As reported in the New York Daily News (April 25, 2012), a Nigerian Nok terracotta, owned by a prominent New York African art collector, was destroyed during a photography shooting for an art magazine. http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/widow-artist-arman-suing-nigerian-nok-statue-destroyed-article-1.1067650
Two issues are of concern here: Was the work properly insured; and did the collector hold title insurance for the work? The collector is suing the magazine in Manhattan Supreme Court for damages of $300,000 for the sculpture. Was the sculpture appraised and insured at this amount? Did the collector hold proper title for the sculpture, which comes from a genre of work interconnected with international legal conventions? If these steps were not taken and in place, does the court consider the lack of due diligence, in fact, the value the collector placed on the work.
Nok sculptures are protected by the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, which both the Untied States and Nigeria are party to this convention. Did the collector’s acquisition of the sculpture violate the convention? If the owner of the broken Nok sculpture is unable to establish a history of legal acquisition, various international legal issues arise. If the sculpture were properly acquired through legal means, proper title insurance on the object would have been essential.
All that glitters is not necessarily gold. It pays to address all legal matters when developing art collections. This includes maintaining proper object facts and provenance information, title insurance and valuation appraisals.