Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Trade in African Cultural Property: "Je ne suis pas moi-même" (2007)

Je ne suis pas moi-même is a 52 minute Spanish 2007 documentary film produced by Nanouk Films which explores complex international African ethnic art market. Mysterious figurines pass from hand to hand, crossing continents and changing in value and meaning. The film concentrates on the  movement of objects from Cameroon, and reveals how Cameroon has become a paradise for art forgers and traffickers and is related to corruption. It also shows how African artworks are spirited away to end up in Europe's leading public and private collections, where they come from, and how they arrive in the showcases of the biggest galleries and collections in Europe. It also explores who decides how much each piece is worth in this post-colonial context. In Europe there's a market needy of new ethnic art pieces. In Africa they’re in need of economical resources, some are willing to sell their cultural legacy or even fake it if need be. The limits of authenticity grow blurry when sacred objects are sold by those who adored them a very short time ago.

Directed by Alba Mora & Anna Sanmartí
Producer: Ventura Durall
Screenplay by Alba Mora, Anna Sanmartí
Starring Jonas Njifouta, Ahmadou Mboumbou, Fabien Essiane
Music by Pol Ponsarnau
Editing by Vep Culleré

Watch the documentary: Je ne suis pas moi-même
Shortened trailer

Comments by  David Norden

Monday, December 10, 2012

Ten Years Old: Declaration on the importance and value of universal museums"

This document is ten years old today, how well have the ideas it embodies weathered that decade?
Declaration on the importance and value of universal museums
The international museum community shares the conviction that illegal traffic in archaeological artistic, and ethnic objects must be firmly discouraged. We should, however, recognize that objects acquired in earlier times must be viewed in the light of different sensitivities and values, reflective of that earlier era. The objects arid monumental works that were installed decades and even centuries ago in museums throughout Europe and America were acquired under conditions that are not comparable with current ones.

Over time, objects so acquired-whether by purchase, gift, or partage - have become part of the museums that have cared for them, and by extension part of the heritage of the nations which house them. Today we are especially sensitive to the subject of a work's original context, but we should not lose sight of the fact that museums too provide a valid and valuable context for objects that were long ago displaced from their original source.

The universal admiration for ancient civilizations would not be so deeply established today were it not for the influence exercised by the artifacts of these cultures, widely available to ail international public in major museums. Indeed, the sculpture of classical Greece, to take but one example, is an excellent illustration of this point and of the importance of public collecting. The centuries - long history of appreciation of Greak art began in antiquity, was renewed in Renaissance Italy, and subsequently spread through the rest of Europe and to the Americas. Its accession into the collections of public museums throughout the world marked the significance of Greek sculpture for mankind as a whole and its enduring value for the contemporary world. Moreover, the distinctly Greek aesthetic of these works appears all the more strongly as the result of their being seen and studied in direct proximity to products of other great civilizations.

Calls to repatriate objects that have belonged to museum collections for many years have become an important issue for museums. Although each case has to be judged individually, we should acknowledge that museums serve not just the citizens of one nation but the people of every nation. Museums are agents in the development of culture, whose mission is to foster knowledge by a continuous process of reinterpretation. Each object contributes to that process. To narrow the focus of museums whose collections are diverse and multifaceted would therefore be a disservice to all visitors.

Signed by the Directors of:
The Art Institute of Chicago
Bavarian State Museum, Munich (Alte Pinakothek, Neue Pinakothek)
State Museums, Berlin
Cleveland Museum of Art
J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Louvre Museum, Paris
The Metropolitan Museum of Art New York
The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Opificio delle Pietre Dure, Florence
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Prado Museum, Madrid
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg
Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York

Sunday, December 9, 2012

European Court to Judge the case of the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus?

Two marble statues from the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus.
Photograph: The Trustees of the British Museum
Will the British Museum oppose the human rights of citizens of Turkey that now want some ancient artefacts back? Campaigners are going to European court in attempt to repatriate artefacts created for the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, which campaigners want returned to their original site – Bodrum in south-west Turkey.

A Turkish challenge in the European court of human rights will be a test case for the repatriation of art from one nation to another [...]  a dramatic move to reclaim sculptures that once adorned the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus [...]  An Istanbul lawyer, Remzi Kazmaz, told the Observer that a lawsuit will be filed at the European court on 30 January and that 30 lawyers are acting on behalf of the town of Bodrum as well as district and provincial governors, the Turkish ministry of culture and other bodies [...].  Kazmaz said: "We thank the British authorities and the British Museum for accommodating and preserving our historical and cultural heritage for the last years. However, the time has come for these assets to be returned to their place of origin ... Preparations for formal requests are taking place now." [...] Gwendolen Morgan, a human rights lawyer with Bindmans LLP, suggested that "the most likely line of attack" will be a breach by the UK of article 1, 1st protocol of the European convention of human rights, which states: "Every natural or legal person is entitled to the peaceful enjoyment of his possessions."
The mausoleum was built in 350BC to mark the burial place of Mausolus, king of Caria. It was a 40-metre-high monument, crowned by a colossal four-horse chariot on a stepped pyramid (of which the head of one of the horses in in the BM). The structure is believed to have collapsed after a medieval earthquake. Some of its sculptures were taken by crusaders to their castle at Bodrum, from where they were recovered in 1846 by the British ambassador at Constantinople and presented to the British Museum. Others were retrieved in the 1850s during site excavations by the museum. In both cases the activities were  carried out with the requisite documents issued by the Ottoman authorities (firmans) which granted permission for the excavation of the site and removal of the material from the site. A petition with 118,000 signatures has been organised and the Strasbourg court will be shown a  documentary film on how Turkey lost its ancient treasure.

Dalya Alberge, 'Turkey turns to human rights law to reclaim British Museum sculptures' Guardian 8 December 2012.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Online Petition to Rescue the Halicarnassus Mausoleum from the British Museum

Matthew Taylor's "Elginism" blog has a text about an online petition to get the british Museum to hand over the bits of the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus from near Bodrum that they've got. It seems some groups in Turkey have  been campaigning for their return for some time. You can add your signature to their petition here (neat video).

