THE ART CRISIS by Bonnie Burnham


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Among the current books concerned with the problems of art-as-commodity, Miss Burnham's falls, in the main, into the Topkapi genre; she deals at length and often with shrewd journalistic ease with the predicament and character of the art thief, the middleman, the collector, the gallery, the museum. Part I, ""Stolen Art,"" and the final section, ""The Art Boom,"" though full of information, anecdotes and gossip about the threats posed by art theft, steer away from more complicated issues. The thief, in short, still has an easy job, especially in rural areas, lifting artifacts from churches and archaeological sites. The representatives of the law and of culture--Interpol and the International Council of Museums, to say nothing of gallery owners and private collectors--have a tougher job in securing recovery, restoration, establishing the ""pedigree"" of a work of art, etc. The middle section, ""The Antiquities Crisis,"" is worth the price of admission for its discussion of the difficulties Third World countries face in trying to retain craft and ceremonial objects which are still an essential focus for religion and nationalism at home but which Western collectors from Picasso to Norton Simon to your local interior decorator are anxious to secure. Burnham's material is not new nor her conclusions totally bleak; the ""Crisis"" may, she suggests, be irreversible, but as it receives more publicity, as more museums agree to exchanges, as governments and private citizens become aware of the seriousness of art theft and of the haziness of international and local controls, a new vigilance may be enforced.

Pub Date: Oct. 29th, 1975
Publisher: St. Martin's