Showing 11 results for the month of September, 2013.

September 26, 2013

Free admission to the New Acropolis Museum tomorrow for World Tourism Day

Posted at 12:59 pm in Events, New Acropolis Museum

The New Acropolis Museum is giving free admission from tomorrow evening until Sunday, to celebrate both World Tourism Day and European Heritage Days. There will also be a series of talks during these days, taking place within the galleries.

Acropolis Museum

World Tourism Day & European Heritage Days
Friday, 27 September – Sunday, 29 September, 2013

The Acropolis Museum celebrates World Tourism Day on Friday 27 September 2013 and European Heritage Days on Saturday and Sunday 29 & 30 September 2013 with Gallery Talks about the Museum masterpieces and the colors of the archaic statues, held by Archaeologist – Hosts.

On Friday 27 September the Museum will be open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. and admission will be free for all visitors between 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. On this day, the second floor restaurant will remain open as usual until 12 midnight.
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September 25, 2013

Why Jane Austen’s ring is a weaker case than the Parthenon Marbles

Posted at 1:20 pm in Elgin Marbles, Similar cases

The story of the ring belonging to Jane Austen, purchased by Kelly Clarkson has been running in the news for some time now. First there was the initial outcry, then there was the temporary export ban, and now, the money has finally been raised to keep it in the UK.

After the campaign to keep the ring in Britain started, people from all around the world supplied donations to the Jane Austen Museum, helping them to raise the funds to prevent it from being sent abroad.

The same thing often happens – we hear about some priceless artwork or other, and then various people who are campaigning to stop it being sent to some foreign museum. But, when Greece asks for the Parthenon Marbles back, or Nigeria asks for the Benin bronzes, they are accused of (amongst other things) cultural nationalism. Museum directors look down on them & imply that they are not playing the game that they are meant to be playing – highlighting the spread of cultural knowledge etcetera that having these items outside their country brings about.

Now many comparisons have been drawn by people commenting on press articles and on twitter to the case of the Parthenon Marbles. However, I would argue that the cases are in no way similar. As I have often mentioned before, restitution cases are all unique – each has their own set of circumstances & each should be treated on its own merits.

The case of the Elgin Marbles is, I believe, far stronger than that of Jane Austen’s ring. Little is known about the origins of the ring. Nobody is sure whether Austen purchased it herself, or was given it as a gift. As such, although it is connected to her through her ownership, it could hardly be classed as inextricably linked. Similar rings could have belonged to many other people & without the full knowledge of the provenance, nobody would be able to identify which one had belonged to Austen & which had belonged to someone else. Furthermore, rings are inherently mobile objects. They are designed to be worn, or carried about. As a result, there is little that really links a ring to a specific location or region of the world.

Compare this to the Parthenon Sculptures – they were designed to be part of the temple of Athena on the Acropolis. In many cases, they were actually carved in-situ and some of them formed structural elements. They were clearly designed with a specific location in mind, not to be re-arranged, sawn apart & exhibited elsewhere. If Kelly Clarkson’s purchase of the ring had gone ahead, no damage would have been caused to it. The ring could be returned at a later point in time, and no harm would have been caused by its time away from the country.

When the Parthenon Sculptures were removed by Elgin, he only had a permit to remove loose items and to take casts. The permits he had, gave no mention of dismantling the building to remove still intact sculptures. As such, the legality of the removal of the sculptures is at best questionable. In the case of the ring, the sale was completely legitimate – there is no suggestion that anything about the process was not above board.

Bearing in mind the above, the Parthenon Marbles should be seen as a far stronger case, than that of Jane Austen’s ring. So, logically, if we are arguing for the Austen’s ring to remain in the UK, then the same museums, individuals & institutions should equally be arguing for the return of the Parthenon Sculptures. But as it is a stronger case, the arguments should thus also be stronger.

Unfortunately I have not seen this happening. Many individuals support the return of the Parthenon Marbles – but the British establishment does not. More consistency and less hypocrisy is required. The British Museum should learn from the humility of Kelly Clarkson’s gracious response on learning that she would not be able to keep the ring “The ring is a beautiful national treasure and I am happy to know that so many Jane Austen fans will get to see it at Jane Austen’s House Museum.”

BBC News

23 September 2013 Last updated at 15:37
Kelly Clarkson thwarted in bid to keep Jane Austen ring

US singer Kelly Clarkson has been thwarted in her bid to take a ring which once belonged to Jane Austen out of the UK.

