Quote of the Day

You must understand what the Parthenon Marbles mean to us. They are our pride. They are our sacrifices. They are a tribute to the democratic philosophy. They are our aspirations and our name. They are the essence of Greekness.

Melina Mercouri, Former Hellenic Republic Minister of Culture

October 8, 2005

Getty offers to return three disputed artefacts

Posted at 10:24 am in Similar cases

Over the last few months, the Getty museum has received extensive negative publicity in the press. First of all there was the indictment in Italy of Marion True, one of the Museum’s curators, alleged to have purchased looted artefacts. More recently documents have been obtained by the Los Angeles Times suggesting that the museum was aware that many of the artefacts that it was purchasing from countries such as Italy had been looted.
Now, in what the Getty describes as a goodwill gesture (is there a subtle difference between this & damage limitation?) the museum has offered to return to Italy, three artefacts that were allegedly stolen. These artefacts however only represent a very small proportion of the total number of the cases disputed by the Italians. Although the Italian authorities are accepting the return of these artefacts, they are continuing to pursue the other cases against the Getty.
This return of antiquities by the Getty could be seen as a step in the right direction, but is only one tiny step towards negating many years of dubious acquisition policies.

Los Angeles Times

October 4, 2005
latimes.com : California
Getty to Return Three Ancient Pieces to Italy
The nation will continue to seek repatriation of dozens more artifacts it believes were looted.
By Jason Felch, Times Staff Writer

Italian authorities have agreed to accept an offer from the J. Paul Getty Museum to return three ancient objects allegedly stolen from Italy, but say they will continue to pursue dozens more artifacts in a separate criminal case against the museum’s former antiquities curator.

The Getty’s offer came after protracted negotiations with Italian authorities, and it figures prominently in the museum’s strategy of building goodwill with the Italian government, records show.
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October 7, 2005

Olga Palagia lectures on the Parthenon sculptures

Posted at 1:01 pm in Acropolis

Professor Olga Palagia of Athens University has recently lectured at Cornell University in the USA on the Parthenon Sculptures. She is the author of a book some years ago on the Pediment sculptures of the Parthenon.

Cornell Sun

Athenian Prof Explains Parthenon’s Sculptures
October 04, 2005
by Griffin Oleynick
Sun Contributor

Prof. Olga Palagia, visiting Ithaca this week from the University of Athens, delivered a vibrant, and at times controversial, hour-long lecture entitled “The Sculptures of the Parthenon” late yesterday afternoon to a small but packed room G22 in Goldwin Smith Hall.
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October 4, 2005

Stopping the illicit trade in art

Posted at 12:54 pm in Elgin Marbles, Similar cases

The LA Times has an interesting article on the acquisition policies of museums. This follows on directly from the previous articles on the legal problems that the Getty is currently suffering from, relating to one of the curators, Marion True & to their acquisitions policy.
The point that they make though, is that despite various regulations to try & prevent such cases from occurring, the number of cases involving supposedly ethical accademic institutions & museums does not seem to be diminishing.

Los Angeles Times

October 1, 2005
latimes.com : Opinion : Editorials
Just say no to plunder

THE ILLICIT TRADE IN ART and antiquities has often been compared to trafficking in drugs or guns. Both trades are international in scope, require a sophisticated smuggling operation and are driven by demand in wealthy nations. But the analogy ends there.

Art enriches society. Furthermore, the vast majority of U.S. and European museums are respectable institutions run by conscientious professionals who do their best to act responsibly under what are often challenging circumstances. But the best intentions, as recent revelations about the Getty Museum illustrate, are no protection against questionable or even criminal behavior. The Getty should not merely take a stand against smuggling; it should return any illgotten parts of its collection.
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October 1, 2005

Getty knew that the artefacts it was buying were looted

Posted at 11:55 am in Similar cases

The stories related to the indictment of Getty curator Marion True just seem to keep coming. Leaked internal documents indicate that for a long time the museum was aware that some of the items it was acquiring from Italy were looted.

The Independent

Getty museum ‘knew it was buying looted Italian antiquities’
By Andrew Gumbel, in Los Angeles
Sep 27, 2005, 08:50

The J Paul Getty Museum, one of the world’s largest and best endowed art collections, faces a fresh blow to its reputation following the publication of internal documents suggesting it ignored warnings that up to half of its highest profile antiquities acquisitions were looted from ruins in Italy.

