Couple Says Gallery Sold a Bogus Rockwell
Museum Security Network Google Group, founded bij Ton Cremers, Google Group moderated by Alice Farren-Bradley
MILLIONS of dollars’ worth of art and artefacts have been traded through a controversial “pop up” and online auction house that sold paintings attributed to big-name Aboriginal artists even after being warned they were probably fakes.
Over the weekend the company, Arthouse Auctions, withdrew a painting expected to be sold today against the name of one of Australia’s highest profile Aboriginal artists, Tommy Watson, after being told by The Australian that the work was an alleged forgery.
Arthouse Auctions managing director and national head of art, Giovanna Fragomeli, had previously declared herself “absolutely” confident that the painting was authentic.
Arthouse has held at least 79 sales across five states and the ACT since 2011, appearing to target small-time collectors and mum-and-dad investors. Last year alone it reaped more than $2.3 million from 28 sales, according to “verified” online records.
Earlier this month, The Australian revealed that at least 15 canvases purportedly by 2012 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Art Award winner Barbara Moore had been faked, two of which turned up at an Arthouse sale in Brisbane in November.
The Australian can now reveal that at least nine allegedly fake works attributed to Watson appeared in Arthouse sales last year. Six of those nine paintings sold for a total of $69,250, according to records held by auction website Invaluable.com. Individual Watson works have changed hands for hundreds of thousands of dollars on the private market.
On October 24, head of Yanda Aboriginal Art and Watson’s “worldwide agent” Chris Simon wrote to Arthouse warning that two paintings scheduled for sale on October 26 “to my (Simon’s) experienced eye are not by Tommy.”
“I asked Tommy if he was responsible for the works and he has denied painting them,” the letter said. “His family representatives also denied that Tommy had painted the advertised paintings.”
The letter demanded immediate removal of the works, which were instead sold for a combined total of $22,000, with no warnings about contested authorship, according to Invaluable.com’s records.
A copy of Simon’s letter has been obtained by The Australian.
The Australian sent a list of 13 works offered for sale by Arthouse as attributed to Watson to author and art consultant Ken McGregor, considered an authority on the Aboriginal painter’s art. McGregor identified nine paintings he said were definitely “not right” and one more he had doubts about.
“(Arthouse has) been actively selling paintings attributed to Tommy Watson that aren’t his,” Mr McGregor said.
He also claimed to have obtained independent confirmation that the works were inauthentic from Watson and his family. Arthouse last week published a catalogue for its latest Aboriginal Art & Artefacts Auction — scheduled to take place in Sydney today — containing one of the allegedly fake Watson works, offered for sale with a Certificate of Authenticity and “photos of the artist with the painting”. Arthouse offers a “100 per cent guarantee of authenticity based on the catalogue descriptions”, according to its website.
When telephoned by The Australian last week, Ms Fragomeli said she stood by her company’s guarantee and was confident the advertised work was painted by Watson. She promised to send supporting documentation, including photographic evidence of authorship, that did not arrive. The Australian sent her detailed questions last Thursday.
No response had been received at the time of publication.
The suspect work had disappeared from the catalogue yesterday morning. It is not the first time Arthouse has been accused of trading dodgy art. In 2013, the company sold “original lithographs” attributed to Margaret Preston that turned out to be pages ripped from a magazine, according to a report by the ABC.
In November, Tjala Arts, based in SA’s APY Lands, circulated a flyer warning “Buyer Beware!”, after a painting purporting to be Amata Community Collaborative work from the APY Lands appeared in one of Arthouse’s catalogues.
World Museum,Vienna (formerly,Ethnology Museum).
This surprising decision was made by the Minister for Culture but is apparently also supported by the Director of the museum. (1) As readers may recall, the museum has been closed since 2000 for repairs. (2)
Most museums have complained of inadequate space for displaying the artefacts they hold and have been requesting more space, resulting in new buildings or continued complaints. This is the first time that an important museum has actually been deprived of some of its existing space. Is this a reflection of the Citys slogan:Wien ist anders, Vienna is different?
This shocking decision is said to be supported also by the present director of the museum who had previously stated he was surprised by the decision and was reported to have said the decision came to him as a thunderbolt. (3) Most readers will recognize that the director probably had no choice in the matter. Museum directors have not been known to display any tendency to demolition. They rather tend to be for aggrandizement and for the expansion of their establishment and its resources, both in terms of artefacts, space and personnel. The museum world has never embraced the notion that small is beautiful.
In addition, the Vienna World Museum is said to have now at its disposal only 130.000 Euros for exhibitions compared to a museum like Quai Branly Museum, Paris, that has at its disposal more than 5 millions Euros for exhibitions.
One does not need to have the foresight of a prophet to predict that a museum that has reduced space and less money for exhibition is not very likely to attract huge crowds; its attractions have been reduced with the consequent loss of importance and prestige. Diminished space, diminished resources are more likely to result in diminished prestige.
The Austrian authorities clearly demonstrate in this matter that they do not attach much importance to the World Museum,Vienna. They also show thereby that they do not necessarily attach great value to the non-European cultural objects that are in the museum as compared to European works in a museum such as the Kunsthistorisches Museum.
It is not for me to advise Austria as to how it utilises its resources or organizes its museums but as a person who has been concerned with museums and their artefacts, especially the non-European artefacts in Western museums, an obvious diminution of the status and importance of such museums cannot escape my attention as an observer.
Whatever dispositions are made as regards the World Museum, our constant interest has been the fate of the invaluable African artefacts in this museum. We have always advocated the restitution of some of these objects to their rightful owners in Africa. We have in countless articles suggested that, in all fairness, the World Museum, Vienna, should return to the Benin Monarch some of the 167 Benin Bronzes it holds. (4)
The position regarding the Benin Bronzes in Vienna is quite extraordinary.
Members of the notorious British Punitive Expedition of 1897 against Benin, posing proudly with looted Benin ivories and bronze objects.
These fine works of art from Benin were looted by a British invasion army in 1897 and, later in the same year of invasion, some of the booty items were sold to Austria. The Benin Monarch has at various occasions repeatedly requested the return of some of his precious artefacts but so far, not a single object has been returned by the World Museum despite United Nations and UNESCO resolutions. (5) The museum has since 2000 been closed to the public as stated already. Visitors going to Vienna from Benin or elsewhere cannot see these excellent works of art. When, and if, the World Museum reopens in 2017 as projected, it will have less space for displaying the 167 Benin Bronzes as well as the other items of the 200,000 objects it holds. So why is the museum keeping objects it cannot display whilst the owners have been asking for the return of some of the artefacts?
Commemorative head of an Oba, Benin, Nigeria, now in World Museum (formerly Vlkerkunde Museum) Vienna, Austria.
Kwame Opoku, 23 January,2015
Offener Brief von ICOM sterreich an Bundesminister Dr. Josef Ostermayer,16.01.2015
2. Kwame Opoku, www.modernghana.com/…/ethnology-museum-vienna-changes-name-to
3. Der 2012 bestellte neue Direktor des Museums fr Vlkerkunde, Steven Engelsman, der das Haus 2013 in “Weltmuseum Wien” umbenannt und Plne zu einer Verschrnkung der Weltruf genieenden Sammlungen des Hauses mit den wichtigen Fragen der Gegenwart vorgelegt hatte, berichtete davon, wie er am 20. November bei einem Termin mit Minister Ostermayer aus allen Wolken gefallen sei, als er die neuen Vorstellungen der Politik erfahren musste. “In einem einzigen Moment wandelte sich Rckenwind in Gegenwind.