On the topic, Matthew Taylor also cites a brief article in English on the topic, 'Campaign started for relic', from Hurriyet Daily News - November 23/2012:
A digital signature campaign has been initiated ahead of a lawsuit that will be opened at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in January for the return to Turkey of the Halicarnassus Mausoleum. According to a written statement, several artists have signed the campaign on the website The signatures will be collected as part of the lawsuit lawyer Remzi Kazmaz will file, with 30 other lawyers, at the ECHR on Jan. 30. A documentary film about the event will also be included in the lawsuit. Directed by Kazmaz, the 32-minute film “Aşkın Mabedi-Maussolleion” is the story of the ancient treasure being taken out of Turkey. The film, which also has an English version, will be viewed by ECHR officials as well as sold in music stores across Turkey. 

Take a look at the heroic reconstruction of the monument in the video and ask yourself how the fragments removed to a room in a london Museum can ever hope to give a proper representation of that?  To what aim are they kept in London, if not mere trophies, like the bit of the Sphinx's beard?

Source: Elginism, 'Online petition to return the Halicarnassus mausoleum from the British Museum', November 24, 2012.

November 24, 2012

Friday, November 23, 2012

The Vienna "Penacho" Feather Headdress

The "Penacho", a feather headdress reputedly worn by Aztec emperor Moctezuma II (though it might be a priest's headgear instead), has gone on display again in a specially designed controlled-environment case in the Ethnology Museum in Vienna after a two-year period of study and  restoration. This has once again brought attention to the problem of where it should be kept. This 500-year old vibrant green-and-blue headpiece, one of the few surviving examples of ancient Mexican feather art, remains at the centre of a tug-of-war between Mexico, which wants to bring it home, and Austria, which argues it is too fragile to be transported. The object, the only one of its kind still in existence, is believed to have been brought to Europe by Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes, and it was first documented in 1596 in the collection of Tyrolean archduke Ferdinand II. The Penacho headdress, 1.5-metres wide consists of some 450 iridescent green tail feathers from the rare quetzal bird which were knotted together embellished with gold adornments and smaller turquoise, red and brown feathers.
This method of assembly means the headdress could easily fall apart during transportation or if exposed to vibrations, according to a new study by Vienna's University of Technology. And this is the "key issue" at the centre of any restitution or loan debate, Austria's foreign ministry says. "Everything depends on the question of whether it is transportable. If the answer is no, there is no second or third question" as to whether Austria would be willing to send the Penacho back to Mexico, ministry spokesman Martin Weiss told AFP.  

Alfonso de Maria y Campos, director of Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), who wants to see the exhibition of this piece in Mexico remains undeterred.
"Mexico should be able to share the piece, granted that we find the best way to send it to Mexico fully protected of any harm," he told AFP.  "We don't dispute the property or the possession."But "if we worked together to restore and study it, we can find a way to send it to Mexico to be exhibited."  
Former Mexican President Vicente Fox had appealed informally to his Austrian counterpart Heinz Fischer to send the Penacho back during the latter's visit to Mexico in 2005, and indigenous Mexicans have repeatedly demanded the return of what they consider the "sacred crown of Moctezuma", though no official request was made for permanent restitution.
Sim Sim Wissgott, 'Moctezuma headdress stirs passions in Mexico, Austria', MSN news Sun, 18 Nov 2012

The Repatriation of the Vienna "Penacho" Feather Headdress?

With reference to the  "Penacho" Feather Headdress currently housed in the Vienna Ethnological Museum, Dr Kwame Opoku asks 'Has Mexico Renounced her Claim to Montezuma's Feather crown at the Vienna Ethnography Museum?' (Modern Ghana 20 November 2012). He points out that recent statements by Dr. Steven Boudewijn Engelsman, the director of that Museum, has thrown doubts on the belief that this Mexican cultural artefact will ever return to its country of origin. "Director Engelsman, said that, as a matter of fact, the Mexicans authorities, have never formally asked for the return of the famous feather crown and that claims for the return for the artefacts came only from persons in Austria". Opoku finds inconsistencies in such statements and suggests that:
Either the Mexicans have officially requested the return of Montezuma's crown or they have not. It seems the director of the Ethnology Museum is resorting to the discredited strategy and bogus arguments of the universal museums as described in our article mentioned above; we have described these tactics, used in the past by the British Museum with regard to the Benin artefacts and by the Berlin Neues Museum with regard to the restitution of Nefertiti... /
Opoku points out that the catalogue of the new exhibition of the piece, the work of a group of Austrians and Mexicans (Sabine Haag, Alfonso de Maria y Campos, Lilia Rivero Weber and Christian Feest - eds 2012 'Der Altmexiksnische Federkopfschmuck', ZKF Publishers, Instituto Nacional de Antropologia, Museum fur Völkerkunde), adopts more balanced view:
The curator of the exhibition, Gerard van Bussel, has stated that whatever may be the truth about the crown, whether it was used by Montezuma or used by some priest, it has become a symbol of Mexican identity and as such, a settled part of the collective memory of Mexicans of Indian and non-Indian origins. It is the importance of this artefact for Mexican culture and identity that should be in the forefront of any considerations on restitution. All considered, Mexico has every reason to expect Austria to treat it well in the matter of the restitution of Montezuma's Feather Crown.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Turkey Wants Talks with France on Antiquities

Turkish Culture Minister Ertugrul Gunay said Thursday that his country wishes to start a "dialogue" with French authorities for the return of tiles and other antiquities on display at the Louvre museum in Paris which Turkey claims were removed from the country illegally at the end of the 19th century.
The contested pieces include tiles from a historic Ottoman mosque in Istanbul. The tiles are part of a 12-metre- (40-foot-) long mosaic put together by the Louvre and one of the highlights of a new wing of Islamic art which was launched at the end of October. Turkey's Radikal newspaper said they were "stolen" from the Piyale Pasha mosque designed by Ottoman imperial architect Mimar Sinan for the vizier and grand admiral Piyale Mehmed Pasha and built between 1565 and 1573. Louvre authorities have said the pieces used in the mosaic were either donated and bought between 1871 and 1940, "In conditions that were perfectly legal and in line with the rules of the time". Turkey has also long been seeking the return of tiles taken from the 16th-century tomb of Sultan Selim II in Istanbul but former culture minister Frederic Mitterrand rejected the demand.

AFP 'Turkey wants talks with France on 'stolen' antiques', France 24 22nd Nov 2012.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

What Were Bonham's Thinking?

