Showing results 13 - 24 of 330 for the tag: Looting.

March 24, 2014

Is buying back disputed artefacts really a solution?

Posted at 6:31 pm in Similar cases

Prompted by the recent articles on China’s attempts to buy back disputed treasures, Kwame Opoku looks at whether or not this approach could ever work for other countries, and the various issues that it raises.

Bronzes looted from the Summer Palace during the Opium Wars

Bronzes looted from the Summer Palace during the Opium Wars

From:
Eurasia Review

China’s Purchase Of Chinese Looted Artifacts: An Example For Other States? – OpEd
March 24, 2014
By Kwame Opoku

‘One day two bandits entered the Summer Palace. One plundered, the other burned. Victory can be a thieving woman, or so it seems. The devastation of the Summer Palace was accomplished by the two victors acting jointly. Mixed up in all this is the name of Elgin, which inevitably calls to mind the Parthenon. What was done to the Parthenon was done to the Summer Palace, more thoroughly and better, so that nothing of it should be left. All the treasures of all our cathedrals put together could not equal this formidable and splendid museum of the Orient. It contained not only masterpieces of art, but masses of jewellery. What a great exploit, what a windfall! One of the two victors filled his pockets; when the other saw this he filled his coffers. And back they came to Europe, arm in arm, laughing away. Such is the story of the two bandits. Before history, one of the two bandits will be called France; the other will be called England’. — Victor Hugo. (1)

These sculptures of a rat head and a rabbit head were among the objects looted in 1860 when French and British soldiers under the command of Lord Elgin sacked the imperial palace in Beijing. The eighth Lord Elgin was the son of the seventh Lord Elgin, who removed the Parthenon Marbles from Athens. These two sculptures have now been returned to China. (2)
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March 4, 2014

Would Britain stop modern day Monuments Men?

Posted at 2:03 pm in Similar cases

The film Monuments Men has already featured a number of times on this site, even prior to the comments by the lead actor about the return of the Parthenon Marbles.

This article looks at whether such an initiative would succeed today. I have to say, that I don’t entirely agree with their conclusions though, as the actions depicted within the film took place largely outside of any existing legal frameworks. This said though, I still struggle to see why Britain refuses to ratify the 1954 Hague Convention on the protection of artefacts during armed conflicts.

Damaged Shiite Mosque outside Samarra, Iraq, 2006

Damaged Shiite Mosque outside Samarra, Iraq, 2006

From:
The Conversation

28 February 2014, 6.04am GMT
British government thwarts modern day Monuments Men

We study the past to understand the present and to help shape the future. A society without a memory is a dysfunctional society. And much of a society’s memory is encapsulated within its cultural property – the physical remains of the past – its books, archives, art, historic buildings and landscapes, and its archaeological sites. Lose that cultural property and you are very close to losing collective memory.

George Clooney stars in and directed The Monuments Men. Critical consensus agrees that it is not a very good film, but it does raise a very important and contemporary topic – the protection of cultural property during conflict.
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February 20, 2014

China’s buy back of looted artefacts continues

Posted at 1:51 pm in Similar cases

While many countries have been arguing for years about disputed artefacts abroad (with little success), China has for some time now taken an additional parallel approach to this. Buying back objects, when the come up for auction is of course something that you can only do if you have the cash reserves to carry out the plan – and the existing owner is planning on selling. The fact that there are so many Chinese artefacts abroad, means that there will always be one that is owned by someone who is planning on selling it (normally at auction).

The whole practise of buying back these works is looked down on by many as it goes a step towards legitimising the original acquisitions. It is something that only a few countries can afford to do – and indeed, in the case of China, it has mainly been undertaken by individuals doing it with the intention of bringing the works back, rather than a concerted effort by the state.

Bronzes looted from the Summer Palace during the Opium Wars

Bronzes looted from the Summer Palace during the Opium Wars

From:
South China Morning Post

Recovery of China’s lost marbles stirs debate
Recovery of relics is increasingly a marker of Beijing’s changing geopolitical clout
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 February, 2014, 6:39pm

China has long sought to recover treasures it says were looted by foreigners, but a tycoon’s US$1.6 million deal for the return of seven white marble columns from Norway is raising unusual debate on the issue.

Critics have openly challenged the motives of real estate developer Huang Nubo, whose donation to the KODE Art Museums of Bergen paved the way for the return of the Old Summer Palace relics, and some argued they should not be “bought back”.
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December 6, 2013

Once wars are over, shouldn’t the spoils of war be returned as an act of reconciliation?

