles that will be published soon.  I have more posts planned and should be blogging regularly before too long.

Photo from the Christie's catalogue.

Text (c) Copyright 2012 Laura Gilbert.