Showing results 1 - 12 of 18 for the tag: Art Newspaper.

April 9, 2015

Neil MacGregor to stand down as Director of British Museum

Posted at 10:41 pm in British Museum

Neil MacGregor has announced that he is going to stand down as the Director of the British Museum at the end of 2015. During his tenure at the museum, he has definitely raised the profile of the institution, along with his own public standing. He has done a lot of good in broadening the reach of the British Museum, through such things as the History of the World in 100 objects radio series and book.

During his time there, there have been many epic exhibitions, such as the Terracotta Army, although I am sure that while he played a key part, he was far from the only one involved in getting such endeavours off the ground.

However, whatever praise MacGregor might receive should be accompanied by some major caveats.

He is lauded as presiding over a period in which the Museum has risen in popularity, and whilst this is true, it is partly a result of things outside of his control. The Great Court at the Museum is now the iconic space that people remember the building for, but work on it was started well before his arrival and it finally opened a year before he took on the role of director. The previous director presided over a museum that was a building site, with awkward circulation though side corridors, yet the bright spacious museum of the new millennium was not MacGregor’s doing.

In some newspapers, it appears that MacGregor can do no wrong. Even former critics now unquestioningly praise his every move as the work of a genius. I have no idea of the actual arrangements that have been made, but to an outsider it has certain parallels to the embedded reporters accompanying military divisions – you can get the inside stories before anyone else, but only as long as you don’t publish anything negative.

While MacGregor has presented a far more educated approach to the running of the museum than many of his predecessors, with a more rounded global outreach programme, under his control, the museum has always been quick to apply spin to its own actions. Shortly after he took charge of the institution, a highly publicised document appeared – the Declaration of the Importance of the Universal Museum. Many major institutions were present on this list, although the British Museum was notable by is absence. It was clear to many that they were involved in this document, and as it turned out, the declaration fell flat & disappeared from public discourse fairly rapidly.

While the Declaration of the Importance of the Universal Museum might have faded from memory, its legacy is still very much with us. James Cuno continually tries to revive the discredited Universal Museum concept under the alias of the Encyclopaedic Museum. Yet, the whole idea of the Universality of institutions such ass the British Museum is something of a fiction concocted by MacGregor. Prior to MacGregor taking up a post at the British Museum, there are no news stories that mentioned the term Universal Museum, yet it is pushed on us as though it is something that has always existed. It may or may not be a coincidence that its inception followed soon after construction work on the New Acropolis Museum started, removing one of the British Museums previous arguments for retention of the Parthenon Sculptures.

Neil MacGregor receives praise for loaning the Cyrus Cylinder to Iran, yet people are quick to forget that for years leading up to this, it was a source of immense tension. The British Museum had earlier made an agreement to loan the artefact, in reciprocation for earlier loans made by Iran, yet when the time came, they did everything in their power to delay this process and avoid following through with the agreement.

While MacGregor talks a lot about cultural diplomacy and working with other institutions, during his 13 years at the museum, he has not moved even a millimetre closer to resolving the long standing dispute over the Parthenon Marbles. Despite Greece building a state of the Art new museum to house them, MacGregor and his representatives try to claim that such endeavours merely strengthen the case for keeping half of the surviving Marbles in Britain. While other museums (particularly in the USA) have gradually seen that old disputes need to be resolved, the British Museum has continued to respond by burying its head in the sand and pretending that the issue will go away.

The Museums recent actions, of lending one of the Parthenon Sculptures to the Hermitage in St Petersburg received much acclaim in the press, but in reality won little support from others in the museum world. Having previously denied denying a loan of the sculptures to Greece, a loan was made in secret to Russia. Once the loan as publicly announced with a multi-page feature in a national newspaper, the British Museum had the audacity to suggest that Greek complaints were ungracious. While once the British Museum claimed that the sculptures were too fragile to move, they are now talking about lending them to institutions around the world – pimping them to everyone except for their rightful owners. Finally, it became clear to many that the museum did not understand the sculptures as a part of a greater whole, something that was designed to be seen together.

Most recently, the British Museum has turned down a request made by Greece for mediation through UNESCO to resolve the Parthenon Marbles dispute. Surely if they were serious about trying to resolve disputes and their position was as strong as they claim it is, they would jumped at the chance to move things forward?

For many who campaign for the return of disputed artefacts, MacGregor’s tenure at the British Museum will be remembered as one of missed opportunities. Of being too blinkered to see the potential advantages of reunifying items with their rightful owners. A rejection of the potential win-win scenario of reciprocal loans of new and unseen works. Of missing out on an increased standing of the institution internationally as old differences were resolved. A failure in cultural decolonisation.