Posted at 2:07 pm in Elgin Marbles, Similar cases

Following David Cameron’s questioning by the Chinese over disputed artefacts in the British Museum, this article looks at some of the other similar cases & how perhaps the ownership of cultural artefacts needs rethinking.

David Cameron signed up on Weibo - a Chinese Social Network

David Cameron signed up on Weibo – a Chinese Social Network

From:
Khaleej Times (UAE)

Render unto Caesar…
6 December 2013

BRITISH PRIME Minister David Cameron’s visit to China has evoked at least one reaction from the Middle Kingdom that is going to find resonance in many parts of the world. It is the demand that Britain return the Chinese national treasures looted by the British Army during the sacking of the Forbidden City following a peasant uprising in the 19th century.

The British Museum alone has 23,000 such trophies lifted after an eight-nation Western troop brutally put down the uprising. Thousands more plundered works of art lie scattered around the world. The British Museum has refused to hand over its ill-gotten gains, claiming they have now become part of world heritage and can be enjoyed by more people if they are in a centrally located place like London. If location is the criterion, then the UAE can lay one of the best claims to housing the looted collection.
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USA returns Mayan frieze to Guatemala, so why shouldn’t Britain return Parthenon Frieze to Greece?

Posted at 9:17 am in Similar cases

The Guatemalan authorities announced that an agreement had been reached with the USA for the return of a carved stone Mayan frieze. This return adds to over 10,500 disputed artefacts already returned to Guatemala from around the world in recent years.

Whilst I always assert that every cultural property dispute is different & should be dealt with on its own terms, it is still easy for anyone to see the parallels between one carved stone frieze & the Frieze from the Parthenon (part of which is currently in the British Museum.

Limestone Mayan Frieze

Mayan frieze returned to Guatemala by USA

From:
iEfimerida (google translated)

The impressive frieze of Maya returned to Guatemala
03/12/2013 14:06

The Guatemalan government officially announced the return of the U.S. giant Mayan frieze dating from the classical period, between 250 and 900 BC. The restoration and maintenance procedures were completed and returned the frieze in the country.

This is a work of art from limestone, which is a height of about 50 cm and was located in the northern province of Peten, a region considered the birthplace of the ancient Mayan civilization.

The last 10 years, Guatemala has recovered more than 10,500 antiquities that were in other countries, such as USA, Germany, Britain and France, after the La Corona and other archaeological sites in the Petén looted in the 19th century.

December 5, 2013

Cameron harangued online via Weibo by Chinese angry about looted artefacts in British Museum

Posted at 7:19 pm in British Museum, Similar cases

Another week, another trade mission abroad by David Cameron. This one has ended similarly to his trip to India, where all the publicity rapidly became focused on demands for the return of the Koh-i-noor diamond.

In this case, it was the various items that were taken from the Summer Palace in Beijing, after it was ransacked by British troops. Large numbers of these aretfacts ended up in the British Museum, although many more of them are scattered across various private collections around the world. In recent years, there has been more than one instance where once has come up for auction.

What adds interest to this story (from the point of view of this website) is the fact that the raiding of the Summer Palace took place under the command of the Eighth Earl of Elgin – the son of the Seventh Earl, who was the Lord Elgin who removed the sculptures from the Parthenon. As a result, these actions of the Eighth Earl are detested just as much by the Chinese, as those of the Seventh Earl are reviled by the Greeks.

Battles between Chinese forces and Allied armies during the suppression of the Boxer rebellion.

Battles between Chinese forces and Allied armies during the suppression of the Boxer rebellion.

From:
The Daily Star (Bangladesh)

Published: Thursday, December 5, 2013
Return our looted treasures
Chinese think-tank tells visiting UK PM
Afp, Beijing

British Prime Minister David Cameron yesterday faced demands for the return of priceless artefacts looted from Beijing in the 19th century, on the last day of his visit to China.
Cameron travelled to the southwestern city of Chengdu on the third day of what embassy officials said was the largest ever British trade mission to the country.
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November 9, 2013

Could UNESCO mediation be a game changer for Greece’s Elgin Marbles issue

Posted at 2:42 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

A few weeks ago, it was publicly announced in Greece, that they would be taking the route of mediation under the UNESCO rules, to resolve the Parthenon Marbles issue.

