Thursday, February 19, 2015

Toledo Museum of Art will return Astrolabe to Germany.

US museum returns War-looted piece
Toledo Museum of Art is returning to Germany a rare, 450-year-old astrological compendium. The Museum purchased for $6,500 in 1954. The return is due to the fact that documentation has shown it was probably one of many pieces of German art stolen after World War II.
The Toledo museum said it is making preparations to return it to Gotha Museum in Germany next month. The Gotha Museum contacted the Toledo museum about the piece in 2013, supplying what Toledo museum officials described as "extensive documentation, including photographs, which convinced TMA officials that the Toledo astrolabe was the same one missing since 1945." In return, the Gotha Museum said it plans to provide the Toledo Museum of Art with other unspecified pieces at a later date. 
 'Toledo Museum to return 450-year-old astrological tool to German museum', The Blade , February 19, 2015

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Conflict with BM over Bark Art

Paul Daley - 'It taunts us spiritually': the fight for Indigenous relics spirited off to the UK ' The Guardian Saturday 14 February 2015

Three precious examples of bark art   – a shield, emu carving and a scene the British Museum controversially claims depicts a kangaroo hunt – taken from the Dja Dja Wurrung people in central Victoria in the 1850s were sold to the British Museum. Now these and other treasures could return to Australia – on loan only – as part of an exhibition :
They were taken by the Scottish settler John Hunter Kerr in the 1850s and sold to the British Museum. Bark art is usually synonymous with Indigenous people from northern Australia and the three Dja Dja Wurrung pieces from the comparative far south are believed to be the only ones of their period in existence. They may be precious to the British Museum but they are sacred to the custodians of the land around Boort from which they were taken. At least one of the barks is likely to be included in a forthcoming Australian exhibition of items from the British Museum’s collection. After five years of planning and extensive contact with Indigenous communities, the exhibition, Encounters, is due to open at the National Museum of Australia in November after a linked exhibition at the British Museum, which opens in April. In 2004, Murray, on behalf of the Dja Dja Wurrung, used the federal Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act to seize the barks while they were on loan to the Melbourne Museum (now Museum Victoria). After a protracted court case brought by the Melbourne Museum the barks were eventually returned to the British Museum, the repository of colonial treasure from all corners of the once-great empire it served.
More here...

Friday, January 23, 2015

Rapa Nui is Coming for the Moai

Rapa Nui people claim return of their Moai held in museums around the world

For generations, the people of Easter Island allowed several of its statues of volcanic rock to leave Rapa Nui and become museum pieces in distant places. But no more. Currently trying to arrange the return of some monuments scattered in the country, they contacted lawyers in Chile and the United States, and warned: "It is only the first step." [...] These other 11 pieces (between complete moai heads and pukao or hats) scattered in museums in North America, Europe and Oceania, represent 1% of the nearly eleven hundred monuments that have been identified so far in Rapa add Nui. Among these works are three parts in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC (an upright moai, a head and a pukao); two heads held by the French Louvre and Quai Branly, respectively; and moai in the of Liverpool and British museums.
The mysterious basalt sculptures with outsized heads were made some 500 to 750 years ago and have become a symbol of Easter Island, a territory annexed to Chile in the late 19th century. The current campaign is the result of concerns raised on the small island by plans to take one of the statues to France in 2010:
Italy's Mare Nostrum and France's Louis Vuitton launched the project to haul the Moai across oceans for public view in Paris two years ago. They aimed to introduce the island's culture to Europe in exchange for helping preserve its heritage with a fund that initially included half a million dollars. Archeologists and logistics coordinators had scoped out the site and preselected a statue five meters (16 feet) tall that weighed 13 tons. They had planned to insure it for two million U.S. dollars. The island's 4,000 inhabitants were informed about the project during public meetings before a referendum was held under the auspices of the International Labour Organization's convention on indigenous people. Out of 900 people who responded, 789 islanders said they opposed sending the Moai to France, while 94 said they supported the move.
Another focus of campaigners' attention re holdings of human skeletal remains removed from burial caves on the island, held in a number of museums.

Jorge Poblete and Alejandro Jiménez, 'Rapa Nui va por sus moai', Capital Online January 23, 2015

Graciela Almendras, 'France won't get Moai after Easter Island snub', AFP April 10, 2010.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Native Americans try to Block Another French Auction of Sacred Artefacts

What's left of Hopi and Navajo
An auction on Monday of sacred masks and objects in France has stirred fresh anger among Native Americans, with representatives of the Navajo people travelling to Paris to try and halt the latest sale. The Eve auction house has 270 Native American, Eskimo and pre-Colombian artefacts going under the hammer and the United States embassy has stepped in, urging a stop to the sale of items cherished by the Navajo and Hopi people. The sale is the fourth since 2013 that the southwestern Hopi people have tried to block of ceremonial masks and headdresses they consider to embody living spirits. All previous legal efforts to halt such auctions have failed, although a US foundation last year bought 21 of the masks at a Paris auction to return them to the Hopi people.
The name of the sellers or the buyers of the masks remain a secret (where are they all coming from?). If America was to implement the 1970 UNESCO Convention properly (with an export licensing procedure for such artefacts) then there would be no problem with stopping the sale of those that left the US after the date it was instituted. The problem is that the US does not want to protect this cultural property in such a way.

