Quote of the Day

Each stone as it fell shook the ground with its ponderous weight, with a deep hollow noise; it seemed like a convulsive groan of the injured spirit of the temple.

Sir Robert Smirke, Architect of the current British Museum

May 24, 2005

Britain is still a key player in the trade in looted artwork

Posted at 1:01 pm in Similar cases

The trade in looted cultural property continues today, although nowadays more of it goes on between Private dealers & collectors, unlike in the past, when large museums were happy to acquire many items of unknown provenance on a regular basis. Despite plans by the government to cut down on the amount of looted artwork being trafficked through Britain. The Cultural Objects Offences Act of 2003 put in place the legal framework to do something to prevent this, but from this article it appears that there also needs to b more action, to actually prosecute those involved. The claim in the article that “Most antiquities on the market nowadays are either stolen or forgeries.” really does put the level of the problem in perspective.

The Independent

Art market scandal: British Museum expert highlights growing problem of fake antiquities
By Louise Jury, Arts Correspondent
24 May 2005

Most of the antiquities on sale in Britain are either stolen or fakes, a leading museum scientist has told a national conference on art crime.

Paul Craddock, a scientist at the British Museum whose work involves checking the authenticity of artefacts, said international legislation had so far “proved toothless” at fighting the burgeoning problem.
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The British Museum & restitution claims

Posted at 12:52 pm in British Museum, Similar cases

Kenya is organising an exhibition of artefacts from Kenya & neighbouring countries. The British Museum is lending them a large number of items temporarily to display in the exhibition, which they seem to feel is a very positive move – in many ways it is, as it shows greater co-operation with other museums. On the other hand it raises again the question of why these countries should have to go pleading to the British Museum for the loan of objects whenever they want an exhibition in their own country. The British Museum thinks that this is the best way of doing things (well they would wouldn’t they) but it seems to me tat however much the British Museum co=operates in this way, the other institutions abroad are still at the mercy of the British Museum for the eventual decision for what artefacts they will have or not.
Neil MacGregor (director of the British Museum) hopes that by sharing artefacts, the disputes about ownership will be less acute. “What is the real question: ownership or use of objects?” he asks. The fact is though, that the British Museum, as the owner & user of the objects will always have the upper hand in these situations.
The situation is getting more positive in a lot of cases, but other points in the article just highlight the problems with the attitude of the British Museum.

Financial Times

British Museum blazes a trail to the exhibition rooms of Africa
By Frederick Studemann
Published: May 24 2005 03:00 | Last updated: May 24 2005 03:00

When Kiprop Lagat, a senior curator at the National Museum of Kenya, was seeking artefacts for an exhibition exploring the relationship between his country and its immediate neighbours, his search took him thousands of kilometres away from east Africa to central London.

There, in the ordered neoclassical confines of the British Museum, he spent a year searching through the 12,000 objects in its Africa collection.
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May 22, 2005

A scaffolding free Acropolis?

Posted at 10:56 am in Acropolis

For as long as I have been visiting Athens, the Parthenon & many other parts of the Acropolis have been covered in scaffolding as part of the extensive restoration works. Greece has appealed for private funds to accelerate the restorations, although in some ways it is not as simple as this, as there is a limit to how many people can work on the site & is generally impossible to use any sort of heavy machinery there.
Anyway, the Parthenon could be free of scaffolding as early as 2006, based on the EU funding that they were guaranteed for the project last week.

Yahoo news

Acropolis to be free of scaffolding by 2006, restoration experts say
Tue May 17,11:52 AM ET
ATHENS (AFP) – Ongoing restoration work on the Acropolis will be completed on schedule, and all scaffolding currently encumbering the ancient citadel will be removed by 2006, Greek archaeologists supervising the project have said.

“The Acropolis works…are proceeding rapidly,” Acropolis Restoration Service (YSMA) director Maria Ioannidou told an annual conference on the project’s progress Monday.
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May 21, 2005

Follow up to Sunday Telegraph article

Posted at 6:14 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

Following the article in last Sunday’s Telegraph about the previously unpublicised instances of damage to the marbles in the post war period, the British Museum has released what they say is the complete list.

