Showing results 1 - 12 of 26 for the month of October, 2006.

October 29, 2006

Three perspecitves on deacessioning

Posted at 2:18 pm in Similar cases

The three articles below all appeared within a relatively short space of time & show how much opinion on the merits of deaccessioning varies.

In the first article, a Geneva Museum is trying to sell two ancient manuscripts in order to raise additional funds for the museum. So far, the issues have been dealt with in a secretive way which has heightened the amount of negative opinion. While in an ideal world the museum would keep the manuscripts, selling them enables them to ensure the continued preservation of many other items in their collection. In my opinion, while this sale is not necessarily a good thing, it is not a bad thing either.

In the second article, The Victoria & Albert Museum is considering leasing items in their collection (but not on display) to raise money. Generally people seem of the opinion that this is a good idea – although the only real difference with the first case is that the items are to be leased rather than sold. The intention of raising funds for the institution is almost identical. As these paintings are not on display anyway, it would appear that the only detrimental aspect that people could raise would be increased risk of damage or fading. The counter argument to this would be though that a publicly funded museum has no place in keeping artefacts out of view of the public.

In the last article, the Bury museum (owned by the Local Authority) has stirred up controversy by taking the decision to sell one of the Lowry paintings in their collection to help clear debts from other departments of the council – here the sale is purely for the money & does not directly benefit the museum in any way. Here it is clear that the museum is not making the decision, but is instead being forced into the move by its parent organisation – the paintings are purely seen as a financial asset rather than as part of the area’s local heritage.


October 28, 2006 – 10:10 AM
War of words erupts over sale of ancient texts
Plans by a Geneva museum to sell two ancient manuscripts for millions of dollars have drawn consternation from scholars around the world.

They fear the sale of the papyri, which date back to the 2nd century, could precipitate the break-up of a unique collection of around 50 texts held by the Bodmer Foundation.
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A history of looted antiquities

Posted at 1:38 pm in Similar cases

Another review of Peter Watson and Cecilia Todeschini’s book – The Medici Conspiracy.

Financial Express (Bangladesh)

Saturday, October 28, 2006
Tomb raiders are far busier than most mortals realise
Christian Tyler

The starting point for this damning account of the traffic in classical antiquities is 1972, when the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York bought a Greek bowl for mixing wine and water, the Euphronios krater, for $1m then a record sum. The underground chain behind it and other deals began to unravel following a daylight robbery at Melfi castle in the southern Italian province of Basilicata in 1994.

The Illicit Journey of Looted Antiquities —
From Italy’s Tomb Raiders to the World’s Greatest Museums
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October 28, 2006

Getty toughens acquisition rules

Posted at 2:07 pm in Similar cases

In a move that is no doubt influenced by the ongoing legal actions that they are facing, the Getty has announced that they have revised their rules on acquisitions. Unfortunately this move is not retroactive, so will not help existing cases involving artefacts acquired in dubious circumstances (although the Getty insists that there are no such cases anyway). The comments from other institutions similarly suggest that they are in a state of denial about the numbers of unprovenanced items in their collections.

Los Angeles Times

5:21 AM PDT, October 27, 2006
Getty toughens up its rules for acquisition
An item’s history must be clean since 1970. The move is not retroactive.
By Christopher Reynolds, Times Staff Writer
October 27, 2006

Under growing international scrutiny for buying potentially looted antiquities, the J. Paul Getty Museum has dramatically tightened its acquisition standards.

The move, announced Thursday, is designed to screen out any item whose history since 1970 is murky. In doing so, two experts said, the Getty is essentially taking responsibility for making sure an item’s recent history is clean, instead of challenging critics to prove it’s dirty.
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October 27, 2006

Elgin Marbles poll by the New Statesman

Posted at 1:38 pm in Elgin Marbles

Following their article on the Parthenon Sculptures, the New Statesman asked visitors to their website to vote on the Question: Is it time to send the Elgin Marbles home?.

The results can no longer be seen, as the poll is replaced by a new one each week. When I looked at it just before it was replaced, the results suggested that 81.2% of people felt that it was time to return them. Along with the poll, people can post comments – what is interesting, is that in the comments for those that voted No, are the same misinformed arguments that seem to come up every time the issue is discussed – That they were purchased legitimately & that their return would lead to the emptying of the world’s museums.

