Sunday, August 11, 2019

A Kwakwaka’wakw sun mask returns to B.C.

A Kwakwaka’wakw sun mask was seized during an infamous raid on a potlatch in British Columbia, then improperly sold, and spent decades in France before being returned home to B.C. (Marsha Lederman, 'Almost 100 years after being seized and sold, a Kwakwaka’wakw sun mask returns to B.C.', July 20th 2019)
 Donald Ellis, a Canadian dealer in Indigenous art for nearly 45 years, orchestrated the mask’s return, negotiating the sale and putting up his own money – a six-figure sum, he says – to buy the mask [...] Mr. Ellis’s involvement with the mask dates back to 2017, when an academic, Marie Mauzé, told him a story over dinner in Paris. She had been asked to assist in the auction catalogue entries for a group of Northwest Coast objects at Christie’s. Among them was the sun mask, which Ms. Mauzé recognized from photos taken after it was seized in 1921. “You can’t sell this,” she said, as Mr. Ellis recounts. 
It was on record as having been seized by 'Indian Agents' during an illegal potlatch in December 1921 held on remote Village Island east of Alert Bay.
Indian agent William Halliday got word and officials descended on what has come to be known as the Cranmer Potlatch, arresting participants and confiscating some 750 items. [...] Halliday sold [the sun mask] with more than 30 other pieces, to George Heye in New York [...]. Halliday was not permitted to sell these objects and was reprimanded for doing so. [...] It has now been discovered that the mask was brought to France after the Second World War by the world-renowned anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss, and sold at auction in 1951 to collector Pierre Vérité. His son, Claude Vérité, inherited it and offered the mask at Christie’s [...] Mr. Ellis decided to purchase it [...] “I have a pretty strong sense of right and wrong,” Mr. Ellis said of his motivation during an interview at a Vancouver hotel on Tuesday. “I want this to show that … dealers are not all bad guys.” Also, he says, he has done very well and wanted to do something to give back.

Friday, July 5, 2019

France retreats from Recommendations of Savoy-Sarre Report

Vincent Noce, 'France retreats from report recommending automatic restitutions of looted African artefacts' (The Art Newspaper 5th July 2019) Suggestions from the controversial report on repatriation written last November by Bénédicte Savoy and Felwin Sarr were all-but buried at a recent conference held at the French Academy in Paris. This instead of discussing what the report had suggested focused on “wider cultural cooperation with Africa“. The Savoy-Sarr report had recommended a systematic and unconditional return of African cultural heritage and created alarm in French and European museums. The prospect that it raised of automatic restitutions to African states of all goods seized during the colonial era was hailed on one side as a welcome advance in the process of building links between nations and towards a long-overdue decolonisation, but on the other as a threat to the so-called Universal Museum notion so beloved in the western world.
In his opening speech at the symposium on Thursday, the French culture minister Franck Riester only pledged that "France will examine all requests presented by African nations" but asked them not to "focus on the sole issue of restitution."[...] The conference was attended by some 200 archaeologists, anthropologists, art historians, curators and representatives of ministries of culture from Europe and Africa. Despite being invited to address the meeting by the minister, Savoy and Sarr failed to show. They were not available for immediate comment.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Egypt May demand return of King Tut statue