London auction house Bonhams was all set two days ago to sell 360 items in its scheduled Chinese Fine Art auction n Nov. 8. It was said that one of the two rare lots named "A rare Imperial very pale green jade archaistic hanging vase and cover, you Qianlong" and "Imperial white jade archaistic disc of the Jiaqing years" were looted by a British captain [Arthur Forbes-Robertson (1834-1863), 67th Regiment of Foot] from the Old Summer Palace in 1860. They knew that, that was what they wrote in the catalogue. Not surprisingly, the Chinese press reacted with indignation.

So, it's notable that they retracted the items from sale the moment there was the hint of a fuss:
Bonhams issued an apology as it confirmed the two jade carvings would not be sold after the owner withdrew them from a planned auction on Thursday to “avoid any possible offence”. The planned sale had sparked a furious reaction from Tan Ping, an official at China’s State Administration of Cultural Heritage, who labelled it “against the spirit of international conventions”. “Bonhams is very sorry to read reports in the Chinese press that offence has been caused in China by the proposed sale of two jade carvings,” Bonhams said in a statement received by AFP on Monday. “There was never in any way an intention to cause offence, and Bonhams regrets that this interpretation has been published.” 
Bonhams "never intended"? Or Bomhams knew jolly well what would happen if the pieces were noticed, and put them in their catalogue anyway, hoping either that nobody would notice, or the fuss would lead to some good publicity? What were they thinking?

English People's daily, 'Bonhams to auction two cultural relics stolen from the Old Summer Palace', November 6, 2012

Straits Times, 'Looted' Chinese antiques pulled from UK auction', Nov 05, 2012.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Pierre Rousseau Investigates the Wreck of the Mentor

Author Graham Bishop has a new book out in the Commissaire Pierre Rousseau Mysteries series. This one called "Return to the Parthenon" reveals that the nasty tombarolo did not die of the gunshot wounds he received in the last episode and lives to loot again. That'll please the dealers then. Here's the blurb from Amazon:
When HMS Mentor sank off the island of Kythira in 1802, 17 crates of sculptures prized off the Parthenon on the orders of Lord Elgin went to the bottom of the sea. Later they were all salvaged and taken to England. Or were they? Did the islanders save some of the sculptures themselves and conceal them on the island before the salvagers arrived? Why is an Italian diving team now searching the wreck? Pierre Rousseau and his Greek colleagues become involved in investigating what could be the find of the century. Returning lost scuptures to the Acropolis Museum in Athens would create a sensation. Or is all just a hoax to attract more tourists to the island? 
And here you can read the first bit, the writing seems rather lacklustre to me. But the possibility that some looted bits of the Parthenon might be in the sea in Greek territorial waters is an interesting one. In fact the wreck has been located and is currently being excavated.  Let the British just try and demand the return of the objects (personal effects of the crew for example) from this British ship...

UPDATE 24.11.12
Some news on the objects from the wreck.  No Parthenon bits so far.

Monday, October 1, 2012

"Turkey’s campaign criticized"

The top half of ‘Weary Herakles,’ was returned to Turkey last September.
The campaign of Turkey to reclaim archaeological items taken from Turkish soil is being strongly criticised in Europe claims the Turkish newspaper Hürriyet Daily News ('Turkey’s campaign criticized', October 2 2012).
“The Turks are engaging in polemics and nasty politics,” said Hermann Parzinger, president of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, according to the New York Times. “They should be careful about making moral claims when their museums are full of looted treasures,” Parzinger said. [...] Parzinger told the New York Times that Turkey did not actually posses any legal claim to the artifacts it claims the Pergamon Museum retains illegally. According to the article, Parzinger warned that “treating Germany like a petty thief puts more than a century of archaeological cooperation at risk and harms relations between the countries as Turkey seeks to join the European Union.”
I think Parzinger's words give out an entirely (and perhaps unintended - who knows?) message when reported to the Turkish public by the Turkish press that when he was talking to a sympathetic NYT journalist. But he said what he said, and the damage is done. 

Turkey's Claims on Antiquities in New York Times

The New York Times has yet another piece on the efforts of Turkey to get back from US museums what the country says rightfully belongs back in Turkey (Dan Bilefsky, 'Seeking Return of Art, Turkey Jolts Museums', New York Times September 30, 2012). The NYT characterises Turkey's "tactics" as "aggressive" and links them to the country "asserting itself politically in the Middle East in the wake of the Arab Spring" (eh?). Bilefsky says this has "particularly alarmed museums. Officials here are refusing to lend treasures, delaying the licensing of archaeological excavations and publicly shaming museums".He does not explain why Turkey should lend objects to museums that will not recognize their right to other objects and refuse to give them back - if they hand onto what they've already got from Turkey, why should Turkey lend them even more? Why should the Turks allow foreigners free and easy access to Turkish archaeological sites? It is not a "right" to be able to march into a foreign country and dig through its archaeological record at will. Why should we not shame museums who thumb their noses at foreign nations and their concerns? Bilefsky writes: 
An aggressive campaign by Turkey to reclaim antiquities it says were looted has [...] drawn condemnation from some of the world’s largest museums, which call the campaign cultural blackmail. In their latest salvo, Turkish officials this summer filed a criminal complaint in the Turkish court system seeking an investigation into what they say was the illegal excavation of 18 objects that are now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Norbert Schimmel collection [...] “We know 100 percent that these objects at the Met are from Anatolia,” the Turkish region known for its ancient ruins, [Turkey’s director-general of cultural heritage and museums, Murat] Suslu, an archaeologist, said in an interview. “We only want back what is rightfully ours.”Turkey’s efforts have spurred an international debate about who owns antiquities after centuries of shifting borders. Museums like the Met, the Getty, the Louvre and the Pergamon in Berlin say their mission to display global art treasures is under siege from Turkey’s tactics. Museum directors say the repatriation drive seeks to alter accepted practices, like a widely embraced Unesco convention that lets museums acquire objects that were outside their countries of origin before 1970.
Well, that's not actually true. Basically if the Norbert Schimmel collection contains items which were illegally excavated, and illegally removed from Turkey, then - "Convention" or no "Convention" - why would the Met WANT to keep them? Becoming party to the Convention surely is an indication of what a given country and its citizens consider right and proper, it contains principles which the act of accession surely indicates that a given state considers to be universal.