There was (and still is) the potential to reinvent the British Museum as an institution that can provide a moral lead, a new style of museum for the 21st Century, one that can revisit its past in order to create a new, better future. The opportunity has always been there, but MacGregor has never been willing to take it, instead leaving US institutions to take some of the first tentative steps along this path, creating places that exemplify contemporary values rather than the dodgy dealing of times past.

One hopes that perhaps MacGregor’s successor will be able to think different.

British Museum Director Neil MacGregor

British Museum Director Neil MacGregor

From:
Independent

Neil MacGregor announces departure from British Museum
Nick Clark
Wednesday 08 April 2015

Neil MacGregor, who has transformed the fortunes of the British Museum during his 13 year reign, is to leave the UK’s most popular visitor attraction at the end of the year.

The 69-year-old Scot told his colleagues of his decision to step down in December at a meeting. The director received prolonged applause from the staff, according to one onlooker, who said the announcement was “emotional for everybody”.
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January 22, 2015

SCOTUS rules against Norton Simon Museum looted art apeal

Posted at 9:35 pm in Similar cases

The United States Supreme Court has rejected an appeal by Norton Simon Museum, which aimed to prevent a court case brought by the heir of Jewish art dealer Jacques Goudstikker.

The appeal claimed that the claims made by the heir (Marei von Saher) conflicted with the US policy of resolving war-related art disputes and therefore with its right to conduct foreign affairs. The rejection of their appeal clears the way for von Saher to bring litigation against the institution, in an attempt to rectify the consequences of the forced transaction with Göring during the war.

You can read some more information about the background to the case here.

Adam and Eve, 1530, by Lucas Cranach the Elder

Adam and Eve, 1530, by Lucas Cranach the Elder

From:
Art Newspaper

By Laura Gilbert. Web only
Published online: 20 January 2015
Supreme Court rejects Norton Simon’s appeal in looted art case

The US Supreme Court today, 20 January, declined to hear the Pasadena-based Norton Simon Museum’s appeal in a case contesting its ownership of a life-size pair of paintings by Lucas Cranach the Elder. Adam and Eve, around 1530, belonged to the Jewish art dealer Jacques Goudstikker, who fled the Netherlands in 1940 after the Nazi invasion.

The Supreme Court’s rejection allows Goudstikker’s heir, Marei von Saher, who has been battling for the paintings in federal court since 2007, to continue her lawsuit. It also leaves standing the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision that pursuing her claims does not interfere with the US government’s conduct of foreign affairs.
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January 9, 2015

Greece drags heels over sculpture loans to British Museum

Posted at 2:03 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles, Similar cases

Following their decision to loan one of the Parthenon Sculptures to Russia, The British Museum is now experiencing a lot of difficulty in obtaining a loan of a sculpture from Greece.

Previously, the British Museum had a relatively close museum with the Museum of Cycladic Art, a privately run institution in Athens. Now though, it appears that in retaliation for their behaviour with the loan to Russia, it is going to be more difficult for them to obtain temporary loans from Greece in the future.

Part of the Parthenon Marbles, the British Museum plans to loan the river-god Ilissos to the Hermitage in St Petersburg

Part of the Parthenon Marbles, the British Museum plans to loan the river-god Ilissos to the Hermitage in St Petersburg

From:
The Art Newspaper

Greece baulks on art loan after Parthenon Marbles row
British Museum still waiting to hear on its request for a sculpture from Athens
By Martin Bailey. Web only
Published online: 06 January 2015

The British Museum’s decision to send a piece of the Parthenon marbles to Russia has delayed a loan from Greece of a key antiquity for a forthcoming exhibition on classical sculpture. A British Museum spokeswoman confirmed that “we have requested to borrow” an important work from the Museum of Cycladic Art in Athens for the show, “Defining Beauty: the Body in ancient Greek Art” (6 March-5 July). She says the Greek museum has not yet decided on the loan request.

The British Museum currently has 24 items on loan to the Museum of Cycladic Art, and curatorial relations between them are friendly. The fact that the loan has not been formally agreed is because of tensions with the Greek government after one of the Parthenon Marbles, the headless figure of the river god Ilissos, was sent to the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg in December. Antonis Samaras, the Greek prime minister, described the loan, the first time one of the sculptures has left Britain since they were controversially taken from the Parthenon by Lord Elgin in the early 19th century, as “an affront to the Greek people”.
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November 11, 2014

Reborn Getty Villa for post Marion True era – now looting-wary

Posted at 2:05 pm in Similar cases

The Getty has come under heavy attack from Italy in the last 10 years over numerous allegations of looting.

Now, a change of management later, they are describing themselves as being “looting-wary”. This is a great step forward, although I’m not sure they would have ever publicly stated before that they were looting-heedless. Publicly, they always maintained their stance that due diligence had been followed, but this all fell apart with the raid on the warehouse of art dealer Giacomo Medici.