The Getty is already under a dark cloud, with the Italian government demanding the return of 42 pieces in its collection and its curator of antiquities, Marion True, on trial in Italy on criminal conspiracy charges.
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September 26, 2005

Should the British Museum return the Mold Golden Cape

Posted at 10:55 pm in British Museum, Similar cases

The Welsh political party; Plaid Cymru has called for the Mold Golden Cape to be returned to Wales, rather than being held in the British Museum as it is at present.

News Wales

Call to give golden treasure back to Wales

Plaid Cymru called today for the permanent return to North Wales of a priceless Bronze Age relic – the Mold Golden Cape – as it is displayed in public for the first time in Wales.

The ceremonial solid gold cape was discovered by quarrymen in Mold in 1833, later purchased by the British Museum in London, and forms the centrepiece of an exhibition opening at Wrexham Borough Museum today.
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Red Mercury and the Elgin Marbles

Posted at 10:37 pm in Elgin Marbles

A new independently produced film (read as – probably not in a cinema near you unless you live in a big city) called Red Mercury contains references to the Elgin Marbles. Part of the film is set in a Greek restaurant in London where diners are held hostage by a group of Islamic terrorists. When the hostage takers make their demands to the police outside, the restaurant owner adds that the Elgin Marbles should return to Greece.

The Christian Century

Red Mercury, a British picture directed by Roy Battersby, stands a better chance of making it to American screens, especially since it features Stockard Channing (the president’s wife on The West Wing) in a delightful portrait of a Greek restaurant owner, complete with accent. The film was made and released in Britain before the recent bombings there, but its narrative is prescient. Three educated, British-born Muslim men (none from the Middle East) are part of a cell in London that’s preparing a “dirty bomb” to use in blackmailing British authorities and forcing them to leave Iraq and to make other concessions toward the world’s Muslims.
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Lord Duveen & the modern art world

Posted at 8:02 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

It is hard to overstate the impact that Lord Duven of Millbank had on the world of art dealing & collecting in the first half of the twentieth century. For many people however, his name is closely associated with the Elgin Marbles in the British Museum, firstly with the gallery which takes his name & secondly for the controversial cleaning for which he was responsible.

Courier Journal (Louisville, Kentucky, USA)

Sunday, September 25, 2005
Book Review
The godfather of the modern art world
By Alfred R. Shands
Special to The Courier-Journal

We recently read about a Modigliani masterpiece that for many years was part of the Wendell Cherry art collection in Louisville, sold at auction for a cool $31 million. That event takes us directly back 60 years or more to Joseph Duveen, the most famous art dealer of all time, and the man who was godfather of the present day art world.

Duveen, with his practiced eye. incredible visual memory, charm and charisma (“like drinking champagne,” proclaimed an admirer) amassed a fortune selling expensive, top-of-the-line art to the rich. He was born in 1889 in England and died in 1939, just before the start of World War II. In that time, he selected and sold to the new-made American millionaires, the diamonds in the rough, like Mellon, Altman, Widener, Kress, Huntington, Morgan and Frick (to name just a few) hundreds and hundreds of Old Master paintings and decorative art pieces to help them achieve the aristocratic social status for which they longed. Read the rest of this entry »

September 25, 2005

Leaked documents reveal that Getty knew artefacts were looted

Posted at 4:57 pm in Similar cases

Attorneys for the Getty Museum have determined that half the objects in the museum’s collection were acquired from dealers who are under investigation for looting. This comprehensive article looks back at the history of the Getty’s current troubles & the indicators that point to looted pieces in their collection.

