Quote of the Day

I understand what museums fear. They think everything will have to go back if the marbles do. But the Acropolis is special.

Giorgos Voulgarakis, Former Hellenic Republic Minister of Culture

October 8, 2005

Decline in British Museum visitor numbers

Posted at 11:18 am in British Museum

As a result of the July 7th bombings in London, visitor figures for many tourist destinations in London, including the British Museum, have dropped by approximately 25% compared to the same time last year.

From:
Bloomberg

London’s Museums, Galleries Lose Visitors After Bombs

Oct. 6 (Bloomberg) — London’s top attractions from the Tower of London to the National Gallery lost almost a quarter of their visitors in August after 52 people were killed by terrorist bombs in July, the capital’s tourist agency said.

Visit London surveyed 50 attractions and found there were 24.5 percent fewer visitors in August than in the same month a year earlier, figures released on its Web site showed.
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More on the Human Tissue Act

Posted at 11:12 am in British Museum, Similar cases

The implementation of Section 47 of the Human Tissue Act 2004 has been covered extensively by the international press, although there has been surprisingly little about it in the British media. The following two articles cover a few details that were not in the previous post.

From:
artdaily.com

Friday, October 7, 2005
UK National Museums Get New Powers

LONDON, ENGLAD.-Nine national UK museums, including the British Museum and the Natural History Museum, have this week acquired powers to move human remains out of their collections as the Government brought section 47 of the Human Tissue Act 2004 into force.

The nine national museums listed in section 47 now have the power to move out of their collections human remains which are reasonably believed to be under 1,000 years in age. This means that these national museums can respond to claims for the return of human remains by indigenous communities.
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Change in the law regarding human remains in Britain’s Museums

Posted at 11:05 am in British Museum, Similar cases

Section 47 of the Human Tissue Act 2004 came into force in the UK last week. Although most of the act deals with storage of human tissue by hospitals, this specific section covers a change in the law that gives nine specified museums the discretionary right to de-accession human remains in their collections if it is believed that these remains were less than one thousand years old at the time the act came into force. In short, museums will be allowed to return items such as Aboriginal remains to their place of origin, without being prevented from doing so by the Museum’s Act 1964, which this act now supersedes (where human remains are involved).
Whether or not any human remains are returned as a result of this change in the law remains to be seen. However, no longer can institutions avoid the issue by suggest that they would love to return the items if they were allowed to.
Gradually cases such as this, that of the Feldmann paintings & the Benevento Missal. are highlighting how flawed the Museums Act is in its anti de-accessioning provisions. Rather than tacking individual issues (human remains, Nazi looting) as they become a problem, surely the whole act needs to be reconsidered as a whole & rewritten in a way that is more appropriate for the values of today’s society?

From:
Sydney Morning Herald

UK museums to return Aboriginal remains
October 6, 2005 – 8:54PM

British museums have welcomed a change in law that is expected to lead to Aboriginal remains being returned from their collections to Australia.

Implementation of the 2004 Human Tissue Act will allow nine museums to repatriate remains, superseding the British Museums Act of 1964 which forbade such returns even if the museums believed the remains to be of little scientific value.
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Lecture at Hamilton College on the Parthenon Marbles

Posted at 10:34 am in Elgin Marbles

Professor Paul Cartledge has recently given a lecture on the reasons for reunifying the Parthenon Marbles at Hamilton College, a university in the USA. Paul Cartledge is professor of Greek history at Cambridge University, author of various books on ancient Greece & a long time supporter of the return of the Parthenon Marbles.

From:
Hamilton College News

Cambridge University Professor Paul Cartledge Discusses Parthenon in Lecture
He Maintains That Parthenon Sculptures in British Museum Should be Returned to Greece
Contact: Holly Foster
Phone: (315) 859-4068
October 5, 2005

Paul Cartledge, a professor of Greek History at Cambridge University, presented the Winslow lecture titled “Reuniting the Parthenon Marbles?” in the College Chapel on October 4. In his talk, Cartledge discussed different conceptions of the Parthenon and addressed his belief that the Parthenon sculptures currently being housed in the British Museum should be returned to Greece.

The Parthenon, which was constructed between 447 and 432 B.C., is, as Cartledge noted, “famous for being famous.” It is an icon for modernity as much as it is also an ancient ruin. In 1687, the Parthenon was hit by cannonfire and 28 of its 58 columns were destroyed. Read the rest of this entry »

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.

From:
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.

From:
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.

From:
Los Angeles Times

October 1, 2005
latimes.com : Opinion : Editorials
STATE OF THE ART
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.

From:
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.

From:
News Wales

Call to give golden treasure back to Wales
26/9/2005

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.

From:
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.

From:
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.

From:
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.
Read the rest of this entry »