Showing results 13 - 24 of 464 for the tag: Restitution.

March 22, 2014

Lessons learned from Agudas Chasidei Chabad v. Russian Federation, et al.

Posted at 7:10 pm in Similar cases

I have mentioned previously about the dispute between the Chabad Jews & Russia, over the requests for the return of two disputed collections of books & manuscripts.

A few days ago, I came across this interesting review of the current state of the case (which still remains a long way from being resolved. Now, although I don’t believe the courts of the District of Columbia were being particularly sensible in some of their judgements on the case, there are many things that can be learned from it.

In many cases involving cultural property restitution claims, there is a split between those who feel that the case should be settled by diplomatic means, and those who believe it should be settled through legal action. The reality however isn’t so simple. In many cases, the ideal option would be to use informal negotiations to solve the issue, but what happens when this doesn’t work? If the party currently holding the disputed artefacts feels that they are in a comfortable situation & feels their ownership is secure, what reason is there for them to want to enter into some sort of negotiations where the aim of the other party is clearly to take back the artefact. One might suggest, that moral obligations or overwhelming public opinion ought to be enough of a lever, to start negotiations, but the number of well founded restitution cases that continue to be stonewalled by large institutions around the world shows that this is often not the case.

It is clear that sometimes, more is needed, at least as a catalyst to start serious negotiations. Italy was pressing for years for the return of such items as the Euphonios Krater from the Metropolitan Museum, but was only successful once the threat of legal action made the Met enter into serious negotiations. Legal actions is far from the only way of doing this however. Other countries such as Iran and Egypt have experienced success, following threats to withdraw cooperation with the countries or institutions in question.

What all this is leading to, is that whether or not we feel it is the right approach to take, legal action is sometimes going to be taken as a means to resolve restitution cases. Legal action can take many possible forms, and if you got five sets of lawyers in the room, each would have different ideas about how to approach a specific case. What this case goes to show though, is that depending on the circumstances, even if one wins the legal case, the means of enforcing such wins in international disputes are limited. In the case discussed in this article, the Chabad Jews won the case, the court has tried (albeit in a somewhat presumptuous / naive way) to enforce the ruling (and risked creating a major diplomatic incident in the process), but has so far been unsuccessful in progressing things beyond the status quo at the outset of the case. Russia still holds onto the manuscripts & still appears completely dis-inclined to consider returning them.

What is needed in such cases is an international forum of some sort (if it is legal action we are talking about, this would have to be a court, but there are other options). There are already the precedent of international courts, such as the International Criminal Court in the Hague, but the reality is that the handle only very specific cases & cultural property falls far outside their remit.

Within the Europe, there are two additional options (that have as yet been unexplored by Greece), the European Court of Human Rights & the European Court of Justice. Organisations such as UNESCO form another possible entity that could oversee the Adjudication of cultural property claims, and it is through their mandated mediation process that Greece hopes to solve the dispute over the Parthenon Sculptures. The key issue here however is that there is no obligations for countries to enter into the mediation process. At present, to the best of my knowledge, Greece has had no luck in getting Britain to actually enter into the mediation with them.

At least among advocates of the return of the Parthenon Sculptures, legal action continues to be a divisive issue, although I believe that to an extent, this is because people worry about the risks it might also carry & sometimes because they do not fully understand the nature of the tools available to them. Where cases can not be moved forward by diplomatic means though, other options are needed, and this is one of the clearest paths to take in such instances.

One of the manuscripts requested by the Chabad Jews

One of the manuscripts requested by the Chabad Jews

From:
American Society of International Law

Reviewing the Agudas Chasidei Chabad v. Russian Federation, et al. Dispute
March 19, 2014 Volume: 18 Issue: 8

Introduction
Nationalization of looted property continues to trigger international legal disputes. It has been almost nine decades since the Lubavitch Chasidim or Chabad Chasidim (Chabad), a Jewish religious entity, began the quest to reconstitute its collection of sacred books and manuscripts currently held by the Russian Federation.[1] While Chabad is now a New York incorporated entity, it has strong roots in the Russian Empire from which it emerged.[2] This litigation highlights the challenges in resolving historical disputes against a foreign sovereign in national courts.

