Official letter of russian art-experts

The decision on putting a ban on the expertise services by the museums brought a mixed reaction from the antiquarians and the museum experts themselves. The specialists-members of the National Organization of Art Experts have sent an official letter to Anatoly Shvydkoy.

A self-regulating organization,
«National organization of art experts»

No. 05-10, October 25th, 2006

To Head of the Federal Culture (Cultural Heritage) and Mass Media Supervision Agency,
M.E. Shvydkoy

Dear Michail Efimovich,
30 leading Russian museum experts have signed this letter. We consider this letter as the only existing opportunity to draw your attention to the problem arising from practically banning the procedure of providing the expert services to the non-government customers. In case the balanced solution of the problem is not developed, it can turn to be of a potential hazard to preserving the Russian Cultural Heritage.

We ask you to pay extra attention to the situation and decide – whether the regulations developed by Your Agency, limiting the museums expert activity (and included into the new version of the Museum Regulations), are indeed in the interests of the Russian Culture and the whole Russian Society.

The current status of expertise in Russia has objective historical roots, is unique and can not be corrected by just one-time-only measures.

Different to the foreign countries situation, the great majority (both by quantity and by quality) of the Cultural Estate in Russia is concentrated in the State museums. These museums employ the majority of professional experts. An expert learns his profession exclusively in the process of the years-long direct contact with the undoubtedly best pieces of heritage, and only after it, he becomes a real Expert.

That’s why in Russia the museum collections are kept by science men and experts and not just by qualified store men. In today’s Russia, the museum is the only place of the expertise institution development.

The expertise performed by the museums on the private persons’ and organizations requests provide the possibility to spot and select the most valuable pieces for purchasing and complementing the museums collections.

The expertise performed for the private persons’ and organizations is the most important mean of studying and detecting art forgeries, which constantly develop and become more and more versatile and perfect.

A great number of the works of art put on sale or stolen from the Russian and foreign museum collections will not be spotted and attributed, because the experts will be deprived of this possibility.

The State has no other institution of the experts preparation except them working in the museums (to the contrary, the Russian non-museum circles have no base for teaching experts, i.e. the works of arts themselves). Enforcing a ban on the museum expertise will stop the process of the art experts’ reproduction.

Forced «unofficial» expertise (as in the days of the recent past) will exempt a substantial part of the museum experts from the administration and colleagues/professional control, tempting them to practice highly rewarded unofficial expertise.

Banning the procedure of providing the expert services to the non-government customers would be the most simple and effective act of sabotage by the criminal art treasure dealers in the pursuit of their criminal plan objectives in case of such plan of dismantling the institution of art expertise in Russia in the interests of these criminal circles existed.

Arguments in favor of museum expertise banning

We considered the well-known arguments of the museum expertise ban supporters in order to explain our opinion.

Argument No.1.
Totally or partially wrong expertise conclusions formulated in the corresponding certificates issued by museums to orders for private persons harm the museums reputation.

We want to remark that practically all the scandals in connection with museums issuing the «wrong» expert conclusions which attracted the public interest pertain to the certificates issued more than one year ago.

Absence of the new scandals in connection with the museum expertise is a result of the positive trend in this field.

The professional circles consolidated over the last year’s period and started to switch to a good practice of self-ruling. The professional community efforts assisted by the professional mass media operators resulted in considerable improving the awareness of museum managers, experts and antique dealers about the risks and particular features of the objects of art circulation and expertise. The collectors’ awareness and qualification also have improved.

The museums are learning to manage their expertise activities. The influence of the non-government expertise institutions, complementing the museum expertise, grows.

The statistical data and our everyday experience demonstrate the rate of forgeries entering the national antiques market (and the rate of presenting them for the museum expertise) slumping over 2006.

Argument No.2.
The position of the International Council of Museums (ICOM) stating that expertise services to orders from private persons are undesirable (on the grounds of the hazards of interests conflict and of harming the museums reputation).

As far as no other expertise practically exist in Russia except the museum one (as we have already mentioned), its banning will neither remove the interests conflict hazard, nor protect the museums reputation.

The idea of interests conflict and harming the museums reputation presented in the Code of ICOM pertains namely to the hazards of independent unofficial professional activity of the museum staff:
«the museum staff members must be aware that not a single their private or professional interest can be separated from the interest of their office …They must be aware that their private interests are associated with their museums activities … Any activity connected with the museum profession privately undertaken by a museum staff member can influence his museum’s interests or be associated with its name.» (The ICOM Ethical Code for Museums).

The ICOM Ethical Code concept of «expertise» includes two kinds of it:

1) Scientific expertise: the article or sample authentication and attribution.
2) Financial expertise: this term is used for the financial evaluation of the article or sample».