Met director, Thomas P. Campbell, said his museum believed the objects sought by Turkey "had been legally acquired by Norbert Schimmel in the European antiquities market in the 1960s before being donated to the museum in 1989, and thus were in compliance with the Unesco accord".
“The Turks are engaging in polemics and nasty politics,” said Hermann Parzinger, president of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, which oversees the Pergamon. “They should be careful about making moral claims when their museums are full of looted treasures” acquired, he said, by the Ottomans in their centuries ruling parts of the Middle East and southeast Europe. 
The President of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation also complains:“If all Westerners are just thieves and robbers,” he asked, “then who has been restoring their cultural heritage?” I really think this kind of rhetoric does no good, Turkey is not suggesting that ALL WESTERNERS are the problem, just some of their museum curators. I'd say the Prussian "Cultural" Heritage Foundation is not well served by the all-too-public expression of such sentiments.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

A Video Visit to the Acropolis Museum


"A short visit to the Acropolis Museum" posted on YouTube by TheAcropolisMuseum
Directed by Konstantinos Arvanitakis, Music: Yiannis Drenogiannis, Post Production: digimojo Production House. Copyright: Acropolis Museum
While on the topic, here's a video of the work being done in the Acropolis Museum on the cleaning and conservation of the Caryatids, the Kore from the south porch of the Erechtheion temple. Visitors had the opportunity to watch conservators do the delicate work of cleaning the Caryatids with advanced laser technology.


"Conserving the Caryatids", posted on YouTube by TheAcropolisMuseum Directed by Konstantinos Arvanitakis, Post Production: digimojo Production House. Copyright: Acropolis Museum

This month, the conservation work project carried out on the Caryatids of the Erectheion South Porch, using laser was awarded the 2012 Keck Award by the International Institute of Conservation (IIC) in Vienna. The Keck Award, endowed by Sheldon and Caroline Keck, is presented every two years at the IIC Congress to the individual or group who has, in the opinion of the Council, contributed most towards promoting public understanding and appreciation of the accomplishments of the conservation profession. The British Museum took small hammers and wire brushes to the Acropolis Marbles they claim to be "looking after". 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Flynn on New Moves to Return the Parthenon Marbles

Tom Flynn has a piece published yesterday 'Greece prepares for fresh assault on the British Museum over the Parthenon Marbles'(20th Sept 2012).

This follows the announcement by the Greek Ministry of Culture that it will now re-establish a special advisory committee to coordinate actions which will secure the repatriation of the Parthenon Marbles currently held in Britain. He quotes 'Alternate Culture Minister' Costas Tzavaras saying:
"Greece's moral right is above every objection that is based on arguments aired as mere delay tactics, and aiming to brush aside the basic principle that is universally applied, namely, the necessity of cultural monuments to be repatriated, meaning a return to the place of their origin".
Flynn comments:
That word "universally" jumps off the page. I'm not so sure the British Museum — the self-styled "universal" museum par excellence — would subscribe to any principle, basic or otherwise, that would support the repatriation of cultural monuments to their place of origin. Meanwhile, December could be crunch time for the Greek economy, with commentators of every stripe queuing up to predict Greece's exit from the Eurozone. Were that to happen it would surely increase the desire for repatriation of the Marbles as Greece seeks to reassemble its sense of national pride and cultural identity. If the Marbles are essential to the British Museum's tourist revenues — which we know them to be — it logically follows that they would bring a similar benefit to the New Acropolis Museum were they to be installed where they belong in the new museum's beautiful Parthenon Galleries. It will be interesting to see whether this new cultural committee manages (where past initiatives have signally failed) to maintain its momentum and presses its claim through the proper diplomatic channels with a tough follow-through.

Friday, September 14, 2012

The "Repatriation Debate" According to FT

The Financial Times has an article today which its author Peter Aspden claims is a presentation of the "repatriation debate". But I cannot share and comment on it as I would like, as the paper tells its readers: "High quality global journalism requires investment. Please share this article with others using the link below, do not cut & paste the article". As far as I am concerned therefore, readers can find for  themselves this "high quality journalism". I did not read it, but on skimming it note that it seems to have a big chunk which looks as if it's cobbled together from Cuno's book. What are the chances that this text it goes beyond the usual object-centred arguments and the "how to protect your investment in art" advice?

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Italian Group Requests Return of Mona Lisa to Florence

A formal request has been made to Aurelie Filippetti (pictured) for the painting to be given back
Aurelie Filippetti says 'no'.
It is being reported that campaigners of the National Committee for Historical, Cultural and Environmental Heritage in Italy have collected over 150,000 signatures calling on the Louvre museum in Paris to hand over Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa to Florence where its painting was begun. Committee President Silvano Vincenti said he has made a formal request to the French minister of culture, Aurelie Filippetti, for the painting to be given back.
Leonardo is thought to have begun work on the enigmatic portrait of Lisa del Giocondo, the wife of a wealthy Tuscan silk merchant, in Florence in 1503. But art historians think he took it with him when he moved to France in 1516. The French Royal family then acquired it and following a spell at Versailles it ended up at the Louvre museum after the French Revolution. 
So, no real grounds for it "going back" it seems to me. Surely this is just a publicity stunt.

Source: Michael Day, 'Give us back the Mona Lisa: Italian campaigners demand France returns world's most famous painting to 'home city' of Florence', Daily Mail 7th Sept 2012.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Penn-Turkey, Loan Resolution of Restitution Claim

