Showing results 25 - 36 of 1,551 for the category: Similar cases.

November 4, 2013

The British desire to conquer the world & bring bits of it home with them

Posted at 7:25 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles, Similar cases

The British Empire, which once covered a large part of the world, was long since dwindled away. The remnants of this empire & immense power are still self evident however if you visit institutions such as the British Museum, which still house many treasures that are the spoils from past imperial conquests. The story here focuses on some pieces from Ireland, but many other countries have similar tales to tell.

Egyptian mummy at the British Museum

Egyptian mummy at the British Museum

From:
Irish Examiner

Stolen moments in British Museum
Monday, November 04, 2013
THE British are peculiar. Their desire to conquer the world has been matched only by their obsession with bringing bits of it home with them.
By Marc O’ Sullivan, Arts Editor

Nowhere is this more evident than in the British Museum in London. Visiting it last week, my eye was drawn to a large slab of stone, about the height and width of a man, perched upon a formal plinth in the Great Court. It bore an inscription in ogham. On a plaque beneath, the crude translation of these elegant notches — read anti-clockwise — disclosed that the slab was originally raised in honour of ‘Vedac, son of Tob of the Sogain’. It was one of three 5th century ogham stones taken from Roovesmoor Rath — a ring fort outside Coachford, in West Cork — by the delightfully named General Augustus Henry Lane-Fox Pitt Rivers. He presented the group to the British Museum in 1866.

Pitt Rivers, who fought in the Crimean War, brought a scientific approach to archaeology. He catalogued all items found on digs, and not just those that seemed valuable, and his attention to detail vastly improved 19th century excavations, which had hitherto been conducted as glorified sackings.
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October 30, 2013

China signs agreement with Cyprus to stop illicit trafficking of artefacts

Posted at 3:49 pm in Similar cases

China & Cyprus are very different countries in many ways. They do however both face problems with looting of archaeological sites, with the spoils from these actions often eventually ending up in auctions abroad.

It is great to see them signing an agreement to clamp down on this, although the idea of countries signing numerous bilateral agreements for an issue such as this clearly does not scale well, when you consider the number of countries involved in similar issues.

Cyprus Communications Minister Tasos Mitsopoulos and China’s Culture deputy-minister Li Xiaojie

Cyprus Communications Minister Tasos Mitsopoulos and China’s Culture deputy-minister Li Xiaojie

From:
Cyprus Mail

October 29, 2013
Cyprus and China agree to safeguard artefacts

Cyprus and China have signed a bilateral agreement to safeguard their archaeological objects and prevent their illicit trading.

Communications Minister Tasos Mitsopoulos and China’s Culture deputy-minister Li Xiaojie signed on Tuesday on behalf of their respective countries a memorandum of cooperation to prevent trading of stolen goods and illicit excavations.
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Netherlands Museums Association sees return of Nazi loot as “moral obligation”

Posted at 3:34 pm in Similar cases

Nazi loot in museums has been a hot topic in recent years for many countries. While some countries are still dragging their heels in terms of any attempts at restitution, it appears that the Netherlands has taken a far more proactive approach & is examining museum collections across the board to identify artworks, along with possible rightful owners.

1921 painting 'Odalisque' by Henri Matisse

1921 painting ‘Odalisque’ by Henri Matisse

From:
Haaretz

Dutch museums identify 139 likely Nazi looted artworks
Paintings by Matisse, Klee and Kandinsky are among works thought to have been taken from Jewish owners during Holocaust.
By The Associated Press | Oct. 29, 2013 | 6:40 PM

Dutch museums announced Tuesday they have found 139 artworks that may have been looted during the Nazi era, including paintings from masters such as Matisse, Klee and Kandinsky.

The major review of all museum collections in the country found art that had either dubious or definitely suspect origins.
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Zahi Hawass at the centre of controversy over potential bribes paid by National Geographic

Posted at 3:17 pm in Similar cases

Egypt’s most publicly know archaeologist, Zahi Hawass, has never shied away from controversy. His demands for the restitution of disputed Egyptian artefacts irritated many museums around the world.

