Showing results 1 - 12 of 56 for the tag: Iran.

December 6, 2014

Does cultural diplomacy deter human rights violations?

Posted at 1:41 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles, Similar cases

Neil MacGregor would love it is the world believed that his latest initiative with the loan of a Parthenon Sculpture to the Hermitage was all about “cultural diplomacy”. This is not the first time he has tried taking this line – one previous example was with the loan of the Cyrus Cylinder to Iran. Now, like Geoffrey Robertson, I would be very interested to know if there was any improvement in Iran’s human rights record (or for that matter it relations with the UK) as a result of this, but I know that the answer would have to be an unequivocal no!

Geoffrey Robertson QC, Currently providing legal advice to Greece over the Parthenon Marbles issue

Geoffrey Robertson QC, Currently providing legal advice to Greece over the Parthenon Marbles issue


Geoffrey Robertson
Friday 5 December 2014
The British Museum has just lost the Elgin Marbles argument
This loan is welcome — in that it gives the game away

The British Museum has moved the river god Illisos from his plinth in the Duveen Gallery to St. Petersburg for a celebration of Russian art collection at the Hermitage.

This raises two issues: first, why give a propaganda windfall to President Putin at a time when his breaches of international law can only be deterred by sanctions that are beginning to bite? Second, if a part of the Marbles can now been seen for the next two months by visiting St. Petersburg, why should all surviving pieces of the greatest art in world history not be seen, reunited at the Acropolis Museum under a blue attic sky and in the shadow of the Parthenon?

The museum claims that “cultural diplomacy” can somehow discourage human rights violators. This is nonsense – it tends to embolden them. In 2010 the museum lent the Cyrus Cylinder to Iran, only to have it welcomed by a pageant staged by President Ahmadinejad, in which Cyrus wore the insignia of the Basij militia, which the previous year had brutally beaten and killed hundreds of “Green Movement” demonstrators.
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December 5, 2014

British Museum Director on Parthenon Marbles Hermitage loan

Posted at 6:26 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

British Museum Director Neil MacGregor sets out why he believes that the loan of the Parthenon Sculptures to the hermitage in St Petersburg is entirely appropriate.

As expected, it falls back on MacGregor’s old favourite reasoning – that is to say, the Universal Museum. While what MacGregor describes as Universal Museums may have existed for a long time though, you will not see any mention in the press of such a concept prior to 2002.

We must remember that these so called Universal Museums are entirely self appointed entities. Outside of the new world, almost all have their roots in the era of colonialism & empires. They never asked the permission of the other countries whose artefacts they exhibit. They can only justify it now, through being bigger than the other museums. It is an incredibly elite club & the barriers to entry (both legal & financial) are such that it would be almost important to create similar institutions today.

It is interesting that MacGregor makes much of the loan of the Cyrus Cylinder to Iran – conveniently forgetting that for years the British Museum reneged on a prior reciprocal loan agreement to the infuriation of Iran. The loan only eventually proceeded after Iran threatened to withdraw all cultural cooperation with the museum.

It is clear that the Hermitage has cooperated with the British Museum numerous times in the past, meaning that they are in the institutions good books. However, this is also the case with Greece, that has on regular occasions loaned artefacts & never made any threats to withdraw cooperation in the way that Iran did.

He ends with a justification for the choice of the Parthenon Sculptures (rather than any of the eight million or so (by their own estimation) other items in their collection). This section is where it gets particularly hazy, with the rationale essentially boiling down to the fact that Pericles (under whose instruction the Parthenon was built) was a great statesman who understood the value of being seen as an ambassador abroad. From this vagueness, he jumps straight onto the presumption that “Pericles would applaud the journey of Ilissos to Russia”.

Certainly, there is some slight value to this justification, but the same could be said of many other items in the British Museum’s collection. And if this is seen as a valid reasoning behind a loan, then surely the overwhelming moral & contextual argument of unification presented by Greece presents a far more compelling case?

