Some scholar’s opinions
A critical eye towards the cultural property discussion
Objects cannot be “tainted” or “illicit”, but only be so described by scholars who do not understand them, or by legislators. Objects are testaments of antiquity, whether handled by a thief or scholar; their integrity must be respected and their safety assured. To suggest that they should even be destroyed rather than kept in a museum betrays an appalling vacuum of scholarly integrity and responsibility, even philistinism.
John Boardman (2009), p. 117f.
Find more quotes about the following themes:
- The importance of the archaeological context
- Do archaeologists have the right to show off as guardians of the cultural heritage of mankind?
- Modern censorship
- States as guardians of the heritage of mankind
- Protection of Art by its market value
- Is the art trade responsible for the looting of archaeological sites?
- The true amount the ancient art market turns over
- National Heritage or Heritage of Mankind?
- The quotes: exact source and a short vita of the scholars quoted
“Unprovenanced” merely means that ownership history is unknown, partially unknown, and often unknowable. It is not a euphemism for “looted”. Looted is a word regularly used by opponents of collecting without justification, far more frequently insinuated than legally proved. It means willful and unlawful pillage and destruction of archaeological sites. There is no debate about whether this criminal behavior is wrong; it is, and should be prosecuted. And the first responsibility for checking looting lies with the nation where it occurs. But illegality cannot simply be assumed, or we are heading toward a repeat of the Spanish Inquisition or the McCarthy hearings. The presumption of innocence demands that an accuser prove his case, not that the accused prove his innocence. Innocence must be assumed and guilt proved not the inverse. If the burden of proof shifts away from the party seeking justice under law, to the party accused, law becomes an instrument of oppression, and totalitarianism is just around the corner.
The current debate over collecting antiquities is made more trenchant by the fact that many works of ancient art were not scientifically excavated and ownership histories are often lost, forgotten, and undocumented, conditions that are not in the least surprising. It should not come as a shock that the modern world regularly disturbs ancient artifacts unintentionally, as urban and commercial development continues to spread across the globe. Large public works projects funded by tax revenues, as well as privately financed construction projects, routinely and inadvertently uncover buried antiquities. These are not looted artifacts. […]
It is simply wrong to call antiquities accidentally discovered by private landowners or developers “looted”. By definition, an unprovenanced antiquity cannot be considered looted because such a determination would require legal proof that the object was wantonly sought out and removed from its “country of origin” in contravention of existing law. Great quantities of unprovenanced antiquities are in fact perfectly legal to buy and sell. If such works are now outside their presumed country (or countries) of origin, who then will preserve them and bring them to the attention of scholars and the general public? This fundamental question has been curiously absent from much recent media discussion of the antiquities market. Regrettably, the tenor of much of this coverage has been: antiquities should be considered looted until proved otherwise. Such a view may sell books, newspapers, and magazines while generating hits on anti-collecting blogs, but it is inversely contrary to legal practice as well as an affront to common sense. “Looted” cannot be assumed in the absence of convincing evidence. It is a criminal charge that requires legal proof. Conversely, important antiquities whose ownership histories cannot be recovered are guilty of no crime. They should not be treated as outcasts only because we will never know their histories in full.
Michael Bennett (2013), p. 35-37
The importance of the archaeological context
Archaeologists often argue that antiquities have no meaning outside their archaeological contexts. If we don’t know where they were found, they argue, antiquities are meaningless and only of aesthetic value, which they judge to be subjective and inferior to the “objective” value of the excavated antique artifact. But of course antiquities have all kinds of meanings outside their specific, archaeological context: aesthetic, technological, iconographic, even, in the case of those with writing on them, epigraphic.
James Cuno (2009/2), p. 87
Finally, the contention that without knowledge of its find spot or specific, archaeological context, an antiquity is meaningless, or as my Italian colleagues at the Ministry of Culture put it – they were describing the Euphronios krater – “without its tomb group, an antiquity is a cosa morta.” Few, I expect who have marveled at the scale and majesty of the Euphronios krater and the precision and elegance of line and its poignant despiction of a Homeric epic of the death of Sarpedon would concede that it is a cosa morta. Although having not been properly excavated, it is far from meaningless. I should point out that it is signed by both the painter and the potter and that most of the figures are clearly identified by name on the vase, and that this is information independent of any knowledge the tomb itself would have yielded, though it would have been clearly preferable to know the totality of the krater’s original, found context. This I do not contest.
Philippe de Montebello (2009), p. 65
Our museums are full of objects that speak for themselves, to the public and to scholars, without knowledge of their full or even any provenance. To claim that an object without context is worthless is pure nonsense. Renfrew showed us a famous Greek vase in New York, the interest of which is 98 percent in its sheer existence (we know who made it, when, and where) with only a 2 percent loss in knowledge of what Etruscan grave it came from. It is very far from being unique in this respect; recall my clay snake vase in Oxford. And let me cite a famous object that indeed has an excavated provenance, but one that is almost completely worthless – the famous Celtic Gundestrup cauldron, found in a Danish bog, in circumstances that tell us nothing whatever about its date or significance, beyond the fact that it got to Denmark at some time or the other. Its message has to be culled from acute analysis of form and content of figure work, such as is commonly practiced on collection and museum objects, and the one thing that is clear is that it was never made in Denmark.
