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10 Nov 2020 Open Letter: CINOA congratulates UNESCO for their 50-year anniversary of the 1970 Convention and pleads for better representation of the facts and better cooperation with the art trade

UNESCO
Director-General of UNESCO
Audrey Azoulay
7 place de Fontenoy
75007 Paris
France

                                                                                                                                                         10 November 2020

OPEN LETTER: CINOA congratulates UNESCO for their 50-year anniversary of the 1970 Convention and pleads for better representation of the facts and better cooperation with the art trade

Dear Director General Azoulay,

The 50th anniversary of the 1970 UNESCO Convention – or to give it its full title, The UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property - provides us with an ideal opportunity to remind ourselves of exactly what its purpose is, as set out in its articles. The Convention is robust in its support for States Parties and their cultural heritage across its 26 articles. It is robust in setting out its structure for crime prevention and it is equally robust in committing States Parties to fair resolutions, whether for restitution or compensation.

UNESCO should be congratulated on the Convention’s considerable impact and success, but why does UNESCO continue to cite inflated and unfounded claims regarding the size of the illicit trade in cultural property and keep the legitimate trade at arms-length? This comportment damages the interests of the art trade and collectors. It also risks the credibility of UNESCO’s authority in this crucial area of activity, especially when the inaccuracy of these figures is so easy to show. For example, it takes only a few minutes to demonstrate that the $10 billion headline figure UNESCO is using for its anniversary campaign, The Real Price of Art is bogus. What’s worse, UNESCO was warned of this issue three weeks ago, yet still holds to the figure publicly. Of equal concern is that such claims are being made by senior UNESCO officials.

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