Skip to main content

Collecting Antiquities: The Missing Contributions

I have been reading the conference announcement for "Museums and the Collecting of Antiquities: Past, Present and Future" (May 4, 2006) (available on the AAMD website). The purpose of the conference was twofold:
• To present an overview of the contribution art museums have made to the preservation and understanding of ancient art and culture through the collecting of antiquities, and how this mission can responsibly be continued; and
• To present panel discussions among relevant experts from within and outside the museum profession on the role of collecting in the continuing research on, and appreciation of, ancient art and culture. Panelists will include archaeologists, museum directors, curators, and other scholars.
James Cuno's Whose Culture? (p. ix) tells us this conference has led to this edited volume:
The discussion that day made it clear that a book was needed that would present the point of view of museum directors, curators, and university-based scholars regarding the value of the museum in the context of the current debate over the acquisition of antiquities. That is that book.
But if so, where are essays by the following scholars?
  • Michael Barry, Lecturer in Persian, Princeton University and Curator of Islamic Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • Malcolm Bell, Professor of Art History, University of Virginia
  • Glen Bowersock, Professor of Ancient History, Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, NJ
  • Michael Coe, Professor of Anthropology Emeritus and former Curator of the Peabody Museum of Natural History at Yale University
  • David Freidel, University Distinguished Professor of Anthropology, Southern Methodist University
  • Patty Gerstenblith, Professor of Law, DePaul University
  • Richard Leventhal, Director, University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology
  • Jane Waldbaum, President, Archaeological Institute of America and Professor Emerita of Art History at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Yet four of the essays in Whose Culture? are reprint articles. Why? Were the above contributors unable to submit an essay? What would, say, Malcolm Bell, Patty Gerstenblith, Richard Levanthal, or Jane Waldbaum have to say on these issues?

Or is there another reason why their essays do not appear here?

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Marble bull's head from the temple of Eshmun

Excavations at the temple of Eshmun in Lebanon recovered a marble bull's head. It is now suggested that it was this head, apparently first published in 1967, that was placed on loan to New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art (Tom Mashberg, "Met Museum Turns Over Another Relic With Disputed Past to Prosecutors", New York Times August 1, 2017 ). The head is reported to have been handed over to the Manhattan district attorney after a request was received from the Lebanese authorities.

It is suggested that the head may have been looted from an archaeological storage area at Byblos in the 1980s during the Lebanese civil war. Mashberg has rehearsed the recent collecting history:
The owners of the bull’s head, Lynda and William Beierwaltes of Colorado, say they have clear title to the item and have sued Manhattan prosecutors for its return.  The Beierwaltes bought the head from a dealer in London in 1996 for more than $1 million and then sold it to another collector, Michael …

Sardinian warrior from "old Swiss collection"

One of the Sardinian bronzes of a warrior was seized from an as yet unnamed Manahattan gallery. It appears to be the one that passed through the Royal-Athena Gallery: Art of the Ancient World 23 (2012) no. 71. The collecting history for that warrior suggests that it was acquired in 1990 from a private collection in Geneva.

Other clues suggested that the warrior has resided in a New York private collection.

The identity of the private collection in Geneva will no doubt be telling.

The warrior also features in this news story: Jennifer Peltz, "Looted statues, pottery returned to Italy after probe in NYC", ABC News May 25 2017.

Attic amphora handed back to Italians

The research of Dr Christos Tsirogiannis has led to the return of an Attic red-figured amphora, attributed to the Harrow painter, to Italy (Tom Mashberg, "Stolen Etruscan Vessel to Be Returned to Italy", New York Times March 16, 2017).

The amphora is known to have passed through the hands of Swiss-based dealer Gianfranco Becchina in 1993, and then through a New York gallery around 2000 (although its movements between those dates are as yet undisclosed).

During the ceremony, Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., the District Attorney stated:
“When looters overrun historic sites, mine sacred spaces for prized relics, and peddle stolen property for top dollar, they do so with the implicit endorsement of all those who knowingly trade in stolen antiquities” More research clearly needs to be conducted on how material handled by Becchina passed into the North American market and into the hands of private and public collectors.