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

British Museum

December 5, 2014 • 12:15 am
Loan of a Parthenon sculpture to the Hermitage: a marble ambassador of a European ideal
Neil MacGregor, Director, British Museum

The British Museum is a museum of the world, for the world and nothing demonstrates this more than the loan of a Parthenon sculpture to the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg to celebrate its 250th anniversary.

The British Museum opened its doors in 1759, just five years before the Hermitage. Sisters, almost twins, they are the first great museums of the European Enlightenment. But they were never just about Europe. The Trustees of the British Museum were set up by Parliament to hold their collection to benefit not only the citizens of Great Britain, but ‘all studious and curious persons’ everywhere. The Museum today is the most generous lender in the world, sending great Assyrian objects to China, Egyptian objects to India and Iranian objects to the United States – making a reality of the Enlightenment ideal that the greatest things in the world should be seen and studied, shared and enjoyed by as many people in as many countries as possible.
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February 24, 2013

The Koh-i-Noor – Whose history is it a part of & who should own it?

Posted at 7:04 pm in British Museum, Similar cases

David Cameron’s point of view on the return of the Koh-i-noor diamond has had a lot of coverage in recent days. In many ways, the view that he gives is very similar to the line taken by the British Museum on items such as Parthenon Marbles & the Benin Bronzes – that the British are ideally placed to display these artefacts as part of collections from all corners of the globe, where they can be seen by many people. This reasoning always reeks of imperialism to me however – it is an entirely self-appointed role – the artefacts weren’t generally taken with this purpose in mind originally & giving the great museums of the world this role was never something decided by the original owners of the artefacts either. Surely, if the aim is for these works to be seen by as many people as possible, then India would be an ideal location anyway. England may once have been at the centre of the world, but with the rise of the Middle East, South East Asia & China, India is ideally placed to be a hub linking these regions. There is little in reality to link the Koh-i-noor to England, although it should be remembered that is an object that has always moved from place to place. No doubt, one day it will move on, beyond England’s borders, but where it ends up at that stage, is ass yet unknown.

Daily Star (Bangladesh)

Sunday, February 24, 2013
Sunday Pouch
Who owns history, Mr. Cameron?
Ashfaqur Rahman

Last Week, British Prime Minister David Cameron, during his official visit to India, made a disconcerting statement in Amritsar. He said his country would not return the 105 karat Kohinoor diamond, one of the largest in the world, which was taken in 1850 from South Asia as a “gift” to the British monarch Queen Victoria. He reiterated that the “diamond in the Royal Crown is ours.” “I do not believe in returnism, as it were. I don’t think it is sensible. The right answer is that the British Museum and other cultural institutions around the world should make sure that the things which we have and look after so well are properly shared with people around the world,” he said.

The history of the Kohinoor diamond is a fascinating one. It was mined in the thirteenth century in Andhra Pradesh, and was initially in possession of King Prataparudra in that region. Kohinoor stayed with the Mughals for a long time. Emperor Shahjahan affixed it on his Peacock Throne to add glamour to the piece. The Kohinoor fell into difficult times when it was seized by Persian King Nadir Shah when he attacked Delhi.
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November 29, 2012

“Universal Objects” such as Cyrus Cylinder more easily lent to US museums than Iranian ones

Posted at 8:55 am in British Museum, Similar cases

While its great to enable as many people as possible to see iconic ancient artefacts, I have a couple of issues with this. First of all, it seems that a loan to not one, but five different museums can take place with relatively little fuss – yet when it was loaned to Iran (the original owners of the artefact), it was a long drawn out process over a number of years involving threats of legal action and to withdraw other cooperation before finally they were able to receive it.

At the end, Neil MacGregor talks about Universal Objects – clearly, this is the next step on from the Universal Museum, which he is is so fond of. Clearly now, we can have objects, that by association of name, if nothing else, can only be displayed in Universal Museums and are no longer valid for consideration for return to their original owners. As with the Universal Museum concept though, the real issue though, as I have mentioned before, is that the museums claiming to fill this role are entirely self appointed to it. No international committee chose them for this, no others were involved in assigning them to this undertaking.