Weltmuseum Wien: “Redimensionierung in die andere Richtung” gefordertAPA 15.1.2015 http://www.weltmuseumwien.at/
Comments of the Director oft he World Museum
Queen-Mother Idia and Others Must Return Home: Training Courses are no Substitutes for Looted Treasures
LIST OF HOLDERS OF BENIN ARTEFACTS
Almost every Western museum has some Benin objects. Here is a short list of some of the places where the Benin Bronzes are to be found and their numbers. Various catalogues of exhibitions on Benin art or African art also list the private collections of the Benin Bronzes. Many museums refuse to inform the public about the number of Benin artefacts they have and do not display permanently the Benin artefacts in their possession since they do not have enough space. A museum such as Vlkerkundemuseum, Vienna, now World Museum, has closed since 15 years the African section where the Benin artefacts were, apparently due to renovation works which are not likely to be finished before 2017. Since that museum will have less space in future, it will clearly not be in a position to display all the Benin Bronzes it holds.
Berlin – Ethnologisches Museum 580.
Boston, – Museum of Fine Arts 28.
Chicago – Art Institute of Chicago 20, Field Museum 400.
Cologne – Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum 73.
Glasgow _ Kelvingrove and St, Mungos Museum of Religious Life 22.
Hamburg – Museum fr Vlkerkunde, Museum fr Kunst und Gewerbe 196.
Dresden – Staatliches Museum fr Vlkerkunde 182.
Leipzig – Museum fr Vlkerkunde 87.
Leiden – Rijksmuseum voor Volkenkunde 98.
London – British Museum 900.
New York – Metropolitan Museum of Fine Art 163.
Oxford – Pitt-Rivers Museum/ Pitt-Rivers country residence, Rushmore in Farnham/Dorset 327.
Stuttgart – Linden Museum-Staatliches Museum fr Vlkerkunde 80.
Vienna – Museum fr Vlkerkunde now World Museum 167.
Raadsleden: ‘Kunstroof Westfries Museum mag niet vergeten worden’
Uit dichtbij.nl, regio West-Friesland:
HOORN – Het is vrijdag tien jaar geleden dat uit het Westfries Museum 24 zeventiende eeuwse schilderen en zestig zilverwerken werden gestolen ,,De kunstroof dreigt vergeten te worden. Dit verontrust ons”, zeggen raadsleden Roger Tonnaer (Fractie Tonnaer) en Robert Vinkenborg (HOP). Om die reden stellen de fracties vragen aan het college van Hoorn.
Die meneer Tonnaer toch! Was hij niet destijds, tijdens de roof, de verantwoordelijke wetgever die nooit een vinger uitstak naar het Westfries Museum? Was hij destijds niet de wethouder die samen met de pathalogisch liegende (voormalig) directeur Ruud Spruit in de pers volhield dat de beveiliging van het museum prima in orde was? Is hij verontrust dat de kunstroof dreigt te worden vergeten? Te laat, meneer Tonnaer, te laat. U had verontrust moeten zijn over de beveiliging van het museum voordat de omvangrijke diefstal plaatsvond. Aan de krokodillentranen tien jaar na de diefstal heeft niemand iets.
Tonnaer en Vinkenborg ….. vrezen dat het evenement en het politieonderzoek niets hebben opgeleverd. Ze hopen dat er meer bekendheid komt voor de gestolen werken, bijvoorbeeld door ze weer te geven op de site van het museum of door het organiseren van andere evenementen. De raadsleden willen graag dat de gemeente het Westfries Museum hierbij ondersteunt.
Meer bekendheid door de gestolen werken weer te geven op de site van het museum? Die schilderijen werden meteen na de diefstal op de site van het museum weergegeven. Weet Tonnaer zelfs dat net? Zijn ze er weer afgehaald? Kan ik mij niet voorstellen.
Van het college in Hoorn willen de twee weten of er nog onderzoek gedaan wordt naar de gestolen schilderen en de zilverwerken. Een andere vraag is, of de werken in The Art Loss Register zijn opgenomen en hoeveel dat tot nu toe heeft gekost.
Die schilderijen werden na de diefstal meteen gemeld bij het Art Loss Register. Ruud Spruit stak in een alles behalve fraai stuk hoernalistiek de loftrompet over het Art Loss Register in een met fouten doorspekt boek (zie: http://www.museumbeveiliging.com/2009/08/31/kunstdiefstal-loont-falend-voormalig-directeur-westfries-museum-vertaalt-boek-over-kunstdiefstal/). “Spruit houdt als een bedelende baviaan zijn morsige schrijverskont omhoog voor iedereen die betalen wil”). Tonnaer wil weten wat de registratie bij het Art Loss Register kost. Volgens mij was een telefoontje naar het ALR voldoende geweest om dat te achterhalen. Bovendien: registratie bij deze premiejagers is niet de enige optie; de database van Interpol en die van de Carabinieri zijn vele malen groter dan die van het Art Loss Register.
HACKENSACK, N.J. (CN) – A Manhattan art gallery passed off a MobilOil advertisement as a “guaranteed” Norman Rockwell, for which it charged $347,437, a couple claims in court.
Barry and Isabel Knispel, of Saddle River, N.J., filed the complaint in Bergen County Superior Court against Gallery 63 Antiques and the owners of that Midtown East shop.
It was Gallery 63 that solicited the Knispels, who say they are “known art collectors,” 20 years ago, the Dec. 23 complaint alleges.
Those negotiations allegedly led the Knispels to purchase multiple paintings from Gallery 63, “including a piece represented to them by Gallery 63 as an original Norman Rockwell, titled ‘Mending His Ways.'”
Emphasizing that they “never visited Gallery 63’s New York location,” the Knispels claim to have negotiated via telephone, mailed the gallery a check and had the painting delivered to their home, where it has hung ever since.
On Oct. 8, 1994, the same day that the gallery issued the Knispels a $347,437 bill of sale for the painting, it had a specialist appraise the artwork.
The Knispels say the now-deceased Laurence Casper examined the painting, holding “himself out to the public as ‘an art historian by academic training at the graduate school of New York University.'”
“A purported ‘Certified Appraiser by the Appraisers Association of America,'” Casper also held himself out as “a specialist in American painting of the 19th and 20th century,” the complaint states.
The complaint quotes Casper’s written appraisal as stating that “the brush strokes, the painting texture and the draftsmanship [are] consistent with Rockwell’s technique.” (Brackets added.)
“The type of faces and expressions are typical of his characters in other paintings as well,” Casper allegedly wrote.
“The painting is not recorded and I believe the painting was commissioned for an advertisement and never used,” the appraisal allegedly continues. “In my opinion, [the painting] is an original by Norman Rockwell with all the humor and artistic quality that Rockwell created in all his works.” (Brackets in original.)