The New Statesman

Vote – Is partition the answer for Iraq?
To read this week’s Leader click here.
Last week we asked:
Is it time to send the Elgin Marbles home?

To retain them would perpetuate the view of the British as imperialistic plunderers. Keith Sayer

We should give them back as a matter of priority. We have plenty more things to loot from around the globe and we need to make space for them in our museums. Dave Singh
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October 26, 2006

Private exhibition of fourteen Roman treasures

Posted at 1:34 pm in Similar cases

Bonhams is auctioning a collection of Roman treasures. Many experts are going to view them as they have only ever been publicly displayed once before. Few reputable dealers or institutions are willing to bid for them though due to questions over their provenance & unresolved claims that they are the property of Hungary.

New York Times

14 Roman Treasures, on View and Debated
Published: October 25, 2006

LONDON, Oct. 24 — For the last week, scores of scholars, museum curators and collectors have been discreetly filing into a well-guarded gallery of the Bonhams auction house here to admire 14 richly decorated silver objects that lay buried for 1,500 years in a forgotten corner of what was once the Roman Empire.

The excitement is palpable. Only once before — for one brief morning in 1990 in New York — has the so-called Sevso Treasure been displayed in public. Now the solid silver plates, ewers, basins and caskets, thought to be worth more than $187 million, are again living up to their reputation as one of the finest collections of ancient Roman silver ever found.
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October 24, 2006

Kenya’s artefacts return home – but not for long enough

Posted at 2:01 pm in Similar cases

Although the British Museum has returned some artefacts to Kenya as a short term loan for an exhibition, many in Kenya feel that these pieces should all be returned permanently to allow Kenyans to allow everyone in Kenya to be able to see them. The suggestion is that the British Museum has so many more Kenyan objects than are now in Kenya, that even if they returned some it would hardly make a dent in their collection.

The East African

October 23, 2006
Kenya’s past, on loan to its present!

BETTY CAPLAN writes that the 140 artefacts loaned to Kenya by the British Museum ought to remain in the country not just because that is where they belong but also because in London, they are hidden away in store

FOR YEARS I HAVE WANTED to go into the old Nairobi Provincial Commissioner’s office, which stands at the corner of Kenyatta Avenue and Uhuru Highway, and is overlooked by Nyayo House – the current provincial headquarters.
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October 22, 2006

Should the Natural History Museum negotiate over aboriginal remains?

Posted at 1:54 pm in Similar cases

It would appear that it is not just the Australians who are disappointed by the Natural History museum’s lack of cooperation over requests to return Aboriginal remains from their collection. Now, a former member of the staff at the Manchester Museum has stated his regrets about the heel dragging by certain institutions over this issue, despite a willingness by the government to facilitate restitutions.

ABC News (Australia)

Last Update: Saturday, October 21, 2006. 9:20am (AEST)
UK museum urged to negotiate over Aboriginal remains

A British museum expert says he wants to “hang his head in shame” because the Britain’s Natural History Museum is refusing to negotiate with the Tasmanian Aboriginal people.

The museum is believed to hold at least 17 skeletons of Tasmanian Aborigines, but it is refusing to tell the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre what it plans to do with them.
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October 21, 2006

British Museum director questioned on marbles by Select Committee

Posted at 1:49 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

The Department for Culture, Media & Sport Select Committee is in the process of holding an enquiry with the title Caring for Our Collections. One of the stated subjcts covered by this enquiry is: Acquisition and disposal policies with particular reference to due diligence obligations on acquisition and legal restrictions on disposal of objects. Something which would cover the clauses that prevent de-accessioning in the current British Museum Act.
Amongst other witnesses called to the first session of oral questions was Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum. Although the questions ranged over various other topics, towards the end the discussion did cover deaccessioning & more specifically the Elgin Marbles. The answers were fairly predictable – That the British Museum would much prefer it if the Greek government would settle for some sort of compromise & that the marbles could remain in Britain.

United Kingdom Parliament

House of COMMONS


Tuesday 10 October 2006


Evidence heard in Public Questions 1 – 54
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October 20, 2006

How much longer can Britain hold on to the Elgin Marbles?

Posted at 1:59 pm in Elgin Marbles, New Acropolis Museum

In the past Helena Smith (Greece correspondent for The Guardian) has at various times expressed hostile views towards the construction of the New Acropolis Museum (although in theory always claiming to support the return of the Parthenon Marbles). Now though, seen the building properly & looked at the works on site she writes in a much more positive tone for the New Statesman, looking at the benefits of the new museum over the Duveen Gallery & considering various other reasons why the sculptures should be returned to Athens.