The ICOM Ethical Code approves the expertise by the museum specialists, provided them keeping its correctness and transparency for the museum administration control. Only the FINANCIAL expertise for private persons is excluded from the ICOM approval.

However, it is namely the financial expertise that the Russian museums do not provide!

Argument No 3.
The law «On Museum Collections of the Russian Federation and the Museums of the Russian Federation» putting limitations on the museums business activities in case of these activities contradict the museums regulatory objectives.

Our arguments against the ban presume that the expertise activity, performed for private persons also, fully complies with the above mentioned law.

The expertise activity and skills developed in its process are in the best interests of the museums and help the realization of their goals set for the museums by the law.

Achieving such a goal as «search for and collecting of the articles for the museum collections» is today impossible without active browsing the valuable objects absent from the museums collections.

Argument No. 4.
Hazard of juridical and financial liability caused by erroneous expertise.
The today’s Russia fully implements the principles of the Contract Law. The problem of the museums (and hence of the State’s) liability can be solved by the standardization of the contracts on expertise and by the standardization of the other documentation pertaining to the services provided by museum experts.

We are not trying to idealize the museum expertise practice. However, the existing problems must be solved and not «banned» and just put aside. The professional experts’ community (observing the situation from the «inside») is aware of the measures to be undertaken in order to bring the expertise institution to a civilized system form.

The first stage of such efforts, to our opinion, can comprise the developing and adoption of standards for the services of the cultural heritage pieces expertise provided by museums.

The requirements of such standards must concern the following sides of the expertise process:
– Scope of the contract documentation
– Expertise particular procedures including the procedures of reporting and control
– Museum property and information involved in the expertise process
– Museum staff professional qualification
– Ethics and confidentiality.

A year have passed since the establishment of the «National organization of art experts». We can proudly announce that today, it includes the main part of the practicing museum expert elite of Russia.

We count on the professional qualities and attention of you being a cultural life prominent figure and a man responsible for the Russian museum industry. In return, we offer you our experience and professional knowledge and sincerely count on your understanding and support.

Respectfully yours,
The National Organization of Art Experts members:
ALEXANDROVA N.A. (State Tretyakov Gallery), BEKENEEVA N.G. (State Tretyakov Gallery), VETLUZHSKIH V.V. (State Scientific Research Institute of Restoration), GAVRILOVA L.н. (State Museum-Conservancy Area “Moscow Kremlin”), GILODO A.A.. (All-Russian Museum of Decorative/Applied and Folk Art), DOLGIKH е.V. (All-Russian Museum of Decorative/Applied and Folk Art), DUBROVIN A.F. (State Scientific Research Institute of Restoration),
DUBROVIN M.F. (State Scientific Research Institute of Restoration), ZHUKOVA E.M. (State Tretyakov Gallery), ZYABLOV е.н.(Federal State Unitary Complex – State Museum-Exhibition Centre ROSIZO, Chairman of the Board of the National Organization of Art Experts), IGNATOVA N.S. (Grabar All-Russian Art Restoration Scientific Centre).
IOVLEVA L.I. (State Tretyakov Gallery), KOMAROVA N.P. (East-Siberian State Academy of Culture and Art), лпнбSHлп N.I.. (Andrey Rublev Central Museum of the Ancient Russian Culture and Art), LUKASHIN D.E. (Art Consulting LTD) нбRKINA L.б. (State Tretyakov Gallery), нбRлпVб V.E. (Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts), нбRTZ L.V. (State Tretyakov Gallery),
нпZZHUHINA ф.б. (State Museum of Ceramics and «Kuskovo Estate the XVIII century», нUNTIAN ф.N. (State Museum-Conservancy Area «Moscow Kremlin», PбSфпN E.V. (State Tretyakov Gallery), PODSTANITSKY S.б. (Grabar All-Russian Art Restoration Scientific Centre), SAMETSKAYA E.B. (All-Russian Museum of Decorative/Applied and Folk Art), SARбBYANOV б.D. (The Russian Avantgarde publishing house), SARбBYANOV D.V. (Russian Academy of Sciences), SIDORENKO G.V. (State Tretyakov Gallery), SMORODINOVA G.G. (State Historical Museum), STRUGOVA п.B. (The State Historical Museum), SHEMAHANSKAYA н.S. (State Scientific Research Institute of Restoration), SHEREDEGA N.N. (State Tretyakov Gallery ).

Chairman of the Board of the National Organization of Art Experts (NOEXI) е.н. ZYABLOV

127051 Moscow, 28\2 Petrovka,

Published in: on December 28, 2006 at 2:34 am  Leave a Comment  
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