Sunday, 3 June 2018
Hong Kong Must Shut Door on Illicit Trade in Antiquities Before It Can Emerge As Global Art Hub By Eduard Fernández
The trade in looted artefacts in Hong Kong began over a century ago, when such items were sold on Hollywood Road. Experts say Hong Kong’s busy port and set of rules protecting buyers of illicit pieces have allowed this trade to continue. “If you want to buy looted antiquities, Hong Kong is one of the best places in the world to do it,” says Steven Gallagher, associate dean of the Chinese University of Hong Kong’s Faculty of Law.
Along Hollywood Road, the antiques stores are still a tourist attraction. Joanna Caen, a senior consultant and adviser for high net worth individuals, banks and trustees from the law firm Herbert Smith Freehills, recommends to those interested in acquiring antiquities to buy “through reputable agents” and have the provenance documentation reviewed by independent experts.
Other dealers admit there are still objects with questionable origins on the market, but stress that most professionals will stay away from them. “It’s up to the individual dealer; some take a chance, and some are more cautious, because you can have some problems with collectors, as many might reject those pieces,” says Nader Rasti, owner of Rasti Chinese Art. However, Jamie Wang, from Orientique Arts Dealer, says regardless of their origin, “good [pieces] will eventually be picked up”.
As Hong Kong ramps up its bid to become a global art hub, experts have called for the city to close its doors to the illicit trade of cultural property once and for all.