Showing results 1 - 12 of 27 for the month of August, 2009.

August 28, 2009

The New Acropolis Museum raises the bar on cultural morality

Posted at 1:07 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles, New Acropolis Museum

Father Steven Scoutas from the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia has written detailed & pragmatic account of his own visit to the New Acropolis Museum, partly as a response to the very negative article on the Elgin Marbles by Richard Dorment in the Daily Telegraph.

Greek Australian Vema

Greek Australian Vema, August, 2009
The New Acropolis Museum – Raising the bar on cultural morality

After reading Richard Dorment’s tirade on the new Acropolis Museum “The Elgin Marbles will never return to Athens – the British Museum is their rightful home” (Daily Telegraph, London, 30th June 2009), I thought to myself “Wow, I hope he hasn’t bet his house on this”.

I was neither surprised nor angered by his article. Just disappointed. Not by his regurgitation of the now desperately outmoded stance of the British Museum, but that this otherwise distinguished journalist and chief art-critic of the London Telegraph would turn clairvoyant to back up a story. Surely the future is a phase of time which remains unpredictable, even to contemporary ‘Delphian’ oracles.
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August 26, 2009

Culture wars over the Parthenon Sculptures

Posted at 12:55 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles, Similar cases

Whilst the British Museum insists that the New Acropolis Museum changes nothing in the battle for the battle for the return of the Elgin Marbles, most commentators tend to disagree. It is not the only museum built to potentially returned artefacts either, as the Egyptians are also building a new Grand Museum of Egypt with the hope that this will act as a catalyst for restitution claims.

Foreign Policy (USA)

Is Greece Losing its Elgin Marbles?
The battle between antiquities-loving and antiquities-producing countries continues.

The culture war between antiquities-importing countries and those whose soils harbor archaeological treasures has flared up again. This time, the battle isn’t over recently looted artifacts returned by a chastened American museum to their country of origin. Instead, it is over the June opening of Athens’ New Acropolis Museum (NAM), which, in addition to housing an eye-boggling cache of art and artifacts found on the Acropolis, was built with the wishful premise of someday housing what the British refer to as the “Elgin Marbles.” These are the late fifth-century sculptures that were removed from the Parthenon in the early 19th-century by Thomas Bruce, the 7th Earl of Elgin, and acquired by the British Museum in 1816.

Although there are certainly entrenched political and legal obstacles to the return of the Elgin Marbles to Greece — chief among them, the British Museum’s claim of rightful ownership — the elegant, state-of-the-art concrete and glass-walled NAM, designed by Swiss-born New York-based architect Bernard Tschumi has put to bed long-standing concerns over Greece’s ability to safeguard and exhibit the stones, should they ever return to its shores. Despite its persistent refusal to consider the restitution, even the British Museum seems to have tacitly acknowledged the suitability of the NAM by offering the marginally sincere three-month loan of the marbles in exchange for a renunciation of Greece’s ownership claims. (The Greeks ridiculed and rejected the offer.) But amid all this posturing, does the construction of the NAM signal the beginning of a shift in the repatriation debate, which might affect museums around the world that are caught in similar conflicts over contested objects? Although not all archaeological source countries have the resources to build such an unimpeachable museum, the issue of restitution for works of art might increasingly be decided less on whether these source countries can legally reclaim their own antiquities — but whether, ethically, they should.
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August 25, 2009

Should Greece be thanking the British Museum?

Posted at 12:42 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles

This article suggests that maybe the British Museum is waiting for the Greeks to thank them before they will then return the Elgin Marbles. I have to say that I very much doubt that all should be required. Furthermore, surely the British Museum should be thanking Greece for the loan of these artefacts for so many years?