British Museum website

Parthenon Sculptures: Record of incidents following their re-exhibit ion after the Second Wor ld War 1949- present

This list brings right up to date the record set out in I.D. Jenkins, Cleaning and Controversy: The Parthenon Sculptures 1811-1939 (British Museum Occasional Paper no. 146, London 2001) by listing all incidents since their re-display in September 1949.

South Metope XXVI.
Two schoolboys scuffling; one fell and knocked off part of a Centaur’s hind-leg.
Leg came away at an old break and was replaced (it was not possible to replace two small chips
of marble at the back of the leg).
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Banksy & the British Museum

Posted at 11:29 am in British Museum

Banksy, the legendary British graffiti artist / art prankster has targeted the British Museum with his latest hoax. Following on from fake exhibits in the Natural History Museum & in the Tate Modern, he has placed a cave painting of a man with a shopping trolley in one of the galleries at the British Museum. From pictures it did look similar in appearance to the surrounding artefacts, so I can understand how people might not have spotted it. It was up for two days in the museum before anyone spotted it (& this only appeared to happen after Banksy had mentioned it on his own website.

BBC News

Last Updated: Thursday, 19 May, 2005, 17:02 GMT 18:02 UK
Cave art hoax hits British Museum
Fake prehistoric rock art of a caveman with a shopping trolley has been hung on the walls of the British Museum.

The rock was put there by art prankster Banksy, who has previously put works in galleries in London and New York.
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More on the Getty case

Posted at 11:05 am in Similar cases

The Independent is today also covering the story about the Getty Curator facing prosecution in Italy.

The Independent

Getty’s antiquities buyer faces trial over stolen goods
By Peter Popham in Rome

21 May 2005

The woman who for many years was in charge of buying archaeological treasures for the Getty Museum of Los Angeles is to stand trial in Rome in July, charged with receiving stolen goods.

The trial is the culmination of an investigation started nearly 10 years ago, which claims to have discovered that, of the many marvels of the ancient world purchased in Italy by Marion True, the 56-year-old curator for antiquities at the J Paul Getty Museum, a huge number had been stolen – a fact of which prosecutors say the curator was well aware.
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May 20, 2005

Getty curator indicted in Rome

Posted at 8:42 am in Similar cases

Following a long running enquiry into illegal acquisition of Italian antiquities, a senior curator at the Getty Museum has been indicted on charges involving his acquisition of antiquities for the museum. It is an interesting case in as much as the fact that they are specifically prosecuting an individual within the Museum’s organisation that they believe is responsible, rather than targeting the Museum itself, which is a more common occurrence.

Los Angeles Times

May 20, 2005
Indictment Targets Getty’s Acquisitions
By Tracy Wilkinson and Suzanne Muchnic, Times Staff Writers

ROME — In a long-running legal battle with broad implications for museum collections worldwide, a senior curator at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles has been indicted here on criminal charges involving the acquisition of precious antiquities in this archeologically rich country, authorities in Rome said.

Marion True, 56, curator for antiquities at the museum and director of the Getty Villa, is accused of criminal conspiracy to receive stolen goods and illicit receipt of archeological items. It is also alleged that True in effect laundered goods that were purchased by a private collection and then sold to the Getty in paper transactions that created phony documentation.
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May 18, 2005

EU funding to boost CCAM Acropolis Restoration Project

Posted at 3:53 pm in Acropolis

The requests made by the Greek government for additional funding for the Acropolis restoration project have been granted.


EU shot in the arm for Acropolis

An extra 5 million euros will be provided for the Acropolis conservation works, bringing the total of European Union and national funding for the mammoth project up to 12 million euros over the next two years, the government said yesterday.