Based on the Casper appraisal, and a guarantee from the gallery’s bill of sale as to the “originality” of the painting’s oil, the Knispels have maintained a $1.75 million insurance policy on the painting, according to the complaint.
The Knispels say, in connection with a 2013 policy renewal, that their insurer wanted the purported Rockwell painting and other art in the couple’s collection re-examined for authenticity.
New York Fine Art Appraisers thus examined the painting at the request of the Knispels, but their report “reveals the painting is not an ‘original oil on canvas by Norman Rockwell’ as represented by defendants,” the complaint states.
“Rather, the painting was determined to be an illustration for a MobilOil advertisement by Harold Anderson, titled ‘Patching Pants,'” the complaint continues. “NYFAA noted that the Rockwell signature was painted over the signature of the original artist and that this alteration is (and should have been) open and obvious to any appraiser with training and experience similar to Casper’s.”
The Knispels say their fake Rockwell “is now valued at only $20,000.”
“Defendants Gallery 63, Casper and Casper Fine Arts should have discovered and notified the Knispels of the obvious evidence of forgery and that the painting was not, in fact, an original Rockwell,” the complaint states.
The Knispels seek punitive damages for breach of contract and fraud.
Gallery 63 Antiques is named as a defendant, as well as its Cresskill-based owner Lawrence Sepenuk, and the Estate of Rochelle Sepenuk.
In addition to the Estate of Laurence Casper, the complaint also names Casper Fine Arts & Appraisals Inc. as a defendant.
Donald Ottaunick with Cole, Schotz, Meisel, Forman & Leonard in Hackensack represents the Knispels.
WILFUL DISPERSAL OF DISPUTED CULTURAL OBJECTS AS DEFENCE STRATEGY: BRITISH MUSEUM’S DEFIANT TACTICS.
Parthenon Marbles, Athens, Greece, now in British Museum, London, United Kingdom.
Those who have followed the discussions on restitution of cultural artefacts in the last few years would know that the British Museum and its director, Neil MacGregor and his supporters have never been short of inventing new theories and explanations for the retention of the cultural artefacts of others by the so-called great museums.
The basic position of the rich museums was stated in the infamous Declaration of the Importance and Value of the Universal Museums (2002) by which the rich and powerful museums declared that the cultural artefacts of others that are in their great museums, however acquired, now belong to them. That notorious declaration was not effective in discouraging claims from the deprived countries. Italy soon obliged many American institutions to return looted artefacts. And Greece, against which the declaration was primarily directed, never for a second relented in its long struggle to recover the Parthenon Marbles from the British Museum. Nigerians continued to press for the return of the looted Benin Bronzes.
A theory of traveling exhibitions was tentatively advanced by the British Museum by which those contested artefacts would be sent on travels to various countries and return to where they started. Nobody seems to have been impressed by the travel exhibitions idea or considered it as a solution to the persistent demands for restitution.
The Parthenon Marbles are usually at the source of any new theory or practice advanced by the British Museum. Just as the Parthenon Marbles were the motivation for the infamous Declaration in 2002, so are they at the source of the practice or threat of practice by the venerable museum to loan more Parthenon Marbles. This new threat as well as the loan to Russia has come just as the attempt by Greece to recover the Parthenon Marbles is gaining more support and the possibility of legal proceedings is being discussed more often in the media in more realistic terms.
After the almost universal condemnation of the British Museum’s lending of the Ilissos Parthenon Marble to Russia, typical of the arrogance of the museum, instead of being repentant or at least trying to cool tempers, including the Greek people and Government, outraged by this illegitimate loan of a contested cultural object, the unrepentant museum has announced proudly and defiantly that this is only the beginning of a series of loans that are being discussed:
The director of the British Museum has said it is already in talks to loan more Elgin Marbles to foreign museums….
“A number of other people, other institutions abroad have suggested that they are very interested [in borrowing Marbles],” said Mr. MacGregor. “A couple of other conversations are in train
Lee Rosenbaum has suggested that the British Museum may be banking on loans of Parthenon Marbles to help in any future proceedings although Rosenbaum herself doubts whether any judicial body would be impressed by the fact that the museum has lent the Marbles to others.
“MacGregor may be trying to bolster one of his institution’s chief arguments for retaining possession of Lord Elgin‘s bounty (or booty, as some believe): More people view these cultural treasures in London than in Athens. And now, with the incipient loan program, the British Museum’s reach could be further broadened. Therefore, the world is better off if custodianship of these treasures remains in London.
Taking that irrelevant argument to its illogical conclusion: All small museums should relinquish their greatest treasures to major institutions, so
they will be seen by more people
Somehow, I don’t think that line of reasoning would hold up in court
My own impression is that the British Museum, desperate in view of the overwhelming support for Greece, including the massive support from the British people as demonstrated in all opinion polls on the Parthenon Marbles in the last ten years, is now reckless and willing to try all kinds of tactics. Whether the board of trustees is behind such irresponsible behaviour is hard to determine. But we can assume that the director of the museum would not undertake such outrageous adventures without consulting the board of trustees that MacGregor proudly presents as containing two Nobel Prize-winners. (3)
The objective of the new threat of more loans may well be to spread the Parthenon Marbles as far and widely as possible to several countries and museums, possibly over more than two continents (Australia, Asia and America perhaps) so that when the continuing discussions of legal proceedings materialize, it would no longer be the British Museum against Greece but Greece against several other countries. Greece would then appear to be one country that wants to have alone what has been proclaimed as belonging to humanity and has been generously and widely distributed by the great ‘universal museum” in Bloomsbury. Public opinion may be wavering in its hitherto solid support of Greece. A whole generation of people may have grown up, less critical than their predecessors and easily persuaded by the internet that it does not matter where Greek Parthenon sculptures are located. What matters is that we all have access, virtual or real, to these artefacts of human culture. If this is what people are thinking in Bloomsbury, I believe they may be in for a rude awakening.
The legal proceedings may come much earlier than is assumed in one form or another and the uncooperative attitude of the museum would not create a good impression. Recklessly dispersing contested objects obviously in view of impending legal proceedings can only create a negative impact on any well-trained jurist.
The resolutions of the United Nations, UNESCO and recommendations by ICOM and International Conferences on the Parthenon Marbles are not likely to be forgotten so soon or put aside as would want those who have little regard for international opinion but often pretend to speak or act on behalf of the international community when it suits them.
It may be noticed that the British Museum has always preached, and still, propounds the idea of “universal museum”. But in the loan to Russia, the museum becomes British nationalist. The
museum is now allegedly concerned by the deteriorating relations between Britain and Russia
. The museum acts in accordance with what it thinks is in the interest of Britain and ignores the interest of Greece in keeping the sculptures where they are pending return to Athens. Can or should a “universal museum” take into account the interest of one State and ignore the interests of the majority of States? At this point, it becomes clear the Neil MacGregor’s championing of the “universal museum” is a smokescreen. When he thinks British interest requires, he is prepared to abandon the theory for outrageous acts as recently demonstrated by the loan of the Ilissos to Russia.
has described the action of the museum as dereliction of duty by the trustees; Positively embracing risk by placing the sculpture successively on…can only be seen as a failure of imagination and a dereliction of duties on the part of the museum’s trustees. (4)
The new tactics of the British Museum would only create chaos in the cultural world if, by chance, it became a pattern for others. Anytime an institution is faced by a demand for restitution of cultural objects, all it needs to do would be to distribute by loan or sale the objects to other institutions. In the process of distribution or loaning, institutions will be set against one another and confused antagonistic relations will ensue also between nations and museums. The naïve belief of the museum conducting diplomacy can only hurt museums and the cultural world.