Vancouver Sun

Has the British Museum lost its marbles?
By Andre Gerolymatos, Special to the Sun
August 17, 2009

For two centuries, Greek governments have been at loggerheads with the British Museum over the ownership of the so-called Elgin Marbles. These ancient sculptures are an integral part of the Parthenon that crowns the Acropolis in the centre of Athens and Greeks have argued that the British should reunite them to their original place. The Greek case rests on the simple fact that the marbles are Greek property and that they had been illegally removed from the Parthenon and shipped to the British Museum.

The British position is more complicated. The British Museum officials have argued that the marbles were safer in London than in Athens anyway; the Greeks could not restore the marbles onto the Parthenon, as the pollution in Athens would destroy the antiquities eventually. Now that the Greeks have constructed a state-of-the-art museum at the foot of the Acropolis (designed to house the marbles) the British position has shifted and claims that the marbles belong to the world accusing the Greek government of falling victim to shrill nationalism. This is not the position of the Salinas Museum in Palermo that decided to return their slab of the Parthenon Frieze, which they held for more than two hundred years. German and Swedish museums have also followed the example of the Italians and have used the occasion of the new Acropolis Museum to return parts of the Parthenon frieze.
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August 21, 2009

Who owns the bones of Saint Canute?

Posted at 1:10 pm in Similar cases

Within Denmark, there is debate over who owns the bones of Saint Canute, although the discussion does not necessarily seem to extend to the actual location in which the remains are held in the way that pervades most restitution cases.

One should not forget that whilst Denmark has been very forward thinking about restitution cases with Greenland, Copenhagen’s National Museum continues to hold onto fragments from the Parthenon Sculptures.

Copenhagen Post

Who owns Canute’s bones?
Tuesday, 18 August 2009 11:33 News
Submitted by Baron Joost Dahlerup

Not long ago, Greece requested that the British Museum return artefacts to the Acropolis. Likewise, Iceland has requested the Icelandic Sagas be returned. It is becoming more common to ask for original works of art and cultural artefacts to be returned to their countries of origin, so they can be viewed and admired where they belong.

The question, ‘Who owns St Canute’s earthly remains?’ has previously been brought up here in Denmark. Is it the Bishop of Odense or the Church Ministry? Is it the National Museum, or are they a personal possession of the royal family? Who has the final say – the Church Ministry, the Culture Ministry, the National Museum, or the Queen?
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The reasons given for non return of cultural property

Posted at 1:00 pm in British Museum, Similar cases

This is the second part of Kwame Opoku’s article on the reasons given by museums against restitution as a way of avoiding confronting the real issues.

Modern Ghana

By Kwame Opoku, Dr.
Feature Article | 12 hours ago


IV. What is to be done?
In view of the very clear position of the major Western museums not to return any of the looted/stolen African artefacts, what should be done? Below are few proposals in this regard.

1. Urgent examination of existing cooperation agreements and arrangements between African museums and Western museums.
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Would Westerm Museums return artefacts if they could?

Posted at 12:57 pm in British Museum, Similar cases

Many of the museums of the West, when faced with restitution claims, have insisted that they would consider returning the artefacts – but they are unable to do so. Common reasons given include the security of the artefacts if they were returned, the lack of a suitable place to house them, or statutes that forbid deaccessioning. Are these institutions really speaking the truth though, ore merely trying to throw up more barriers to prevent any sort of serious discussion of the real issues involved.

Due to the length of this piece I am reproducing it here in two parts.

Modern Ghana

By Kwame Opoku, Dr.
Feature Article | 12 hours ago

Corruption, like tango, requires two partners.

A seminal study by Peju Layiwola, dealt with the question of the cultural memory of a people whose development has been brutally interrupted and their cultural objects seized by a foreign invader. (1) In the specific case of Benin, the British seized more than 3000 artefacts during their nefarious invasion in 1879. (2) This date and the invasion have remained memorable for the people of Benin, Nigeria and the continent of Africa.