The property contested in Agudas Chasidei Chabad v. Russian Federation, et al. consists of a library with more than 12,000 works dating back to the 1770s (Library) and an archive of over 25,000 pages of Chabad Rebbes’ documents (Archive).[3] Collectively, they are referred to as “the Collection” in court proceedings.[4] Chabad considers the Collection to be sacred and the Archives to be an “essential legacy . . . something concrete that . . . incorporates in itself both the sanctity, the very presence, the very personality of the Rebbe himself.”[5]
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February 27, 2014

The Parthenon Marbles & the National Gallery director

Posted at 2:06 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

I don’t quite know what to make of this article. On the one hand he’s saying that the Parthenon Marbles could return to Greece, which is great. On the other hand though, he is saying that they must not become pawns of political exploitation & that the issue over where they belong must not become an obsession. Its hard to see how these can be separated out though – its almost saying that they would only be returned if Greece wasn’t really interested in them.

He then talks about how they would not be displayed on the monument – but this is not something that anyone has sensibly proposed for a long time now. The New Acropolis Museum was designed & constructed especially for this purpose & the way in which it relates to the original building has already been discussed many times on this site.

National Gallery director Nicholas Penny

National Gallery director Nicholas Penny

From:
Greek Reporter

Great Britain Challenges Greece on Elgin Marbles
by Iro-Anna Mamakouka – Feb 24, 2014

The director of London’s National Gallery, Nicholas Penny, is challenging Greece once more on the issue of the Parthenon’s Marbles, suggesting that Greece and Britain share them.

According to him, the British Museum has recognized to some extent, the profound importance that the Marbles have for Greece and that lending the Marbles to the Greek state is under discussion as long as they do not become pawns of political exploitation.
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February 25, 2014

When will UK respond to Parthenon Marbles mediation request

Posted at 2:13 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

Greece’s requests for mediation through UNESCO over the return of the Parthenon Marbles were made in early October 2013, but so far there has been no response from the British Museum or British Government.

Now, the International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures has written to the Prime Minister, Foreign Secretary & Culture Secretary, along with the Trustees of the British Museum, imploring them to take this request seriously.

UNESCO logo

UNESCO logo

From:
International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures

Dear Prime Minster

Last week the Guardian published the results of a poll that showed 88% of respondents believe Britain should return the Parthenon Sculptures to Greece. The poll is consistent with all the other surveys in recent years that demonstrate overwhelming British public support on this issue.

The widespread support for the return of the Marbles is not limited to the British public. There are now volunteer organisations in 16 countries that have been formed to support the claim for the sculptures to be returned; in Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Britain, Canada, Cyprus, Finland, Germany, Italy, New Zealand, Russia, Serbia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the USA. (partheononinternational.org)

As you would be aware, last year the Director General of UNESCO, Irini Bokova, wrote to your Government requesting that Britain agree to participate in a UNESCO process of mediation to settle the dispute over the Parthenon Sculptures.

There are strong moral arguments for Britain to accept the UNESCO mediation initiative that would allow the issue of the Parthenon Sculptures to be resolved in a spirit of cooperation, good will and friendship, with both sides being able to respect each other’s sensitivities.

We are also confident that in a mediation process there would be the opportunity for the British Museum to explore mutually beneficial arrangements with Greece involving the return of the Marbles that would leave the British Museum in a stronger position than at present.

Accordingly, I would urge you to support the British participation in the proposed UNESCO mediation process.

I will next be in London in March and would very much like the opportunity of meeting with you to discuss the matter.

Yours sincerely

David Hill
Chairman

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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February 11, 2014

Bill Murray & Matt Damon also support Marbles return

Posted at 10:57 pm in Elgin Marbles

George Clooney has today re-stated his comments made a few days ago about the return of the Parthenon Marbles. This is in part prompted by the response by John Whittingdale of the DCMS Select Committee, who implied that being from the US, rather than the UK, Clooney probably did not know what he was talking about & did not fully understand the issue.

Today, Clooney’s support was also echoed by two of the other stars of the film – Bill Murray & Matt Damon, who came out in support of the issue at today’s press conference, where Clooney remarked that the subject was something that needed an open discussion.

