Friday, October 21, 2011

Karlsruhe and Greece: update

I have commented earlier today on the claim on two pieces in the Badisches Landesmuseum in Karlsruhe. We should note that Lord Renfrew is due to lecture in Karlsruhe on 23 February 2012 as part of the activities surrounding the exhibition. He has spoken out about the looting of archaeological sites in the Cyclades.

There is a suggestion that the Cycladic figure and bowl were derived from Dr Elie Borowski. Will the museum confirm or deny that Borowski was the source? I note that the museum acquired several pieces, including at least two Cycladic figures, in  1975.

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Marc Fehlmann said...

I would be interested to know on what grounds the Hellenic Republic is claiming the two pieces from Karlsruhe. After all, they have been repeatedly published since 1976 (including by Lord Renfrew), and the Hellenic Republic had plenty of previous opportunities to ask them back. So why do the Greeks want them now?

Karlsruhe has more Cycladic material that was acquired after 1970. What is the true incentive behind the claim for those two pieces? Could it be that the idol is exceptionally large (88,8 cm are indeed impressive)?

Is this most recent attempt by the Hellenic Republic based on the assumption that any material handled by Elie Borowski, Gorges Zakos, Nicolas Kotoulakis or whoever was active in the 1970s has now to be considered “tainted” as if these dealers had only dealt in illegally gained artefacts?

The Hellenic Republic has surely every right to expect the highest ethical standards from museums that organise shows with loans from Greece. Do Greek officials apply the same ethical standards at home when similar shows are staged at the Nicholas P. Goulandris Foundation - Museum of Cycladic Art? Or does a Cycladic artefact from a clandestine dig provide more scientific information to the scholarly community when sitting in Athens than in Karlsruhe?

kyri said...

isnt there a 30 year cut off point for the restitution of pieces from the time of publication?im not sure.
anyhow,another case of guilty by association,the greeks have known these pieces existed decades ago and did nothing.any restitution now could open the flod gates and the museum knows it.
i remember that renfrew was lambasted by certain archaeologists for publishing some un provenaced pieces in this collection.

Avatar said...

@ Kyri:

If there would be such a 30 year cut off point, is there also a release date --- 25 years --- or so, when a museum releases finally information who was the previous owner of an object? In 50 years people will still ask questions where the objects came from since they will not have been grown like potatos in the fields around Karlsruhe.

Marc Fehlmann said...

@ Avater:
From your point of view Karlsruhe would be (almost) everywhere ...

Avatar said...

@ Marc:

Yes. It looks like it. Ok, but honestly, were do they keep this information? In a bunker that can only be opened when officers looking for evidence for tax frauds or so? Has a citzen of Baden-Württemberg who is paying for this museum no right in knowing where the objects in it are from?

@ Marc: "So why do the Greeks want them now?"

This is the question that comes so often. For me, it is almost a rhetoric one. "Why is Bulgaria sending a request now?" It might be because of a new found power, might be because Italy and Greece and the rightful returns of looted objects and the photograph of an old blond lady trying to shield her face with her handbag that it is just about time.

No escape. At one point Greece is gonna get them back!

.. and because of "loting matters."

Emmanuel said...

1. “… based on the assumption that any material handled by Elie Borowski, Gorges Zakos, Nicolas Kotoulakis … has now to be considered “tainted” …”
I agree, not everything handled by those being active in the 70s should be considered “tainted”. On the other hand, when certain people (dealers, collectors, curators etc) have been involved in handling (in one way or another) looted artifacts, yes, everything already handled by them should be considered “tainted” until proven otherwise. Few years ago no one would question the origin of an artifact donated by Shelby White to a museum, although no info on origin or collecting history of the object would have ever been provided. Today, everyone would be suspicious…

2. “Do Greek officials apply the same ethical standards at home when similar shows are staged…”
No, I am afraid they don’t (for additional info – and for those who can read Greek – you may refer to
The Pazardzhik (?) Byzantine silver hoard is another example of loosely applied collecting history standards and where the due diligence process ought to be more thorough...
I am sure everybody will welcome a “Code of Ethics” published in all Greek museum sites as soon as possible.

Emmanuel said...

Dear David,
The claim of the Hellenic Ministry of Culture regarding the return of the two pieces from the Badisches Landesmuseum in Karlsruhe has finally come to a successful end. According to today’s article in «ΚΑΘΗΜΕΡΙΝΗ» newspaper, both pieces will be officially presented tomorrow morning at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens.
Best regards,


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