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Iran severs ties with France’s Louvre

Iran appears to have carried out its earlier threats to end cooperation with the Louvre [1], due to unresolved disputes that it has with the museum.

Press TV [2]

Monday Apr 04, 201102:42 PM GMT
Iran severs ties with Louvre Museum
4th april 2011

Iran says it has severed all ties with the Louvre Museum because the French art center has not shown any commitment to the promises it made.

“Based on the agreement between the Louvre and Iran’s Cultural heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization (ICHTO), the museum must hold an exhibition of its ancient artifacts in Iran,” Head of ICHTO Hamid Baqaei told a press conference on Monday.

Louvre officials had agreed to hold an exhibition in Iran after we showcase a collection of our historical artifacts in the country, he added, saying that although Iran has mounted two exhibitions in France so far, the Louvre has not kept its promise.

Iran has held two exhibitions at the Louvre, one showcasing objects from the Safavid era and the other introducing the ancient Persian Civilization.

Baqaei had warned Louvre officials in January, 2011, that Iran would only wait until the beginning of the Persian New Year (March 2011) for them to give an exact date for their exhibition in Iran and the artifacts they would send to the country.

This is not the first time that Iran has encountered such a problem with international museums.

In February 2010, Tehran severed ties with the British Museum as it had not sent the Cyrus Cylinder for an exhibition in Iran as promised.

In April 2010, the ICHTO demanded USD 300,000 in compensation for the delay by the British Museum.

The Achaemenid relic was finally displayed at the National Museum of Iran last September after being escorted by a delegation headed by Keeper of the Middle East collections of the British Museum John Curtis to the exhibition site where it was displayed for the first time in 40 years.

The Cyrus Cylinder was initially sent to Iran for a four-month exhibition ending on January 10, 2011, but the event was extended until the end of Nowruz (Persian New Year) holidays.

Iran also won an appeals court concerning a collection of Persepolis tablets which was loaned to Chicago University to be studied in 1937.

Although some of the tablets have been returned to Iran, the dispute broke out when an American Federal Judge ordered the tablets to be confiscated and auctioned in order to compensate the Israeli victims of the 1997 al-Quds (Jerusalem) bombing.

A US federal appeals court overturned the lower court order in March 2011, recognizing the 2,500-year-old relics as part of Iran’s cultural heritage.

The 41-page document at the seventh appeals court admitted that former order was “seriously flawed.”

The tablets, which were discovered by the archeology team of the University of Chicago in 1933, bear cuneiform inscriptions recording administrative details of the Persian Empire from about 500 BCE.

In his Monday press conference, Baqaei also said that all foreign archeological teams that want to excavate in Iran must work under the supervision of an Iranian team and their findings should first be presented to Iranian experts.

The Iranian Vice President announced that Iran would not send any ancient relics or objects to foreign countries for research purposes and interested experts must come to Iran to conduct studies, IRNA reported.

Los Angeles Times [3]

IRAN: Tehran cuts ties with Louvre in dispute over Persian artifacts
April 4, 2011 | 10:45 am

Iran has cut ties with the famous Louvre museum in Paris, an official said Monday, accusing the museum of failing to live up to an agreement to exhibit Persian artifacts in its possession in Iran.

“In the cultural field, we do not accept that European countries look down on us,” Hamid Baghai, who heads Tehran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization, told reporters Monday, according to Agence France-Presse.

“The officials at The Louvre have until the end of 1389 [the Iranian year ending March 2011] to precisely tell us when and what they are going to set up here,” he added.

Sensitivities over the French role in the excavation and export of Persian cultural artifacts are nothing new.

Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, France was granted a series of exclusive excavation concessions over important historical sites such as Susa, the capital of the Persian Empire under Cyrus the Great. According to those contracts, as many as half the artifacts found went to the French and many ended up in European private collections or museums.

The dispute with the Louvre follows a similar controversy with the British Museum over the exhibition of the Cyrus Cylinder, an ancient clay cylinder with cuneiform script praising the lineage and deeds of Cyrus the Great.

The British Museum delayed lending the cylinder to the National Museum of Iran after the disputed 2009 presidential elections and the upheaval that followed, citing security concerns, but Iranian authorities accused the British of playing politics. The controversy was eventually resolved and the cylinder went on display in Iran from September 2010 to January 2011.

— Ramin Mostaghim in Tehran and Meris Lutz in Beirut