At present, I’m struggling to work out whether this particular story is a real story or not. If Hawass was involved in taking bribes to allow National Geographic to film, then it is damaging for both his & their credibility. However, there sees to be a lot in this story that is speculative – and there are many people who have an axe to grind with Hawass.

Time will tell whether there is really a story here or not.

Zahi Hawass

Zahi Hawass

From:
Independent

US investigates National Geographic over ‘corrupt payments’ to Egypt’s keeper of antiquities
David Usborne
Monday 28 October 2013

National Geographic may be facing an unexpected challenge to its reputation as one of the world’s most respected educational and scientific institutions amid reports that it is under investigation in the United States over its ties to a former Egyptian official who for years held the keys to his country’s many popular antiquities.

At issue is whether the Washington-based organisation, which in recent years has rapidly extended its public reach beyond its well-known glossy magazine to a cable television channel and other enterprises, violated strict US laws on payments to officials of foreign governments in contracts starting in 2001 with Dr Zahi Hawass, who, until the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak, was the government’s sole gatekeeper to all things ancient Egypt.
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October 28, 2013

Call for an international day for cultural property reparations relating to colonisation

Posted at 12:05 am in Similar cases

Kwame Opoku has forwarded me information about proposals (supported by various organisations in a number of countries) for an International Day for Reparations Related to Colonization.

Regular readers of this website will know that many of the cases discussed here, such as the Benin Bronzes, would fall into this category.

If you would like further information about this, please contact Louis-Georges Tin, the Chairman of the CRAN (Council Representing Black Organisations in France). If you would like to get in touch, please let me know & I can provide you with further contact details.

From:
Kwame Opoku (by email)

Call for the International Day for Reparations Related to Colonization

On October 12, 1492, Christopher Columbus set foot on the so called “New World”,
ushering in a cycle of occupation, violence, genocide and slavery: this was the beginning
of colonization.

Colonization is a global phenomenon: there is hardly a country in the world that has not
been colonized, a colonizer, or both, such as the United States. Colonization is one of the
phenomena that has most disrupted humanity. It has left a deep and lasting impression on
all continents and the consequences of this are
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October 25, 2013

Lord Elgin, boxing & the art of re-imagining the Parthenon Sculptures as integrally British

Posted at 5:52 pm in Elgin Marbles, Similar cases

This article looks at a lot of interesting aspects in a period of the life of the Parthenon Sculptures that is often glossed over. After they first arrived in Britain, some time elapsed before they were finally purchased by the British government. As this article explains, during this time, Elgin did everything he could to try & raise the profile of them & hype them up (after declaring them as of “little or no value” for customs purposes.

I am not sure about some of the conclusions however – I don’t know whether anyone really believed that they were taking the Marbles for their protection. This was more a justification that was post rationalised, because it sounded so much more palatable to the public, than the reality of taking them to decorate a house. Later, the same argument appealed to the British Museum, when in reality, they were most interested in adding a significant work to their collection & thus stopping anyone else from getting it.

View of Parthenon Frieze by Alma Tadema

View of Parthenon Frieze by Alma Tadema

From:
Open Democracy

The Parthenon Marbles and British national identity
Fiona Rose-Greenland 25 October 2013

Today, the British Museum’s Trustees argue that the Parthenon sculptures are “integral to the Museum’s purpose as a world museum telling the story of human cultural achievement.” But what does history tell us?

This article is part of an occasional series on ‘The Political Aesthetics of Power and Protest,’ the subject of a one-day workshop held at the University of Warwick in September, 2012. Democracy, since it does not function through command or coercion, requires instead a constant renewal of sets of symbols – symbols which appeal to people and instill in them a sense of belonging and identification. Increasing disenchantment and disillusion with the state, with political institutions, their practices and performance, makes it more important to explore the place of this aestheticisation of political language, the aesthetics of protest as well as of power.

