Thursday, July 31, 2014

St Louis Art Museum and the Mummy Mask

Did the US Authorities handle the case of the mummy mask in the St Louis Art Museum in the most appropriate way? I am sure that readers of LM will have views on this.

but there is a more important issue. do we believe the collecting history, the so-called provenance, of the mask supplied by the vendor and presented by the museum? The answer has to be no. The documentation from Cairo seems to be clear that the mask was in Egypt at the time that it is claimed that it was also passing through the hands of dealers and private collectors in Europe.

And if the collecting history is flawed, how comfortable is the museum with the acquisition? Are the officers willing to say that they have full confidence in the collecting history? Or do they have reservations? and if they have reservations, will they consider taking the appropriate professional and ethical action by opening up positive negotiations with the Egyptian authorities?

does the SLAM mask remind us that some museum curators in North America are still operating with the acquisition standards of the pre-Medici period?

1 comment:

Thomas Burchell said...

SLAM is only allowed to keep it due to a legal technicality. Technically Legal is very different from legitimacy. This piece is hot, and SLAM new that the whole time. The Museum Board if they had any ethics would vote to return a piece that will lead to the international shame if their museum.

Quote: http://blogs.riverfronttimes.com/dailyrft/2014/06/egypt_demands_st_louis_art_museum_return_3000-year-old_mummy_mask.php

When the government tried to appeal in January 2014, however, it apparently missed a filing deadline, causing Judge James Loken to remark the government now had to "beg for a do-over."

Last week, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals declined to grant the government that do-over. Loken, who wrote the judgement, chastised the government lawyers who "knew many months prior to the order of dismissal of the possible need to amend its pleading."

Judge Diana Murphy concurred with the ruling, but mentioned that the fight over the Ka-Nefer-Nefer mask has much greater significance than just a missed deadline:

I concur in the court's opinion but write separately to express my concern about what the record in this case reveals about the illicit trade in antiquities...The substantive issues underlying this litigation are of great significance, and not only to museums which responsibly seek to build their collections. The theft of cultural patrimony and its trade on the black market for stolen antiquities present concerns of international import. These issues affect governments and the international art and antiquities markets, as well as those who seek to safeguard global cultural heritage.

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