Tuesday, September 30, 2008

CPAC: New Appointment

While most of us have been following the "credit crunch" and yesterday's surprise vote in Washington (what the BBC has termed a "bail-out failure"), the White House announced a new member of the Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC): Brent R. Benjamin, Director of the St Louis Art Museum (press release, September 29, 2008).

Peter Tompa has commented on the appointment and has noted:
Mr. Benjamin should be well acquainted with cultural property issues due to an ongoing dispute with Dr. Zahi Hawass, the publicity seeking Secretary General of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, over a funerary mask of a nineteenth dynasty noblewoman named Ka Nefer Nefer.
I disagree with Tompa. Benjamin does not appear to understand the "due diligence" process when it comes to this particular mask (see my earlier comments). Was this mask removed from the store at Saqqara? What is the certified documentation to show that the object had been in the hands of various European dealers and collectors?

Announcing Benjamin's appointment yesterday looks like a case of "burying bad news". Benjamin's appointment can only be seen as controversial. Does the Bush administration mean to send out a signal that it does not care about claims on cultural property in North American museums?

3 comments:

Cultural Property Observer said...

Thanks for your perspective. The only thing I would like to comment on is that I highly doubt the timing of this announcement is a case of "burying bad news."

Presumably, the Bush Administration wanted to fill this slot rather than let it stay vacant and Mr. Benjamin was someone well qualified to serve in this unpaid position who was comfortable with the policies of the President. Generally speaking for this kind of post, qualifications are not the only thing. Rather, there must also be some confidence that the person who is being appointed to a "political position" is comfortable with the policies of the Administration who is doing the appointment. To the extent "politics" had something to do with it, I suspect that the fact that Mr. Benjamin hails from Missouri (a "battleground state") may have been relevant to the White House decisionmaking.

Sincerely,

Peter Tompa

Paul Barford said...

> comfortable with the policies of the President<
that seems to me a rather odd characterisation of somebody ostensibly appointed by the US President as an expert in an advisory role. What kind of advice is he seeking?

David Gill said...

Wayne Sayles has now commented on this announcement as "positive news". He sees the appointment as protecting the rights of collectors.

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