Showing results 1 - 12 of 29 for the month of February, 2006.

February 28, 2006

Museums assert right to looted antiquities

Posted at 2:02 pm in Similar cases

Cases such as that of the Euphronios Krater & the indictment of Getty curator Marion True are giving publicity to many other restitution claims. One thing that has transpired from these claims is the dubious roles of many collectors in helping museums build their collections.
In a move that has irritated the archaeological community, museums in the USA are now proposing a code of conduct to try & clarify what is & isn’t questionable behaviour.
The big problem with this declaration though is that the museums are arguing that the historic / aesthetic importance of artefacts should be able to over-ride a non-existent provenance, to allow certain items to be exhibited. Their argument is that otherwise these items would remain in the hands of private collectors anyway & never be seen by the public. Archaeologists argue that putting these items in museums legitimises them & encourages the trafficking of looted artefacts. Evidence suggests that the Archaeologists are correct in this instance & the museums are only interest in these limitations as a way of avoiding further lawsuits / negative publicity, while being seen to do the right thing.

New York Times

Museums Assert Right on Showing Antiquities
Published: February 25, 2006

Over the last decade the benign image of the antiquities collector has given way to a far more sinister one. Once cast as generous lenders and donors — the lifeblood of American museums — such collectors are now seen as central cogs in a conspiracy to move artifacts looted from foreign soil into museum display cases.

“The impression is we’re in a cabal with bandits,” said Michael Conforti, director of the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, in Williamstown, Mass., referring to damaging evidence that has emerged in an Italian crackdown on the illegal antiquities trade.
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February 27, 2006

Casts of Parthenon Marbles for auction

Posted at 10:15 pm in Acropolis

On 28th February, Sothebys are holding an auction of plaster casts from the collection of the Metropolitan Museum in New York. Amongst the items for sale are three casts of sculptures from the Parthenon. These comprise Lot 76 – a Metope, Lot 105 – Metope fragments & Lot 169 – Two frieze panels.
This auction is interesting, as museums generally only very rarely deaccession items from their collections. In the case of many British museums, their charters expressly forbid them from doing so. The fact that the items are being sold suggests that they are probably in poor condition now.


Art Market Watch
Feb. 27, 2006

After more than 100 years in the Metropolitan Museum collection, nearly 200 19th-century plaster casts of classical sculptures and architectural details go on the block at Sotheby’s New York on Feb. 28, 2006. On view in a special study gallery at the Met until the 1950s, the casts are now in a state of fashionable dishabille — and are being offered without reserve. Who might want them? Decorators, perhaps, or collectors with an empty hall or two. Among the items are casts from the pediments of the Temple of Zeus at Olympia, reliefs from the Parthenon and the Pergamon Altar and the Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris.


February 25, 2006

The role of museum trustees

Posted at 10:26 pm in Similar cases

Details of the case involving looted Italian artefacts in New York’s Metropolitan Museum reveal the complexities behind many of the purchases.
Collectors (who are not governed by the same rules as the museum) may be buying items & then donating them to the museum (in the USA, this can be a highly beneficial move under certain circumstances for tax write off purposes). Sometimes the collector’s ownership adds a level of provenance to the item that makes it easier for the museum to accept it. In some occasions, the museums purchase artefacts from the collectors, in other cases, where the collectors are wealthy enough they may be donors to the museum funding whole new galleries that they give their name to (& this is not a recent concept – the Elgin Marbles are housed in the Duveen Gallery paid for by Lord Duveen). Sometimes the collectors are invited onto the board of trustees of the museum because of what they have done for the museum in the past. Collectors become directors & directors become collectors. Collectors use the museums to authenticate their pieces then the museum can later buy the pieces (that they themselves had added provenance to).
In all this, there are more than a few conflicts of interest & many more vested interests. It is hardly surprising that the world of art collecting in general is not the most ethical trade & that museums get caught up in it.
What is more of a problem is that the museums do not seem to realise that they are caught up in it. They are so exposed to it that they become immune to it & cannot see what is wrong with their own behaviour, although if asked most of the public would agree that the museum was not acting in the way that people would expect them to act.
Although most museums in the USA are privately owned, some like the Met benefit indirectly from public funding – something that should in theory make them accountable to much higher ethical standards than the purely private institutions. The Euphronios Krater case would suggest that this is not so though – the problem is that the Met still gives the impression that they cannot entirely understand what they did wrong anyway – they act as though someone was acting within the law only to find that it had been changed secretly without them realising.

Bloomberg News

Met’s Antiquities Case Shows Donor, Trustee Ties to Looted Art
(The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of Bloomberg.)
By Vernon Silver

Feb. 23 (Bloomberg) — On Nov. 22, Philippe de Montebello, the director of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, walked up a cobblestone street in Rome and into a palazzo connected to the chambers where Galileo faced the Inquisition 372 years earlier.

