The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is due to publish its summary of findings following its consultation on amendments to a ban which closed in December. It received more than 60,000 responses but questions about the practicality of enforcing a ban and its exemptions is up for debate.
Alistair Brown, policy officer at the Museums Association, said: “You need to have a system that removes from the market all the (trinkets) but which at the same time allows for the continued appreciation of the astonishing historical works of art that have been produced in times when things were different and which do belong in museums. I don’t think it is an impossible feat.”
During The Courtauld Institute’s panel discussion for its MA Curating course called The Elephant in the Room: Ivory and the Art World, Will Travers, president of the Born Free Foundation, said although the ban will not solve the problem of poaching, it will “contribute to solving the problem”. He admitted there was “no silver bullet” and alongside the ban there needs to be “greater enforcement in the field by fighting organised crime”.
Martin Levy, director of art and antiques dealer H Blairman & Sons, argued that ivory trinkets, such as those described by Travers, “have no place in society today” but said there is “no good reason to make the moving of medieval ivory difficult”.
Despite this argument, Travers said there should not be any trade in ivory and ending the trade will not effect the display of objects containing ivory in museums. He added: “We need to think about drawing a distinction between museums and what museums do, which is vitally important, and the trade. Trade is what is killing the elephant, not the display of ivory in the V&A.”
He added: “Regarding our fascination with our creativity, we should be careful we don’t keep saying how brilliant we are and how the works of man or woman are more important than the works of creation.”
But an audience member warned that the ban is in “real danger of… being far too broadbrush. We have to be careful we do not go after the wrong people.”