She bought the turquoise and gold ring for £152,450 at auction last year, outbidding the Jane Austen’s House Museum.
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September 24, 2013

Chair of International Association meets with the new Greek Culture Minister

Posted at 1:14 pm in Elgin Marbles

David Hill, Chair of the International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures met Greece’s new Panos Panagiotopoulos yesterday to discuss the government’s strategies for the return of the Parthenon Sculptures.

Panagiotopoulos has previously made statements that he intends to make their return a priority, but it will be interesting to see exactly what sort of approach to this he plans to take.

Greek Reporter

Cooperation for Return of Parthenon Marbles
By Maria Korologou on September 24, 2013

The return of the Parthenon Marbles was at the center of the meeting that the Minister of Culture and Sports Panos Panagiotopoulos held on Sept. 24 with the Delegate to the International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures, David Hill.

Two months ago the minister visited Paris and attended a meeting with the Director-General of UNESCO Irina Bokova, during which he reiterated the demand for the return of the Parthenon Marbles which are now exhibited at the British Museum.
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Recovering stolen artefacts for profit – the downsides to the Art Loss Register

Posted at 1:06 pm in Similar cases

The Art Loss Register has for some time now aimed to create a listing of stolen artefacts, with the aim that they can be more easily returned to their original owners if they are found. On paper this seems like a great idea, but the reality is somewhat different.

As I mentioned in a recent post there is a problem, in that auction houses are treating it as in some way authoritive, as a way of validating artefacts as not being looted. The reality though is that it is far from a comprehensive list.

It seems though that this is the least of its problems. The New York Times published a piece on it recently & since then, various people have blogged about their own issued with it.

In particular, I suggest reading Tom Flynn’s article & Dorothy King’s article.

New York Times

Tracking Stolen Art, for Profit, and Blurring a Few Lines
Published: September 20, 2013

Early in the morning of May 11, 1987, someone smashed through the glass doors of the Museum of Modern Art in Stockholm, removed a Matisse from a wall and fled.

All it took was daring and a sledgehammer.

The whereabouts of the painting, “Le Jardin,” remained a mystery until the work was found last year and made a celebratory trip home in January.
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September 19, 2013

The questions that the curators didn’t like to be asked

Posted at 1:20 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles, Similar cases

Ask A Curator has been running on twitter for a number of years now, based on the simple enough premise, that for one day each year, you can ask curators of the museums who are signed up to it, pretty much anything you want.

Of course, not every question gets answered – for many of the more well known institutions, there will be too many and other questions may be completely inappropriate etc. Also, many of the staff answering tweets also have other work to do during their day as well.

This year, there was a definite trend (at least among the people that I was following), to ask questions about cultural property. However, as the day went on, it became few of these questions were actually getting answered.

Eventually, after being bombarded by questions about the Parthenon Sculptures, the British Museum bluntly stated:

For all questions related to the Parthenon sculptures please see this page stating the Museum’s position #AskACurator

The page that it directed you to though, answered very few of the actual questions that they were being asked. People were asking about all sorts of aspects, such as whether the museum planned to organise educational exhibitional exhibitions relating to the sculptures, to whether they would consider displaying a copy rather than the original (as is the case with the Rosetta Stone. However, everyone received the same response.

Now, I’m not asking for miracles, but it would be nice to understand whether the museums at least partially acknowledged people’s concerns, rather than just directing them to a statement written years ago, that takes no account of public opinion, or the nature of the actual question being asked.

This approach was not just taken by the British Museum. Many others seemed to ignore any queries about disputed artefacts in their collections, even when the question itself should not have been that controversial.

Dr Donna Yates made a far more impressive attempt to quiz the curators of museums around the world, but was met with a similar lack of responses.

You can also see my attempts to get an answer on the Marbles (Storify won;t show half my tweets for some reason today, so you don’t get to see the ones to other museums about other artefacts.

September 18, 2013

Disputed Vrishanana Yogini returned to India by widow of collector Robert Schrimpf

Posted at 1:17 pm in British Museum, Similar cases

The Vrishanana Yogini which vanished from a village temple in India and was smuggled out of the country, to be sold to an art collector in Paris. The statue was eventually traced down by the Indian embassy & the widow of the collector who had purchased it. She agreed to return it & it was flown back to India last month. Tomorrow, it will go on display at the National Museum in New Delhi.

The part of the story that is somewhat unclear to me is why it took five years between her handing the statue to the embassy and it being returned to India.

India Today

Once stolen from a UP temple, 10th-century Yogini idol returns to India
Sourabh Gupta New Delhi, September 17, 2013 | UPDATED 22:23 IST

The image of this powerful Yogini was carved on stone nearly 1,000 years ago and idol of the buffalo-headed female deity was installed in a village temple in UP’s Bundelkhand region.

