|The piece itself, |
one of a pair
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?