What may be useful at this juncture would be to secure a resolution or decision from international organizations such as UNESCO, United Nations, ICOM and others, condemning the incipient practice of wilful dispersal of contested cultural artefacts and to issue a warning to all institutions of the possible consequences of such wilful acts. Thus potential partners of museums involved in such activities will be put on notice that they may be held accountable for any loss or damage occurring to the cultural artefacts that may have been loaned to them in this practice of dispersal.
Despite all the hue and cry against the recent provocative act of the British Museum in loaning a Parthenon Marble to Russia and the related defiant statements
British Government has remained relatively quiet and seems to have adopted the usual line that the British Museum is an independent body that takes its own decisions and the Government has no influence over its acts or any responsibility for its acts. Nobody is buying anymore this line which has often been adopted. Some of the grounds for rejecting the usual line are as follows.
a. The British Museum was established by an Act of Parliament, The current law, British Museum Act 1963, can be modified by Parliament if necessary.
b. The British Government appoints the overwhelming majority of the trustees of the British Museum, 19 out of the 25 members.
c. The Parthenon Marbles which were brought to England by Lord Elgin were bought by Parliament in 1816 and then donated to the British Museum and therefore, strictly speaking, it was Parliament and not Elgin that brought the Marbles to the museum.
d. The British Museum receives financial subsidy from public finance and to that extent is subject to Parliamentary control and enjoys charity status. (5)
e. Actions of the British Museum occur in Britain and the British Government has general oversight over what takes place in Britain.
f. The British Museum is subject to British Law and could not have transported the Ilissos sculpture to Russia without government consent.
The British Minister for Culture, Sajid Javid, is reported to have stated that the British Museum was right in sending the Ilissos sculpture to Russia. According to the minister, cultural boycotts do not work and culture is bigger than politics (6)
“Britain is currently leading the way in imposing economic sanctions on Russia over its
actions in Ukraine. But that’s not a reason to stop the British Museum loaning part of the Parthenon Sculptures to a museum in St Petersburg. Because culture is bigger than politic.” (6)
We are not sure that one should even bother to comment on statements that are patently wrong. How can anyone assert that culture is bigger than politics, seeing the pervasive influence of political decisions, whether relating to taxes, the conditions and circumstances of cultural activities or war? Cultural boycotts or any other boycotts, will not work if those charged with the implementation of the relevant decisions do not believe in what they are supposed to be doing.
The British Government should at least co-ordinate its policies or at least, the statements of its ministers. Whilst Javid is saying there is no reason not to carry on cultural relations with countries facing sanctions, the Culture Secretary, Maria Miller has declared that British culture should be seen as a commodity, to sell at home and abroad. Should Britain sell a commodity to a country facing sanctions? Can one refuse to sell commodities to persons in a particular State and still dance with them?
The notion of cultural diplomacy that has appeared at several places recently must be examined carefully. Those at the British Museum advancing this argument for the loan to Russia must admit that when it comes to relations with Greece regarding the Parthenon Marbles, the diplomacy of the Bloomsbury museum has failed woefully. Maybe diplomats from the Foreign Office could advise them that diplomacy is a way of solving problems by seeking or providing a solution acceptable to both sides. It does not consist of remaining intransigent and expecting all concessions to come only from the other party whilst your side keeps repeating old slogans. These slogans may earn one praises from a certain press at home, delighted in making easy puns about losing one’s marbles or maintaining them; it may even achieve for some a certain saintly reputation in patriotic circles but that is not diplomacy.
For some hundred years the dispute regarding the Parthenon Marbles has not advanced an inch. All the concessions seem to have been made by only the Greek side with none from the British Museum side. According to Professor Joan Connelly,
“In the past decade or so we have seen a deliberate shift away from the nationalist rhetoric of earlier years, at least on the part of the Greeks, who have now offered reasonable and creative suggestions for overcoming the impasse with the British Museum. In 2002 the then minister of culture, Evangelos Venizelos, visited England with fresh ideas, declaring that “ownership” of the marbles was no longer a key issue. Proposing that the Parthenon sculptures travel back to Athens via a long- term loan agreement Venizelos offered in exchange a never-ending rotation of the very finest antiquities that Greek museums can offer. Accommodating the British insistence on ownership, he even suggested that the gallery in which the Parthenon sculptures would be displayed be called an”Annex of the British Museum”. His innovative and conciliatory offer was rejected out of hand
Nor is it the height of cultural diplomacy when one side seems to make a practice of insulting the other to such an extent that one is no more in a position to distinguish plain insults from ordinary nationalistic language. The director of the British Museum has often made statements concerning the Greeks which can only be regretted by diplomats. (8) He has often said that by building the new Acropolis Museum and moving there the Parthenon Marbles; the Greeks were only imitating Lord Elgin, knowing fully well what the name of Elgin stands for in the Greek and other minds. And what about declaring that the location of the Parthenon Marbles was not an issue after the Greeks had built a new museum, partly in response of British argument there was no museum in Athens fit for such precious sculptures? All this does not show the minimum of respect that diplomacy requires.
Whatever the British Museum and the British Government eventually decide to do or not to do, the majority of the peoples of the world, starting with the British people and the majority of States and their leaders, including Putin, have already spoken in favour of the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Athens. International organizations, such as United Nations, UNESCO, ICOM and others have also called for the return to Athens of the precious sculptures that others in Bloomsbury are beginning to play politics with in a dangerous and reckless manner.
Professor Joan Breton Connelly, who has held posts at All Souls College, .Magdalen College, New College and Corpus Christi College at Oxford University declared in the epilogue to her recent excellent book, The Parthenon Enigma as follows;
“There is not a world leader who fails to stop on the Acropolis for the requisite photo op when visiting Athens. Invariably including a call for the return of the Parthenon sculptures, these appearances have been taking place for years. Jackie Kennedy, wearing pearls and a dress in the brilliant blue of the Greek blue flag, climbed the Acropolis in June 1961 and made the appeal. The Clintons did it in 2002, as did Vladimir Putin shortly thereafter. Even Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, lifted his hands to the sky as he stood before the Parthenon and called for the marbles to be returned. In October 2010, the Chinese premier, Wen Jiabao, pledged his support for the reunification of the Parthenon sculptures. Standing on the summit, he cited the historical parallel of the Summer Palace in Beijing, which was looted in 1860 under orders from Elgin’s own son, then the high commissioner to China”. (9)
The defiant statements and the outrageous act of the British Museum may of course simply be the desperate acts of an institution short of cash and trying to justify its acts with some semblance of principle. The museum may well loan objects under its control or even sell them as allowed by the rules governing the trustees and we may only know after years. The British Museum has been known to sell for cash the national treasures of Nigeria, the Benin Bronzes. (10). Outright sale may be avoided by long term loans that are renewable. Recently, the Northampton Museum and Art Gallery sold a 4,400 year old statue of an Egyptian scribe named Semkhemka. (11) And as for the 400 Benin Bronzes in the Field Museum, we still do not know their status and whereabouts after the financial troubles of the famous museum in Chicago.
