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Crimean Crisis Strands Hundreds of Ancient Gold Antiquities in Amsterdam

March 27, 2014

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UPDATEAgence France-Presse, in an article carried by ArtDaily, reports that artifacts on loan to an exhibition the Allard Pearson Museum in Amsterdam from four Crimean museums will not be returned once the exhibit closes on August 31.  The works are subject to a custody battle between Russia, which forcibly annexed Crimea earlier this year from the Ukraine, and the Ukraine:

An extensive and ongoing legal investigation had yet to “agree to a claim by one of the parties”, the museum said, describing the situation as “unique and complex”.

Returning the artefacts to either party “would almost certainly result in a claim by the other party, a substantial risk for the Allard Pierson Museum.”

The disputed collection will be safely stored “until more becomes clear” and there is a ruling by “a qualified judge or arbitrator, or further agreement between parties.”

ORIGINAL POST: The fate of hundreds of artifacts on loan from four Crimean museums currently on view at the Allard Pearson Museum in Amsterdam is up in the air following Russia’s recent annexation of the former Ukranian peninsula, according to Agence France-Presse.  The works were created between the 2nd century BC and the late medieval era.  “In the [loan] agreement it states that these items are part of the national state fund of Ukraine,” said Andrei Malgin, director of the Tavrida museum in Simferopol.

The article notes:

press-release-the-crimea-gold-and-secrets-of-the-black-seaNow curators in both Amsterdam and Crimea have been left wringing their hands over the political dilemma facing them: do the artefacts go to Kiev or Moscow once the exhibition ends?

[…]

The [Tavrida] museum is one of five from Ukraine taking part in the exhibit, four of which are situated in the now-Russian peninsula of Crimea.

The absorption — which is not recognised by Western states — has left the museum with a “very complex legal issue,” said Yasha Lange, spokeswoman for Amsterdam University which owns the museum.

“Who owns the objects?” Lange asked. “The art objects will remain in the Netherlands until the exhibition ends, but given the political changes, we’re now checking to whom we should give them.”

The Allard Pierson has now turned to the Dutch foreign ministry for advice, Lange said, adding the museum was in “constant contact” with Kiev and Moscow on the issue.

He highlighted that the museum “considers it extremely important to exercise care in this situation”.

The exhibits include a scabbard and a ceremonial Scythian helmet made from gold, as well as a lacquered box, originally from China, which in Roman times found its way to Crimea via the Silk Road.

According to the museum’s Web site: “Never before has Ukraine made so many prize archaeological exhibits available on loan: stunning artefacts made of gold, including a scabbard and a ceremonial helmet, and countless precious gems. These objects and other archaeological discoveries reveal the rich history of the peninsula colonised by the Greeks since the seventh century BC.”

The AFP article continues:

The ambiguity over the artefacts’ future worries Crimea’s museums, Malgin told AFP.

“I don’t see why political events should threaten these items,” he said in his office in central Simferopol.

“Probably there are people in Kiev who would be interested in these items not making it back to the Crimea,” but the museums will put maximum effort into getting them back, he said, adding that the Russian culture ministry had already been informed about the potential conflict.

Malgin said the Scythian brass and ceramic items on loan were the symbol of his museum.

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“They are beautiful items that would be a great loss.”

Crimea was at the crossroads of ancient trade routes and the shores of the Black Sea peninsula have long been excavated by archeologists, yielding fantastic treasures.

“Never before has Ukraine made so many prize archaeological exhibits available on loan,” a press release for the exhibit said.

“The exhibition casts new light on the Scythians, Goths and Huns, for centuries dismissed as little more than ‘barbarians’.”

The exhibition ends in August.

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