This move should be supported by all in favour of the return of the Marbles, as it is a step forward from the long period of relatively unclear policy on how to tackle the issue at an international level. It is still unclear what the British Museum / British Government’s decision will be on entering into the process – but if they do not do so, it makes it much clear that they are the uncooperative one out of the two parties, and the one who doesn’t wish to resolve the issue.

British Museum

British Museum

From:
Sydney Morning Herald

Rule changes could end Britain’s game of playing with marbles
November 8, 2013
David Hill

After many years, the dispute between Greece and Britain over the possession of the ancient Parthenon sculptures may be moving towards resolution as a result of a recent change to UNESCO’s rules dealing with stolen cultural property.

A little over 200 years ago Lord Elgin, the British ambassador to Constantinople, stripped about 100 of the beautiful ancient sculptures and fragments from the famous temple on the Athenian Acropolis.
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November 4, 2013

The British desire to conquer the world & bring bits of it home with them

Posted at 7:25 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles, Similar cases

The British Empire, which once covered a large part of the world, was long since dwindled away. The remnants of this empire & immense power are still self evident however if you visit institutions such as the British Museum, which still house many treasures that are the spoils from past imperial conquests. The story here focuses on some pieces from Ireland, but many other countries have similar tales to tell.

Egyptian mummy at the British Museum

Egyptian mummy at the British Museum

From:
Irish Examiner

Stolen moments in British Museum
Monday, November 04, 2013
THE British are peculiar. Their desire to conquer the world has been matched only by their obsession with bringing bits of it home with them.
By Marc O’ Sullivan, Arts Editor

Nowhere is this more evident than in the British Museum in London. Visiting it last week, my eye was drawn to a large slab of stone, about the height and width of a man, perched upon a formal plinth in the Great Court. It bore an inscription in ogham. On a plaque beneath, the crude translation of these elegant notches — read anti-clockwise — disclosed that the slab was originally raised in honour of ‘Vedac, son of Tob of the Sogain’. It was one of three 5th century ogham stones taken from Roovesmoor Rath — a ring fort outside Coachford, in West Cork — by the delightfully named General Augustus Henry Lane-Fox Pitt Rivers. He presented the group to the British Museum in 1866.

Pitt Rivers, who fought in the Crimean War, brought a scientific approach to archaeology. He catalogued all items found on digs, and not just those that seemed valuable, and his attention to detail vastly improved 19th century excavations, which had hitherto been conducted as glorified sackings.
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October 30, 2013

China signs agreement with Cyprus to stop illicit trafficking of artefacts

Posted at 3:49 pm in Similar cases

China & Cyprus are very different countries in many ways. They do however both face problems with looting of archaeological sites, with the spoils from these actions often eventually ending up in auctions abroad.

It is great to see them signing an agreement to clamp down on this, although the idea of countries signing numerous bilateral agreements for an issue such as this clearly does not scale well, when you consider the number of countries involved in similar issues.

Cyprus Communications Minister Tasos Mitsopoulos and China’s Culture deputy-minister Li Xiaojie

Cyprus Communications Minister Tasos Mitsopoulos and China’s Culture deputy-minister Li Xiaojie

From:
Cyprus Mail

October 29, 2013
Cyprus and China agree to safeguard artefacts

Cyprus and China have signed a bilateral agreement to safeguard their archaeological objects and prevent their illicit trading.

Communications Minister Tasos Mitsopoulos and China’s Culture deputy-minister Li Xiaojie signed on Tuesday on behalf of their respective countries a memorandum of cooperation to prevent trading of stolen goods and illicit excavations.
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Netherlands Museums Association sees return of Nazi loot as “moral obligation”

Posted at 3:34 pm in Similar cases

Nazi loot in museums has been a hot topic in recent years for many countries. While some countries are still dragging their heels in terms of any attempts at restitution, it appears that the Netherlands has taken a far more proactive approach & is examining museum collections across the board to identify artworks, along with possible rightful owners.

1921 painting 'Odalisque' by Henri Matisse

1921 painting ‘Odalisque’ by Henri Matisse

From:
Haaretz

Dutch museums identify 139 likely Nazi looted artworks
Paintings by Matisse, Klee and Kandinsky are among works thought to have been taken from Jewish owners during Holocaust.
By The Associated Press | Oct. 29, 2013 | 6:40 PM

Dutch museums announced Tuesday they have found 139 artworks that may have been looted during the Nazi era, including paintings from masters such as Matisse, Klee and Kandinsky.