Inside the Italian Culture Ministry’s headquarters, curators, police and the minister of culture himself showed evidence to the chief of the Western Hemisphere’s biggest art museum that the Met harbored looted antiquities — both in its collection and loaned by wealthy donors, some of whom run the museum as trustees.
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Lecture at Simon Fraser university

Posted at 5:21 pm in Elgin Marbles, Similar cases

Last week, Elena Korka (head of the department of Greek & Foreign Scientific Organisations, Institutions & International Issues at the Greek Ministry of Culture) gave a lecture on the Elgin Marbles at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada.

Vancouver Sun

Lecture at Simon Fraser University
Malcolm Parry, Vancouver Sun
Published: Saturday, February 25, 2006

ELENA KORKA, the Athenian archeologist, lectured at Simon Fraser University’s Harbourside campus this week on The Reunification of The Parthenon Marbles — a World Cultural Issue.

Now in the British Museum, the sculptures were spirited from Greece 200 years ago by Britain’s Lord Elgin.
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The original colour of the Parthenon Sculptures

Posted at 5:16 pm in Elgin Marbles

Nowadays more people are aware that originally the Parthenon’s sculptures, as well as possible the building itself were painted bright colours. This knowledge allows us to recreate a completely different visual picture from that of pristine white carvings which is implied by the surviving sculptures today. The notion that the sculptures had originally been just the pure colour of the stone is what led to the notorious cleaning incidents of the sculptures at the British Museum in the 1930s at the request of Lord Duveen.
Fragments of architraves from the Parthenon that were sheltered from the elements show clear signs of the original painting in red & Egyptian blue. New research has recently revealed signs of a green / blue pigment made from malachite-azurite on some of the fragments of the frieze in Athens. Fortunately, these sculptures were never cleaned in the same way as those at the British Museum; otherwise, any evidence of this additional information on the colouring would have been lost forever.

Turkish Daily News

Parthenon sculptures were colored blue, red and green
Saturday, February 25, 2006

Its austere white is on every postcard, but the Athens Parthenon was originally daubed with red, blue and green, the Greek archaeologist supervising conservation work on the 2,400-year-old temple said on Friday.

“A recent cleaning operation by laser revealed traces of hematite [red], Egyptian blue and malachite-azurite [green-blue] on the sculptures of the western frieze,” senior archaeologist Evi Papakonstantinou-Zioti told the Agency France-Presse.
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Marbles with an attitude

Posted at 5:04 pm in Elgin Marbles

Lazaros Filippidis, a Greek working as a research assistant at the University of Greenwich in London has created a number of cartoons about the Parthenon Marbles.
Each of the cartoons are based on a photo of one of the Parthenon Sculptures in the British Museum, with captions added to it suggesting what the characters are saying or thinking.

The cartoons can be viewed on his website.

Latest BCRPM newsletter available for download

Posted at 4:53 pm in Elgin Marbles, New Acropolis Museum

The British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles (note the change of name – Reunification where it used to say Restitution) have their latest newsletter available for download on their website in PDF format.
Issues covered in it include:

  • The meeting in Athens of various national reunification committees last November
  • The aforementioned change to the name of the BCRPM
  • Progress on the New Acropolis Museum
  • The restoration of the West Frieze in Athens
  • A session at the Museum’s Association conference on Ownership & Context
  • Various other updates on the campaign for the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Athens.

Download the newsletter from this page on the BCRPM’s website.

February 24, 2006

The return of the Euphronios Krater

Posted at 1:54 pm in Similar cases

The Euphronios Krater arrived in the Met’s collection via a dealer who is now facing charges of illegal trafficking in Italy. Susan Mazur (who also wrote the previous article interviewing a Met curator about the incident) looks at the way the case has been portrayed in some sections of the New York Times (admittedly a weekend colour supplement), followed by the complete text of the agreement between the Met & the Italian government.
The text of this agreement (previously posted in a comment on another post) is important, as it clarifies many aspect of the case, in terms of that was agreed. At the same time it has the potential to act as a basis for other agreements between other countries & museums around the world. Details in the agreement are set down right to the wording of name tags on the artefacts from now until they leave the Met.
The full New York Times interview mentioned in the article can be viewed here.

Scoop Independent News (New Zealand)

Suzan Mazur: The Italy-Met Euphronios Accord?
Wednesday, 22 February 2006, 5:06 pm

On August 31 [1972], [Bob] Hecht [now facing antiquities trafficking charges in Italy] arrived with the [Euphronios] vase in a crate and, according to one account, handed it over to [former US Treasury Secretary/Chairman, New York Metropolitan Museum of Art (Met) Acquisitions Committee, C. Douglas] Dillon and [Met Director Tom] Hoving at Kennedy International Airport. At any rate, the bill of sale bears that date. The Acquisitions Committee of the trustees [including New York Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger, Sr.] approved the purchase twelve days later.
–John L. Hess, The Grand Acquisitors

The battle for ownership of the Euphronios vase illustrates perfectly how the New York Times publishing family fools only itself. Sales of the newspaper deservedly continue to decline as the people responsible for putting the Times out think they can get away with hoodwinking the public.
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February 22, 2006

New York museum returns antiquities to Italy

Posted at 9:21 pm in Similar cases

The Met’s groundbreaking decision last month to return the Euphronios Krater to Italy along with other artefacts, represents one of the highest profile restitution settlements yet. It also represents implicitly an admission by the museum that these pieces were all looted, otherwise it is unlikely that they would have agreed to the return after refusing for the previous thirty years.
Coupled with the ongoing proceedings in Rome against Getty curator Marion True, it is starting to appear that within the USA, public opinion is turning against the unethical policies pursued by many of the nation’s most prestigious museums.

