Statement of IADAA

IADAA stands firstly for the right of the trade, collectors and museums to legally acquire, own, sell and donate antiquities from the ancient world encompassed by the Mediterranean, Europe and the Near East with the aim of preserving and learning about the remains of our shared cultural inheritance. Such activity has been continuing for millennia – the Romans themselves were avid collectors of Greek sculpture which they revered – and in the intervening centuries millions of artefacts have been traded. It has been at points in history when such reverence has been forgotten, that most damage has been done. This has happened not only during dark ages, but at more settled times when succeeding civilizations moving into the territory of their ancient predecessors have often treated such remains with at best neglect and at worst wilful destruction, often on religious or economic grounds. It is a fact, however much to be regretted, that often only monetary value has served to save such relics.

IADAA also stands against the destruction of the past, whoever is responsible. Governments have often been as guilty as looters in this respect. Even archaeologists have sometimes been culpable. IADAA will use every effort to raise awareness of such destruction. As our code of ethics makes clear, we refuse to deal in pieces, which are looted or stolen. We also support the right of all countries to safeguard and keep in public ownership objects of great importance to their cultural identity in which respect the UNESCO treaty is to be praised. We do however believe that purely proscriptive laws often have the opposite effect to that which was intended, and lead to smuggling and looting. The UK legal situation is a more successful model. It recognizes the rights of private owners and encourages amateur archaeologists. It also takes account of the fact that large numbers of finds will be accidental. Any finds made must be reported and if judged important are acquired for public ownership. A reward equal to market value is paid to the finder. If not, the finder may keep the objects. This is a logical treatment of the issue. Many museums in source countries have storerooms full of objects, which never see the light of day, which are often poorly conserved, whose provenance is lost and which remain unpublished. This is a scandal which is rarely considered by critics of the trade and which we will continue to publicise.

A legitimate open trade in antiquities is essential. IADAA is defending the whole foundation on which the art trade is based, namely that the private ownership of art and the connoisseurship which collecting inspires, are desirable in a cultured society. This tenet has been held by almost everyone for the last five hundred years. It has had an enormously important effect on the way in which the great museums of the world have developed, and this in turn has lead to a much wider appreciation of world cultural heritage. We therefore defend the past.