Museums are facing great financial problems and we may experience surprising acts from them. The loan of the Parthenon Marble may be, as the Bloomsbury has advised, only the beginning of a whole series of surprising acts.
The new strategy of the British Museum may in the short run bring cash to Bloomsbury but in the long term will damage its reputation and complicate its relations with other institutions and governments. The policy of dispersal can only work to its disadvantage and must be condemned without hesitation. No court or judicial body will be impressed by the defiant attitude of the British Museum.
For once, the British Government and the British Museum could in this matter listen to the voice of the British people as well as that of the rest of the world, including the opinions of the United Nations and UNESCO as stated in uncountable resolutions.
K. Opoku, 23 December, 2014.
Preparing for Lawsuit? Why Might Neil MacGregor Be Doubling Down on His Elgin Marbles Bet?“, Culturegrrl December 9, 2014.
Appointing the Board of Trustees
The Board of Trustees comprises up to 25 members.
One Trustee is appointed by Her Majesty
, 15 are appointed by the Prime Minister and five appointed by the Trustees themselves. The
remaining four Trustees are appointed by the Secretary of State
for Culture, Media and Sport on the nominations of the Presidents of:
Society of Antiquaries of London
Chairman is appointed by the Board from amongst its members
The full Board of Trustees meets four times a year usually at the British Museum.
Letter – The Times, 9 Dec 14 “Where should the Elgin Marbles be housed?” -
6. www.theguardian.com › Politics› Maria Miller
7. The Parthenon Enigma-
A new understanding of the West’s most iconic building and the people who made it. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2014, p.347.
Joan Breton Connelly, op .cit. p. 349.
ECONOMIZING WITH TRUTH: GREEK REQEUST OF PARTHENON MARBLES LOAN THAT WAS REJECTED BY BRITISH MUSEUM
TO LOAN OR NOT TO LOAN: BRITISH MUSEUM DID DISCUSS WITH GREECE PARTHENON MARBLES LOAN
“You must understand what the Parthenon Marbles mean to us. They are our pride. They are our sacrifices. They are our noblest symbol of excellence. They are a tribute to the democratic philosophy. They are our aspirations and our name. They are the essence of Greekness”
Melina Mercouri, at the Oxford Union.
Parthenon Marbles, Athens, Greece, now in British Museum, London, United Kingdom.
After my recent article on the loan of a Parthenon Marble, Ilissos, to Russia, (2) a friend drew my attention to the existence of a letter from the British Museum to the Greek Ministry of Culture, dated 14 November, 2002, which throws further light on the relations between the two European Union countries as regards the Parthenon Marbles. (3)
Despite the frequent assertions of Neil MacGregor and others that Greece has never asked for a loan of the Parthenon Marbles, the letter shows that Greece has indeed made such a request but that the British Museum, through its chairman of the board of trustees, in 2002 firmly rejected any idea of loan, temporary or permanent.
Nevertheless, this assertion was recently repeated:
“The Greek government has always refused to borrow, to date, but the trustees’ position is very clear that they will consider any request from anyone who is prepared to return the object.” (4)
Melina Mercouri, Minister of Culture of Greece. (1981-89,1993-94).
A transcription of the letter of John Boyd to the Greek Minister of Culture, Evangelos Venizelos is reproduced below
A copy of the original letter is in the annex.
The British Museum
14 November 2002
H.E. Mr Evangelos Venizelos
Minister of Culture
Hellenic Ministry of Culture
The Parthenon Sculptures in the collections of the British Museum
It was a great pleasure to welcome you though this was no, I know, your first visit to the British Museum.
The Director and I are delighted to have held discussions with you and your colleagues on the Parthenon sculptures in the Museum’s collections and other matters. The exchanges suggested to me that there are many areas in which we can and should cooperate.
As I mentioned in our meeting, I am especially pleased to note that Dr Choremi, the Ephor of the Acropolis will speak at the Museum on Friday, 15 November, and that the British Museum is able to make generous loans to two exhibitions in Athens as part of the Cultural Olympiad in 2004. These are important examples of the fruitful cultural and academic relations that exist between us – and which can, I am sure, be developed further.
The Director and I naturally listened very carefully to what you had to say about the Parthenon Sculptures in our collections. I am grateful for the manner in which you approached the topic; grateful too for the understanding shown during the meeting for the Museum’s position. Nevertheless, it remains the opinion of the Board of Trustees that the Parthenon sculptures in the collections of the British Museum cannot be lent to the new museum currently under development in Athens, whether in the manner you proposed or for a temporary period.
Let me rehearse again the basis for our belief that the British Museum is the best possible place for these wonderful sculptures to be on display, as an essential chapter within the worldwide story of human cultural achievement. It is precisely this story which the Museum exists to tell through the rich and multi-faceted character of its worldwide collections. The ideas, aesthetics and skills of 5th century Greek civilisation are regarded here as elsewhere as central to this human experience. I am not sure that contemporary changes in political and economic attitudes, adduced at one point in our discussion, alter the point.
The Museum exists not only to delight but to instruct and provoke reflection. Its great collections, in close proximity, are seen by five million visitors every year entirely free of entry charge. The Parthenon Sculptures are integral to this unique experience.
When considering whether to make a loan the Trustees are required, by Act of Parliament, to have regard to the interest of the Museum’s visitors. While there is no list of objects that can never be lent, we do believe there is a prima facie assumption against the lending of key objects in the Museum’s collections which are normally on display and which the public reasonably expect to see in the Museum. The sculptures are precisely among that group of key objects indispensable to the Museum’s essential, universal purpose, and thus fall into the category of objects that can not be lent.
The Director and I much appreciated the opportunity to discuss these various matters frankly and in such a friendly context, and to establish friendly contact and undertake such an exchange of views between us. This must surely contribute to a relationship which we very much wish to promote and expand.
Again though, as I said in our meeting, I would not wish you to leave with the impression that any negotiation on the issue you raised is underway. This would be misleading. I am bound in all frankness, to repeat that I cannot envisage the circumstances under which the Trustees would regard it as being in the Museum’s interest, or consistent with its duty, to endorse a loan, permanent or temporary, of the Parthenon Sculptures in its collections.
I should like to end by thanking you for the kind gift of the coin replicas from the Numismatic Museum in Athens. They are especially appropriate as a symbol of the co-operation that exists between us, in the light of the recent collaborative British Museum / Numismatic Museum Internet project,
Presveis: One Currency for Europe
, which, I was delighted to see, is available on the Ministry of Culture’s website. Yours sincerely
Sir John Boyd
Anybody with some idea about the Parthenon Marbles can guess that when a senior Greek official visits the British Museum, it would be about the Parthenon/Elgin Marbles. The letter of 14 November 2002 indicates in its title already that the visit of the Greek Minister of Culture was about this historic subject. It is to be noted that the letter does not indicate the date of the visit or the purpose of the letter. This deflects the attention of the recipient from the fact that the letter is a record of the meeting and avoids any objections, additions or corrections which the recipient might otherwise want to make to a record of the meeting.
