Showing results 1 - 12 of 79 for the tag: Neil MacGregor.

December 14, 2014

Other Parthenon Marbles loans planned – Russia is just the start

Posted at 9:31 am in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

In a move calculated to rachet up levels of Greek anger, Neil MacGregor has indicated that the loan of one of the Parthenon Sculptures to Russia is just the start of a larger plan.

Far from being the only time that one of the Parthenon Sculptures will leave the British Museum, he sees this as just the start, with them being lent to other institutions around the world. Apparently, some talks with other museums are already underway.

It seems that MacGregor is desperate to try & prove to Greece that if you [play by his rules, then anyone who asks is free to borrow one of the centrepieces of the British Museum’s collection. The question remains though – why should Greece stoop down & make concessions that they believe to be untrue, weakening their own case, while at the same time the British Museum concedes nothing.

Parthenon Marbles in British Museum

Parthenon Marbles in British Museum

From:
Daily Telegraph

British Museum to send more Elgin Marbles abroad despite Greek anger
Museum director Neil MacGregor says “conversations are in train” about loaning more disputed Parthenon masterpieces to world museums
By Tom Parfitt, St Petersburg
5:40PM GMT 06 Dec 2014

The director of the British Museum has said it is already in talks to loan more Elgin Marbles to foreign museums.

Neil MacGregor told The Telegraph that the negotiations would continue despite the angry reaction from the government of Greece this week when it emerged that the museum was lending one of the Marbles – a headless statue of the river god, Ilissos – to the State Hermitage in St Petersburg, Russia.
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Against return of Marbles to Greece, but against loan to Russia

Posted at 9:18 am in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

Neil MacGregor believes that everyone, Greeks & British alike, should be enthused with his decision to loan a Parthenon Sculpture to Russia.

It seems though, that even those who have in the past argued against the return of the sculptures to Greece, also believe that the loan to Russia is ill thought out.

Visitors look at a sculpture from the Parthenon marbles at the Hermitage in St Petersburg, Russia

Visitors look at a sculpture from the Parthenon marbles at the Hermitage in St Petersburg, Russia

From:
The Scotsman

06 December 2014
Comment: Elgin marbles are not political pawns
by TIFFANY JENKINS

“A HIGHLY provocative, unfortunate and very rude gesture”, is how David Hill, from the campaign to return the Elgin Marbles to Greece, described, on the Today programme, the loan of one of the sculptures to the State Hermitage Museum in Russia.

It’s not often news about old marble hits the headlines, but these 2,500-year-old sculptures, taken by the Scot, Thomas Bruce, seventh Earl of Elgin and 11th Earl of Kincardine, are exceptional – the greatest works of art in human history.
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December 13, 2014

Supporters of the British Museum’s Russian Marbles loan

Posted at 1:12 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

Continuing my coverage of the loan of a Parthenon sculpture to Russia by the British Museum, here are some of the articles that express support for this move.

They range from the incorrect and naive (Dominic Selwood). Does anyone really believe that if the Greeks did what the British Museum asked then the marbles would return just like that? Firstly, there is the question of why they should endorse an assertion that they fundamentally believe is untrue. But, there is also the suspicion that when dealing with the British Museum, you are pressured to relinquish some of your position, yet end up getting nothing in return. Mr Selwood also seems to be forgetting how badly his point of view is out of synch with public opinion – as evidenced by the catastrophically low levels of endorsement of his arguments in a recent Prospect Magazine poll.

Next come the barking mad – in this instance represented by London’s mayor Borris Johnson, who has regularly in the past chosen to express how much he loves the marbles being in the British Museum, purely for his own benefit so that he can visit them more easily.

Finally there is the the indignant – incredulous querying of why the Greeks do not support this move in the same way as the British museum does, followed by tales of how they should be proud of it rather than complaining. Fairly predictably, this argument is represented its creator, Neil MacGregor. I’m sure that in the days when Britain had an empire, that this approach of telling people to feel thankful might have worked. Those days are long since gone though and countries and their peoples are more than capable of forming their own opinions on topics, without needing to take into account the instructions of those who believe the viewpoint they hold is somehow superior.

