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British art collector says Scythian gold should return to Crimean museums

The art collector has serious doubts about Ukraine’s ability to receive and house the collection properly

LONDON, December 14 /TASS/. The Scythian gold should return to Crimean museums while art should stop being used as a political weapon, British gallerist, art collector and dealer James Butterwick told TASS on Wednesday.

"It is not the question of ‘whether Crimea is our or not’. The thing is that this gold was found in Crimea. That is why historically it belongs to the peninsula. That goes beyond any political context. These things belong there (in Crimea)," Butterwick said commenting on the decision handed down by the Dutch District Court that the University of Amsterdam Allard Pierson Museum should send the Scythian gold exhibits to Ukraine rather than to the Crimean museums.

The art collector also has serious doubts about Ukraine’s ability to receive and house the collection properly. "(Ukraine) is in a perfect mess. Do they want to send the Crimean exhibits to that mess?" the expert wondered.

"What museum in Kiev is going to put them on view? All museums in Kiev are in a disgraceful state. No one in Ukraine, including private companies, has spent a penny on art," Butterwick, a gallerist, who had recently visited Ukraine said.

Political context

"I hate when art is turned into a political weapon. It should be better of that, I think, though I may sound a bit na·ve," Butterwick said.

He added that the Amsterdam court’s decision could be politically motivated in light of the Malaysia Airlines MH17 Boeing crash, which occurred in the skies over Ukraine on July 17, 2014. The Boeing-777 passenger plane, which was flying from Amsterdam (the Netherlands) to Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), crashed in the east of the Donetsk region killing 283 passengers, most of whom were Dutch subjects, and a 15-member crew.

"What else could be expected if so many Dutch people were on that Malaysian Airlines MH17 flight? Again, it is politics," Butterwick explained.

Court Ruling

According to the decision handed down by the Amsterdam District Court, the Allard Pierson Museum is to dispatch the Scythian gold collection to Ukraine, which it deems to be part of the country’s cultural heritage. The court’s verdict is based on the 1970 UNESCO Convention on cultural heritage.

The court refused to hand down any decisions on the exhibits’ ownership since both sides had claimed their right to the artefacts. That is why the court ruled that a Ukrainian court should study the case after the collection arrives in Ukraine.

The collection may remain in the Netherlands over the course of the next three months during which the Russian side can appeal the court’s ruling. The appellation procedures may last for a year or longer, Illya Bilderbeek, the judge who handled the case, said. The court also ruled that the Ukrainian government should pay 111,000 euros to the Allard Pierson Museum for storing the treasures for more than 2 years.

The exhibits were part of the "Crimea: Gold and Secrets of the Black Sea" collection, which was on view at the Allard Pierson Museum from February to August 2014.

The uncertainty over the Scythian gold collection, which was put on view at the Allard Pierson Museum in Amsterdam in February 2014 when Crimea was still part of Ukraine, arose after the peninsula had reunited with Russia in March 2014. Both Russia and Ukraine claimed their rights to the collection. The Crimean museums claimed their full right to the Scythian gold many times on the grounds that all the exhibits were found on Crimea’s territory and were stored in the peninsula’s museums. That said, the University of Amsterdam suspended the procedure of returning the artefacts until a legal decision was passed or until the sides reached a settlement agreement.