CPAC holds public hearing
The Cultural Property Advisory Committee held a public hearing on February 17, 2005 in regard to a request for import restrictions from the People's Republic of China.
James J. Lally |
February 28, 2005
The U.S. Cultural Property Advisory Committee held a Public Hearing February 17, 2005 to consider the request of the People’s Republic of China for U.S. Customs restrictions against the import of all Chinese Cultural property over 95 years old, submitted under article 9 of the UNESCO convention
Twenty-two speakers made statements at the hearing and the eleven members of the U.S. Cultural Property Advisory Committee took the opportunity to ask questions at the end of each speaker’s presentation.
Each speaker was allotted only five minutes. The chairman kept the proceedings on a tight but fair schedule and he allowed plenty of time for questions and discussion. The meeting began on time at 1:00 pm and ended at approximately 4:45 pm.
No representatives from the People’s Republic of China attended the meeting.
A list of the speakers in the order of their appearance follows:
James Fitzpatrick: Arnold and Porter, Washington, D.C.
William G. Pearlstein: Golenbock Eiseman Assor Bell & Peskoe, NYC
Arthur Houghton: American Council for Cultural Policy, NYC
James J. Lally: J.J. Lally & Co. NYC
Michael McCullough: Sotheby’s, NYC
Joe-Hynn Yang: Sotheby’s: NYC
Nancy Murphy: WaterMoon Gallery, NYC
Carlton Rochell: Carlton Rochell, Inc. NYC
Leopold Swergold: Private Collector, Westport, CT
James Cuno: Director, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Katherine Lee Reid: Director, Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH
Emily Sano: Director, Asian Art Museum, San Francisco, CA
Marc F. Wilson: Director, Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City, MO
Cindy Ho: Saving Antiquities for Everyone (SAFE), NYC
Elizabeth Gilligan: Saving Antiquities for Everyone (SAFE), NYC
Jennifer Makrides: Saving Antiquities for Everyone (SAFE), NYC
Patty Gerstenblith: Lawyers’ Committee for Cultural Heritage Protection, Chicago, IL
Deborah Bekken: The Field Museum, Chicago, IL
Anne Underhill, The Field Museum, Chicago, IL
Robert Bagley, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ
Peter Tompa: Intl Assoc. Professional Numismatists, Washington, DC
Wayne Sayles, Ancient Coin Collectors Guild, Gainesville, MO
The meeting was held in a nondescript U.S. State Department office building a few blocks from the mall in Washington, D.C. There were approximately 65 people in attendance at the hearing, including the speakers listed above and a few members of the press.
All in attendance at the meeting were given an opportunity to pick up a package of papers as they entered. The papers were xerox copies of the written submissions sent to the U.S. C.P.A.C. in advance of the meeting by each speaker.
The meeting was conducted in a very fair and professional manner by the Chairman of the U.S. Cultural Property Advisory Committee, Jay I. Kislak. The full committee was present. The current membership is as follows:
Willard Lee Boyd
Professor of Law, University of Iowa [Museum]
Joan Breton Connelly
Professor, Department of Fine Arts, NYU [Archaeology]
Marta Araoz de la Torre
Coral Gables, FL [Public]
Jay I. Kislak, Chairman
Director, J.I. Kislak, Inc. [Public]
Robert Bruce Korver
Director, Heritage Numismatic Auctions, Inc. [Intl. Sales Expert]
Meredith J. Long
President & CEO, Meredith J. Long & Co. [Intl. Sales Expert]
James Lorand Matory
Professor, Anthropology & Afro-American Studies Harvard University [Anthropology]
John W. McCarter, Jr.
President & CEO, The Field Museum of Chicago [Museum]
Aniko Gaal Schott
Owner, A.Gaal & Associates [Public]
Nancy Clausen Wilkie
Professor, Carlton College [Anthropology]
James Wright Willis
Owner, James Willis Tribal Art [Intl. Sales Expert]
The Chairman welcomed all in attendance and began the meeting by reminding those who had come to speak that they should focus their remarks on points which would be directly relevant to the specific criteria which the committee has been charged by statute to consider in their deliberations on the best response to the Chinese government’s request.