Looking at the source of the bulk of these articles, it could almost be argued though, that they are all merely manifestations of the Daily Telegraph viewpoint – that the Marbles must stay, so therefore any argument that backs this is therefore a valid one.

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:
Daily Telegraph

The Greeks can have the Elgin Marbles any time they like – if they play by the rules
The decision to lend a piece of the Elgin Marbles to Russia has nothing to do with Greece’s absurd campaign for their return
By Dominic Selwood
3:47PM GMT 05 Dec 2014

Today, everyone should be celebrating, including the Greeks. The Trustees of the British Museum have lent Russia’s stupendous State Hermitage Museum the statue of Ilissos, one of the jewels of the Parthenon sculptures. It is a new chapter in the history of these amazing sculptures, and one that underscores the promotion of education, culture, and understanding that the British Museum has always undertaken with its collections. Now citizens of Russia can also experience the wonder of this exquisite ancient art. This is a great day for Britain, Russia, and Greece.

The decision to lend the sculptures to Russia should not be seen as having anything to do with Greece’s claims over them. Despite the ongoing barrage of emotive complaints from supporters of the repatriation of the sculptures to Greece, the fact is that there is nothing that puts the British Museum’s Parthenon sculptures into a special heritage category. World museums routinely hold and exhibit artefacts from other countries. It is what they are there for, and is at the heart of their educational purpose. Stolen or illegitimate antiquities are required to be returned. Legitimate acquisitions can remain. No one seriously doubts that the Parthenon sculptures are the legal possession of the British Museum.
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December 11, 2014

Can Russia be trusted to return Parthenon sculpture to Britain?

Posted at 1:06 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

This post continues my thematic reproduction of articles on the recent loan of a Parthenon sculpture to the Hermitage in St Petersburg by the British Museum.

The gist of these three articles is whether or not Putin’s Russia can be trusted to return the sculpture to Britain. Beyond that starting point though, the argument can follow various possible routes.

A lot of the reasoning here is directed at Russia rather than the Hermitage – however, in many cases, if a country wants to over-ride the wishes of its museums, it can do so fairly easily.

There are various other possible arguments that have not been put forward in these articles. One possible line of thinking is that Russia might return the sculpture to Greece – in order to gain an ally in the EU. The two countries have in common their heritage of Orthodox Christianity, but that is about as far as it goes. If Greece was to push for, or accept such an offer, it might well jeopardise their future bids to retrieve the remainder of the sculptures in the British Museum, so would not necessarily be in their interest.

Putin has in the past displayed clear support for the reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures in Athens, stating that “The Greeks are trying to bring back what belongs not only to them but to all humanity. This shows that your efforts are to your [the Greeks] credit and we [the Russians] will support you in this.“. He also noted that “various conquerors had attempted to remove and appropriate parts of the Parthenon” which was “one of the most outstanding monuments of humanity

I have to say though, that past experience with some of the news sources involved here leads me to doubt the likelihood of some of these stories actually turning out to be any more than just speculation.

On a separate note, it is disappointing (but not surprising) to see that Neil MacGregor continues to make the assertion that Greece has never asked for a loan of the sculptures – something that has already been proved incorrect by this post I made a few days ago.

It is also interesting to see that the Director of the Hermitage, Mikhail Piotrovskiy, describes the loan as an important artistic and political gesture. This directly contradicts what the British Museum told me on twitter – that “Being independent of government, we work directly with museums so that dialogues can develop free from political considerations“. So is what they are doing a political gesture or not? I think most would argue that whether or not it is the intention to deny political involvement, this doesn’t necessarily make the gesture apolitical.

Visitors look at a sculpture from the Parthenon marbles at the Hermitage in St Petersburg, Russia

Visitors look at a sculpture from the Parthenon marbles at the Hermitage in St Petersburg, Russia

From:
Daily Mail

Fears raised that Elgin Marbles sculpture sent to Russia ‘won’t be sent back’ – as British Museum claims Greece has never formally asked for them to be returned
By Jenny Awford for MailOnline
Published: 11:49, 6 December 2014 | Updated: 15:32, 6 December 2014

Fears are growing for the safety of part of the Elgin marbles loaned to Russia, as British museum trustees admitted they were worried the sculpture might not come back.