Indeed it is rather ironic that when a group of people from precisely the area occupied by these tribes were caught stealing artefacts, including sacred ones and robbing graves to obtain collectables, they got sentences no greater than a few months probation and the authorities that investigated, arrested and charged them received a lot of criticism for the way they did so.  It seems that illegal activities within the US concerning artefacts of precisely this region is not treated with any great seriousness.


Afp, 'Native Americans try to block French auction of sacred artefacts', 14 December 2014.

UPDATE 15th December 2014
Navajo officials won their bid to buy back seven tribal masks at a contested auction of native American artifacts in Paris that netted over a million dollars. Monday’s sale went ahead despite the best efforts by the U.S. government and Senator John McCain to halt it. The objects for sale at the Drouot auction house included sacred masks, colored in pigment, believed to have been used in Navajo wintertime healing ceremonies. The sale — which totaled 929,000 euros ($1.12 million) — also included dozens of Hopi Kachina dolls and several striking Pueblo masks embellished with horse hair, bone and feathers, the origins of which are unclear.[...] The lawyer representing the absent Hopi tribe, Pierre Servan-Schreiber, said the approaches of the Hopis and the Navajos were different — and said the Hopis see the sale as sacrilege. "Hopis were opposed to buying back their artifacts as they did not want to engage in the auction," said Servan-Schreiber.
Thomas Adamson, 'Navajos buy back artifacts at Paris auction', Salt Lake Tribune 15th December 2014.

Monday, December 8, 2014

British Museum Cosying with Russia: "Arrogance, duplicity and defiance with no end"

BM celebrates 'Russian Enlightenment'
Kwame Opoku, 'Arrogance, duplicity and defiance with no end: British Museum loans Parthenon Marble to Russia', reposted on Elginism
The arrogance seeping through the statements of the British Museum in connection with its latest act is glaring and unbearable. The museum arrogates to itself the right and duty to control the narrative of Greek history and culture. It is sending the headless sculpture to enlighten Russians about the glory and grandeur of ancient Greece. The British Museum determines which Greek sculptures are appropriate to fulfil this duty of enlightenment and has even appointed ambassadors to do this. The sculpture of Ilissos is designated “ stone ambassador of the Greek golden age.”. Taking control of the narrative of the history and culture of the Greeks is surely the worst form of cultural imperialism. 

Ancient Maori heads returning from US

This is the largest repatriation of ancestral remains in New Zealand's history. The American Museum of Natural History had a collection of Maori remains, acquired
from the early 1800s up until the 1900s when there was a strong commercial trade and network in indigenous peoples' remains, particularly in Europe and North America. This was fuelled by an intense curiosity with "native" peoples' culture and physical anthropology amongst very wealthy collectors, academic institutions, medical schools and museums, he said. After more than a 100 years abroad, the remains will arrive back in New Zealand this Friday. [...] The remains are made up of:

* 35 Toi moko (preserved Maori tattooed heads) and two tattooed thigh skins from the collection of Portuguese soldier Horatio Gordon Robley. Robley became fascinated with moko during an 1863 visit to New Zealand. He tried unsuccessfully to return his collection to New Zealand in his later life.

* 24 koimi tangata Moriori (Moriori skeletal remains) linked back to New Zealand naturalist Henry Hammersly Travers, the most prolific collector of Chatham Island remains.

* 46 koiwi tangata (Maori skeletal remains) collected from across the North Island. Most are from the private collection of leading Austrian anthropologist Felix von Luschan.
'Ancient Maori heads returning from US' NZ City1 December 2014

Friday, December 5, 2014

The British Museum has just lost the Elgin Marbles argument

The British Museum has moved the statue of Illisos from his plinth in the Duveen Gallery to St. Petersburg for a celebration of Russian art collection at the Hermitage. "This loan is welcome — in that it gives the game away" says Geoffrey Robertson ('The British Museum has just lost the Elgin Marbles argument', Independent Friday 5 December 2014):
This raises two issues: first, why give a propaganda windfall to President Putin at a time when his breaches of international law can only be deterred by sanctions that are beginning to bite? Second, if a part of the Marbles can now been seen for the next two months by visiting St. Petersburg, why should all surviving pieces of the greatest art in world history not be seen, reunited at the Acropolis Museum under a blue attic sky and in the shadow of the Parthenon? [...] the event will be a cultural triumph for the man who a few years ago, closed down the British Council in St. Petersburg and had its Director arrested.[...] In the case of Russia, still fomenting war in eastern Ukraine, isolating sanctions are the only realistic way that Europe can respond in an effort to save lives. In this context, and at this time, the action by Neil MacGregor and his Trustees might seem not merely naïve, but irresponsible.
Neil MacGregor was heard to say as he posed for photographers whilst surveying Illisos in its new location: “It looks much better than it does in London”.
Indeed it does. In London it is located in the Duveen Gallery where half the extant Marbles sit under white light as if in a morgue. This was at the insistence of Lord Duveen, a crooked art dealer who made his money by shady dealings with the Nazis and who insisted in 1938 on scouring some of the friezes, permanently damaging them. If the River God looks so much better at the Hermitage, how much better would he look – along with all the other statues captured by Lord Elgin – back with his counterparts in the New Acropolis Museum?
The Museum, having loaned this piece to Russia now "cannot sensibly or morally refuse the mediation offered by UNESCO, to which the British government has been asked to respond by 31 March next year".