John Boardman (2009), p. 113
By any measure even unexcavated the Laocoon is important for our understanding of Greek art, of the importance of Rome within the Mediterranean world, of the beauty and power of dramatic composition and expressive form, of the potential of working in marble, and surely, perhaps most importantly, of the history of taste. We know, for example, that it was immediately influential among humanists and artists…
It was in Dresden in the mid-eighteenth century that Winckelmann was inspired to write his seminal pamphlet of 1755, „Thoughts on the Imitation of Greek Works in Painting and Sculpture.“ … This in turn inspired Lessing to respond in an essay of his own… The effect of these and other essays of the later eighteenth century was to inspire a shift in European artistic taste toward a new and modern style inspired by antiquity. Indeed, the role played by antiquity, and of specific unexcavated and accidentally found (what today we would often call looted) antiquities, in inspiring the forging of new artistic styles in European culture is a commonplace. …
Can it then be said that the Laocoon is in any way meaningless without our knowing the archaeological circumstances of its finding? Of course not. And yet many archaeologist critics of museums would argue precisely this with regard to unexcavated and undocumented antiquities today. They would hold that without knowledge of its archaeological context an antiquity – like the Laocoon – is just a pretty object valued only for its aesthetic qualities, which they claim to be subjective and personal, unscientific, and of little general importance. And they would discourage museums from acquiring it and other „orphaned“ objects similarly found alienated from their points of origin.
James Cuno (2009/1), J. Cuno, Introduction, p. 5ff.
After arriving at a critical point in the accumulation of archaeological data of a certain type of site of a certain period, further excavation data becomes superfluous. Take, for example, the Tang horse. We know it has to come from a Tang tomb. And we know practically everything there is to be known about a Tang tomb and its typical contents, except for the precious objects that had long ago all disappeared over centuries of continual “looting.” We can date and place each Tang horse accurately because of the vast amount of knowledge, both historical and archaeological, accumulated over the years from the study of tombs. … We know what the tombs look like, from the grandest to the humblest, and from the beginning to the end of the dynasty, and we know the general disposition of the burial goods in the tombs. What these horses, in huge numbers, tell us is the universal affection of the Chinese people in the metropolitan areas of the Tang empire for the “heavenly steed” that came from Ferghana, celebrated also in paintings and poetry.
James S. Y. Watt (2009), p. 103
Indeed, some academic subjects have proved to be academically viable only through the activity of collectors and those who study the collections. This is especially true in numismatics where the subject has depended almost wholly on the expertise and judgement of private collectors who have never been slow to share their knowledge and information. It is similar for cuneiform tablets and engraved seals. Seals and coin hoards are very seldom from controlled excavations; I would guess that I am rather a rarity among archaeologists in that I have actually excavated a coin hoard with my own hands – and published it. John Boardman (2009), p. 116
Do archaeologists have the right to show off as guardians of the cultural heritage of mankind?
So who do these archaeologists think they are, as absolute guardians of the world’s heritage? Here, a slight digression: some twenty-five years ago I conducted an investigation for the British Academy into excavations financed by public money over a period of five years, ending five years before the time of the investigation, to see what had become of the publication of their excavation reports. An unpublished site is even more of a destroyed site than the Bamiyan Buddhas, since no public record whatever is left. The results of my investigation were depressing. Although the British record was better than many – more with regard to their excavations overseas than at home – I would judge that, over the last fifty years, far less than 25 percent of material and results of professional archaeological excavations has been properly published, and the rest will never get beyond preliminary reports, if that.
John Boardman (2009), p. 109
I have had enough experience excavating, publishing excavation reports, and, especially, trying to understand the excavations of others from published reports, to know that an excavated piece precise information is never available. The scandal of unpublished and inadequately published material from excavations is one that archaeologists, quick to decry collecting, are willing to acknowledge but do nothing about, while the fact that it is some way regarded as “my material” will often encourage an excavator from withholding information – an attitude shared by no museum that I know outside source countries, and very few private collectors.
John Boardman (2009), p. 120f.
Are we being oversensitive to antiquities, overeager to preserve every morsel of the past, and to what end? Which is the cheaper, human history or human life? The robbing, destruction, and collecting of antiquities has been as endemic in the history of man as genocide, and far less harmful. We rightly criticized the Taliban for destroying the Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan, but they appear to have done this through profound religious repugnance of such idols. And who are we to blame them for this rather extreme exercise of their deeply felt faith? The major loss in this case is probably to the tourist trade… The act of the Taliban was exactly that of Moses with the Golden Calf made by the idolatrous Aaron, which he “burnt with fire, and ground to powder and scattered upon the water.” No doubt the calf might have been judged a distinguished example of animal sculpture for its day, but we do not question Moses’s motivation or deed. And there are many later instances of iconoclasm in Britain, too. On Renfrew’s terms Moses should appear as an offender in the destruction of man’s heritage. Scholarship cannot take precedence over everything.
