New Regulations in Effort to Keep the US From Being a Bastion of Looted Antiquities

Changes are being made because of how many problems have arisen within the U.S. antiquities trade.

The Met had to return this Gilded Coffin Lid to Egypt in 2019. Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

According to new reports, the US Department of the Treasury is currently in the midst of accruing comments and recommendations from those who work in the antiquities trade so as to better execute new regulations in the business of exchanging objects. This overhaul process has come about due to the fact that many recent instances of looted objects reappearing have unfolded in the United States. Within the last few years alone, the Metropolitan Museum of Art alone has turned over several objects in its collection to the Manhattan district attorney’s office under suspicion that they were looted or obtained by otherwise illegitimate measures.

Whatever new regulations that the US Department of the Treasury comes up with, in all likelihood, they’ll probably be applied to the purchase and exchange of contemporary art and art sold at auction as well. Specifically, the Treasury is intent upon countering money laundering; there’s also the possibility that the often-mysterious buyers and traders of antiquities will become obliged by firmer regulations to make their identities known.

The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network is therefore asking experts and longtime business owners within the antiquities trade several pertinent questions: the network wants to determine which monetary amounts when exchanges are concerned should be subject to further scrutiny, as well as whether buyers and owners of rare artifacts should have their identities revealed.

Ultimately, however, the crux of the matter is that the flow of antiquities through North America has become genuinely problematic, and the process is in need of a timely facelift. “A number of cases have arisen in which stolen antiquities have been recovered in the US,” Michael McCullough, a lawyer based in New York, told The Art Newspaper. Plus, he added, “there are a lot of questionable characters who operate out of places where there is little regulation.”

New Regulations in Effort to Keep the US From Being a Bastion of Looted Antiquities