Saturday, March 13, 2010

IADAA makes its position clear

The International Association of Dealers in Ancient Art (IADAA) has updated its website. It now includes a section on "A critical eye towards the cultural property discussion" with a selection of "scolars' [sic.] opinions".

The majority of the quotations (Kwame Anthony Appiah; Sir John Boardman; James Cuno; Neil MacGregor; Philippe de Montebello; David I. Owen; James C. Y. Watt) come from James Cuno (ed.), Whose Culture? The promise of museums and the debate over antiquities (Princeton University Press, 2009). This volume is well known for its omission of several key contributions from the event. The web officer for the IADAA could, perhaps, add something from my review of the volume that appeared in the Fall number of the Journal of Art Crime (2009).
If the issue under debate is difficult and divisive, then one way to create order is to make it partial and partisan, inviting a range of contributors whose varied views all lie together on one side of the division. With the other side thereby silent, the debate can happily come to a reasonably strong consensus. This is that book. The other view of the central issue is absent, that the recent past of collecting antiquities in too many museums has been a story of looting, smuggling and unfair dealing.
The IADAA has helpfully indicated that it is deaf to those who do not hold the now untenable and flawed Cuno position.

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