This necklace is one of the items on long-term loanto Turkey.The University of Pennsylvania's Penn Museum has made a deal with Turkey over 24 pieces of ancient Trojan-style gold jewellery that seems to have been looted from northwestern Turkey in the 1960s. It has lent the pieces to that country for an indefinite period.
 In exchange, the Turkish government pledged to lend other artifacts for a one-year exhibit at Penn's Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology[...] The country also promised support for ongoing excavations by Penn scholars within its borders. The exchange represents an amicable agreement in a realm often marked by rancor [...]  The 24 pieces of gold jewelry, dated to 2400 B.C., were purchased by the Penn museum from a dealer in 1966, but were not accompanied by any documents that established their origin. [... the evidence of their Turkish provenance...] is highly likely but it's not conclusive," [Julian] Siggers [new director of the Penn museum since July] said. "That's why it goes as an indefinite loan as opposed to being given back. . . . They're delighted to have this back, but I think everybody wins here."
The clinching evidence of the origins of the items was some dirt in one of the loops which was found by  neutron activation analysis to have high arsenic levels.
That amount of arsenic, 40 parts per million, is similar to levels found in northwestern Turkey, he said. But Pernicka, who also studied the metal itself, said he could not prove it was from Turkey, adding that Greece was a possible alternative. This knowledge gap illustrates what can happen when artifacts are not excavated in an academic fashion, said C. Brian Rose, curator of the Penn museum's Mediterranean section and a professor of archaeology. "There's no question that it was looted," Rose said. "We're just not sure of the exact place from which it was looted." The Penn museum purchased the objects because of their similarity to others known to be from Troy - the city that inspired the Iliad, Homer's account of the Trojan War. But officials were troubled by the uncertain origin of the objects, and the museum decided in 1970 it would no longer acquire undocumented artifacts. It was the first museum to make that move. 
It turns out that the items had been bought in 1966 from Robert E. Hecht Jr. who had "bought the items from a middleman and did not know if they had been illegally excavated. He said he was not bothered by the lack of documentation. "The main thing is the beauty of the thing," Hecht said".


Tom Avril, 'Penn museum lends possibly plundered items to Turkey' Philadelphia Inquirer, Sep. 6, 2012,

Kathy Matheson, 'Penn Museum makes deal with Turkey for 'Troy gold', The Associated Press  Sept 4th 2012.

Vignette: One of the necklaces (Charles Fox, )

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

V&A's South East Asian Sculptures

Browsing in a second-hand bookshop this morning, I came across a copy of John Guy's (2007) "Indian Temple sculpture" published by the Victoria and Albert Museum, which as the blurb tells us is "illustrated with the V&A’s unrivalled collection of South Asian sculpture". Trouble is I browsed through it pretty thoroughly but it seems there is not a single word anywhere in the book I could see explaining where the bits in the V&A came from, how they became detached from the building, when they arrived in the UK by what means. It is apparently quite unapologetic about that aspect of collecting. Instead we are regaled with the tale that:
"this is the first book to look at Indian temple sculpture within its full context, from religion and ritual to architecture and iconography. John Guy examines the sculpture as an instrument of worship that embodies powerful religious experiences, and considers its cosmological meaning, its origins, the temple setting, and the role of sculpture within it, also revealing the vivid rituals and traditions still in practice today. An excellent introduction to the three traditional religions of the Indian subcontinent—Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism—through the myths and manifestations of the principal deities, Indian Temple Sculpture will fascinate all those interested in Indian culture".
Why though do the bits have to be detached from the building, taken from the subcontinent, housed in South Kensington in order that  someone has to write a book to explain all about their position in the architecture, temple setting? I would have thought that those who actually are "fascinated by Indian culture" (a bit more than just wanting a coffee table book on it) could relatively easily hop on a plane and go and see it first hand.  Perhaps these disparate fragments should go back, and then they can be properly appreciated in that setting which the book tries to recreate for them? India these days is not such a far-off destination for the average Londoner as it would have been when the V&A was founded. London and the V&A however probably are only marginally more accessible to the average Indian villager than they were back then. Surely in these days of easy intercontinental travel, European and North American trophy collections like this made at the expense of stripping a fragile monument the other side of the global village are a damaging anachronism. I did not buy the book, it would have just made me angry.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Not Even the Small Bits

The British Museum has once again reiterated that they would consider loaning the Parthenon Marbles it has, but that "Greece can forget about their return". This was in the context of a recent announcement that it was ready to discuss return of some of the marble pieces:
New Acropolis Museum Director Demetrios Pantermalis said on Aug. 23 that at a UNESCO meeting in June he had suggested the return of small fragments from the famous Parthenon Marbles to Greece, and that talks would be held in Athens in the coming weeks. “I proposed an arrangement to colleagues from the British Museum, involving pieces – hands, heads, legs – that belong to bodies from the Parthenon sculptures and can be reattached,” Pantermalis told SKAI Radio. “The proposal has been accepted in principle, we will have a discussion in the autumn,” he said. British Museum officials denied it, saying they had agreed only to “explore” a research partnership on the detached fragments of the Parthenon sculptures in Athens, London and elsewhere. [...] "The trustees of the British Museum will consider – subject to the usual considerations of condition and fitness to travel — any request for any part of the collection to be borrowed and then returned,” it said.
The British Museum has consistently rejected successive Greek calls for the return of the Marbles ripped off the building in 1801 to 1812, arguing that the sculptures "are part of world heritage and are more accessible to visitors in London". British Museum spokeswoman Hannah Boulton in 2009 said that "the museum would consider loaning the Marbles to Greece for three months on condition that Athens recognize the museum’s ownership rights to the sculptures". Three MONTHS? That would hardly be worth the packing, cost of transport and insurance would it? What "ownership rights" would those be?

I wonder whether on a par with the finders' rewards the museums of Britain pay artefact hunters, full market value, in order to establish those "owners' rights" the Museum would be willing to pay the Greek government the full market value of every single fragment of the Parthenon Marbles it intends to keep as long as possible. How much would a single Parthenon Metope with good collecting history going back to 1801 to 1812 be worth if it came onto the open market individually? Can Britain afford to pay the actual cost of what it has in effect stolen from the Greeks? Today's value of the £35000 the British Museum paid Lord Elgin for the marbles in 1816 seems to be about £2,090,000. These days that will not even buy a single Roman copper alloy parade helmet.

Andy Dabilis, 'British Museum: No Return of Parthenon Marbles', Greek Reporter August 26, 2012

Friday, August 24, 2012

Australian Efforts to Keep Looted Art

Britain and the 1954 Hague Convention: This is Just Getting Embarrassing

Almost four years ago (Sunday, 28 September 2008) I wrote this post: Half a century on and we're still just talking about it... about the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict” and its two protocols. It strikes me that in fact in those four years, nothing much has changed and the DCMS and English Heritage websites say exactly the same thing as four years ago, "we are STILL talking about it". This is just getting embarrassing. So what are heritage professionals in the UK doing to hurry the process along? Anything? Is it possible the UK is waiting for the document's sixtieth anniversary in just 20 months' time before jubilantly announcing to the world, "OK, we'll agree to ratify it now"? Or will they find another excuse? Scandalous.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

"Trafficking Culture" Online

Trafficking Culture is a research project based at the University of Glasgow, currently funded by the European Research Council from 2012-16, which aims to produce an evidence-based picture of the contemporary global trade in looted cultural objects.