Los Angeles Times

September 25, 2005
Getty had signs it was acquiring possibly looted art, documents show
Museum attorneys say half the masterpieces in its antiquities collection can be traced to suspect dealers. Italy seeks return of 42 items.
By Jason Felch and Ralph Frammolino, Times Staff Writers

Attorneys for the J. Paul Getty Museum have determined that half the masterpieces in its antiquities collection were purchased from dealers now under investigation for allegedly selling artifacts looted from ruins in Italy.
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September 18, 2005

Jackie Chan & the British Museum

Posted at 6:15 pm in British Museum, Similar cases

Internationally renowned star of many action films, Jackie Chan speaks out about the injustice of items kept by the British Museum rather than in their countries of origin.
In an interview with the Malay Mail, the Hong Kong based actor stated “No one can go to another country and steal their national treasures and say that they are temporarily keeping them. They are actually claiming it as their own and this is a despicable act.” He went on to say “After watching my movie, the British Museum might decide to return all the exhibits from China back to its homeland. That would be great.” Both these statements are relating to the story behind his new film The Myth, but this is not the first time that Chan’s films have made references to artefacts from other cultures held in the museums of the west. A couple of examples that instantly spring to mind are Jui Kuen II (In The Legend of the Drunken Master) where there are scenes where The British are trying to steal Chinese artefacts to sell them to the British Museum. Around the World in 80 Days contains a scene where Chan takes a jade Buddha from the British Museum to return it to his village in China.

Malay Mail (Malaysia)

Cover Story: Myth with a message
Chow Ee-Tan
Sept 16:
Hong Kong heavyweight Jackie Chan returns to the screen in ‘the myth’…, pens CHOW EE-TAN.

A JACKIE Chan movie is always entertaining and full of action. But hardly thought-provoking.

Perhaps he’s getting wiser as he gets older – in his latest movie The Myth, Chan has a message he wants the world to hear.
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September 11, 2005

Is the British Museum condoning the Chinese destruction of Tibet?

Posted at 9:06 pm in British Museum, Similar cases

A pair of articles here highlight an interesting aspect of international loans of artefacts by the British Museum. The British Museum has just arranged a groundbreaking deal with China to exchange artefacts between the two countries for temporary exhibitions. The question this raise though, is whether this agreement entered into by the British Museum is in some ways condoning China’s ongoing destruction of artefacts in Tibet. While the arrangement of cultural exchanges by the British Museum if in theory an admirable approach to introduce its collections to a wider audience, should it be arranging such exchanges with a country that has a record of continuing to destroy its own culture?

The Guardian

London and Beijing to exchange archaeological treasures
John Ezard
Tuesday September 6, 2005
The Guardian

London and Beijing capped their status as Olympic cities yesterday by announcing an unprecedented exchange by loan of archaeological treasures over the next five years.

This could lead to one or more of China’s world-famous terracotta warriors going on show at the British Museum and to Chinese crowds having their first chance to see Egyptian mummies and cuneiform tablets from London.

The directors of the British Museum and Victoria and Albert Museum, who are in China with Tony Blair, unveiled the exchange deals after two years of secret preparations.
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Scottish museum to open archives to public

Posted at 8:53 pm in British Museum

Scotland’s National Museum is opening its archives to allow the public a greater level of access to them than ever before. This is a very positive move, which puts this institution many steps ahead of the British Museum. If a museum is publicly funded (as most in Britain are) then surely all of their collection should be visible to the public?

Scotland on Sunday

Museum to open Aladdin’s cave of treasures to the public in £4.6m project

THE National Museum of Scotland is preparing to permanently throw open its doors to let the public discover its unseen collection.

Regarded by historians and scholars as one of the finest in the world, the collection is presently housed in a series of warehouses on the outskirts of Edinburgh. It contains more than three million objects and specimens from across the globe which, because of a lack of space, cannot be displayed in the museum.
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September 7, 2005

The British Government & the 1954 Hague convention

Posted at 10:09 pm in British Museum

After many years of refusing the sign up to the treaty, the British Government finally decided last year to ratify the 1954 Hague Convention. This is an act, that is designed to protect valuable artefacts during wars & is in many ways a precursor to the later UNESCO conventions dealing with cultural property & its destruction / trafficking within a much wider scope.
If only we took as much care in preserving other countries culture in-situ, as we are in protecting our own.

The Guardian

In case of war: nominations sought for list of cultural treasures to be saved at all costs
Owen Bowcott
Wednesday September 7, 2005
The Guardian

Ever considered saving for the day after Armageddon? That opportunity has now arrived. To preserve the nation’s heritage in the event of war, the government yesterday launched a consultation process.

Nominations for the country’s most valuable cultural treasures are being sought so they can be protected by a blue shield emblem – theoretically powerful enough to ward off marauding enemies.
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