Strategic Value of African Tribal Art

Auction Sales Trends as Cultural Intelligence

Published in: Intelligence and National Security, v. 27, no. 2, Apr. 2012, p. 302-316

by Erik Nemeth

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Military engagement of insurgents risks destruction of religious monuments and historic structures, and political and economic instability that follows armed conflict enables looting of antiquities. In combination, threats to cultural structures and movable cultural patrimony compromise cultural security. This paper explores the potential of the art market for open-source intelligence assessments of cultural security. A comparison of the market value of artifacts of different ethnic origins provides a measure of the risk of looting of cultural patrimony by geographic region. Intelligence assessments of the relative desirability of cultural artifacts by region of origin can inform strategic planning to mitigate looting in conflict zones and to alert security services to emerging threats of trafficking in cultural patrimony.

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