The unveiling of the headless statue of Greek river-god Ilissos at the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg yesterday prompted a furious diplomatic row with Greece.
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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

From:
Independent

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

From:
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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British Museum can loan Parthenon Marbles, just not to Greece

Posted at 1:03 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

There are so many things wrong with this story that it is hard to know where to start. It seems that MacGregor is absolutely intent in snubbing Greece at all costs, to ingratiate the other so called Universal Museums of the world.

Grumpy art Historian has already written a good piece highlighting some of the many anachronisms with this approach.

It seems that the British Museum is currently more willing to lend artefacts to countries that regularly endorse the actions of terrorist groups (Iran) and countries that directly support rebel groups who blow up civilian airliners (Russia) than it is to lend to Greece.

In the past, Greece has made much of the benefits of its approach that involves quiet diplomacy to try & resolve the issue, but as time goes on, it becomes clear that this is not really moving things forward at all. There do not appear to be any rewards for good behaviour in this game.

I imagine that Britain’s & Russia’s museums will get on quite well together, afterall, Russia also has large amounts of disputed artworks, acquired during a variety of different means.

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:
Guardian

Parthenon marbles loaned to Russian museum
Chris Johnston
Friday 5 December 2014 00.55 GMT

Part of the Parthenon marbles have been allowed to leave Britain for the first time through a loan of a sculpture to a Russian museum.

The headless statue of a Greek river-god, Ilissos, will go on display in the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg on Friday to help celebrate the institution’s 250th anniversary.
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November 14, 2014

Neil MacGregor on the Parthenon Marbles – Greece responds

Posted at 11:40 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

Following Kwame Opoku’s reponse to British Museum Director Neil MacGregor’s recent comments on the Parthenon Marbles, the Greek Ministry of Culture have also forwarded me their own response, highlighting the many inaccuracies & inconsistencies in MacGregor’s interview.

Parthenon Marbles in British Museum

Parthenon Marbles in British Museum

From:
Greek Ministry of Culture (by email)

Response to comments made by Neil MacGregor in an interview in the Times on 7th November

1. UNESCO, which has invited the Greek and the British Governments to take part in a mediation process to resolve the issue, is an intergovernmental organization. However, the Trustees of the British Museum are not part of the British government. It is the Trustees and not the Government that own the great cultural collections of the country.

UNESCO is indeed an intergovernmental organization. It is hard to believe that a Government would discuss an issue it does not have competence on. It is hard to believe that if there were political will from the UK for the return of the Marbles to Greece the BM would resist this will. Negotiations conducted all those years with the good services of UNESCO were between the two States (Greece and the UK). Yet, a BM representative was always there. In any case the links at all levels between the BM and the UK Government are well known. Returns have already been effected in Britain on the basis of changes in the law such as the enactment of the Human Tissue Act 2004. This Act enabled the return of human remains located in UK museum collections (under the same status as the one applying to the Marbles). Those were unethically removed from Australian Aboriginals, New Zealand Maori and Native Americans and were returned to their countries of origin. In this light persistence in formalities can only be used as an evasion of the real issue.
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November 7, 2014

British Museum boss: Parthenon Marbles acquisition was legal

Posted at 2:47 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

No one expects the British Museum to just suddenly acquiesse on the issue of the Parthenon Sculptures. Even by their own standards though, some of what is in the latest interview with their Director, Neil MacGregor, is pushing the bounds of credibility.

Now – to the best of my knowledge, the only firman (or permit) that Elgin ever managed to show to anyone (in Italian translation) stated that he had permission to make measure, sketch & make casts of the sculptures and buildings on the site. It also stated that they could dig up inscribed blocks that might have been preserved in the rubble. Some of the Parthenon Sculptures may fall into this category, but the vast majority were sawn from the building by Elgin. The firman is fairly specific in its wording regarding taking casts, so it seems that it would be an odd omission to describe other things in such detail, but not to mention that he was also allowed to remove large chunks of the ancient monument & saw it apart to remove the sculptures from it. On this basis alone, I think it would be safe to say that the legality of the removal is called into question.