Their new website  includes links to project team members, publications, and an encyclopedia of terminology, methodology, theory and a variety of case studies from around the world. They promise it will be regularly updated. For those who prefer shorter soundbite style 'news' they can also be followed on Twitter @CultureTraffic and on Facebook at

There are short bios of the team members here

An impressive five-page bibliography of texts written by team members to date. There are also details of current projects.

Most of the project seems to be connected with current ongoing looting, rather than repatriation issues, but there is an  online encyclopaedia being created of "case studies, law, theory and methods and terminology" which seems to include pre-1970 issues as well. This has the potential to be very useful when it is more advanced (though may be difficult to navigate without a proper index).

It is worth noting that as of yet there is no definition of either the word "trafficking" or "culture", which seems a pretty fundamental starting point here. What actually is meant by "culture" in this context? Does it include dinosaurs? Still, early days yet, I am sure all will become clearer as the project develops.

Since there are so many sides to these issues and so many viewpoints, would the authors not consider it worthwhile to allow comments to these definitions?

Vignette: the tired old 1970 Convention needs new teeth. 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Lord Elgin Loots London

The independent movement for the repatriation of the stolen Greek sculptures and art has produced another thought-provoking presentation, under the title: “If Elgin had been in …”
The series of pictures shows what would have happened if Lord Elgin had not only been to Athens but to plunder other cities of the world as well. The pictures aim at raising awareness among the public and the authorities about the catastrophe Lord Elgin wrought upon the Parthenon. [...] The Greek artists are attempting to compare the Greek monument’s looting to what could have been inflicted on other major sites and statues around the world, if their most treasured possessions had been stolen. The last picture depicts the Parthenon in its current state and the caption reads “…but Elgin went to Athens”.

Source: Stella Tsolakidou, 'If Elgin was in …” Rome, London, New York, Paris, etc.', Greek reporter August 7, 2012

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

International Colloquy. Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles.

The International Colloquy, "Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles" (19-20 June 2012) was held in the Hellenic Centre, and was attended by leading representatives from four continents. It was timed to coincide with the third year anniversary of the opening of the new Acropolis Museum and the occasion of the 2012 London Olympics one month later.

Co-presented by The British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles (BCRPM), The American Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures (ACRPS), and The International Organizing Committee -- Australia -- for the Restitution of the Parthenon Marbles (IOC-A-RPM), the 2012 international colloquy echoed the efforts around the globe to educate and connect people and resources. By forging an open dialogue and coalitions among supporters, the organizing committees hope to further increase the level of awareness and support around the world. The event will be held annually and Sydney (Australia) was announced as the host of the 2013 instance (late October - early November 2013).

Now 17 videos of the 2012 proceedings are available online (the streaming of the Colloquy's proceedings was made possible thanks to the generous sponsorship of Mr Peter Magiros and Frutex Australia).

Camera: Laurence Middleton Jones, Actionstream Direct Media, London
Editor: Dennis Tritaris, Orama Communications, Sydney.

Keynote speaker was the world-renowned human rights advocate and author, George Bizos SC, a Member of BCRPM and lawyer to Nelson Mandela, who spoke on issues relating to litigation. Among the other topics presented included the concept of the "Universal Museum", issues of litigation, the Acropolis Museum, archaeological perspectives, and special tributes to Eleni Cubitt, founder of the British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles, and the late journalist, Christopher Hitchens, a friend and supporter of the Committee.

I thought the presentation by Dr Tom Flynn exceptionally good, and would urge all readers to listen to what he says - and how he says it - attentively. Brilliant.

I would advise skipping the long intro from the first minute of these videos, the music gets a bit wearing after the third one...

The first videos on the playlist are introductions from the leaders of the three participating organizations. They set the background to the event and the way the problem is being approached:

Monday, August 6, 2012

I am Greek, I Want to Go Home

The Independent Movement for the Repatriation of Looted Greek Antiquities has produced a video: 'I am Greek and I Want to go Home'

Photography, Concept and Artwork by Ares Kalogeropoulos
Original Music ("Rise") by Ares Kalogeropoulos

It can be seen alongside this one, take a good look at this message to the British:

The British Museum will probably release a statement this morning dismissively calling the producers of the videos "trolls". Help make them go viral.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

African Antiquities and the Trade

There is a good piece in The New York Times about the threat to African archaeology caused by the market for the bits of it which can be considered "art". This leads to the digging up of durable and collectable objects such as terracottas and bronzes and the smuggling of them out of the country to foreign markets. This leads on the one hand to the destruction of the information which could be obtained by excavation of sites like Djenne-Djenno, but also the depletion of the cultural property which is available for appreciation by the inhabitants of the region. The article discusses among other things, the mess made at Djenne-Djenno since the 1970s by looters and the response of the international community (banning smuggled artefacts from sale, trying to reduce interest in the trade), and touches upon the Benin punitive Expedition loot question and the destruction of tombs and other objects in the ongoing conflict in Mali. Worth a read.

Restitution des Oeuvres d'Art, Solutions et Impasses

On MSN is a short review posted by Jos van Beurden of a work on the issue of repatriation: La Restitution des Oeuvres d'Art, Solutions et Impasses (Corinne Herskovitch & Didier Rykner, Hazan, Paris, 2011).
Herskovitch and Rykner discuss quite a number French examples of successful and failed returns, among them three examples of Nigerian Nok statues with three different outcomes, Nazi spoliated art including the role of the Vichy government, and Korean manuscripts that were returned recently. They make it clear that even if the legal path is being used, still political arguments can be decisive. They clearly describe how France and other colonial powers contributed to the museum-infrastructure in their colonies and at the same time amassed, during wars, punitive expeditions, collecting for scientific purposes and collecting by private people, huge quantities of art and antiques from these countries. They also depict the stalemate between the former colonial powers and the source countries, but do not come to a conclusions as how to go on with this.
In the review, the comment is made that the authors of this book "do not understand why source countries, gathered in Egypt in 2010, so much neglected the non-retroactivity of conventions".

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Symposium on Repatriation of Archaeological and Ethnographic Objects


In October, the DePaul University College of Law Center for Art, Museum & Cultural Heritage Law will sponsor a symposium to address the underlying legal, ethical and moral reasons and policies behind the repatriation of archaeological and ethnographic objects.