The letter of the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, John Boyd thus acknowledges that the Greeks have made efforts on this issue and also that it was not the first time the minister was visiting the museum. Before 2002 there had been visits by various Greek officials and personalities. Such a visit was made by the unforgettable great Melina Mercouri who was met with insults from the then Director of the British Museum, David Wilson. (5)
The Boyd letter, echoing essentially the ideas of Neil MacGregor, makes it clear that the British Museum was not willing to make any loan of the Parthenon Marbles to the new museum the Greeks were constructing:
“The Director and I naturally listened very carefully to what you had to say about the Parthenon Sculptures in our collections. I am grateful for the manner in which you approached the topic; grateful too for the understanding shown during the meeting for the Museum’s position. Nevertheless, it remains the opinion of the Board of Trustees that the Parthenon sculptures in the collections of the British Museum cannot be lent to the new museum currently under development in Athens, whether in the manner you proposed or for a temporary period.”
“Whether in the manner you proposed or for a temporary period”
This leaves out intentionally whatever the Greeks might have proposed that may appear reasonable. The Greeks have made suggestions of transferring to the British Museums valuable Greek artefacts in exchange for the Parthenon Marbles. The idea also is to take away the British fear that the Greeks might not return loans. The British fear is the reflection of bad conscience.
As if to reinforce the message in the preceding paragraph which was clear enough, Boyd emphasises in the very next paragraph the determination not to loan any Parthenon Marble:
“Let me rehearse again the basis for our belief that the British Museum is the best possible place for these wonderful sculptures to be on display, as an essential chapter within the worldwide story of human cultural achievement. It is precisely this story which the Museum exists to tell through the rich and multi-faceted character of its worldwide collections. The ideas, aesthetics and skills of 5th century Greek civilisation are regarded here as elsewhere as central to this human experience. I am not sure that contemporary changes in political and economic attitudes, adduced at one point in our discussion, alter the point”.
Boyd then in a curious argument turns the Parthenon Marbles into objects that are necessary for the museum in order to fulfil its essential functions and and therefore cannot be loaned;
“The sculptures are precisely among that group of key objects indispensable to the Museum’s essential, universal purpose, and thus fall into the category of objects that can not be lent.”
The Chairman of the Board of Trustees is here telling the Greek Culture Minister that the Greek sculptures that had been taken under contested circumstances to Britain are absolutely necessary to fulfil the essential functions of the British Museum as a universal museum. How much more cynical can one be? Body for the fourth time in his short letter repeats again that the Parthenon Marbles cannot leave the British Museum:
“Again though, as I said in our meeting, I would not wish you to leave with the impression that any negotiation on the issue you raised is underway. This would be misleading. I am bound in all frankness, to repeat that I cannot envisage the circumstances under which the Trustees would regard it as being in the Museum’s interest, or consistent with its duty, to endorse a loan, permanent or temporary, of the Parthenon Sculptures in its collections
Ministers of Culture are usually well-educated and intelligent persons but the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the British Museum felt he must repeat several times the unwillingness of the Bloomsbury museum to loan the Parthenon Marbles to Greece. Evangelos Venizelos, former professor of Constitutional Law, educated in Greece and France, held Cabinet positions -Justice, Transport, Culture and Deputy Prime Minister.
We now know that one of Parthenon sculptures has been loaned to Russia and thus the argument that they could not leave the museum has been destroyed by the Board of Trustees and the Director of the British Museum. Indeed, it seems the British Museum is discussing with others the loans of other Parthenon Marbles. A step which would lead to future complications.
But why the strenous denials of any discussions or requests by Greece for a loan of the Pathenon Marbles, in the presence of unquestionable overwhelming evidence that they have asked for a loan as well as restitution? This is a well-calculated strategy by the holders of contested cultural artefacts that has been used in the past and seems to worked in favour of the holders who thereby gain time.
The British Museum is past master in such tactics but others have followed its strategy and tactics. The British deny that there has ever been a demand for the restitution of Benin Bronzes even though a brother of the Benin Monarch has been before a British Parliamentary Committee to present Benin’s case for the return of the artefacts that were looted by the British in 1897 during a brutal invasion of Benin. The demand known as Appendix 21 has been recorded in Parliamentary records but there are academics who deny there was ever a formal demand. (6)
The Germans deny that there has ever been any demand by the Nigerian Commission on Museums and Monuments or the Oba of Benin for the return of the 500 Benin Bronzes they allegedly bought from the British invaders even though a Nigerian Minister of Culture has been to Berlin specifically to make such a request in what was appropriately designated, Berlin Plea for the Return of Benin Bronzes. (7)
James Cuno, then Director of the Chicago Art Institute, stated at the opening of a Benin exhibition in his institute that if a demand for the return of the Benin Bronzes in his institute were submitted to him he would consider A Benin princess hand-carried a letter of demand to Chicago. Up to today, there has not even been an acknowledgement of receipt of the Royal letter.(8)
Sometimes, the holders of cultural artefacts of others hide behind formalities such as that there has been no formal request or that the demand did not come from the appropriate high official. The Germans did this with regard to Egypt’s request for the return of the bust of Nefertiti which they have been holding in the Neues Museum, Berlin. When the then Secretary-General of the Egyptian Supreme Council, Zahi Hawass made a request for Nefertiti he was told to make a formal request. When the formal request was made, he was informed that the request should come from a Minister. Hawass became a minister and made a request but the Germans said the request should come from a Prime Minister or a President. (9)
The psychology here seems to be that of arrogant holders who are conscious of their power or strong position that no one can force them to deal with the matter. By their denials, the holders want to send a message to the claimants that they have more important matters to deal with and would not allow the likes of claimants to set their agenda. They can convince their supporters that since they have not recived a request to deal with the issue, they are not obliged to take any position.
This practice which the Germans call “Verweigerung der Realität”, denial of reality, can result in the end in convincing the holders and their supporters that no one has asked for the return of the artefacts since there is no one powerful enough to confront them with the reality of demand. Future generations may find no records of such demands. The claimants or their descendants would in time have no exact memory of the facts or the circusmstances. Claimants may become tired and discouraged and finally give up the fight or for reasons of their inability to secure their rights, gradually appear to forget which is a form of denial of reality. The risk of such a situations exists with many African peoples that have not demanded the return of their cultural artefacts from the imperialists States since Independence. Cultural officials recognizing their evident powerlessness as regards the holders, gradually accommodate themselves to the situation, helped by whatever personal benefits they can derive from the situation of persistent powerless demands. They and the former colonialists become friends and do not seriously talk about restitution. But cultural artefacts are not quickly forgotten especially among peoples with long traditions of recording their history and culture. This is precisely the lesson of the Parthenon Marbles.
It has bee said that “The British Museum is the most generous lending collection in the world.”
This may be so but it is also obvious that it is easy to be very generous in lending if the objects are not yours. It is less difficult to distribute the money of others than our own money. MacGregor may be generous in lending objects of others that have been looted, robbed, confiscated, stolen or otherwise acquired under dubious circumstances that are still contested.