Neil MacGregor however seems to see things a different way – and he believes that most other people do too. He asks himself “Was the acquisition legal?” and then immediately responds “I think everybody would have to agree that it was.” Hearing things such ass this only helps to convince me that a major change of tactics is needed if the sculptures are to return to Greece any time soon. When the institution that holds them is so emphatically certain that they are right, it is hard to start any sort of serious negotiations.

MacGregor falls on a peculiar fallacy, that because it took a long time to remove the sculptures (this is true & well documented), that therefore lots of people must have seen him do it & therefore as he was not stopped, what was doing must have been legal. If a criminal used this as a defence today, we wouldn’t use it as evidence of the legality of their actions though – merely that they were adept at avoiding getting caught.

It is clear from his statements that the British Museum has no fear of the UNESCO mediation request – they believe that UNESCO should deal only with governments, so it does not apply to them. The British Government will of course take the line that it is not the decision for the government can make, and note that the responsibility falls to the Trustees of the British Museum. This is a true assessment of things – but if the government had a will to do something, I’m sure they would not be adverse to leaning on the Trustees & trying to get them to deal with the issue.

MacGregor also highlights another major stumbling block (although I’m sure that he does not see it this way), that Greece must acknowledge that the British Museum is the legal owner of the sculptures, before any negotiations can begin. As a large part of Greece’s claim rests on the fact that the marbles were not legally acquired, then to state that they were before any negotiations would be a disaster. Why would they want to relinquish a big chunk of their arguments before they even start? If the same thing happened in trials over the ownership of Nazi loot, there would be a public outcry.

Throwing one final stone over his parapet, MacGregor shows that the museum is entirely remorseless on the issue (or perhaps entirely misunderstands the issue), stating that even if Elgin was to do the same now, it would still be legal by the standards of the museum. Using as an example (an entirely different situation of) archaeological digs in Sudan, where they have been invited to excavate by the authorities. To understand just how spurious this example is, note that:
1. The government of Sudan is not seen by Britain to be an occupying power.
2. The permits & what they allow them to do / not do, are presumably carefully documented, checked by various lawyers & certified copies filed away somewhere securely.
3. The terms of the permits are presumably adhered to, without massive ad-hoc undocumented changes to the mission.

I’m sure if I looked into it in more detail, many more details would show just what a ridiculous comparison is being made here.

British Museum Director Neil MacGregor

British Museum Director Neil MacGregor

From:
The Times

Neil MacGregor: ‘There is no possibility of putting the Elgin Marbles back’
Richard Morrison
Published at 12:01AM, November 7 2014

The British Museum director explains why the Parthenon Sculptures will not be returned to Greece during his tenure

If he’s a man under pressure he seems blithely unaware of it. At precisely 8.58am last Tuesday morning a dapper 68-year-old docks his Boris bike and walks through the great gates of his institution, which are still closed to the public. “Morning, Neil,” says the security guard. “Gentleman from The Times waiting to see you.” The director of the British Museum has arrived for work.
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February 26, 2013

Bronze age gold cape to return to Wales on loan

Posted at 1:59 pm in British Museum, Similar cases

More coverage of the return (on loan) of the Mold Cape, planned to take place later this year. This is not the first tie that the cape has been returned on loan – a previous exhibition of it in Wrexham took place in 2005.

From:
BBC News

23 February 2013 Last updated at 11:07
Mold gold cape to be displayed in Cardiff and Wrexham museums

A unique ceremonial Bronze Age gold cape which was discovered in Flintshire 180 years ago is to go on display in Cardiff and Wrexham this summer.

The Mold Gold Cape, thought to have been a woman’s, will be loaned first to the National Museum in Cardiff in July.
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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.

From:
New York Times

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

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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July 25, 2012

Looted treasures returned to Afghanistan by the UK

Posted at 1:14 pm in British Museum, Similar cases

More coverage of the artefacts returned to Afghanistan, after being seized in the UK.

From:
The Hindu

U.K. returns artefacts to Afghanistan
LONDON, July 20, 2012
Hasan Suroor

More than 800 historic artefacts — stolen from museums in Afghanistan some 20 years ago and smuggled abroad — have been returned to Kabul with help from the British Museum.

They include: a rare sculpture of Buddha, pieces of the Begram Ivories dating back to the 1st century B.C., Bronze Age carvings and medieval Islamic coins.
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