"'Don't you think those netsuke should stay in Japan?' said a stern neighbor of mine in London. And I find I am shaking as I answer, because this matters."I tell her that there are plenty of netsuke in the world, sitting in velvet-lined trays in dealers' cabinets off Bond Street or Madison Avenue, Keizersgracht or the Ginza. Then I get a bit side-tracked onto the Silk Road, and then onto Alexander the Great's coins still being in circulation in the Hindu Kush in the nineteenth century. I tell her about travelling with my partner Sue in Ethiopia, and finding an old Chinese jar covered in dust in a market town and trying to work out how it had got there.
"No, I answer. Objects have always been carried, sold, bartered, stolen, retrieved and lost. People have always given gifts. It is how you tell their stories that matters."
Edmund De Waal, The hare with amber eyes: a family's century of art and loss (New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010), 348.