Tuesday 5 August 2008

Cuno: "an anguished manifesto"

Christian Tyler has reviewed James Cuno's Who Owns Antiquity? (2008) for the Financial Times (August 4, 2008). I presume it is aimed at those who have been buying antiquities as an investment and need a little reassurance in these days of the "credit crunch".

Tyler starts with this statement: "The provenance of antiquities has always been murky". Really? Always? So, according to Tyler, all the excavated objects from, say, Amarna, the Kerameikos cemetery at Athens, or Herculaneum have "murky" provenances. I start to wonder if Tyler understands the issues. (I have commented on the use of the term "provenance" elsewhere.)

The core of the review contains discussions of partage, the licit market and cosmopolitanism (though Tyler does not always use those terms); readers of Looting Matters are already aware of my views on these subjects.

What I find a little unbelievable is that Tyler's closing paragraph tells us:
"The author’s [sc. Cuno's] message is that stewardship, not ownership, is what matters".
I wonder if Tyler had forgotten to note the title of the book he was reviewing. Stewardship is key: but it is the stewardship of the archaeological record that matters.

Other reviews of Cuno are collected here.

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