New York Times

November 27, 2012, 7:00 pm
A British Museum Treasure Will Visit the United States

The Cyrus Cylinder — one of the most famous objects in the British Museum — will travel from its home in London to five museums in the United States next year.

Often referred to as “the first bill of human rights” because its inscription encourages freedom of worship throughout the Persian Empire, it is a small clay object — not quite nine inches long — bearing an account, in Babylonian cuneiform, by Cyrus, the King of Persia of his conquest of Babylon in 539 B.C. The cylinder was found in what was once Babylon, now Iraq, in 1879 during a British Museum excavation and has been on display at the museum ever since. It is one of the most famous objects to have survived from the ancient world.
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March 19, 2012

Should American institutions be more open to cultural property restitution?

Posted at 6:36 pm in Similar cases

Following on from the verdict over the peculiar & opportunistic case for seizure of Iranian artefacts in US museums, this article asks though, whether now is the time for such museums to re-consider the legitimacy of artefacts in the collection.

The Crimson

Cultural Loot
Harvard and others should be more open to art repatriation
By The Crimson Staff
Published: Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Last week, Harvard escaped from a bizarre and potentially damaging lawsuit after federal judge George A. O’Toole, Jr. threw out a request from a group representing victims of Iranian terrorist attacks to seize various Persian artifacts from Harvard. Still awaiting unpaid damages that a U.S. court ruled they were owed by the Iranian government, the group—under the leadership of Jenny Rubin—has recently set its sights on certain artifacts they believe to be the property of the Iranian government. Unfortunately for the plaintiffs, however, these artifacts are held in various collections such as the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute and Harvard’s Peabody Museum, which acquired them long before the Islamic Republic of Iran was established in 1979.

And while Judge O’Toole’s ruling appears in part a straightforward and appropriate rejection of what seems a patently opportunistic attempt to benefit financially from both the tainted reputation of the Iranian regime and a warped view of history, it included a broader stance on the issue surrounding the ownership of formerly stolen artifacts—a controversy in which Harvard’s own position, in our view, warrants a re-evaluation.
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February 1, 2012

Looted artefacts – the disputes over ownership around the world

Posted at 6:00 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles, Similar cases

An interesting look at 10 different cases (some well known, some more obscure) where countries are involved in disputes over the ownership of looted cultural property. Some of the cases have been resolved, but many are still no closer to reaching a conclusion than the day after the artefacts were originally taken.

Business Insider

10 Ancient Artifacts That Countries Are Still Fighting Over
Vivian Giang | Jul. 14, 2011, 7:51 PM

Legendary historical artifacts have traded hands from conquerors to thieves and ended up thousands of miles from their origin.

The question of ownership is extremely murky.

With a black market in looted art worth as much as $6.3 billion a year, the mantra of “finder’s keepers” can be tempting. Past and present owners, however, may claim an object, sometimes leading to disputes and wars between nations.
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December 5, 2011

Iran rejects claims made by Louvre

Posted at 1:47 pm in Similar cases

More coverage of the dispute between Iran & the Louvre in Paris.

Press TV

Iran rejects Louvre Museum claims
Thu Apr 28, 2011 12:34PM

In a statement released on Wednesday, the National Museum of Iran said that a cultural agreement was signed between Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization (ICHTO) and the Louvre Museum on October 31, 2004, under which the two museums were supposed to hold exhibitions in the Iranian and French capitals.

The agreement, which is in English, Persian and French, has clearly stated that the two museums can exchange experts and cooperate in research and educational activities, IRNA reported.
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November 29, 2011

The Cyrus Cylinder returns to the British Museum

Posted at 2:13 pm in British Museum, Similar cases

More coverage of the return of the Cyrus Cylinder to the British Museum following its loan to Iran.


