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Our front page with the story on the EU's proposed ban on the import and export of antique ivory.

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Hardly anyone reports as extensively as ATG on the legal framework of the art trade.

The European Federation of Auctioneers (EFA) shares the concerns of its British colleagues regarding the proposed ban on ivory objects and has been active in Brussels for some time.

Anthony Browne [British Art Market Federation chairman] and I have tried for many years to prevent the worst from happening.

To me, Brussels sometimes seems to be a self-fulfilling bureaucracy.

Close to our hearts

The living elephants are very close to our hearts and we, the auctioneers in the art trade, developed a logo in collaboration with the WWF and European zoo directors, to prevent people from buying post-1947 ivory objects. EFA recommends all its members to publish the logo in their catalogues and to adhere to the guidelines.

In 1997 EFA took the initiative to stop selling ivory objects which are post-1947. The year 1947 was chosen because it is two years after Hiroshima and it would be possible, albeit technically difficult and costly, to detect radiation if necessary.

The British regulation overshoots the mark, as do the proposed European measures. The European draft is partly contradictory because we want to protect living animals but it is impossible to help elephants that were hunted and killed centuries ago or died naturally. Also, the museums are not in a position to remove their precious ivory objects.

In cooperation with the European Art Market Federation, founded by Anthony Browne, the European auctioneers have submitted a concise memorandum to the Commission and is in discussion with the Commission about it [see link at the end of the letter to view this memorandum].

We, the European auctioneers, can by and large accept the deadline of 1947.

However, we insist that ivory objects will be appraised by our own experts. They have the experience because most of the objects pass through their hands. It is like in medicine: the more experience a surgeon has with an operation, the safer and more successful he or she becomes. Some of our experts for netsuke, miniatures and other antiques containing ivory have decades of experience and have been specifically targeting the 1947 date since 1997.

This connoisseurship can be acquired only through many years of experience. We thus have a more differentiated position than the international association CINOA.

Henrik R Hanstein

President, European Federation of Auctioneers

Head of Lempertz auction house


Link: EFA memorandum