An open discussion (or indeed any form of discussion) is something that campaigners have encouraged the British Museum to take part in for years. At present, it continues to issue press releases, or ignore the issue & hope it will disappear, while what is needed is a proper attempt by all parties to tackle the issue – something that the currently proposed UNESCO mediation process is intended to achieve.

In an issue, where in the past many museum professionals have spoken out in support of return, only to later backtrack, it is great that Clooney has taken the time to read up some more about the issue & to double check that his understanding of the facts was correct, before then re-stating that he still believes exactly what he said previously.

Finally, there is a peculiar response from the shadow culture minister, Helen Goodman, at the end of the Article, where she says: “How would George Clooney feel if he could only act in American films shown in the US?” If anybody can explain to me what on earth she is on about here, I’d love to have this point clarified.

Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman and George Clooney

Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman and George Clooney

From:
Guardian

George Clooney, Bill Murray and Matt Damon back return of Elgin marbles
Hollywood actors say Greek sculptures have had a “very nice stay” in Britain but should be returned
Mark Brown and Helena Smith in Athens
The Guardian, Tuesday 11 February 2014 20.44 GMT

They came to promote a film showing how millions of artworks were rescued and returned to their rightful owners after plunder by the Nazis. But George Clooney, Bill Murray and Matt Damon left implying that Britain, too, needed to have a long, hard, look at itself.

The Hollywood actors had become embroiled in one of the fiercest of all heritage controversies: should the Elgin marbles, removed from the Parthenon 200 years ago, be housed in London or in Athens?
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January 20, 2014

IARPS support for the UNESCO mediation process to resolve the Marbles deadlock

Posted at 11:13 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles, International Association

The International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures has expressed to David Cameron, the need for Britain to support the request from UNESCO for mediation on the Parthenon Sculptures issue.

From:
IARPS

A letter from the IARPS to the British Prime Minister

The Rt Hon David Cameron MP
10 Downing Street
London
SW1A 2AA

Dear Prime Minister

I am writing to draw your attention to the world wide support for the Parthenon Sculptures held in the British Museum to be returned to Greece.
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December 6, 2013

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.

November 4, 2013

Cycling from the British Museum to the Acropolis in support of the reunification of the Parthenon Marbles

Posted at 7:54 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

Italian Luca Lo Sicco plans to cycle from the British Museum in London to the steps of the Acropolis, to raise awareness for the plight of the Parthenon Sculptures.

He is not the first person to travel this route however, as Marbles Reunited & BCRPM member Dr Chris Stockdale completed a similar expedition in 2005.

Luca Lo Sicco

Luca Lo Sicco

From:
Kathimerini (English Edition)

Monday November 4, 2013
Cycling the continent for a monumental cause
By Alexander Clapp

Greece’s bid to reclaim the Parthenon Marbles is about to be taken for a ride. To raise awareness for the repatriation of Greece’s most prized historical relics, Dr Luca Lo Sicco plans to bike next July from the steps of the British Museum in London to the entrance of the Acropolis Museum in Athens. “I strongly feel that there is a moral duty to return to the Marbles to Athens,” writes Sicco, who is currently a professor of fashion at the University of Southampton. “The recent way that certain countries – England, Germany – have been attacking Greece and its crisis is deeply unfair. The European Union is a family. We should be supportive of each other’s difficulties – difficulties that, in this instance, were caused by bankers and corrupt politicians.”

Lord Elgin infamously swiped the Parthenon friezes in the years 1801-12. His original intention was to take plaster casts of the temple’s pediments. Under the auspices of the Ottoman Empire, which then ruled Greece, Elgin proceeded to saw off the temple’s sculptures and transport them back to England. The legality of his actions was dubious even in the 19th century. Until his death in 1841, Elgin insisted that his efforts were necessary for preserving what remained of the Parthenon’s statuary. In his own words:
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Dallas Museum of Art returns disputed artefacts to Italy in exchange for loan of other items

Posted at 7:43 pm in Similar cases

Back in 2002, Greek Culture Minister, Evangelos Venizelos made a proposal for how the return of the Parthenon Sculptures could be facilitated.

