James Cuno has tarred just about anyone asking for the return of artefacts as a nationalist retentionist. He argues that many of the artefacts in question were formed by different nations from those currently located in the same geographic region that are asking for the pieces to be returned. Whilst this may be true though, this makes for a fairly weak case in justifying their retention in somewhere such as New York or London, as they were clearly never produced with these locations in mind either.
Up to this point, Cuno can be seen as merely misguided in his reasoning. The question is though, whether something far more insidious is taking place in his arguments & that Cuno is himself a nationalist retentionist, who plays by a different set of rules to those that he applies to the actions of others.
IS JAMES CUNO A “NATIONALIST RETENTIONIST”?
Written by Dr. Kwame Opoku
Friday, 04 July 2008
James Cuno, Director, Art Institute of Chicago, has become known for his constant attacks on those he terms “nationalist retentionists” and who, according to him, pretend to be successors to ancient civilizations and inheritors of their cultural objects with which they have no real connections except that these objects happen to be within the territories of the present nation States.
In his recent book, Who owns Antiquity? Cuno declares: “What is the relationship between, say, modern Egypt and the antiquities that were part of the land’s Pharaonic past? The people of modern-day Cairo do not speak the language of the ancient Egyptians, do not practice their religion, do not make their art, wear their dress, eat their food, or play their music, and do not adhere to the same kind of laws or form of government the ancient Egyptians did.”(1)
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