New Statesman

Missing their marbles
Helena Smith
Monday 23rd October 2006

As Greece puts the finishing touches to a building fit to hold the Parthenon sculptures, museums around the world are giving their fragments back. How much longer can the British Museum cling on to Lord Elgin’s loot? Helena Smith reports

Imagine a giant room, with giant glass windows, filled with sculptures of such beauty that they are hailed as one of mankind’s highest achievements. Imagine this capacious space facing one of the world’s exquisite monuments of classical art. Now place it against an Attic sky, a sky so bright that it not only illuminates the monument’s marble surfaces, but floods the room with natural light. You have just imagined the Parthenon Gallery of the New Acropolis Museum in Athens, at the foot of the masterpiece that epitomises the Periclean age.
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Lecture at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Posted at 1:56 pm in New Acropolis Museum

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is hosting a lecture by Vicky Kynourgiopoulou about the New Acropolis Museum & the Elgin Marbles.

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Events at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign from Oct. 19 through Nov. 5


31 Tuesday


“Globalizing the Elgin Marbles: The Problem of the New Acropolis Museum in Athens.” Vicky Kynourgiopoulou, American University of Rome. 7 p.m. 219 Davenport Hall. Collaborative for Cultural Heritage and Museum Practices.


The ethics of the return of art looted during the Holocaust

Posted at 1:34 pm in Similar cases

Following some recent high profile & controversial cases involving restitution of artworks looted from Jews during the Holocaust, this article looks at aspects of the ethics of return – specifically, whether it should be seen as acceptable for the claimants to take a piece currently in a public museum & then sell it immediately. The problem with this is not so much the actual decision to sell, but the fact that on the open market artworks are often sold for a price far out of reach of most museums – putting them into the hands of private collectors – that may or may not choose to put them on public display.
On the one hand, someone is being compensated for a wrongful act in the past – on the other hand though, significant works of art end up hidden away. In many respects, there ought to be more of a dialogue between claimants & museums from the outset of such cases – to asses what the claimant actually wants to do with the artwork & whether there is some form of compromise that can be reached rather than auctioning such pieces on the open market.

Jewish Press (USA)

Jewish Arts
By: Menachem Wecker
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
Should Looted Art From The Holoucast Be Returned?
A Response To Michael Kimmelman Gustav Klimt: Five Paintings from the Collection of Ferdinand and Adele Bloch-Bauer

Ever since artists created berry juice paintings of buffalos on cave walls, seeking to offer the hunters mastery over their prey, artists have used limited, physical materials to create transcendent, idealized art. Conventional wisdom holds art as somehow larger than the sum of its parts.

Although each element of a painting – from materials to tools – is finite, paintings are infinite things for which we use terms like “canonic,” “High Art” and “spiritual.” But art is, in effect, a commodity. However ornate one considers a sculpture, it is someone’s property. Whatever beautiful brushwork a painting might boast, it is a tangible thing – crafted of wood, canvas and paints made from the earth. Indeed, the temptation to attribute to art transcendent properties – a practice as old as art itself – turns it into essentially the kind of idolatrous decadence about which the Second Commandment warns us.
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Should the US limit imports of Chinese artefacts?

Posted at 1:26 pm in Similar cases

China has asked the United States to put restrictions on the import of Chinese antiquities in an aim to cut down on the amount of illegal exports. The United States so far has not committed to a decision on this request. Archaeologists are generally in favour of the restrictions, whilst auction houses, museum curators & private collectors would prefer it if the market remained unrestricted. Those against the restrictions generally seem to be motivated by their own personal benefit from the trade – little thought is given to the fact that as a result of the trade, China is losing its cultural heritage.

New York Times

U.S. Delays Rule on Limits to Chinese Art Imports
Published: October 18, 2006

In a move that has cheered museum directors and art dealers and dismayed archaeologists, the State Department has agreed to delay a decision on a controversial request from China that the United States strictly limit imports of Chinese art and antiquities.

In May 2004 China asked the United States to impose import restrictions on a wide range of art and decorative objects from the prehistoric period to the early 20th century, arguing that the American market for antiquities was spurring the looting of important sites in China.
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