socio-political turmoil

Syrian Antiquities Victim to ISIS Laundering

Although ISIS has recently been losing its territorial grip, the trade in stolen art and cultural artifacts directed by the organization seems to be booming, according to a new report by the Wall Street Journal.

Objects looted from Iraq and Syria typically undergo a tortuous journey en route to destinations in Europe and the United States with dealers fabricating false paper trails for works and that are then hidden in storage.

It is anticipated that many such works will kept from public view for a decade or more in an attempt to "launder" them before they are introduced to the broader art market. Even after the illicit trade slows, the effort to identify and repatriate stolen artwork from the region will likely extend far into the future.

Christopher Lew Weighs In


With all the socio-political turmoil buffeting the nation (and much of Europe) at present, it is surprising how much attention and vociferous debate has resulted from the exhibition of Dana Schutz's painting "Open Casket" (2016) at the Whitney Biennial. The painting, which is based on a photograph of the funeral of Emmett Till in which his mutilated body was displayed, has been the subject of widespread criticism and number of demands, including the suggestion that the work should be destroyed.

Today, co-curator of the Biennial Christopher Lew weighed in with his thoughts. Although the controversy has highlighted concerns that will not be easily resolved, Lew raises some good points--including the fact most people criticizing Schutz's painting have not seen the work in person or in the context of the entire Biennial. In that respect, it recalls some of the art controversies of the 1980s and 1990s, such as the row over the New Museum's exhibition of Chris Ofili's "The Holy Virgin Mary."

Photo © 2016 Scott Rudd