Then one day, the sculpture, weighing over 400 kg, vanished- stolen and smuggled and sold to an art collector in Paris.
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September 13, 2013

Louvre asks for donations to restore the Nike of Samothrace

Posted at 12:58 pm in Similar cases

The Louvre is asking for donations to restore the Nike of Samothrace, Also known as the Winged Victory of Samothrace. This is all fine, were it not for the fact that Greece disputes the Louvre’s ownership & would like it returned.

An easy way for them to reduce their costs would be to return it to Greece now & let them pay for the restoration. I can’t see this happening any time soon though.

Greek Reporter

Louvre Asks Donations For Nike Repair
By Maria Korologou on August 29, 2013

The Louvre Museum hopes to raise another million euros in an appeal for donations it launched to find the funds for the conservation of one of the world’s greatest masterpieces that is housed in the Paris institution, the Winged Victory of Samothrace, also called the Nike of Samothrace.

The new campaign is called Everybody Can Be Maecenas and will begin Sept. 3 when the famed sculpture will be removed from viewing from one of the most advantageous spots in the museum and not returned until the summer of 2014.
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Interested in the Acropolis? There are some old photos of it for auction (guide $30,000)

Posted at 12:46 pm in Acropolis

It would be amazing to see more images of the Acropolis before 1870, showing it free from many of the modern interventions that are now present on the site.

Unfortunately I don’t think many will be able to afford it with a guide price of USD $30-50,000. That said, they are originals from the very early days of photography – so their price is justifiable.

Art Daily

Sotheby’s announces its bi-annual auction of Photographs in New York on 2nd October

NEW YORK, NY.- On 2nd October 2013 Sotheby’s will present its bi-annual auction of Photographs in New York. The sale will feature a range of imagery from the 19th to 21st centuries and is especially rich in masterworks from the first half of the 20th century, including several iconic American photographs by artists such as Alfred Stieglitz, Ansel Adams, and Paul Outerbridge. The sale is led by the intimate Georgia O’Keeffe: A Portrait—Torso, circa 1919, by Alfred Stieglitz, one of only three prints known and the only one in private hands (est. $300/500,000). The pre-sale exhibition opens on 28th September.

Ansel Adams is represented by a strong group of five mural-sized photographs, most notably his majestic Tetons and Snake River (est. $250/350,000) and the stark Winter Sunrise (est. $150,000/250,000). A brilliant color carbro Advertising Study created by Paul Outerbridge for ScotTissue, circa 1938, showcases the unique talent of one of the progenitors of modern color photography (est. $50/80,000).
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September 12, 2013

Greek tourist numbers rise

Posted at 1:48 pm in Acropolis, New Acropolis Museum

As an interesting postscript to the article about the decline in the number of visitors to the New Acropolis Museum. On the same day, many articles were published highlighting the increase in numbers to Greek archaeological sites.

Now, I have not seen the raw data for Either the New Acropolis Museum or the Acropolis & have no idea of the exact date ranges being used, but it looks as though things could be starting to increase again, with more tourists coming to Greece once more.

Europe Online

Acropolis getting crowded as Greek tourist numbers rebound
By our dpa-correspondent and Europe Online

Athens (dpa) – The good news for Greece‘s tourism industry – a record 11.5 million tourists are expected this year reports the country‘s National Tourism Organization – is bad news for the country‘s best-known landmark, the increasingly crowded Acropolis.

“It‘s leading to terrible crowding,” local archaeologist Eleni Stylianou told dpa on Monday. The crush gets worst in the morning, when hordes of tourists stream out of their cruise ships.
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The significance of declining visitor numbers at the New Acropolis Museum

Posted at 1:38 pm in Elgin Marbles, New Acropolis Museum

The author of this piece has, I suspect, taken a deliberately provocative approach to the subject matter. After all, magazine editors like nothing more than articles that stir up a heated discussion about a subject.

It does raise some interesting points though. Since its opening year, the visitor numbers at the New Acropolis Museum have declined. I believe that this is down to a variety of factors. Firstly, any new facility (whatever it is – shops, museums, hotels) tends to get an initial rush of interest – because of the fact that it is new. People rush to it, wanting to see it – particularly if the construction process has been going on for some time (works relating to the building of a new museum at the Acropolis Museum site had been underway since before 2000) and if it has made the headlines (which the New Acropolis Museum managed to on many occasions, regularly attracting controversy). After this initial honeymoon period, visitor numbers are likely to decline. Once people have visited something once, they are not so desperate to visit it again (afterall, there are many more things to see in the world, that they have not yet seen). Museums around the world regularly try to attract people back with temporary exhibitions, programmes of lectures & re-organisation of their exhibits, putting some in storage and others on display.

