Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Give us back the Venus de Milo, Greeks tell Louvr


In a fresh claim of cultural restitution, Greece launched an unprecedented bid yesterday to win back the Venus de Milo from the Louvre. Gerasimos Damoulakis, mayor of the island of Milos, in the southeast Aegean Sea, where the marble masterpiece was unearthed in 1820, is campaigning to collect one million signatures for a petition in advance of the 200th anniversary of the statue’s discovery. The petition will be presented to the European Union and the Louvre in a bid to bring the statue back to its homeland. “The claim itself isn’t new,” Mr Damoulakis said. “There’s not a Greek out there who hasn’t wondered why Greece’s finest piece of antiquity is sitting in France rather than in its birthplace. (Anthee Carassava, 'Give us back the Venus de Milo, Greeks tell Louvre' the Times, November 30 2016).
OK, so why is it?

Vignette: From Milos

Friday, October 28, 2016

British Museum Fouls Up


The piece itself,
one of a pair
Martin Bailey, 'Benin bronze, sold off by British Museum in 1950, returns to market' Art Newspaper  28 October 2016
A Benin bronze sold off by the British Museum for around £200 in the 1950s came back on the market at Quinn’s Auction Galleries in Falls Church, Virginia on 1 October [...] but failed to find a buyer. The 16th-century plaque [...] was among 500 objects offered from the collection of the New York-based African-American artist, collector, dealer and musician Merton Simpson, who died three years ago. [...] the British Museum acquired 203 bronzes [...]  In 1950, the museum’s keeper of ethnography, Hermann Braunholtz, suggested to the trustees that 30 plaques were “duplicate specimens” and that 10 should be sold to Nigeria for a planned museum in Lagos. Later that year, four further plaques were sold to the London dealer Sydney Burney for a total of £876; three others went in 1952 to the New York dealer John Klejman for £450 in a exchange deal. The British Museum would later much regret these sell-offs. In 2002, Nigel Barley, the museum’s Africa curator, described them as “a curse”, since the plaques had been designed to be displayed as pairs.
They SOLD the plaques to Nigeria? How utterly crass.Now, what was that we were hearing about the 'legal impediments' to deaccessing the Parthenon marbles from the national collection? Is it the case that as far as Bloomsbury Trustees are concerned they only apply to the sparkling white marbles of the supreme White European civilizations, but not the 'savage art' of the brown-skinned folk?

Now, what is Quinn's going to do with the unsold Benin bronze?  The decent thing?

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Broken Hill skull,


Zambia is requesting the return of the Broken Hill skull, the 1st Homo rhodesiensis, found in 1921. It's in the Natural History Museum in London.

Ashley Dickerson, 'Broken Hill: Whose skull is it anyway?' What’s On Africa August 22, 2013

Monday, August 15, 2016

Polynesian sculpture of A’a


The sculpture of A'a in the British Museum was probably originally carved to serve as a reliquary for the bones of A’a Carbon dating of the most important surviving Polynesian wooden sculpture has revealed that it is older than once thought (Martin Bailey Polynesian sculpture admired by Picasso and Henry Moore far older than previously thought  The Art Newspaper 15th August 2016)
Sculpture of A’a  (Image: © The Trustees
of the British Museum)
The British Museum’s Polynesian sculpture of A’a is much older than previously thought.  [...] it is probable that the tree from which it was carved was felled in around 1505. This would make A’a the earliest dated wooden sculpture from Polynesia. Named after a key god of the island of Rurutu, the sculpture is a carved man-like figure 1.2m tall. Thirty small figures emerge out of his skin. His feet are missing, probably because they rotted away at some point. The penis, which was once erect, has been broken off, perhaps by Christian missionaries. [...]  Some of Rurutu’s chiefs had converted to Christianity, and to demonstrate their new allegiance they sent a boat with pagan idols to the island of Ra’iatea, 560km to the north, where the London Missionary Society had set up a base. [...] A’a was saved and sent to Britain, where it was displayed in the London Missionary Society’s museum. In 1890 the society lent A’a to the British Museum and ownership was transferred in 1911. 
This is a fluff piece intended to show the benefits of having things like this in a London Museum. Furthermore western culture can lay a claim on it:
A’a has long been admired by Western artists. Henry Moore was first struck by the sculpture when he saw it in the 1920s. For his 80th birthday, in 1978, the British Museum presented him with a cast. From this, he commissioned a bronze copy, which he kept in the entrance hall to his Hertfordshire home, Hoglands, where it remains on view.  In 1950 Picasso saw a cast of A’a on a visit to the studio of the English surrealist, Roland Penrose. Picasso was so enchanted that he arranged to have a bronze cast. This stood prominently in his studio in the Villa La Californie in Cannes, close to his easel.
Which I guess makes it OK to have the coffin of somebody else's "key god" in your gallery of trophy art.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Benin wants Expatriated Cultural Property Back


Authorities in Benin have made a formal request to France to officially return its cultural property. It seems that some 5000 pieces of Beninese arts are in the French museums, very many of these in the Paris Quai-Branly Museum.
For the first time, authorities in Benin have made a formal request to its former colonial master, France, to officially return its cultural property. [...] Today, growing tourism has become one of the top priorities of Benin’s government. According to government figures, the tourism sector contributes only to 2.5% to the GDP, despite its potential. This low contribution, has been linked to the absence of a relevant strategies for the development of the sector as viable to the economy, lower valuation of tourist sites and the lack of promotion of tourism sites both on national and international levels. The government has thus created an agency to promote Benin’s cultural heritage and development of tourism which is viewed as a step towards making the sector a strong pillar for economic development.
Benin is not the only country to have its cultural heritage removed, 90% of major pieces of African classic art are out of Africa according to the France Info journal.

Easter Island statue in London


There are some 4000 items of cultural property taken from Easter Island inthe past and now wscattered in foreign collections across the world. One of them in London is attracting some attention (AFP, 'Chilean filmmakers demand British repatriation of Easter Island statue' August 12, 2016).
Chilean filmmakers have launched a campaign for Britain to return a giant statue they say was stolen from the mystical Easter Island. Hoa Haka Nana'ia - meaning "hidden or stolen friend" in the island's native language - is one of the star exhibits in London's British Museum, seen by tourists from around the world. But campaigners say it belongs along with other sacred sculptures on the remote Chilean island in the Pacific, from where it was taken a century ago. The London moai, as the famous Easter Island Statues are known locally, stands 2.5 meters high and weighs about four tonnes. It is thought to have been sculpted around the 13th century. Like other moai, it was believed to be inhabited by a "mana," or spirit, that protected local tribes. A new documentary about the statues says that "one way to recover the mana to restore wellbeing to the island is to bring the spirit of the Moai Hoa Kaka Nana'ia back to its native land." 
There is a petition in progress urging the Chilean government to make a formal demand for the moai's return. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Iran to Reclaim Achaemenid Tablets from US after 80 Years


'Iran to Reclaim Achaemenid Tablets from US after 80 Years' Irn Front Page 1st August 22, 2016

Iranian Vice President Massoud Soltanifar announced that the Achaemenid tablets kept in the US will be repatriated to the country after 80 years  [...]  the Persepolis Collection [...] includes about 3,000 clay tablets and fragments that Iran loaned to the University of Chicago Oriental Institute for research, translation and cataloguing some 80 years ago.  “The study on tablets in Chicago was supposed to take only three years,” he regretted. 
Families of American victims injured in a Hamas suicide bombing in Israel in 1997 have accused Iran of involvement in the incident, and thus expect compensation from Iran and tried to get a court to seize the artefacts so they could sell them to raise the money.