Repatriation of Archaeological and Ethnographic Objects

In recent years, countries of origin have successfully recovered illegally removed archaeological and ethnographic objects. Indigenous and Native American communities also have successfully recovered cultural artifacts excavated from ancient burial sites. Such recoveries are the result of a patchwork of legal rules, treaties and extra-legal pressure placed on the current possessor. The museum community and some market participants now accept that archaeological objects unprovenanced before 1970 should not be acquired without proof of legal export. However, countries of origin have recently sought to move beyond the “1970 rule” and are requesting the repatriation of objects appropriated during earlier times as a part of imperialism, colonialism, or armed conflict. The underlying bases supporting repatriation in such cases are often unclear, and the validity of these repatriation claims is hotly debated.

Well-known examples of historical claims include Nigeria's request for repatriation of the Benin bronzes that British troops removed during the 1897 "Punitive Expedition"; China's efforts to seek the return of bronze animal heads, once part of the zodiac fountain clock in the Yuanming Yuan garden of the Old Summer Palace that French and English troops looted and burned in 1860, and the recent move by Turkey to recover antiquities taken before 1970, including the Zeugma mosaic. U.S. indigenous communities have recovered cultural artifacts within the legal structure of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), but some claims and museums have acted outside of NAGPRA as well. Finally, the symposium will address the tensions that arise when a fiduciary duty arguably conflicts with a perceived legal or moral obligation to return a cultural object. 

The symposium will bring together lawyers, museum professionals, representatives of indigenous communities, and other scholars and experts in the field. Participants will discuss the repatriation of cultural objects appropriated in the more distant past whose restitution some view as outside the scope of existing law, but others view as a matter of restitutionary justice. They also will address the repatriation of artifacts looted in recent times whose removal is often viewed as causing contemporary damage to the cultural heritage of communities and nations and to the historical and archaeological record.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Spiegel on Russia's War Trophy Art

Martin Doerry and Matthias Schlepp recently conducted an interview with Irina Alexandrovna, director of the Pushkin Museum  in Moscow. A translation by Christopher Sultan was published by Spiegel International online. Next to the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, the century-old museum is considered to hold the most important collection of foreign art in Russia. Its collection includes 670,000 paintings, sculptures and archaeological artefacts. The interview with the 90-year-old Irina Antonova  begins by touching upon a variety of subjects, mainly reflecting the west's fascination and prejudices against demonized "communists". It however dwells on the issue of  art taken from Germany in 1945 and retained in Russian Museums:
a historical burden continue[s] to tarnish German-Russian relations -- despite the fact that the Soviet Union had collapsed in 1991 and the Cold War was part of the past.To this day, looted German art -- known as "trophy art" in Moscow -- lies in the vaults of Russian museums. Promises to reach mutually acceptable solutions to the problem have never been kept.The different terms that the two countries use for the art treasures in question are revealing. Berlin views the works of art carried off by the Red Army after the end of World War II, on Stalin's orders, as stolen and is demanding their return. Moscow sees them as moral compensation for the atrocities that Germans committed during the war. Russia's "Extraordinary State Commission to Examine and Investigate German-Fascist Crimes Committed by the Invaders and their Accomplices on Soviet Territory" had listed 427 Soviet museums and 4,000 libraries that fell victim to the Germans. According to the commission, more than 110 million books and publications were destroyed. In February 1997, the State Duma, the lower house of Russia's parliament, which was controlled by a majority of communists and nationalists at the time, declared the disputed artworks from Germany to be the permanent property of Russia.
[...] According to the Russian Ministry of Culture, less than 10 percent of the art brought from Germany is still in Russia. Between 1955 and 1960, the Soviet Union returned 1.5 million museum artifacts to communist-ruled East Germany, including 1,240 works from the Old Masters Gallery in Dresden, 16,000 graphic works and more than 100,000 coins. The famous Pergamon Altar was also returned to Germany at the time, as was the "Green Vault," the treasure chamber of the Elector of Saxony. Since 1996, the permanent collection at Moscow's Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts has included "Priam's Treasure," which the German businessman and amateur archeologist Heinrich Schliemann discovered in Troy in 1873 and brought home to Germany. The museum's vaults also contain the gold of the Merovingians and the so-called Treasure of Eberswalde.
Antonova: [...]  the generation of Germans alive today isn't responsible for Hitler and the invasion of the Soviet Union. But, to be entirely clear, the issue of trophy art is primarily one of an ethical nature. It has to do with moral and not so much financial compensation for Russia. One cannot simply invade a country, destroy its museums and try to stamp out the roots of its culture, as the Germans did. This is a historic lesson for the entire world. After the end of the war, I went to Leningrad and the Peterhof Palace. Everything had been reduced to ruins.
SPIEGEL: International law and the Hague Convention of 1907 prohibit the theft of art.
Antonova: The Hague Convention is outdated because the nature of wars has changed. Nowadays, mankind needs a different mechanism, at an international level, to protect the world's cultural heritage. For a new convention, it would be sufficient to agree on one sentence: A country is liable, with its own cultural treasures, for the damage it inflicts on the cultural heritage of another nation. Then no one will drop bombs on the Louvre, the Prado in Madrid or the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. I have proposed going to The Hague with this initiative. If they allow me to speak, I'll be happy to make an appearance there.
SPIEGEL: Article 16 of the 1990 German-Russian Treaty on the Final Settlement With Respect to Germany obligates both sides to return looted art. Why has this yet to happen?
Antonova: As far as I can remember, the treaty doesn't contain such an obligation. Everything it says relates to works of art that were removed illegally rather than in conjunction with war.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Trophy-Mining Ancient Monuments in Turkey

John Leonard ('The looting of Sardis', Athens News 24 May 2012) discusses the background to the removal of a shipload of artefacts from ancient Sardis, in western Asia Minor by American excavators in 1921-1922. According to Leonard, the action was:
symptomatic of a larger trend in which rapacious European and American individuals and institutions sought to take advantage of the late 19th- and early 20th-century decline of the Ottoman Empire to enrich private collections and national museums. Prominent among those figures advocating the removal of Greco-Roman and other antiquities from Ottoman lands were two Princeton professors, Howard Crosby Butler, Sardis’ first excavator, and Edward Capps, chair of the managing committee of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA)".

