Monday, March 16, 2009

Sexing Up the Antiquities Market?

Over the past week or two, a certain antiquities gallery has begun sending out email updates titled "Can YOU find the antiquity?" with a link to an object for sale. The first object to be so treated was this pre-Dynastic Egyptian vessel; the photo showing it next to a pair of shapely female legs has since been removed, presumably to make way for number 2. The conceit, based on the responses provided-- e.g. "I couldn't see the antiquity and I stared at the picture for a good 10 minutes"; "This must be a joke; there is no antiquity in this picture"-- is that we are to be distracted by the other objet d'art present in the photo.

My objection is not to do with any notions of prudishness; the pictures involved are not terribly risqué. Rather, I object to promoting the sale of unprovenanced antiquities (I admit I don't know when the late William Bowmore, O.B.E., collected the piece) through association with attractive women. That's a clumsy way to put it, I know, but it'll have to do for now.

Perhaps it's something to do with the economy, I don't know. Are antiquities no longer sexy enough to sell on their own appeal? Are they slipping relative to fur coats (Carlos Picón wants one) and in need of a makeover?

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