The specific criteria which the U.S. C.P.A.C. must consider and deem to have been satisfied before granting import restrictions to any requesting country are listed in the U.S. Congressional Act which governs the implementation of U.S. actions to fulfill treaty obligations arising from the U.S. ratification of the UNESCO treaty on the protection of Cultural Property. The governing legislation is called the “Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act” (C.P.I.A) and among other provisions the C.P.I.A. stipulates, after giving definition to key terms such as “archaeological or ethnographic material”, that the U.S. Cultural Property Advisory Committee must consider under the terms of the UNESCO treaty any request for assistance by making the following determinations:
(A) that the cultural patrimony of the State Party is in jeopardy from the pillage of archaeological or ethnological materials of the State Party;
(B) that the State Party has taken measures consistent with the Convention to protect its cultural patrimony;
(i) the application of the import restrictions set forth in section 307 with respect to archaeological or ethnological material of the State Party, if applied in concert with similar restrictions implemented, or to be implemented within a reasonable period of time, by those nations (whether or not State Parties) individually having a significant import trade in such material, would be of substantial benefit in deterring a serious situation of pillage, and
(ii) remedies less drastic than the application of the restrictions set forth in such section are not available; and
(D) that the application of the import restrictions set forth in section 307 in the particular circumstances is consistent with the general interest of the international community in the interchange of cultural property among nations for scientific, cultural, and educational purposes.
There were fifteen speakers who raised objections to the Chinese request for import restrictions and seven speakers who spoke in favor of the Chinese request. In the list of speakers shown above, the first thirteen and the last two speakers all advised against the acceptance of the Chinese request and speakers nos. 14-20 spoke in favor of acceptance.
The speakers who advocated acceptance of the Chinese request for import restrictions all were of the opinion that archaeological investigation and research must be given primacy over all other possible approaches to cultural property, and any proposed restrictions which might enhance the preservation, protection and retention of archaeological materials in China should be implemented.
The speakers who advocated against acceptance of the Chinese request also spoke of the importance of archaeological work in China and several proposed alternative methods to protect archaeological sites and support archaeological work in China without cutting off access to cultural property for all but the archaeologists.
Even the most doctrinaire of the speakers in favor of the import restrictions requested by the Chinese had to admit that judging by the criteria which must be applied according to the U.S. Cultural Property Implementation Act the Chinese request is seriously flawed.
The four American museum directors gave the most eloquent and carefully considered arguments against the Chinese request, coupled with support for alternative methods to achieve better protection for the Chinese cultural patrimony inside China and around the world without cutting off access for American collectors and curators.
The public hearing was a very important opportunity for the members of the Cultural Property Advisory Committee to receive information and advice from members of the public with knowledge and experience in China, and those with a special interest in Chinese art. No decision and no indication of the committee’s opinion on the appropriate response to the Chinese request was expected or revealed at the meeting.
I was very impressed with the cogent arguments against the Chinese request which were presented by several speakers, but it appeared to me from the questions and comments of some C.P.A.C. committee members that the protection of archaeological sites was the most important (and in some cases perhaps the only) issue of concern for them. For those committee members, it appeared possible that the failure of the Chinese request to satisfy specific criteria in the U.S. Cultural Property Implementation Act, the negative impact of import restrictions on the rights of U.S. collectors and museums, or the negative impact on U.S.-China cultural exchange and mutual understanding might not present a serious deterrent to approval.
In the 20+ years of its existence, the U.S. Cultural Property Advisory Committee has apparently recommended in favor of granting all or part of every request for import restrictions submitted to the U.S. government under the UNESCO treaty for the protection of cultural property.
As far as I know, the committee may take as much time as is necessary to gather information and make a decision. There is no way to know when a decision will be made or how the committee will proceed to reach a decision.
According to one reporter, the Chairman indicated in a recent interview that he feels that the complexity of the Chinese request is such that at least one more meeting of the committee to consider the request will be necessary. He did not give any indication whether or not he might convene another public hearing.
In short, those in favor of keeping the U.S. open to Chinese art presented cogent arguments and sincere proposals at the CPAC public hearing, but the degree to which the members of the CPAC might be prepared to listen, the eventual action which the committee might take, and when any decision might be announced all remain unknown.
(James J. Lally is an art dealer based in New York City)
- state department
- james j. lally
- washington, dc
- wayne g. sayles
- peter k. tompa