There were a number of aspects to Venizelos’s proposal, one of them being that Greece would offer various other artefacts to the British Museum on loan, in exchange for the return of the Marbles. This would give the museum new artefacts to display, drawing in more visitors, while Greece would get the Parthenon Sculptures back. A win-win situation.

A number of exchanges similar to what was proposed have now taken place in the years since then, Mainly between institutions in the US & Italy.

Past exchanges with Italy involved the threat of legal action, but this one took place entirely voluntarily.

Treasures from the Spina necropolis

Treasures from the Spina necropolis

From:
NBC Dallas Fort Worth

Italy Loans Dallas Museum of Art Installation After Looted Antiquities Returned
Thursday, Oct 31, 2013 | Updated 12:28 PM CDT

The Dallas Museum of Art has agreed to return six antiquities that were looted illegally from Italy. In return, Italy is loaning the DMA an art installation.

In exchange, Italy is loaning the Dallas museum treasures from the Spina necropolis (pictured, above) housed at the Ferrara archaeological museum.
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October 30, 2013

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 25, 2013

Lord Elgin, boxing & the art of re-imagining the Parthenon Sculptures as integrally British

Posted at 5:52 pm in Elgin Marbles, Similar cases

This article looks at a lot of interesting aspects in a period of the life of the Parthenon Sculptures that is often glossed over. After they first arrived in Britain, some time elapsed before they were finally purchased by the British government. As this article explains, during this time, Elgin did everything he could to try & raise the profile of them & hype them up (after declaring them as of “little or no value” for customs purposes.

I am not sure about some of the conclusions however – I don’t know whether anyone really believed that they were taking the Marbles for their protection. This was more a justification that was post rationalised, because it sounded so much more palatable to the public, than the reality of taking them to decorate a house. Later, the same argument appealed to the British Museum, when in reality, they were most interested in adding a significant work to their collection & thus stopping anyone else from getting it.

View of Parthenon Frieze by Alma Tadema

View of Parthenon Frieze by Alma Tadema

From:
Open Democracy

The Parthenon Marbles and British national identity
Fiona Rose-Greenland 25 October 2013

Today, the British Museum’s Trustees argue that the Parthenon sculptures are “integral to the Museum’s purpose as a world museum telling the story of human cultural achievement.” But what does history tell us?

This article is part of an occasional series on ‘The Political Aesthetics of Power and Protest,’ the subject of a one-day workshop held at the University of Warwick in September, 2012. Democracy, since it does not function through command or coercion, requires instead a constant renewal of sets of symbols – symbols which appeal to people and instill in them a sense of belonging and identification. Increasing disenchantment and disillusion with the state, with political institutions, their practices and performance, makes it more important to explore the place of this aestheticisation of political language, the aesthetics of protest as well as of power.

But most the modern Pict’s ignoble boast,
To rive what Goth, and Turk, and Time hath spared:
Cold as the crags upon his native coast,
His mind as barren and his heart as hard,
Is he whose head conceived, whose hand prepared,
Aught to displace Athena’s poor remains:
Her sons too weak the sacred shrine to guard,
Yet felt some portion of their mother’s pains,
And never knew, till then, the weight of Despot’s chains. (XII)

Cold is the heart, fair Greece! that looks on thee,
Nor feels as lovers o’er the dust they loved;
Dull is the eye that will not weep to see
Thy walls defaced, thy mouldering shrines removed
By British hands, which it had best behoved
To guard those relics ne’er to be restored.
Curst be the hour when from their isle they roved,
And once again thy hapless bosom gored,
And snatched thy shrinking gods to northern climes abhorr’d! (XV)

Lord Byron, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage. Second Canto (1812)

What is happening with the Parthenon sculptures, also known as the Elgin Marbles and widely lauded as the jewel in the crown of the British Museum?

When the new Acropolis Museum opened in Athens in June 2009, the British Museum faced unprecedented pressure to return the sculptures to Greece. Intellectuals, elected officials, and ordinary citizens weighed in, with public opinion apparently in favour of giving them back. It looked as though Museum officials might finally relent. The issue was back on the public agenda in June 2012, in a repatriation debate between Stephen Fry and MP Tristram Hunt, and again this month in a speech by Henry Porter in which he urged that returning the sculptures would be the right thing to do.
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