Skip to main content

"Cuno risks coming across as a bad loser"

Tom Flynn has written an account of Tuesday's lacklustre "debate" with James Cuno at the LSE.  Flynn writes:
At root, however, [Cuno's] mission is to shore up the concept of the encyclopedic museum — a fortress whose boundaries are everywhere under challenge. Once again he reiterated the patently absurd notion that encyclopedic museums should be established everywhere.

Maurice Davies raised the issue of the loan of archaeological material to North American museums in the wake of the return of key pieces such as the Sarpedon krater. After last week's presentation by AAMD representatives to CPAC's review of the MOU Italy it is hardly surprising that Cuno dismissed Italy's generous offers in this area.
Cuno dismissed this as negligible and insisted that relations between the two nations were still not that good. Unlike Montebello, who saw the benefits that issued from the affair, Cuno risks coming across as a bad loser.
Cuno needs to revise his position in the light of the returns to Italy. Why were AAMD member institutions acquiring recently-surfaced material? Why did they ignore ethical concerns? Have they adopted ethical acquisition policies?



Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Comments

Professor Gill,

I'm wondering how the idea that encyclopedic museums should continue to be established is "patently ridiculous." I am a staunch supporter of the idea that pieces of unsure or unclear provenance deserve a much higher scrutiny in order to prevent looted objects from becoming part of a national collection, but I'm not clear on how that seems to translate to culturally significant museums, as a whole, deserve to be sanctioned as a result. My own background is in archaeology and I have to say that my interest stemmed as much from visits to museums as it did my classes on the subject, and I have yet to find a museum that holds only classical objects easy to find in the U.S. I agree that Cuno's book does make assertions I find hard to stomach, namely the idea that the resistance of of scholars to study looted objects hurts the field or that museums are somehow exempt from due diligence in their collecting, but I do believe that encyclopedic museums play a strong role in promoting the study of art and ancient civilizations.
Would you mind explaining what you consider a viable alternative to them?
Aaron
Tarquin said…
My (simplistic) view is this: encyclopedic museums are great; the question is, how do you fill them ethically?
Alex Nagel said…
Dear Dr. Gill,

In case you collect still reviews on Cuno, Irene Winter just published an excellent review in The Art Bulletin December XCI.4 2009, 522-6.
David Gill said…
Thank you for this information. I have added this to the list of reviews.

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.

Mithras relief from Tor Cervara

A fragmentary relief of Mithras was discovered in 1964 at Tor Cervara on the outskirts of Rome. It was acquired by the Museo Nazionale Romano.

A further fragment of the relief was acquired by the Badisches Landesmueum in Kalrsruhe in 1976. The source was an unstated Swiss dealer. This fragment has been reunited with the rest of the relief [press release].

Today a further fragment of the relief was reunited with the other pieces. This had been recovered during a raid in Sardinia.