A 3,000-year-old bust of Tutankhamun from a private collection is scheduled to be sold by Christie's on July 4. The quartzite statue, which portrays the boy king as Amun, is probably one of a series that was erected in the temple of Karnak. It is being suggested that its sale could generate at least 4 million pounds (more than $5 million), but there is a snag, some of the collecting history seems difficult to document (Hatem Maher, 'Egypt can demand return of King Tut statue going up for auction: Former antiquities chief', ABC News Jun 9, 2019).
 Egypt has the right to demand the repatriation of a stone sculpture of King Tutankhamun before it goes up for auction at Christie's in London next month, according to the country’s former antiquities chief. Zahi Hawass, a renowned Egyptian archaeologist, has spearheaded numerous campaigns to repatriate Egyptian artifacts, and alleges the statue was stolen. "It seems that this sculpture was looted from [Luxor's] Karnak Temple. Christie's would not have any proof whatsoever of its ownership,” Hawass told ABC News. Christie’s did not respond to ABC News’ request for comment. [...]
It is reported that the Egyptian Ministry of State Antiquities has begun checking the background to the planned sale and if necessary will take "the required legal measures in coordination with the foreign ministry”. Shaaban Abdel-Gawad, head of the repatriation department, said in a statement last week that they would "never allow anyone to sell any ancient Egyptian artifact."
Egypt introduced a law in 1983 to regulate the ownership of Egyptian antiquities, saying any ancient artifacts discovered in the country are considered state properties "with the exception of antiquities whose ownership or possession was already established at the time this law came into effect." Hawass believes that regardless of any laws, Egypt has an "ethical right" to recover the Tutankhamun bust. "This piece was smuggled out of the country and Christie's cannot prove otherwise. It's totally Egypt's right," he said.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

UK Minister rules out Return of Foreign Cultural Property

Britain has rejected President Macron’s view that ancient artefacts should be returned to their countries of origin. Jeremy Wright, the culture secretary, argued that the “real cultural benefit” to the world lay in seeing objects from different civilisations in one place. If you “followed the logic of restitution to its logical conclusion” there would be “no single points where people can see multiple things”, he said.
(David Sanderson, 'Minister rules out return of treasures', The Times April 22 2019).

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Restitution Of Cultural Property To Germany Out Of Question - Russian Culture Ministry

Vladislav Kononov, the head of the museums department of the Russian Culture Ministry told Sputnik Thursday that there can be no discussion about returning cultural property that was removed from German territory following World War II.
Earlier in the day, the Izvestia newspaper reported, citing sources in the German Embassy in Moscow, that Berlin intended to call on Russia to return the cultural property that was removed from the country's territory during the war and post-war years. "There can be no discussion about the return of cultural property ... This issue should not even be raised. There can be some intergovernmental agreements or exchange deals, but the question of returning what was fixed in 1945 should not be raised," Kononov said. According to Kononov, Russian museums do their own searches for artifacts that could have been stolen during WWII and purchase them using either their own funds or the national budget.

Friday, November 23, 2018

France Returns Some Benin Art to Africa

French President Emmanuel Macron has said that France will return 26 artworks taken from the west African state of Benin in the colonial era. The 26 thrones and statues were taken in 1892 during a colonial war against the then Kingdom of Dahomey. They are currently on display in the Quai Branly museum in Paris. Benin officially asked for their return some years ago (BBC: 'Benin artworks: France to return thrones and statues', 23rd Nov 2018).

Thursday, November 22, 2018

BBC What do you know about Africa's 'looted treasures'?

BBC Quiz: 'What do you know about Africa's 'looted treasures'?
During colonial rule in Africa, thousands of cultural artefacts were seized from the continent by western countries. But on Friday, France is expected to launch a report calling for thousands of African artefacts in its museums to be returned to the continent. What do you know about Africa's 'looted treasures'? Take the quiz to find out
Or perhaps not. Not very impressive dumbdown. Presenting it in the format of a Treasure hunt (on a treasure map) simply harks back to colonialist stereotypes about the continent. Maybe you 'know' about the Rosetta Stone, elephants and man-eating lions but I don't think you learn anything much from this, in what way is one type of 'loot' from Africa comparable to another? There is a "learn more" link which goes to  'A guide to Africa's 'looted treasures'. This deals with Benin Bronzes, the stuffed lions known as the Man-eaters of Tsavo that the Kenya National Museum wants returned, the Rosetta Stone, the 'Bangwa Queen' , the Maqdala Palace Treasures and Zimbabwe bird sculptures.