But most the modern Pict’s ignoble boast,
To rive what Goth, and Turk, and Time hath spared:
Cold as the crags upon his native coast,
His mind as barren and his heart as hard,
Is he whose head conceived, whose hand prepared,
Aught to displace Athena’s poor remains:
Her sons too weak the sacred shrine to guard,
Yet felt some portion of their mother’s pains,
And never knew, till then, the weight of Despot’s chains. (XII)

Cold is the heart, fair Greece! that looks on thee,
Nor feels as lovers o’er the dust they loved;
Dull is the eye that will not weep to see
Thy walls defaced, thy mouldering shrines removed
By British hands, which it had best behoved
To guard those relics ne’er to be restored.
Curst be the hour when from their isle they roved,
And once again thy hapless bosom gored,
And snatched thy shrinking gods to northern climes abhorr’d! (XV)

Lord Byron, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage. Second Canto (1812)

What is happening with the Parthenon sculptures, also known as the Elgin Marbles and widely lauded as the jewel in the crown of the British Museum?

When the new Acropolis Museum opened in Athens in June 2009, the British Museum faced unprecedented pressure to return the sculptures to Greece. Intellectuals, elected officials, and ordinary citizens weighed in, with public opinion apparently in favour of giving them back. It looked as though Museum officials might finally relent. The issue was back on the public agenda in June 2012, in a repatriation debate between Stephen Fry and MP Tristram Hunt, and again this month in a speech by Henry Porter in which he urged that returning the sculptures would be the right thing to do.
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3rd International Conference of Experts on the Return of Cultural Property

Posted at 8:22 am in Events, Greece Archaeology, Similar cases

A bit late posting this, as the event has already started.

The Third International Conference of Experts on the Return of Cultural Property is currently taking place in Greece, with events at a variety of locations.

If you want further details of the event, have a look at this web page.

3rd International Conference of Experts on the Return of Cultural Property

3rd International Conference of Experts on the Return of Cultural Property

From:
Greek Ministry of Culture

3rd International Conference of Experts on the Return of Cultural Property

4/10/2013

As a follow-up to the Second International Conference of Experts on the Return of Cultural Property, held in Seoul, Republic of Korea, 16-17 October 2012, the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports organizes the Third International Conference of Experts on the Return of Cultural Property.
The Conference will be held from Wednesday 23 until Saturday 26 October 2013. The opening ceremony, as well as the procedures of the first day will be accommodated in the auditorium of the Acropolis Museum, while the rest sessions from Thursday 24 to Saturday, October 26, will take place in Ancient Olympia (SPAP Conference Center).

The conference program is divided into two main areas:
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October 22, 2013

Feldmann case redux? New settlement reached between nazi loot heirs & British Museum

Posted at 6:02 pm in British Museum, Similar cases

Back in the relatively early days of this blog, there was a lot of press coverage about the case of the painting belonging to Arthur Feldmann. Dr Feldmann was a Czech Jew whose paintings were seized by the Nazis. Eventually, some of his paintings ended up in the British Museum. The British Museum claimed that they wanted to return them, but couldn’t.

As a result of this, they brought a legal case, seeing if it was possible to over-ride the British Museum act. A lot of papers made out that the story that the case was about the Elgin Marbles, although this was more media spin than anything else. If you are not familiar with the case, I wrote a fairly lengthy analysis of it here. Some of the legal details from the case, which were not published until later are here.

Following the trustees of the British Museum losing the case (I’m not sure that anyone ever expected anything different), there were demands for changes in the law to handle such situations, although in reality, discussions relating to this aspect of Nazi loot restitution had already been going on for some time before that. These discussions were eventually incorporated into the law (after fairly long delays), in the form of the Holocaust (Stolen Art) Restitution bill.

In the end, because the British Museum was not allowed to return the paintings, the heirs settled instead for financial compensation (something that was outside the scope of the British Museum Act).

