Friday, 27 August 2010

The history of looting

Professor Richard Evans, President-elect of Wolfson College, Cambridge, gave a lecture on 'Looted Art and its Restitution: moral and cultural dilemmas for the twenty-first century' on 7 June 2010 as the Third Lee Seng Tee Distinguished Lecture. A video of the lecture is now available.

There is a quick overview of looting in the ancient world (though nothing on Pergamon and the great display celebrating the defeat of the Gauls) and a mention of the Parthenon marbles and the Rosetta Stone. Much of the lecture addresses the issue of Nazi loot and Soviet seizures after the Second World War. There is even something on dental gold ending up in Swiss bank vaults. Evans has interesting comments about art dealers in the 1950s being more interested in the authenticity than the collecting history (i.e. provenance).

There is a discussion of looting in the Balkans as well as in Iraq following the Second Gulf War (including the Baghdad Museum).

There is consideration of the work by UK Spoliation Advisory Panel.

Evans turns to the concept of the Universal Museum, where "world culture" is shared.

In questions, Evans is asked directly to state his position on the Parthenon ("Elgin") marbles. Lord Renfrew asked the second question about recent archaeological looting and cultural property in New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. Another question raised the issue about the statute of limitation.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nice post-- but I don't quite get the point of the reference to Pergamon and the defeat of the Galatians and the victory dedications by Attalos I-- these were not booty, but sculptural dedications to Athena. More to the point would be the art works seized in Greece (Oreos and Aigina, if I remember correctly) and displayed in Pergamon-- as pieces of booty, but also as cultural prestige items from Greece, notwithstanding the fact that the Attalid defender of Hellenism had, in fighting on the side of the Romans in the 1st and 2nd Mac Wars, behaved roughly towards Greek communities (Oreos, Aigina, also Andros)

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