Antiquities are not simply old pieces of art. They carry a message about a culture’s heritage and history, which is the legacy and gift of that culture to its heirs and to the rest of the world. Because of the special place ancient objects have in a nation’s culture, the rules regarding trade and ownership of these artifacts have a special significance.
Recently there has been a movement to improve the laws that exist and to create new laws that protect the objects and the nations they came from so that rightful possession and ownership can be maintained.
Antiquities dealers are affected by these changes. “If dealers ignore the changing standards in the antiquities trade,” says Hicham Aboutaam, co-owner, with his brother, Ali, of Phoenix Ancient Art of New York and Geneva, “it will be at their peril.”
Some dealers take the “buyers beware” approach to selling antiquities. “We research pieces as much as we can,” says Aboutaam, “and if we fail to find a provenance, we put everything on the table and let the buyer decide.”