Secondly, there was an increase in admission charges – the museum initial made a very minimal charge, which later increased – this was always a planed decision.

Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly from the perspective of people in Greece today, is the financial crisis. The museum could not have opened at a worse time, as during the period immediately afterwards, the financial storm clouds that had been brewing on the horizon unleashed wave after wave of bad news for Greece. Budget cutbacks meant that there were reductions in the amount that could be spent on publicity for the new museum. People saw pictures of rioters ripping apart the cobbles of Syntagma & tear gas grenades being thrown by police in Exarchia and may well have re-considered their trips to Greece that they were planning. Still more may have cancelled the days in Athens at the start or end of their trip & instead just passed through the airport, taking a more direct route to the peace of the islands. Strikes have plagued many of Greece’s museums and archaeological sites & featured regularly on the news around the world. Although the New Acropolis Museum has been largely unaffected, most people who see pictures of picketed gates to museums are not aware of this. The financial crisis has also had in impact on the economies of many other countries outside of Greece. Across Europe & further afield, unemployment has risen, along with prices of food and petrol, while wages have stagnated. For many people with less money available, holidays abroad, particularly short weekend breaks are something that they have cut back on. Speaking from the point of view of someone in the UK, the current GBP:EUR exchange rates make Greece a far more expensive place to visit than it ever used to be, No longer does Athens feel like a cheap destination, but instead has prices comparable to London.

However, notwithstanding all the above provisos, the New Acropolis Museum has seen a decline in its visitor numbers over time & they are lower than some predictions hoped they would be.

Perhaps more importantly (maybe I should have mentioned this at the start of the article), I have always found arguments (from the British Museum) relating to visitor numbers to be a red-herring, distracting people from the actual discussion in hand. If maximising the number of people that see an artefact is of primary importance, then perhaps everything should be shipped to Beijing or Mumbai? But then again, should visitor number be used to over-ride compelling moral arguments for the return of the sculptures?

At past press conferences at the New Acropolis Museum, Professor Pandermalis has made no secret of the decline in numbers. He has in fact emphasised them with the hope that at least some of the journalists present might write articles in a way that inspires people to come & visit the museum. He has also outlined strategies for how they hope to increase the numbers over time.

Museums Journal

Greek Drama at the New Acropolis Museum
James Beresford
Issue 113/09, P17, 01.09.13

Opening to international fanfare in June 2009, the €129m New Acropolis Museum has become the embodiment of the Greek desire to see Elgin’s marble trophies returned to Athens. However, the paying public has been less-than-impressed with the museum, which has failed to attract the visitor numbers that were predicted.

In 2006 journalist Tom Flynn noted: “The old Acropolis Museum currently attracts around 1.5 million people each year. The Greeks hope their New Acropolis Museum will at least double that figure.”
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September 10, 2013

Provenance, forged antiquities, auction houses & the Art Loss Register

Posted at 1:43 pm in Similar cases

This story highlights a number of issues with the global trade in antiquities.

Firstly, there is the fact, that the international art market is a murky world full of forgeries, items lacking provenance & other artefacts that aren’t quite what they first appear to be. Next, is the issue of checking the status of the artefacts against a single register, that is not in any way authoritative. It is a voluntary register, and as such is far from comprehensive. My final issue though is that the auction house acts as though this is pretty much acceptable. They were selling forged artefacts & really only made the most cursory of checks to see whether they were authentic or not. Its almost as though they are worried about asking too many questions, as they’ll uncover stuff they didn’t want to know and then no longer be able to sell it.

Art Newspaper

Guilty plea over antiquities
Suspect admits falsifying provenance of Egyptian items offered for auction in London

By Martin Bailey and Melanie Gerlis. News, Issue 249, September 2013
Published online: 05 September 2013

Neil Kingsbury, of Northwood, London, has pleaded guilty to charges relating to the provenance of Egyptian antiquities that were consigned to Bonhams and Christie’s.

Kingsbury was arrested after misrepresented items were identified in Christie’s London antiquities sale of 2 May. Marcel Marée, a curator at the British Museum, saw the published catalogue a week earlier and spotted that a relief fragment of a Nubian prisoner appeared to come from the Amenhotep III temple in Thebes, across the Nile from Luxor. He contacted Hourig Sourouzian, the site’s conservation director, who confirmed that the relief was missing. It was excavated a decade ago and had been kept in storage.
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