Skip to main content

Battle of Ideas: James Cuno speaks

James Cuno will be speaking at tomorrow evening's debate on "Who Owns Culture?" at the LSE (London School of Economics). The other speakers are:
  • Maurice Davies of the Museums Association
  • Tatiana Flessas of the LSE
Tiffany Jenkins will be chairing the debate.

It would be worth asking the question why the returns of antiquities to Italy (and Greece) have included so many high profile members of the AAMD, i.e. Cleveland Museum of Art, Boston's Museum of Fine Arts, New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Princeton University Art Museum, and the J. Paul Getty Museum. Any why have museums in the UK been relatively untouched by the same issues? Is it because UK museums (through the Museums Association) have stuck to ethical acquisition policies? Is it because wealthy benefactors have influenced decisions in the US?

My own thoughts on Cuno's Who Owns Antiquity? can be found here (from the AJA website). I suggested:
What [Cuno] has failed to notice is that the “battle” over the issues finished some time ago; he needs to engage with the creation of a new cultural landscape where museums and collectors value the information that can be derived from scientifically excavated objects.
I hope that Cuno reflects on the debate before he speaks tomorrow.

But I suspect he is unmoved. I have just reviewed his edited volume, Whose Culture?, and here is a flavour:
The failure of this volume to engage with the contemporary debate, and indeed to silence the voices of those who do not hold the editor’s position, hardly demonstrates, as Cuno would like, ‘that our public museums build their antiquities collections responsibly and for the public’s benefit’.
I hope that the panelists and audience will ask them some searching questions.

Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Comments

Interesting topic this. What will be the bottom of this is what I find interesting?

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.