Archaeologist Fikret Yegul, discussed these events in a 2010 article, and:
The question that seems to lie at the heart of the looting of Anatolian archaeological sites in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, according to Yegul, is whether the moribund Ottoman Empire had any right to the rich cultural heritage that lay within its boundaries. “To cast the followers of Mohammed,” Yegul writes, “in the role of caretakers of classical culture - a culture all European nation states claimed as their own, with similar noises coming from across the [Atlantic] - was an anathema.” Indeed, the Ottomans’ “exotic” eastern empire “was seen as an illegitimate and barbaric power, especially as concerned dominion over the Greco-Roman heritage of Western Anatolia and Christian Jerusalem”. 
One might note that nothing much seems to have altered, American collectors and dealers still today voice such opinions in justification of their own no-questions-asked dealings with dugup artefacts from other people's territories. Leonard considers though that these artefact hunters: "may simply have been exploiting the Ottomans’ laxity, systemic corruption or current political troubles as an opportunity to benefit themselves, their employers or their favourite museums". There had been a long history of the mining of sites in Anatolia for displayable trophies for western museums:
The Ottomans’ revised antiquities law of 1884, which prohibited all cultural materials from leaving the country, had been a reaction to a host of past offences committed on a grand scale across western Asia Minor. As early as 1841 the English traveller Charles Fellows had shipped an entire Classical temple-tomb, the Nereid Monument from the southwestern town Xanthos, to the British Museum. Briton Charles Newton plundered the decorative sculpture of the 4th century BC Mausoleum of Halicarnassus for the same museum in the 1850s. Shortly after, in 1863, John Wood, an English engineer, removed whatever he could find of the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, leaving only a gaping hole. Then, in the 1870s, Carl Humann spirited away to Berlin the bulky, intricately carved remains of the Hellenistic Altar of Zeus at Pergamon. The passage of the 1884 Ottoman antiquities law was perceived as a bothersome development by foreign excavators and collectors, but it did not stop them from continuing to export their archaeological discoveries. They simply found ways to circumvent the law, even - like David Hogarth at Priene in 1905 - appearing surprised that the new regulations applied to them. Exportations carried on, with Theodor Wiegand, director of the German Archaeological Institute at Istanbul, removing the entire Agora Gate at Miletus in 1908. The Austrians, too, led by Otto Bendorf, in the years 1896-1906, packed off to Vienna nearly everything they unearthed at Ephesus. 
 Excavations by foreign missions in the region were brought to a halt by the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, but when it ended, the digging gradually resumed, as did illegal exportation. According to Leonard, finds were taken to American museums from the Harvard University excavations at Colophon and Sardis in 1922. From the latter site the removed artefacts were enough to fill 56 crates ("enough to fill three railroad cars").
Upon learning of the clandestine shipment, the cultural authorities of the newly established Republic of Turkey immediately stopped the Americans’ excavation permit for Sardis and for all other Anatolian sites. A diplomatic resolution was finally reached after 53 of the original crates - including the 30 gold coins and 122 silver coins - were shipped back to Turkey in 1924, where they were inspected and divided up. Ultimately, 12 crates containing various artefacts and four gold coins arrived back in New York by the end of August 1925 - a “gift” from Turkey.
Thus ended "an era when Anatolian antiquities were regularly used by both Turks and foreigners as currency with which one could purchase fame, professional success and political favour". The antiquities authorities of the new Turkish state struggled to compensate for centuries of Ottoman neglect of the region’s cultural heritage, between 1923 and 1926 they built seven new archaeological museums. 

Monday, May 28, 2012

Queen-Mother 'Oo?

"Ya what?"
are probably the three most common answers you'd get from people exiting the British Museum to the simple question posed by Kwame Opoku's most recent article on the topic of the Benin loot kept there ('Do They Know Queen-Mother Idia?' May 27th 2012).
A recent visit to the British Museum confirmed what we have observed in previous years: many Western visitors to the museum have no specific interest in any particular Benin object, even if they visit the Sainsbury Gallery and look at the Benin Bronzes. They are mostly unaware of the looted Queen-Mother-Idia(“Iyoba”) ivory mask. Have the hundred years of illegal retention of this mask had any effect on the knowledge and interest of the average Western visitor to the museum? It seems hardly any European visitor is even aware that the mask represents an important personality in Benin history. Most Western visitors are certainly unaware of her important and decisive role and influence in stabilizing the Kingdom of Benin during the civil war at the end of the 15th Century, a crucial period in Benin history. 
He goes on:
Contrary to the propaganda of the Declaration on the Importance and Value of Universal Museums, Benin culture has not become part of European heritage and culture even though Benin artefacts have been [...] detained in Western museums for more than hundred years. [...]  Queen-Mother Idia clearly plays no role in the culture, imagination and thinking of Westerners. So why keep her captive in London when she would be a subject of veneration and reverence in her homeland Benin, Nigeria? Why do the British Museum and the British Government still insist on keeping in Britain cultural artefacts of others, against the will of the owners? So far, we have not come across any reasonable justification for such an attitude.
 Opoku concludes that the only real reason that the Brits hang on to stuff like this is to cling to the relics of their own imperial 'glory'. Meanwhile another part of the Post-Enlightenment British Museum:

 Greek tragedy in the British Museum (Portableantiquities photostream on Flickr)

As ian Richardson reports, apparently approvingly ('Medieval Late at the British Museum), the Post-Enlightemnent today relies on edutaining gimmicks:
The Mausoleum of Halikarnassos gallery (Room 2) with its two specially-lit colossal statues formed the stage for a young acting troupe’s twist on Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, which was seen by an overflowing crowd of onlookers. Even a presentation on the art of medieval hairdressing for film and theatre was given a dramatic location in front of the Nereid Monument in Room 17.
So I suppose this is the cultural mix-and-match of the Universal Museum in practice. Most "enlightening" I am sure. Was this what these sculted stones were transported across an entire continent to London for? To provide a "cultcheral-innit" backdrop to some tomfoolery that could have been done equally artistically in a shopping mall? What does the bloke with a cycling helmet on his head add to anyone's appreciation of the statues from Halicarnassus. That is Bodrum, Turkey. Maybe they should go back too to where they might be subjected to fewer indignities than they do in the BM's peculiar brand of dumb-down "outreach".