Generosity born out of the lending of the property of others does not increase the prestige or fame of the lender as the recent loan to Russia has demonstrated. What the recent handlng of the property of others does, is to revive memories that are better left unmentioned – oppression, murder, denigration, arson, looting, destruction, assasination and all the evils of colonialism and imperialism are awakened among all those who themselves or their ancestors have lost property and suffered during the colonial and imperialist period. The association of such deeds with cultural artefacts becomes alive. MacGregor and his supporters are not sensitive to such suffering and may not appreciate what that means to us, former colonial subjects. The world could do without such revivals and the alleged generosity that disturbs us all.
The loan of contested artefacts must be stopped before it becomes a custom with museums harrassed by requests for restitution of artefacts. Soon we will hear the Humboldt Forum, Berlin, lending some of the 500 Benin Bronzes it will soon control to many States except Nigeria and it would be claimed the institution can better represent Benin culture than the Oba of Benin and the Queen Idia statute in Berlin will be sent by the Humboldt Forum to another place as ambassador of Benin culture in bronze..
The Neues Museum will soon claim to present Egyptian culture better than the Egyptian Government and therefore entitled to keep Nefertiti in Berlin to be seen by thousands rather than in Cairo where few will want to travel. The museum will ocassionaly lend the bust of the Egyptian Queen even though it has been often said the Queen is too fragile to travel.
The position of the British Government and the British Museum on restitution is now abundantly clear and it is left to those who believe in the restitution of the Parthenon Marbles to reconsider the ways and means of recovering the sculptures which were removed from Greece under dubious circumstances.`
The notion that foreign cultural institutions can represent a culture better than the government and people of the country that produced them must be rejected. The idea that the British Museum is entitled to keep the Parthenon Marbles because the museum is better qualified than the Greek people and government to represent the glory and grandeur of Ancient Greek culture and history is surely perverse and must be rejected without hesitation.
Verses by Roger Casement
Give back the Elgin marbles, let them lie
Unsullied, pure beneath the Attic sky
The smoky fingers of our northern clime
More ruin work than all ancient time.
How oft’ the roar of the Piraean Sea
Through column’d hall and dusky temple stealing
Hath struck these marble ears, that now must flee
The whirling hum of London, noonward reeling.
Ah! let them hear again the sounds that float
Around Athene’s shrine on morning’s breeze —
The lowing ox, the bell of climbing goat
And drowsy drone of far Hymettus’ breeze.
Give back the marbles; let them vigil keep
Where art still lies, over Pheidias’ tomb, asleep.
More ruin work than all ancient time.
Roger Casement. (10)
Parthenon Marbles, Athens, Greece, now in British Museum, London, United Kingdom
Kwame Opoku, 12 December, 2014
2. K. Opoku, “
Arrogance, Duplicity and Defiance with no end: British Museum Loans Parthenon Marble to Russia”,http://www.modernghana.com/news/584950/1/arrogance-duplicity-and-defiance-with-no-end-briti.html
5. Christopher Hitchens, The Parthenon Marbles, Verso, London, 2008, pp. 97-99 I found in this useful book, a report on an interview said to have been given by David Wilson, then Director of the British Museum who threw the accusation of “nationalism” and “fascism” at the supporters of restitution. His statements are so remarkable in their violence and lack of logic that I feel everyone should read them. Note also the lack of respect displayed towards the Greek minister of Culture, Melina Mercouri who is likened to a burglar when she expressed the wish to see the Parthenon Marbles.:
“In a BBC television discussion on 15 June 1985, Sir David Wilson, Director of the British Museum, was invited to contrast his opinions with those of Melina Mersouri. Sir David had already exhibited a certain lack of gallantry when, on an earlier visit to London, Mrs. Mercouri had expressed a wish to visit the Museum and view the marbles. On that occasion he had said publicly that it was not usual to allow burglars ‘to case the joint’ in advance. But once before the cameras he easily improved on this ill-mannered exaggeration. ‘To rip the Elgin Marbles from the walls of the British Museum’ he said, ‘is a much greater disaster than the threat of blowing up the Parthenon’. This might have been thought hyperbolic, if Sir David had not gone on to say, in response to a mild question about the feasibility of restitution:
Oh, anything can be done. That’s what Hitler said, that’s what Mussolinisaid when he got Italian trains to run on time
The interviewer, David Lomax, broke in to say:
You are not seriously suggesting there’s a parallel between…
Sir David was unrepentant:
Yes, I am. I think this is cultural fascism. It’s nationalism and it’s cultural danger. Enormous cultural danger. If you start to destroy great intellectual institutions, you are culturally fascist.
LOMAX: What do you mean by cultural fascist?
WILSON: You are destroying the whole fabric of intellectual achievement. You are starting to erode it. I can’t say you are destroying, you are starting to erode. I think it’s a very, very serious, thing to do. It’s a thing you ought to think of very careful, it’s like burning books. That’s what Hitler did; I think you’ve to be very careful about that.
LOMAX: But are you seriously suggesting that the people who want the Elgin Marbles to go back to Greece, who feel there’s an overwhelming moral case that they should go back, are guilty of cultural fascism?
WILSON: I think not the people who are wanting the Elgin Marbles to go back to Greece if they are Greek. But I think that the world opinion and the people in this country who want the Elgin Marbles to go back to Greece are actually guilty of something very much approaching it, it is censoring the British Museum. And I think that this is a bad thing to do. It is as bad as burning books”.
This is an extraordinary performance by a Director of the British Museum. One can sympathize with his desperation in face of the mounting pressure to return the Parthenon/Elgin Marbles to Athens and the great presence of the unforgettable Melina Mercouri in London. But can anyone excuse his shameful performance?
K. Opoku,” Did Germans Never Hear Directly or Indirectly Nigeria’s Demand for Return of Looted Artefacts?”
8. K. Opoku, “
Cuno reiterates his views on Ownership and Location of Antiquities”,
Copy of letter from Chairman,Board of Trustees,British Museum to Minister of Culture of Greece
IMPORTANT PRESS RELEASE: THE HOLOCAUST ART RESTITUTION PROJECT AND THE CHAIRMAN
OF THE HOPI TRIBE JOINTLY FILE AN ACTION IN FRANCE REQUESTING THE SUSPENSION OF AN
AUCTION SALE OF SACRED HOPI “KWAA TSI” TO BE HELD AT PARIS’ HOTEL DROUOT ON
DECEMBER 15, 2014.
For Immediate Release
In Washington, DC: Marc Masurovsky, (00) 1 202 255 1602 , firstname.lastname@example.org
In New York, NY: Pierre Ciric (00) 1 212 260 6090, email@example.com
In Kykotsmovi, AZ: Marilyn Fredericks, (00) 1 928 734 3107, MFredericks@hopi.nsn.us
Washington, DC, USA – December 09, 2014 – The Holocaust Art Restitution Project ( “HARP”), based in
Washington, DC, chaired by Ori Z. Soltes, and Herman G. Honanie, Chairman of the HOPI Tribe Council, are
jointly announcing the filing of an action before the French “Conseil des Ventes” (“Board of Auction Sales”), an
administrative body in charge of regulating and supervising auction sales on the French market, requesting the
administrative suspension of an auction sale of sacred “kwaa tsi” owned by the Hopi tribe, scheduled for
Monday, December 15, 2014.