That should have been the end of things, but it appears that it wasn’t. The paintings that were the subject of the earlier case were not the only ones in the museum, that the Feldmann Heirs claimed were rightfully theirs. Although the original case was dealt with by the Spoliation Advisory Panel. This most recent case was not though & was instead dealt with through direct negotiation with the museum (the reasons behind this are not given in the articles that I have read).

Young Couple in a Landscape, 1535-45, in the style of Georg Pencz

What is interesting, is that as I described above, the law now allows the British Museum to return Nazi loot. The Feldmann heirs were still happy to accept an ex-gratia payment though, in lieu of the actual artwork being returned. Once again, the reasons for this are unclear, but the fact remains, that even when the law allows is, not every restitution case is settled by the actual artefacts being returned.

In some cases, the rightful owners only want it acknowledged that they are the owners. In many instances, people accept that the museums are better placed to look after expensive works of art – often you do not want something like this in your home, due to issues with controlled humidity & temperature, security, insurance costs etc.

From:
Haaretz

British Museum compensates collector’s heirs for art looted by Nazis
Family of Arthur Feldmann proved Gestapo had seized work of art in Czechoslovakia in 1939.
By Eitan Buganim
Oct. 17, 2013 | 2:15 AM

The British Museum agreed to compensate descendants of a Jewish art collector who owned a medieval German drawing in the style of Georg Pencz, which the Gestapo looted from his home with the rest of the family’s art collection in March 1939. The museum accepted a spoliation claim by collector Arthur Feldmann’s grandson, Uri Peled. It made an ex gratia payment that allows the museum to keep the drawing, “Young Couple in a Landscape,” painted around 1535-45.

The drawing had been acquired by the museum in good faith from Mrs. Rosi Schilling, in 1993. Peled, who lives in Tel Aviv, proved after extensive research that the drawing had originally belonged to his grandfather and was seized from him in Brno, Czechoslovakia, in 1939. Neither of the Feldmanns survived the war.
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October 20, 2013

A report from the Roundtable on the Parthenon Marbles held in Brussels.

Posted at 12:34 am in British Museum, Elgin Marbles, International Association, Marbles Reunited, New Acropolis Museum, Similar cases

In addition to the articles I posted earlier, Marbles Reunited has written a report on the event held in Brussels earlier this week, and Tom Flynn has also posted a transcript of his talk.

The report that follows is based on my notes taken during the event. I have not tried to capture everything, just the key points. I am hoping that my comments do not misrepresent what the speakers were saying – some it was from the live translation there, and some of it was from the responses to questions afterwards, rather than from the original speeches.

After introductions by Krister Kumlin & a brief video, Tom Flynn was the first speaker, and pointed out, that when considering the acquisition of obviously looted artefacts “Most museums now know better”. The thing is of course, how to get museums to act retrospectively – to apply the rules that they would use now to actions that they made well before their current rules and guidelines came into force.

He also added, that “Nowadays, the social network acts as a critical filter to the acquisition of disputed artefacts”. This is a good point, as museums nowadays have a far greater interaction with the public than perhaps ever before. People’s opinions mean more to them than they ever used to, and as a result, it is important to let museums know if what you think they are doing is morally unacceptable.

German MEP Jo Leinen had a simple message – drawing on the words of another German politician, he quoted Willie Brandt “we have to unite what belongs together”.

The Spanish MEP, Miguel Angel Martínez Martínez took a slightly different viewpoint from some of the other speakers, looking at this action by Britain, in the context of other actions that occur within Europe. He felt that it was particularly important that the countries of northern Europe, in some way recognise that although they might be economically the powerhouses of Europe today, they still owe so much culturally to the Mediterranean countries in the South of Europe. He stressed a message that Campaigns such as Marbles Reunited have also long emphasised, that “It is not about sending the Parthenon Marbles back to Athens, but about reuniting them”.
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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.”

From:
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.
Read the rest of this entry »

September 24, 2013

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.

From:
New York Times

Tracking Stolen Art, for Profit, and Blurring a Few Lines
By KATE TAYLOR and LORNE MANLY
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 ow.ly/oYNy2 #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.