The conference, entitled “The Market for Latin American Antiquities: Canon, Trade and Conventions”, brings together comparative provenance research that examines the role of the (art) market for pre-Hispanic and ethnographic cultural objects in the formation of museum collections. Presentations will focus on the formation of a canon as well as the marketing strategies of the trade and international interventions to curb illegal activities.
Since 2014, members of the European CAA Commissions have been conducting transna-tional research on the emergence of collections of American origin in European museums. The networks and modes of acquisition that contributed to the emergence of the collections have been a focus of the research, as have the views of and knowledge productions about the Americas that result from the use of the collections in scholarship and exhibitions.
The development of a larger market for archaeological and ethnographic objects from the Americas can be traced to the second half of the 19th century (Gänger 2014, Yates 2019). Economic development, but also the emergence of museums and university disci-plines such as archaeology and ethnology, encouraged the collecting and trading of objects. After World War II, a so-called second wave of collecting began, in which museums were actively involved alongside dealers and private collectors. Since 1970, UNESCO conventions on the protection of cultural property have attempted to limit illegal trade (Mckenzie el al. 2020, Yates 2019).
The creation of the CAA commissions was intended to publicize the holdings of national cultural property outside of Latin America. Since then, the activity and direct acquisition by museums through the art market has declined. Nevertheless, objects acquired specifically on the market are proportionally more frequently exhibited in many museums or have a proportionally higher share of exhibits in collections. To this day, private collections reach museums through donations or bequests, i.e., through third parties. Dealing with their provenance is currently a major challenge for museums.
In addition to the acquisition practices and activities of museums on the (art) market, the conference will address the following questions: Is it possible to determine which objects from which cultures were traded on the market in which period? Which objects were traded under which category (antiquities, ethnography, art, etc.)? How did this canon shape the image of indigenous cultures that was drawn and transmitted? Who were and are the actors in the (art) market? To what extent are forgeries, a response to market demands (Bruhns and Kelker 2010, Kelker and Bruhns 2010)? What role do indigenous interests play in the (art) market? How do we deal with insufficient provenance, restitution claims, postcolonial approaches in museums today?