Reading 6 - Mazurkewich 2005 - The Asian Wall Street...

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The Asian Wall Street Journal PERSONAL JOURNAL: End of An Era , by Karen Mazurkewich, 4 March 2005 (c) 2005 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. To see the edition in which this article appeared, click here [Antique dealers go on buying spree as China tries to crack down on the market] Hong Kong -- IN A COFFEE SHOP on Hollywood Road, a street here best known for its many antique shops, Marc Richards waits for his mobile phone to ring. A call signals the arrival of fresh stock at one of the Los Angeles-based art dealer's favorite suppliers. Mr. Richards typically budgets about a million U.S. dollars a year to acquire Chinese artifacts in Hong Kong, which he resells to his wealthy clients back in the U.S. The best pieces go to the first dealer on the scene with cash to spend. Recently though, Mr. Richards has gone on something of buying binge. He has spent around $500,000 more than his usual budget on items that include some early Tang Dynasty pottery horses, a pair of gargoyle-like "earth spirits," and a 1,400-year-old sculpture of a camel. They are inventory Mr. Richards is stockpiling in anticipation of possible new U.S. regulations that could drastically curtail his ability to import the Chinese antiquities on which his livelihood depends. If the new rules take effect, he says, "my days as an antique dealer are over." Mr. Richards and other dealers in Chinese artifacts such as terracotta sculptures, bronzeware and imperial porcelain are girding for the worst as their trade comes under unprecedented attack. Leading the assault is Beijing, which last May formally requested that Washington ban all Chinese antiques over 100 years old -- in other words, virtually all of any value -- from entering the U.S. Supporting China's efforts are archeologists, nonprofit groups and other lobbyists who argue that the sale of antiquities is immoral. That argument has gained a much wider hearing since the looting of the National Museum in Baghdad in April 2003, when thousands of historical relics were stolen in the chaotic wake of the allied invasion of Iraq. Chinese art and antiquities have long been big business in the West. But the market has expanded rapidly in recent years as China's economy has flourished, bringing a new breed of wealthy Chinese businesspeople into a market long dominated by overseas buyers. Sales of Chinese art and artifacts generate hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue a year for dealers and auction houses such as Sotheby's Holdings Inc.and Christie's International PLC. Private dealers estimate about half of all Chinese antiquities sold world-wide end up in the U.S. By enlisting the U.S., China now hopes to rein in what it calls a major source of demand for pilfered art. The U.S. State Department is considering Beijing's application, and last month held public hearings to review competing arguments presented by preservationists, museums, auction houses and private dealers.
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Under a 1970 United Nations convention on trade in cultural property as well as under U.S. domestic legislation, countries can petition the U.S. to restrict importation of certain
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