Valuations Newsletter Issue 8

Winter 2019

Lyon & Turnbull has announced that it too has joined the growing number of auction houses who will no longer sell antique items made from rhino horn. One of the world’s toughest bans on ivory sales has become law in the UK in December as the Ivory Bill gained Royal Assent to become the Ivory Act 2018. The Act is expected to come into force in late 2019...

Lyon & Turnbull has announced that it too has joined the growing number of auction houses who will no longer sell antique items made from rhino horn.

Rhinos are now being killed in such unprecedented numbers that there are realistic fears they could be wiped from the face of the planet by 2025. If this happens, it will be the first major extinction of an animal in the wild since the worldwide conservation movement began. The bare statistics are horrifying. In South Africa alone, some 7,000 rhinos have been killed for their horns over the past decade to satisfy the demand for everything from traditional medicine to hangover cures. Globally, the situation is equally grave. The northern white rhino became functionally extinct after the death of ‘Sudan’, the last male, earlier last year, and where the black rhino population is down to about 5,200.

While it is still possible to trade in worked rhino horn acquired or prepared prior to 1947, BADA (The British Antique Dealers Association), which has a strong environmental commitment, has been calling for tougher regulation on the trade in such objects in the UK to ensure that modern poached rhino is prevented from entering the UK and that rhino horn already in the UK cannot be ground down and exported for whatever reason. It is of the utmost importance that auction houses and members of the antiques trade show their unqualified support for these efforts to save this species.

And, of course, it is not just the rhino that is under threat, but also other species. Kim McDonald’s article “Keeping up to dates with CITES”, which is reissued with kind permission from the Antiques Trade Gazette, provides a timely refresher guide on the regulations governing trade in endangered species. Hillaire Belloc (Bad Child’s Book of Beasts) may have mocked the rhino for being “an ugly beast”, but then he also wanted to shoot the hippopotamus “with bullets made of platinum”. But mercifully, we now know better.

Meanwhile, one of the world’s toughest bans on ivory sales has become law in the UK in December as the Ivory Bill gained Royal Assent to become the Ivory Act 2018. The Act is expected to come into force in late 2019. A consortium of trade organisations are seeking judicial review of elements of the Ivory Act. (See Updates, News & Comment below)

Iain G. Mitchell’s article “Sailing to Byzantium” looks at how blockchain may help build trust in the art market, a market that continues to attract negative criticism for its lack of transparency. However, blockchain remains poorly understood not only by the general public, but all too often by those whose enthusiasm for its adoption fails to present either a proper consideration of benefits or an appreciation of the risks involved. An art register, for example, recording sale and provenance, raises substantial regulatory concerns arising from the trans-national nature of most distributed ledgers. Indeed, it is questionable whether such a register, essentially holding personal data and involving an international market, is even possible with presently-existing regulation such as GDPR and where there are no international standards for blockchain.

There are potential benefits, but those who wish to see the art market flourish through the use of distributed ledgers should be pro-active not only in explaining the benefits, but also in ensuring that the debate is conducted at an informed level. The WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature) is currently running a test project using blockchain to help stamp out illegal fishing and human rights abuses in the Pacific Islands’ tuna industry. Perhaps a similar test project could be started for the trafficking of rhino horn.

 


 

Keeping up to date with CITES
A Refresher Guide by Kim McDonald, The Taxidermy Law Company
The laws surrounding antiques made with the parts of endangered species are subject to frequent change. Kim McDonald of The Taxidermy Law Company provides a current overview of changes and obligations.

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Sailing to Byzantium
Blockchain and the Art Market by Iain G. Mitchell, QC
Can blockchain transform the negative criticism of the art market’s lack of transparency and bring other benefits such as the democratisation of fine art investment?

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Natural Law v Natural Science
by John Sibbald, Lyon & Turnbull
This is the first article in a new series of examples where further investigation has helped the item achieve a value that was not at first sight apparent.

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A Vibrant Space: The Contemporary Studio Ceramics
by Philip Smith, Lyon & Turnbull
It is an exciting time to be in the contemporary ceramic market - money, the media and social attributes have all come together to create a vibrant artistic space for the appreciation of this hitherto often side-lined field, and the current vibrancy of contemporary ceramics is one of the success stories of 21st Century arts.

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Lyon & Turnbull Welcomes Rohan McCulloch
We are delighted to welcome the newest member of our expanding London team, Rohan McCulloch, to Lyon & Turnbull as the London Head of British & European Art and Valuations.

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The Looting of Pharonic & Nubian Antiquities
With tens of thousands of looted artefacts in circulation, the British Museum is to take on a new role to lead an international task force to fight the illicit trade in Egyptian and Nubian antiquities.

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Arts Council Guide to No-Deal Brexit
The Arts Council England has published a guide sharing government information to help arts and cultural organisations prepare in the event that the UK exits from the European Union without a withdrawal agreement.

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Probate On-line
HM Courts & Tribunals Service has launched an online probate service.

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Worked Ivory Update
A consortium of trade organisations is seeking judicial review of elements of the Ivory Act.

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