Peju Layiwola whose mother, Princess Elisabeth Olowu, is a well-known artist, was born in the Palace of the Oba in Benin City during the reign of Oba Akenzua II, her maternal grandfather. Peju spent her childhood in Benin City, went to school there and did her first degree at the University of Benin. Her doctoral dissertation at the University of Ibadan dealt with contemporary Benin brass casting. Peju is therefore from family affiliation, from childhood experience and education linked to Benin and inevitably, since she was drawn to art in her infancy, to the arts of Benin and the tragic loss of the Benin bronzes through the British invasion. The important question then is not why Peju is concerned by the continued loss of the Benin Bronzes but rather why some people are less concerned or even indifferent to attempts to recover looted or stolen artefacts.
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August 18, 2009

Scandals at the Metropolitan Museum

Posted at 1:53 pm in Similar cases

Michael Gross’s new book looking behind the scenes at the Metropolitan Museum. This includes new details between the acquisition of some artefacts – & the successful restitution claims that have led to the return of these artefacts.

Buffalo News

A fascinating secret history of ‘Rogues’ behind the Met
By Jean Reeves Barre
August 16, 2009, 6:35 AM

Michael Gross’ audacious new book on New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art is as intriguing as a brace of novels. And in bulk it rivals such in girth — 499 pages plus index, notes and acknowledgments, a total then of 545 pages — and the reader is loath to skip one of them.

“Rogues’ Gallery: The Secret History of the Moguls and the Money That Made the Metropolitan Museum of Art” will be lambasted by critics. It’s true that it’s long on gossip and scandal and short on art. You won’t find any analysis of the fine points of color or form of a Matisse or a Monet.
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August 17, 2009

Call for Papers – Who owns Africa’s cultural patrimony

Posted at 1:03 pm in British Museum, Events, Similar cases

Submissions are invited for a special edition of Critical Interventions on Africa’s cultural heritage in the museums of the West.

Kwame Opoku (by email)

Critical Interventions: Journal of African Art History and Visual Culture – Fall 2010
By Kwame Opoku

Critical Interventions invites submissions for a special issue on the question of Africa’s cultural patrimony in Western museums, especially in the context of recent international debates about repatriation of historical artworks relocated from one culture to another through conquest, colonization or looting. In the first decade of the 21st Century, demands by various countries for repatriations of significant artworks and cultural objects have shaken up established ideas about the ownership and location of historical cultural objects. While many Western museums have been willing to reach agreements about repatriating or compensating for culturally important artworks in their collections claimed by other Western countries, there has been no acknowledgement of the right of Africans to ownership of African artworks looted from Africa during colonialism, which are now held in the so-called “Universal Museums” of the West. Read the rest of this entry »

Museums & governments must enter into dialogues over looted artefacts

Posted at 12:56 pm in British Museum, Similar cases

The Director of the National Museum of African Art, part of the Smithsonian Institution talks about partnerships with museums abroad. The issue of repatriation is also discussed, with the suggestion that there should be a serious dialogue going on to resolve some of these cases. All too often unfortunately, institutions such as the British Museum make pre-requisite demands that must be satisfied before talks can take place – as an effective way of neutering any possible discussions.

The Guardian (Nigeria)

Saturday, August 15, 2009
Africa Must Partner To Correct Marginalisation, says Johnetta Cole

SINCE the beginning of the year the National Museum, Lagos has been in the centre of intense efforts to reposition it to play its pivotal role of showcasing Nigeria’s rich cultural heritage to the world. Such recent efforts saw the director of the National Museum of African Art at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC, US, Dr. Johnetta Betsch Cole visiting Nigeria in a partnership being forged by the Ford Foundation. In this interview with ANOTE AJELUOROU, she talks about the timeliness of the partnership between the two institutions and the Owo art exhibition being planned to commemorate Nigeria’s 50th Independence anniversary in the US and Nigeria.
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Britain won’t return the Elgin Marbles to Greece

Posted at 12:46 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles, New Acropolis Museum

The fact that half of the Parthenon Sculptures are housed in the British Museum is a source of continual tension for between Greece & Britain – but Britain makes little effort to do anything to try & resolve this situation).