The action argues that title for these objects never vested with subsequent possessors due to the sacred
nature of these objects, as well as to the numerous American statutes and regulations protecting these objects.
“The Conseil des Ventes has the power to suspend this sale on two grounds. First, the presumption of good
faith of the seller, which is the legal rule in France to challenge these sales, is eradicated by the numerous
regulations and statutes which have been in effect in the U.S. for years. Furthermore, the Conseil must seek
the provenance information for these objects from the seller. These objects cannot be sold or disposed of for
legal, cultural and moral reasons, period. We hope that the French Government will look favorably at our
request, and do the right thing,” said Soltes.
The Hopi Tribe is a federally recognized tribe of American Indians, who live in northeastern Arizona. The Hopi
Tribe remains one of the most religiously traditional tribes within the United States.
HARP is a not-for-profit group based in Washington, DC, dedicated to the identification and restitution of looted
artworks require detailed research and analysis of public and private archives in North America. HARP has
worked for 16 years on the restitution of artworks looted by the Nazi regime.
For more information, please visit www.facebook.com/plunderedart, on Twitter: @plunderedart,
Copyright © 2014 Holocaust Art Restitution Project, Inc., All rights reserved.
ARROGANCE, DUPLICITY AND DEFIANCE WITH NO END: BRITISH MUSEUM LOANS PARTHENON MARBLE TO RUSSIA.
“Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Friday morning, MacGregor said he hoped the Greek government would be delighted that the sculpture would now be on display to a new audience”
Headless statue of the Greek river god Ilissos
Athens, Greece, taken to British Museum, London, now on loan to Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia
As if to reinforce its defiance against the will of the British people and the vast majority of States, the UNESCO, United Nations and all those who have urged that the British Museum return the Parthenon/Elgin Marbles to Greece, the venerable museum that is known to hoard thousands of looted artefacts of others, has sent one of the Parthenon Marbles to Russia on loan for an exhibition from 6 December 2014 until 18 January 2015. (1)
The headless statue of a Greek river god will be displayed in the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg as part of the celebrations for the institution’s 250th anniversary. Though the Director of the Museum and the Board of Trustees are delighted with the loan, they have not disclosed the terms of the arrangement with Russia.
Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum, is reported to have told the
The politics of both museums have been that the more chilly the politics between governments the more important the relationship between museums.”
This may be the policies of the museums that often pretend not to have anything to do with politics but it seems to us that the British people who have overwhelmingly demanded that the Parthenon/Elgin Marbles be returned to Greece will not be amused by this latest act of defiance by the museum. This comes on the heels of an incredible interview in which the museum director even goes so far as to deny that the Parthenon Marbles are Greek. (2)
In a blog on the British Museum’s website, entitled
Loan of a Parthenon sculpture to the Hermitage: a marble ambassador of a European ideal
MacGregor stated: “The British Museum is a museum of the world, for the world and nothing demonstrates this more than the loan of a Parthenon sculpture to the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg to celebrate its 250th anniversary
Lending a contested object is not a demonstration that the British Museum is a museum of the world for the world. This can at best demonstrate that the museum does not care for the opinion of the British people, the Greek people, the United Nations and all those who seem to support Greece in its efforts to recover the Parthenon/Elgin Marbles. The lending is furthermore a demonstration that the old British argument that the Marbles are too fragile to move outside Bloomsbury is gone forever.
There is no objection to cooperation between museums but this type of cooperation should not be encouraged since it is very likely, in the end, to create problems in the relationship of Russia and Greece. We cannot see a Greek minister going now to Russia to participate in the celebrations of the 250th anniversary of the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. Contested or looted cultural artefacts are clearly not appropriate instruments for cultural diplomacy. They serve at best to complicate situations where there have been more than enough disputes of long-standing.
MacGregor who is known for incredible and provocative statements is reported to have said that he hoped the Greek Government will be delighted by his latest action of defiance:
“I hope that they will be very pleased that a huge new public can engage with the great achievements of ancient Greece. People who will never be able to come to Athens or London will now, here in Russia, understand something of those great achievements in Greek civilisation.”
Visitors at the Hermitage, St. Petersburg, looking at the headless statute of the Greek river god Ilissos.
As we have often written these acts of provocation and insults to the Greeks may be part of a strategy to prevent Britain and Greece from sitting together at a table to solve the issues concerning the Parthenon/Elgin Marbles. One side insults the other party to such an extent that the two cannot stand one another.
It is not by accident that this provocative act comes at a time when there is much discussion on taking legal proceedings on the matter. This latest act will surely inflame the Greeks and their supporters.
It is also noteworthy that the British Museum is loaning a contested cultural object to a country against which the European Union of which Britain is still a member has enacted sanctions against Russia. Questions are likely to arise as to whether decisions of the EU bind cultural institutions in member States. Can the British Museum loan cultural objects, as part of regular business to a country against which the British Government has enacted sanctions? Is the museum allowed to carry on parallel diplomacy with institutions in States sanctioned? Who leads the country in such matters? The Government or the museum?
The implications of the provocative act of the British Museum and the affront to the Greek people may be more than the museum officials realize. They may have to bring their action in line with the policy of the Government. One institution cannot be dancing with a foreign partner whilst the other practices economic sanctions.
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. The museum withholds Greek artefacts and states it will explain Greek culture to other nations. What are the Greeks to do when someone else has seized their magnificent cultural artefacts and using that as instruments of didactic history and culture? May Zeus and all the gods of ancient Greece protect Greece from this form of imperialism.
Whilst professing to be ready and willing to discuss issues relating to the Parthenon /Elgin Marbles with the Greeks, the British Museum was busy at the same time negotiating or finalizing negotiations with the loan of the Ilissos sculpture and its secret transport to St. Petersburg. When the whole deal was revealed, the Museum still unashamedly states it has always been willing to discuss the matter with Greece.
This latest act of affront and provocation shows clearly the museum‘s stand on resolving longstanding disputes on cultural property and appears to be very proud of it.
O what a glorious deed in Bloomsbury!
Kwame Opoku, 6 December, 2014.
1. The Times, Elgin Marbles moved out of Britain for first time
2, K. Opoku, “
British Museum Director Defends Once More Retention of Parthenon Marbles”,
In view of the following letter of Mr. R. Adair a Senior Official in the British Embassy to Turkey to Lord Elgin, the legal argument based of permission from the Ottoman authorities to take the Parthenon Marbles can no longer be sustained:
In answer to your Lordship’s enquiry respecting the marbles collected by your Lordship at Athens, and for leave to transmit which to this country I was directed by the Secretary of State for foreign affairs to apply to the Turkish government, I have to inform your Lordship that Mr Pisani more than once assured me that the Porte absolutely denied your having any property in those marbles. By this expression I understood the Porte to mean that the persons who had sold the marbles to your Lordship had no right so to dispose of them.
At the same time I beg leave to add that this communication was not made to me in any formal conference with the Turkish ministers.
I have the honour to be, my Lord,
your Lordship’s most obedient and humble servant