Aphrodite statue returned to the Getty by Italy

Aphrodite statue returned to the Getty by Italy

From:
Art Newspaper

Getty plans to redisplay the Getty Villa
Acquisitions and long-term loans will expand focus beyond Ancient Greece and Rome
By Jori Finkel. Web only
Published online: 03 November 2014

Timothy Potts, the first director of the J. Paul Getty Museum with a PhD in ancient art and archaeology, has had ambitious ideas for revamping the Getty Villa since taking on the job two years ago. Now, after the appointment of Jeffrey Spier as the senior curator of antiquities, he reveals how the Getty’s plans for the villa are starting to take shape. He also tells The Art Newspaper that the Getty is planning to expand its antiquities collection to embrace ancient Mediterranean cultures beyond the museum’s traditional Greek and Roman focus. To achieve this the Los Angeles museum is working to organise long-term loans from other major museums, Potts says, and to make new acquisitions.

In their first interview together, Potts and Spier discussed their vision for fully reinstalling the galleries of the faux-Roman villa on the edge of Malibu that is home to the museum’s Roman and Greek antiquities. The current arrangement is a legacy of the Getty’s former antiquities curator, Marion True. Unveiled in 2006, True’s thematic displays, for example “Gods and Goddesses” and “Athletes and Competition”, mix objects of different periods.
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October 27, 2014

Met forced to organise Seljuk exhibition without Turkish loans

Posted at 9:38 pm in Similar cases

For a few years now, Turkey has been trying increasingly hard to make life awkward for countries & institutions holding disputed Turkish artefacts. Undeterred by this (or perhaps brimming with bullish over-confidence that Turkey will capitulate), New York’s Metropolitan Museum is attempting to organise a Seljuk exhibition without any loans from Turkey. No actual loan requests have been refused as such, but preliminary discussions indicated that cooperation from Turkey would not be forthcoming, meaning that the Met decided against asking for any loans.

The Seljuks were the Turkish dynasty that existed prior to the Ottomans. as such, Turkey holds by far the largest collection of artefacts from the period. Organising an exhibition without these is significantly harder than it would otherwise have needed to be.

Greece on the other hand has always made a point of continuing to cooperate with Britain over other matters, while maintaining their stance on the Parthenon Sculptures. This is despite many opportunities to block loans for exhibitions, or to not issue permits for British archaeologists etc. Whilst this spirit of cooperation, of not connecting what are in reality disparate items is admirable, I can’t help feeling sometimes that Britain needs to be made to feel a bit less comfortable about their position. The British museum does not deal with the Parthenon Marbles issue in a serious way, because it doesn’t feel that it has to. It has kept up this approach for many years now & everything else continues to happen as normal.

Socrates in discussion with his pupils, Seljuk manuscript from 13thcentury, Istanbul, Topkapi Palace Library

Socrates in discussion with his pupils, Seljuk manuscript from 13thcentury, Istanbul, Topkapi Palace Library

From:
Art Newspaper

No Turkish loans for big Seljuk Turk show planned by the Met
Thorny early discussions with Ankara deterred the US museum but Turkish attitude now appears more conciliatory
By Tim Cornwell. Museums, Issue 261, October 2014
Published online: 09 October 2014

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York is organising a major exhibition on the Seljuks, whose medieval Islamic empire expanded from central Asia into much of modern Anatolia in Turkey, without loans from Turkey, The Art Newspaper has learned. Experts fear that loans from any collections in Iran or Russia will also be missing in the Met’s show.

The Met’s problem securing Turkish loans echoes those surrounding the British Museum’s exhibition on the Hajj, which went ahead in London in 2012 without Turkish artefacts after tangled disputes over an inscribed stele with a relief of Herakles, which have yet to be resolved.
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April 29, 2014

The shame associated with the Sevso Hoard

Posted at 1:06 pm in Similar cases

Part of the disputed Sevso Hoard was recently returned to Hungary (purchased off an unidentified seller in London).

Colin Renfrew looks at some of the history of the treasure, and the losses both to archaeology & to peoples reputations over what has happened with it in the years since its discovery.

Sevso treasure in 1990

Sevso treasure in 1990

From:
Art Newspaper

Shame still hangs over the Sevso hoard
The recent return of seven of the 14 pieces of Roman silver to Hungary from the UK is a positive development in the find’s sad history
By Colin Renfrew. Comment, Issue 257, May 2014
Published online: 29 April 2014

It is a relief that the sorry story of the misappropriation of the great treasure of late Roman silverware known as the Sevso hoard now seems to be reaching an acceptable conclusion. A tangled tale of greed and irresponsibility by “collectors” in high places who might have known better, seeking a quick and easy profit and showing little respect for the world’s archaeological heritage, it ends where it presumably began, in Hungary.
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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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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.

