BSR Online Lecture | The art market's laundrymen: examining the art world's witting and unwitting partners in crime


Lynda Albertson (ARCA) followed by a Q&A with Marcel Marée (British Museum) and Roberta Mazza (Manchester).

This event will take place via Zoom and advance registration is required. Please click here to reserve your place.

This talk will be divided into two sections. In the first part, Lynda Albertson will highlight two market-based restitution cases, one successful, one not, that show how museum thefts and illicit excavations, have differing implications depending on jurisdictions and legal instruments. The first case study will be the Post-Gupta era, Seated Buddha in the Bhumisparsha Mudra pose stolen from the Nalanda Archaeological Museum of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) in Nalanda, Bihar, India on August 22, 1961 and identified in the market in 2018. The second is a looted Etruscan Antefix in the form of a maenad, sold at Christie’s in December 2019 and returned to Italy via a buy-back donation in 2020.

In the second half of the talk, Albertson will discuss two recent investigation and restitution cases – the $4 Million gilded coffin of Nedjemankh and the approximately 5000 papyri fragments and 6500 clay artefacts from the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Washington DC Museum of the Bible. These illustrate that problems still exist in museum acquisitions, both public and private and how scholars are working to combat such behaviour, sometimes successfully, and sometimes not.

The talk will be followed by a Q&A session between Marcel Marée and Roberta Mazza.

Lynda Albertson is the CEO of the Association for Research into Crimes Against Art, also known as ARCA, a CSO that focuses on research and capacity building in the understanding and prevention of art-related crimes, to better preserve the world’s collective cultural heritage. In this role, Albertson spearheads ARCA’s Transnational Crime Mapping Project. She also cofacilitates ARCA’s training programs for cultural heritage professionals in the MENA region and Europe.

Marcel Marée is a curator at the Department of Egypt & Sudan in the British Museum (London, United Kingdom). He has done archaeological fieldwork at various sites in Egypt and Sudan. His principal areas of expertise are pharaonic material culture and provenance research. Marée initiated and leads the British Museum’s Circulating Artefacts (CircArt) project, launched in April 2018 to help counteract the widespread trade in antiquities from illicit excavations. The Cultural Protection Fund, run by the British Council for the UK’s department of culture (DCMS), supports CircArt’s creation of an online platform for the reporting, documentation and study of objects circulating on the international art market. Apart from offering advice to registered users, CircArt is also providing support and skills-sharing to heritage professionals in countries affected by large-scale looting. The current focus rests on Egypt and Sudan, but it is hoped that the geographical scope can be expanded in the near future. 

Roberta Mazza is a papyrologist and lecturer in Graeco-Roman material culture at the University of Manchester. She has worked on late antiquity and Christianity in Egypt and has published papyri from the John Rylands collection; her recent research and publications focus on the ethics of public and private collecting of Egyptian manuscripts and academic involvement with the antiquities market. She has published a book chapter on papyrology and the Museum of the Bible (‘The Green Papyri and the Museum of the Bible’, in: J. Hicks- Keaton, C. Concannon (eds.) The Museum of the Bible: A Critical Introduction. 2019) and has intervened publicly on the issues surrounding the institution in her blog and in various online magazines (e.g., Hyperallergic and Eidolon). Her research has been covered by The Guardian, The Times, The Atlantic and The Wall Street Journal