The major review of all museum collections in the country found art that had either dubious or definitely suspect origins.
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October 28, 2013

Call for an international day for cultural property reparations relating to colonisation

Posted at 12:05 am in Similar cases

Kwame Opoku has forwarded me information about proposals (supported by various organisations in a number of countries) for an International Day for Reparations Related to Colonization.

Regular readers of this website will know that many of the cases discussed here, such as the Benin Bronzes, would fall into this category.

If you would like further information about this, please contact Louis-Georges Tin, the Chairman of the CRAN (Council Representing Black Organisations in France). If you would like to get in touch, please let me know & I can provide you with further contact details.

From:
Kwame Opoku (by email)

Call for the International Day for Reparations Related to Colonization

On October 12, 1492, Christopher Columbus set foot on the so called “New World”,
ushering in a cycle of occupation, violence, genocide and slavery: this was the beginning
of colonization.

Colonization is a global phenomenon: there is hardly a country in the world that has not
been colonized, a colonizer, or both, such as the United States. Colonization is one of the
phenomena that has most disrupted humanity. It has left a deep and lasting impression on
all continents and the consequences of this are
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October 4, 2013

Meeting of the International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures in Athens

Posted at 7:35 pm in Elgin Marbles, International Association

The IARPS (Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures) is meeting in Athens this Sunday, for its member committees to discuss future strategies for the return of the sculptures (I have to start packing my bags ready to fly over there once I’ve finished posting this).

With the recently announced (but planned some time ago) plans to use try & negotiate on the issue using the UNESCO mediation process, it is potentially a pivotal time for the issue, as it is the first time in many years that the Greek Government has been publicly seen to be taking a clear direction on the issue and dealing with it at an international level.

From:
Neos Kosmos

Relaunching the campaign
Parthenon Marbles high on agenda
4 Oct 2013

The Greek Government has reaffirmed its commitment to the campaign for the return of the Parthenon Marbles following the meeting between David Hill, Chairman of the International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures, and the Greek Minister of Culture and Sport, Panos Panagiotopoulos, held in Athens on 23 September.

The call for return of the so-called Elgin collection of Parthenon Sculptures, currently on display in the British Museum, has been at the heart of one of the world’s most celebrated cultural property disputes. In July this year, Mr Panagiotopoulos met with the Director General of UNESCO, Ms Irina Bokova, during which he asked Ms Bokova to bring her personal and institutional influence to bear and initiate formal bilateral discussions, with UNESCO serving as intermediary, with the British Government and (hopefully) the British Museum.

For many years, the UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting the Return of Cultural Property to its Countries of Origin or its Restitution in case of Illicit Appropriation has wrestled with the issue of the Parthenon Sculptures and has tried, without much success, to bring both parties to the table for meaningful negotiations.

Mr Panagiotopoulos indicated that there is a pressing need for a common and coordinated strategy between the International Association, the various overseas committees and other culture-focused international bodies to maintain a sustained campaign for the sculptures’ return. The chairman of the International Association assured Mr Panagiotopoulos that all committees will support the Greek Government on whatever path it chooses to take.

The UNESCO Committee has met regularly over the past decade and on each occasion it has issued similar recommendations, including inviting the Director General to assist in convening the necessary meetings between Greece and the United Kingdom, with the aim of reaching a mutually acceptable solution to the issue of the Parthenon Sculptures. These all too familiar recommendations have failed to produce any real or meaningful dialogue despite UNESCO’s best efforts.

And why has this occurred? For their part, the British delegation (which invariably includes representatives from the British Museum) has consistently stonewalled at these meetings, repeatedly pointing out that the decision rests with the British Museum Trustees and asserting that the marbles tell a different story in London. The British Museum has tried to recast itself as a “universal museum” – as a museum of the world – and in its public relations spin it has referred to the sculptures as “objects” which are best exhibited in different locations (most notably London), rather than being reunited and viewed within the context of the Parthenon.

It is this attitude on the part of the British Museum that the Greek Government, through its renewed request for UNESCO intervention, has to overcome.
If this initiative fails, then the Greeks will need to consider alternative strategies, including litigation.

The various international committees will meet in Athens this month to discuss the current state and future direction of the campaign. The Culture Minister has promised to address the delegates on that occasion. It is hoped that a more positive outcome is within reach.