An analysis of the semiotics of provenance information in establishing symbolic and economic value for objects within the Near Eastern antiquities market
Kingston University, London
Supervisor: Dr Tom Flynn
At the present moment, a limited number of cultural objects and artefacts looted from territories held by Islamic State are circulating on the international art market; however, if the market continues to operate in its current form, this is almost certain to change. The poorly regulated exchange mechanisms, intensification of cross-border emigration and material increase in the supply of looted antiquities exacerbate this risk. Without standardised procedures or best-practice guidelines, the origins, ownership and transaction histories of objects within the international antiquities market are open to deliberate misinterpretation and exploitation. Consequently, the proliferation and transferral of looted and illegally-excavated objects from the Near East onto the international antiquities market has increased the urgency for art market participants to obtain explicit and verifiable provenance for all objects in their possession. Participants within the art trade including dealers, collectors and cultural institutions, risk becoming complicit in illicit transactions if they fail to proactively acknowledge and counteract this widespread and immediate cultural destruction. The proposed research aims to chart the evolution of provenance research as an institutional construct by considering its unique role in helping to establish the symbolic capital and economic value of antiquities within the international art market. It will use the framework of semiotics to consider how patterns, repetition and identifiable themes within provenance information can be measured and employed to influence market taste for cultural objects.