The Independent

21 February 2006 09:00
New York museum ends bitter dispute with return of priceless antiquities to Italians
By Rupert Cornwell in Washington
Published: 21 February 2006

In a potentially ground breaking agreement, the Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York has reached a deal with the Italian government to hand back several disputed antiquities in its collection, that Rome says were taken illegally out of the country.

The agreement, announced by the Italian Culture Ministry, provides for the return of six priceless works, including the Euphronios Krater, a sixth-century BC painted vase that is regarded as one of the finest examples of its kind, and the third century BC Morgantina collection of Hellenistic silver, smuggled out of Sicily.
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Heidelberg fragment of Parthenon to be returned

Posted at 9:02 pm in Elgin Marbles

More coverage of the decision last month by Heidelberg University to return a fragment of the Parthenon frieze.

The Art Newspaper

Parthenon fragment returned to Greece
This is the first time a piece of the ancient building has returned to Athens
Posted 20 February 2006
By Martin Bailey
LONDON. A fairly nondescript piece of stone could have an impact on the future of the Parthenon Marbles dispute. Last month Heidelberg University decided to return its small fragment of the frieze to Greece.

How the stone, 8 x 11 centimetres, reached Heidelberg remains a mystery. On the front, it is simply cut, with the outline of part of a male foot, and on the back is a modern incised inscription, in Greek, with the word “Parthenon”. It was not until 1948 that archaeologist German Hafner recognised that it was the heel of figure number 28 in block viii of the north frieze.

The fragment was registered in the university’s antiquities collection in 1871, and the most likely scenario is that it was originally acquired as a souvenir by a German visitor in Athens. It has never been displayed at Heidelberg’s Museum of Antiquities.

On 11 January, Heidelberg’s vice rector Professor Angelos Chaniotis issued a statement, saying the fragment would be returned, “guided by the scholarly aim of promoting the unification of the Parthenon as a unique moment of world culture”. It is perhaps no coincidence that the vice rector, a historian, is Greek, although he has lived in Germany for more than 20 years.
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February 21, 2006

New IMAX film features virtual Parthenon replica

Posted at 9:22 pm in Acropolis

The film Greece: Secrets of the Past, a travelogue created specifically for the IMAX format features a computer generated model of the Parthenon, allowing to see it how it might once have looked (something that has been possible in a number of previous television documentaries). This reconstruction benefits from the high resolution / large scale of the IMAX format, which allows the viewer to see the building at life size – possibly the closest you will be able to get to actually being there.

Seattle Times

Monday, February 20, 2006 – Page updated at 12:00 AM
Movie Review
Rebuilding of Parthenon worth price of admission
By John Hartl
Special to The Seattle Times

Digital-visual effects have transformed the movies during the past decade. One of the most dazzling examples is the reconstruction of the Parthenon in Greg MacGillivray’s dynamic new IMAX travelogue, “Greece: Secrets of the Past.”

MacGillivray’s floating cameras swoop around the fabulous Athens ruin, as tourists explore the exterior and what’s left of a 40-foot statue that was originally made of gold and ivory. Then, as the visitors gawk, the broken columns are filled in, the paint is restored, the cracks disappear and the glittering statue suddenly towers above them, seemingly ready to spring to life.
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February 20, 2006

Turkish culture minister speaks about restitution claims

Posted at 9:09 pm in Similar cases

In an interview with the Turkish Minister of culture Atilla Koc, he was asked about the various restitution claim that Turkey is trying to pursue against foreign museums, for artefacts such as the Halicarnassos Mausoleum.

The New Anatolian

February 20, 2006
Tourism and Culture Minister Atilla Koc speaks to TNA

Nursun Erel – The New Anatolian/Ankara


With his controversial comments saying the Germans are cheap and the Russians boorish, and his frequent appearances in newspapers dozing off at official functions, Koc is a colorful personality. In fact he is a good reader of Ottoman and Turkish literature and a graduate of the prestigious Political Science Faculty of Ankara. For many years he served as the governor of various provinces.

We had a long talk with Atilla Koc at his office in the ministry surrounded by cigar smoke. At the start he offered me a cigar too, but when I explained that I had quit smoking, he teased me that I’d made a mistake. Here’s what Koc had to say:
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