Cyrus the Great’ Cylinder returns to the UK in one piece
Monday, 18 April 2011 18:52

LONDON, (CAIS) — The Cyrus the Great Cylinder, described as the world’s first Charter of Human Rights returned to the British Museum on Monday, following the seven-month loan to the National Museum of Iran (NMI).

The priceless Cylinder arrived in the UK just after the cultural authorities in Iran severed ties with the Louvre over the French museum’s decision not to lend Iranian antiquities to NMI.
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The end of the loan of the Cyrus Cylinder

Posted at 2:10 pm in British Museum, Similar cases

The loan of the Cyrus Cylinder to Iran was always going to be a political issue, in terms of the reasons for Iran requesting it & some of the reasons for Britain’s delay in going ahead with their original offer. The Cylinder has now returned to the British Museum – negating many of the original warnings made about the safety of the artefacts while it was out of the country & the doubts expressed about Iran’s willingness to return it.

Channel 4 News

Monday 18 April 2011
The Persian relic that divides Iran’s leaders

Saturday morning and the British Charge d’Affaires breaks cover to issue a public condemnation of Iran’s human rights record, and urges Tehran to respect its obligations on this score. She does so at the very moment that the Government in Tehran is handing back the most precious artefact to reside beyond Iran’s border.

The Cyrus cylinder has been on loan to Iran – against Foreign Office advice, since September. Hundreds of thousands (Iran claims millions) of people have filed past it – a tiny 2,500-year-old fragment of Persian historic culture laid on a velvet cushion. The relic has cuniform lettering on it and is regarded as one of the very earliest statements of human rights known to mankind. Yesterday saw its return to the custody of the British Museum..where it has lain since it was dug up in babylon in the late 19th century. It will arrive back in its showcase this afternoon.
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November 21, 2011

Iran’s dispute with the Louvre

Posted at 2:18 pm in Similar cases

More coverage of Iran’s dispute with The Louvre. This situation is not dissimilar to the one between Iran & the British Museum over the Cyrus Cylinder in 2010.

The Independent

Iran at odds with France over ancient artworks
By John Lichfield in Paris
Friday, 8 April 2011

Iran has declared a cultural war with one of the world’s largest museums, the Louvre in Paris, which it accuses of reneging on a promise to send part of its collection of ancient Persian artefacts to an exhibition in Tehran.

The Iranian vice president and culture minister, Hamid Baghai, said this week that Tehran was cutting all relations with the museum but he failed to pursue a threat, made in February, to sever all cultural links between Iran and France.
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November 16, 2011

US court rejects Iranian antiquities seizure

Posted at 2:11 pm in Similar cases

More coverage of the US Appeal Court verdict on the seizure of Iranian Artefacts from two Chicago Museums.

Tehran Times

Wednesday, April 6, 2011
U.S. court rejects seizure of Iranian antiquities
Tehran Times Culture Desk

TEHRAN — The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has rejected confiscation of Iran’s 300 Achaemenid clay tablets loaned to the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute in a session on March 29.

In the ruling, the Court of Appeals reversed a lower court’s order that might have handed the artifacts over to several victims of a 1997 terrorist bombing in Israel, the Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies (CAIS) reported last week.
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Iran severs ties with France’s Louvre

Posted at 2:01 pm in British Museum, Similar cases

Iran appears to have carried out its earlier threats to end cooperation with the Louvre, due to unresolved disputes that it has with the museum.

Press TV

Monday Apr 04, 201102:42 PM GMT
Iran severs ties with Louvre Museum
4th april 2011

Iran says it has severed all ties with the Louvre Museum because the French art center has not shown any commitment to the promises it made.

“Based on the agreement between the Louvre and Iran’s Cultural heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization (ICHTO), the museum must hold an exhibition of its ancient artifacts in Iran,” Head of ICHTO Hamid Baqaei told a press conference on Monday.
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