Next month Mougins in the south of France should have it's very own museum of antiquities (MoCA). The opening has been delayed a few times, but we've been hearing about pieces in the collection for a while, and it's web site highlights look interesting: The Mougins Museum of Classical Art
The Director of the Museum is Dr Mark Merrony, whose last post was Editor of Minerva (disclaimer - I knew him there under it's former owner and I like him, by that I mean Mark and Dr Jerome Eisenberg [our fathers have known each other since the Paleolithic Age]).
The founder / owner of the Museum is Christian Levett (don't really know him, but decided to respect his wish that "people focus on the collection [rather] than the collector" as he told The Observer). I suggested to another collector that he buy in Italy and keep his collection there, so it's interesting to see a private collection being set up in a country where it's easier to buy ancient art than the UK or US, but harder to export - and even more exciting that the owner has chosen to permanently store his collection in a Museum open to the public rather than keep it to himself at home. Mr Levett is getting criticised by a couple of plonkers on their blogs for the simple fact of having formed a collection of antiquities, but he's done so carefully, with due diligence, and whilst respecting the law. By sharing his collection with the public he has made many of their complaints about the hoarding and concealing of art invalid.
I know the area very well, so was going to write a nice little blog post about other things to visit in the area - drinks on the terrace at L'Abreuvoir in Mougins, the Archaeology Museum in Antibes, and the delicious pastries of Jean-Jacques Lenoir in Valbonne (14 Boulevard Carnot, Tel. 04 93 12 07 52 which are worth the detour; as is the fabulous Christmas market in Valbonne) - but ...
... the truth is that someone has to speak up for collecting. My father collects antiquities amongst other things, my step-father's partner collected antiquities, and I have some myself (I don't buy, but say "thank you" when I'm given them, and just got a beautiful Bactrian coin for my birthday).
Most archaeologists I know, including several who are now vociferously against collecting, have worked on items for art dealers and a number of them have formed collections themselves. So before they go on the attack - and by "attack" I mean I've received numerous emails from one man threatening to rape me, that's how nuts some cultural property restitutionists have become - I feel that people should come clean about their own collections and links to collectors and dealers. They should publish photos of their own collections at the very least.
My first work out of university was in the Antiquities Department of Sotheby's, but I chose to go back and do a PhD instead. My supervisor, Prof Geoffrey Waywell, specialised in the history of collecting; he advised collectors, and suggested I do the same (the vast majority of sculptures I've looked at had at least a century of secure provenance). I'm against the looting of archaeological sites, and have some issues with aspects of the antiquities market, but feel that if honest people don't get involved they can't complain that it's all corrupt. Antiquities collecting has become controversial amongst a handful of academics and bloggers, but the brilliance of both UK and US law is the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. I wish those academics and bloggers would put as much effort into keeping a clean and legal antiquities market as they do into writing hate mail.