Monday, September 26, 2011

"Heroic" collectors?

Heroic Africans
Legendary Leaders, Iconic Sculptures
Metropolitan Museum of Art
September 21, 2011–January 29, 2012
This major international loan exhibition challenges conventional perceptions of African art. Bringing together more than one hundred masterpieces drawn from collections in Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, the United Kingdom, Portugal, France, and the United States, it considers eight landmark sculptural traditions from West and Central Africa created between the twelfth and early twentieth centuries in terms of the individual subjects who lie at the origins of the representations. [...]

The works featured are among the only tangible links that survive, relating to generations of leaders that shaped Africa's past before colonialism, [...]
The works come from a number of west and central African cultures: the Akan of Ghana, ancient Ife civilization and the Kingdom of Benin of Nigeria, Bangwa and Kom chiefdoms of the Cameroon Grassfields, the Chokwe of Angola and Zambia, and the Luluwa, Hemba, and Kuba of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
sculptors from these regions captured evocative, idealized, and enduring likenesses of their individual patrons whose identities were otherwise recorded in ephemeral oral traditions.
This exhibition raises a number of questions about the presence of the objects themselves. Why are no African museums represented in the loans programme? Also if these works form a link with the past of the regions covered, why are they scattered in Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Portugal, France, the UK and US?

Following the presentation at the Metropolitan, the exhibition will travel to the Museum Rietberg in Zurich, where it will be on view February 26 through June 3, 2012. There are no plans to show it in Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, Angola, Zambia, or the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Return of head from Sidamara Sarcophagus Requested

Turkey is asking for the return of a life-size marble head of a child, with curling hair, broken off at the neck that was knocked off the Sidamara Sarcophagus, now on display at the Istanbul Archaeology Museum. The head is now housed in the reserve collection of the Victorian and Albert Museum in London.

The head was snapped off a sarcophagus excavated in Anatolia (present-day Turkey) in 1882 by a British archaeologist named Sir Charles Wilson, who then covered the tomb over again. He took the head to England and his family gave it to the museum in 1933. The tomb to which the head belongs, the 3rd century A.D. Sidamara Sarcophagus, was re-discovered in 1898 and currently resides in the Istanbul Archaeology Museum. Now, the Turkish culture ministry wants to reunify the marble head [...] with the sarcophagus.
This is rather brutal treatment of an artefact even by late nineteenth century standards, not having the resources or ability to remove the whole sarcophagus, the relic hunter took a "sample" with a hammer.

The Turkish authorities are currently in negotiations with the Victoria & Albert museum to repatriate the object. These negotiations between the two parties are said to be "amicable" and ongoing. If the object is reunited with the sarcophagus, it would be a gesture of international goodwill because its removal from Turkey was before the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property.

Laura Allsop, 'Echoes of Elgin Marbles: Turkey asks UK to return ancient sculpture',, September 8, 2011 (Photo, Konya/CNN)