While announcing the extra funding, a Culture Ministry release urged state archaeologists and conservators handling the works — which started in 1975 and are not expected to finish before 2020 — to step up their pace and improve the project’s organization.
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Press release from Tatoulis

Posted at 1:56 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

Here is Petros Tatoulis’s complete statement from the Hellenic Republic Ministry of Culture’s press release. He makes some very good points in it, which are interesting to read, as it is one of the first major statements on the subject since the change of government last year.

Any errors in the document are from my translation.

Hellenic Ministry of Culture

Ministry of Culture
Press Office

Press release
Concerning the reports in newspapers on the maintenance & protection of the Parthenon Sculptures in the British Museum, the [Hellenic Republic’s] Deputy Minister of Culture Mr. P[etros] Tatoulis declared the following:
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May 17, 2005

Petros Tatoulis’s response on the treatment of the Elgin Marbles

Posted at 4:43 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

Following Sunday’s article, Petros Tatoulis, Greece’s deputy culture minister has issued a response to it.

Athens News Agency

Tatoulis on reports concerning the maintenance of the Parthenon Marbles by the British Museum

Athens, 17/5/2005 (ANA)

Deputy Culture Minister Petros Tatoulis, commenting on reports by foreign newspapers on the manner with which the British Museum maintains and protects the Parthenon Marbles, said on Monday that “the Greek government does not wish to comment further on the information concerning the inadequate maintenance and protection of the Elgin Marbles by the British Museum.”
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May 15, 2005

Daily Telegraph exposes extent of damage to Elgin Marbles in British Museum

Posted at 1:05 am in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

The British Museum has often claimed that in removing the sculptures from the Parthenon, Elgin acted as a preservationist. They also suggest that the Parthenon Marbles in the British Museum are better preserved than those in Athens. Many people dispute these claims however, for a number of reasons, including the following:

  • A number of the sculptures were damaged significantly during their removal from the Parthenon.
  • One of the ships (the Mentor) carrying the Marbles back to England sank & it was not until some time later that the Marbles could be retrieved from it
  • When they first arrived in London they were kept under a Tarpaulin at the back of Elgin’s Park Lane house in London – so were still quite exposed to the English weather including Damp, Frost etc.
  • They were kept in London at a time when London was one of the most polluted cities in the world, with many problems with smog & this was at a time before climatically controlled galleries
  • The cleaning of the Marbles at the Request of Lord Duveen has been well documented & went against all restoration techniques used at that time & is though to have damaged the surface finish of many of the sculptures.

On a number of occasions I have noticed that while the staff at the Acropolis are very strict in stopping people from touching sculptures etc, at the British Museum there is a much larger potential for damage to artefacts, with adults touching sculptures (Not specifically in the Duveen Gallery – this occurs throughout the museum) & children climbing on artefacts without being spotted by the museum staff. I have some photos showing this that I will try & post later this week.

Now, under the Freedom of Information Act, the Sunday Telegraph have exposed a number of additional instances where the sculptures in the British Museum have been damaged.

Sunday Telegraph

Revealed: how rowdy schoolboys knocked a leg off one of the Elgin Marbles
By Chris Hastings, Media Correspondent
(Filed: 15/05/2005)

The Elgin Marbles have survived an invasion by Turkish hordes and a bombardment by the Venetian Navy – but two rowdy schoolboys were too much for them, secret papers reveal.

The documents, released by the British Museum under the Freedom of Information Act, show that the 2,500-year-old antiquities have had to be repaired after a number of mishaps, acts of theft and vandalism by visitors.
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May 13, 2005

Petros Tatoulis meets Chris Stockdale

Posted at 10:03 pm in Elgin Marbles

Now that Chris Stockdale has arrived in Athens, the Greek deputy culture minister has met him to congratulate him for his efforts.

Athen News Agency

Tatoulis meets British activist Stockdale who supports the return of the Parthenon Marbles

Deputy Culture Minister Petros Tatoulis on Friday met with British medical doctor and activisit Chris Stockdale who is among supporters for the return to the Parthenon Marbles to Greece.

The British philhellene visited Athens with the sole purpose of stating anew the need for the Parthenon Marbles to be reunited.
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