From:
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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August 16, 2012

ICOM “Red List” of Egyptian antiquities at risk of looting

Posted at 12:55 pm in Similar cases

The International Council of Museums has published a list of categories of items from Egypt that they believe should not be acquired by dealers, collectors or museums, unless there is a clear provenance to the artefact. (The link is from a few months ago, because I had not come across it earlier – but it is still relevant)

From:
The Art Newspaper

Icom publishes “red list” of Egyptian antiquities at risk
Objects include statues, vessels, coins, textiles and manuscripts that the council warns should not be acquired without documented provenance
By Martin Bailey. Web only
Published online: 21 February 2012

The International Council of Museums (Icom) published an “emergency red list” of Egyptian cultural objects at risk of being illegally traded earlier this month. It presents categories of objects (rather than individual looted pieces) that should not be acquired by dealers, collectors or museums without documented provenance.

The list, which is being circulated internationally, includes statues, vessels, funerary objects, architectural elements, coins, textiles and manuscripts. It is also designed to help police and custom officials identify the types of objects that are susceptible to illicit trafficking.
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August 6, 2012

Michael Brand thinks Marion True was a scapegoat for a wider problem

Posted at 12:57 pm in Similar cases

Former Getty Director, Michael Brand, reveals why he left the institution along with some of the issues in dealing with the return of looted artefacts during his tenure. He also re-iterated what others have mentioned before – that Marion True was used more as a scapegoat, than being the true root of the disputed antiquities issue.

From:
Art Newspaper

Ex-director of Getty Museum reveals why he was ousted
Michael Brand takes pride in working with Italy and Greece to overcome impasse over controversial artefacts
By Elizabeth Fortescue. Web only
Published online: 19 July 2012

The former director of the J. Paul Getty Museum, Michael Brand, has revealed more about the reasons for his abrupt departure from the Los Angeles institution in January 2010, telling The Art Newspaper that his position there had become “untenable”.

Brand blames many of the Getty’s internal troubles on its management structure. The director of the Art Gallery NSW in Sydney since June, Brand recalls his role as the Getty Museum’s director as a “lonely” one. “It became very clear that the museum director was in a position where he couldn’t actually make decisions or plan,” Brand says.
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April 18, 2012

The issues with free museum entry in the UK

Posted at 7:48 am in British Museum

As mentioned before, the British Museum enjoys pointing out that only in London can the Elgin Marbles be seen free of charge. This fact does of course rely on the huge subsidies by the British government, something that is getting more & more problematic in the face of other cutbacks in public spending.

From:
The Art Newspaper

Ten years of free entry, but can it last?
Why the political gain in the United Kingdom outweighs the economic cost
By Javier Pes. Museums, Issue 232, February 2012
Published online: 01 February 2012

Maintaining free entry to the UK’s national museums, as the secretary of state for culture Jeremy Hunt blogged in December on the tenth anniversary of its introduction, doesn’t come cheap: it costs around £44m a year to maintain free admission to national museums that previously charged, or around £354m in total since 1999. And yet he is happy to support it.

Why is the government backing a scheme launched in 2001 by the Labour government it routinely criticises for free-spending? The coalition is committed to reducing the country’s budget deficit, which peaked at more than 10% of gross domestic product before it came to power in 2010. Yet universal free entry, which Scotland and Wales also introduced in 2001, seems sacrosanct even though cutting the deficit is one of the coalition government’s mantras.
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January 10, 2012

What are museums for

Posted at 9:09 am in Similar cases

Three new books present contrasting views on the purpose of museums today. The reality is that this is the kind of argument with no right or wrong answer, but all of the different voices merit consideration.

From:
The Art Newspaper

What are museums for?
Three highly contrasting views reflecting current debates and controversies in policy and practice
By Maurice Davies | From issue 224, May 2011
Published online 24 May 11 (Books)

People hold strong opinions about museums. Some assert that their ­primary function should be scholarship, others insist that it’s more important to communicate with a wide audience. In pursuing either of these goals, should museums focus on exploring objects or investigating their contexts—are they about looking at things or telling stories? Adding to the debate, there’s lingering anxiety about relativism; some commentators (and probably many visitors) think museums should strive to be objective, others relish a variety of views.

It has become a cliché to say that museums are today’s churches—special places for contemplation, separate from day-to-day concerns; conversely, there’s an argument that museums should aim to be commonplace, part of normal life. It is intriguing that museums were once talked of as places that reinforced cultural hegemonies, but now they are more often seen as democratising access to art, and even as politically correct when they attempt to include groups formerly omitted from history. While some believe museums have changed far too much, others think they haven’t been transformed enough. The books reviewed here reveal differing views about the role of museums.
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