Business Day (South Africa)

Greece has lost its marbles and Britain won’t give them back
David Lascelles
Published: 2009/08/13 08:47:39 AM

GREECE must rank among the most romantic countries in Europe — its classical monuments, its islands, its sunshine and laid-back way of life. At this time of year, people flock there in their thousands to soak it all up.

Yet Greece is also one of the trickiest countries in Europe, a source of tension with its Balkan neighbours and with the European Union (EU), to which it has belonged since 1981. Greece and Turkey eye each other with suspicion across the Aegean Sea. The “Macedonian question” dogs its relations with its northern neighbours. Greece’s weak economy and turbulent politics make it a perpetual source of anxiety for the rest of the EU, who suspect that one day they will have to club together to bail it out, or invite it to leave.
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The repatriation of human remains from Britain’s museums

Posted at 12:42 pm in British Museum, Similar cases

The reunification of human remains held in museums with Aboriginal groups is a hot topic at the moment in Australia. The Human Tissue Act made the return of many such artefacts possible, but there are still many who claim that such returns are removing a key source of scientific & anthropological study – to the detriment of the institutions that currently held the artefacts.

Listen to the original programme here.

ABC (Australia)

Regarding human remains
12 August 2009
The collection and display of human remains and human body parts were once legitimate activities for the great universal museums. Rear Vision tracks the changes in attitudes towards such displays from outside the museum world as well as from within.


Man: We’re gathered here today to welcome our old people back home.

Reporter: The Naranjeri remains were stolen from 27 gravesites between 1898 and 1906 by the controversial Adelaide coroner, Dr William Ramsay Smith. He sold livers, hearts and skeletons on the open market, all in the name of research.

Keri Phillips: During the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, collectors, traders and amateur and professional scientists from the developed world amassed enormous collections from all over the globe. These collections often contained human remains, everything from tattooed human skin and skulls to the bones of lepers and other diseased body parts. Early on, but especially during the 20th century, many of these collections were bequeathed to museums but as time wore on and museums began to change from research institutions to places of public display, questions began to be raised both within and outside the museum community about the ethics and legality of the collection, retention and display of humans and human body parts. In recent decades, some museums have begun to repatriate their collection of human remains.
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The hidden world of inter-museum loans

Posted at 12:35 pm in British Museum, Elgin Marbles, Similar cases

The British Museum continually rejects any mention of a long term loan of the Parthenon Sculptures, describing it as unworkable. In the world of museums however such a wide variety of loans are always underway, that to reject such a suggestion as a matter of course is really just avoidance of entering serious discussion of the issue.


Art on the move: curators reveal the art world’s secret merry-go-round
The growth in blockbuster exhibitions travelling the globe means more art than ever is in transit, under a shroud of strict secrecy – but how does it make the journey?
Noni Stacey
Wednesday 12 August 2009 17.30 BST

A blockbuster exhibition often showcases an artist’s work or offers a new interpretation of an era, but it shows us only part of the story. Look closely at a label on the gallery wall and you’ll notice a little note saying “On loan from …”. The larger touring exhibitions read like a high-fashion social diary, galloping across the globe from New York to Paris, London to Tokyo, while smaller shows criss-cross their way from Pittsburgh to Bogotá, Figueres to Melbourne. Art travels around the world in myriad ways: in and out of galleries and auction houses, to and from private collections. The question is: how does it get there?

My journey begins at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, where Anna Jackson, deputy keeper of the Asia department, has been delving into the royal collections of India’s maharajas over the last 18 months. She’s preparing for the museum’s autumn exhibition, Maharaja: The Splendour of India’s Royal Courts, which will open in October 2009. The original idea was floated more than two years ago, and the museum officially announced the show some months later. Jackson first set out for India in February 2008, to see what treasures the royal collections would yield.
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