John Boardman (2009), 108f.
Most offensive has been the hypocrisy characterized by the nearly total lack of criticism by archaeologists of the governments (sometimes fascist and totalitarian) and departments of antiquities with which they work for fear that their permits or visas would be rejected or cancelled. The failure to condemn or even openly discuss human rights abuses, widespread corruption, unqualified officials, and an appalling record of unpublished excavated sites only highlights the single-issue perspective presented by archaeological societies. In addition, the destruction of archaeological sites due to the accelerated construction of dams, roads, urban expansion, deep ploughing, and military installations has surely resulted in an even greater cultural heritage loss than has been created by looting. However, these relevant and significant issues, for the most part, have been ignored or overshadowed by the heated discussion over looting and the publication of unprovenanced artifacts. It is particularly ironic that those who often do not publish their own excavations are the very ones who are most committed to stopping the publication of inscriptions and other unprovenanced artifacts.
John Boardman (2009), p. 128f.
A major threat to scholarship in all this is the censorship practised by those scholars and others convinced of the wickedness of collecting. Distinguished scholars have had their lectures in Cambridge cancelled because someone has thought some material involved had not been properly, in their terms, acquired. Elsewhere international and other conferences forbid allusion to “suspect” material. The Archaeological Institute of America will not publish or review scholarly work deemed to be contaminated by such material. This is pure censorship. The German Archaeological Institute now takes the same line, admitting that it has to safeguard its status with countries where it excavates. I suppose in these days, when we no longer trust our politicians to tell us the truth, censorship may seem a slight offence. I was brought up to believe that censorship is worse than theft, and especially so where scholarship is concerned.
John Boardman (2009), p. 114
What we in museums find so inexplicable and objectionable in the discourse against museums is the dismissal of the object, as such, the innocent, yet intrinsically valuable object. I’ve already said, and don’t mind repeating, that to acknowledge the possible value to knowledge of an object’s internal evidence does not mean that one condones the practice of looting sites. And I actually know archaeologists who refuse to even look at such an object. Can one really trust the scholarship of those who allow politics and ideology to trump their intellectual curiosity like that? It seems to me that one keeps one’s opprobrium for the looter or the circumstances of the event, but not for the looted object itself. To turn away from it in moral indignation is foolish, and in the end can lead to the suppression of knowledge.
Philippe de Montebello (2009), p. 67
So extreme have these positions become that one archaeologist has gone so far as to equate those who publish unprovenanced finds with drug dealers, murderers, and supporters of terrorists, and another has even advocated the killing of looters.
David I. Owen (2009), p. 128
It is no secret that once texts are confiscated and held either by the authorities or returned to museums, they are placed in a kind of limbo, usually without access by scholars, and are rarely, if ever, published. Ironically, texts in the public domain often do get published or are otherwise recorded by scholars.
David I. Owen (2009), p. 127
Archaeological societies have used their influence to create restrictions on publications. They have lobbied governments to impose Draconian laws, and have otherwise restricted publication and even debate. Furthermore, the banning of reports on unprovenanced artifacts by archaeological organizations has severely restricted the discussion and dissemination of highly important historical, literary, and cultural materials to the detriment of scholarship. Even anniversary and memorial volumes have rejected articles that attempt to publish or even refer to unprovenanced artifacts, as though this will somehow reduce the looting of, and trade in, antiquities. None of this has been shown to diminish the level of looting and destruction of archaeological sites or to curtail the illegal trade in antiquities. The only result has been the loss of significant data for study of Mesopotamian civilization.
John Boardman (2009), p. 128
States as guardians of the heritage of mankind
Briefly, the results of current legislation are:
1. Failure in effective control of looting from sites and museums (largely the fault of source countries).
2. The destruction (melting down by finders) or total neglect (by some archaeologists) of heritage antiquities, which are illogically deemed to be “tainted.”
3. Absolute restriction on the collection of many antiquities that deserve protection and study, by museums or private persons.
4. The censorship of original scholarship.
5. The stifling of a legitimate trade.
6. The denial of the right of persons or museums to acquire antiquities that are not demonstrably stolen or the result of plunder, since most are only so deemed, not proved.
The situation is not one that is generally recognized or acknowledged, and it is time to speak out. It has been distorted by emotive accounts of willful destruction and theft, and has been contrived by some archaeologists and legislators, but it is not in the interests of either scholarship or the preservation of our global heritage.
John Boardman (2009), p. 119
Even legal standard works of recent date still include the recommendation that legal relationships of cultural property should follow their “right of residence”. This way of expression seems surprisingly romantic: usually, only natural and legal persons can be granted rights. Cultural property doesn’t seem to be regarded as property anymore but as persons instead. However, the impression of an animistic vitalisation soon wears off when looking at things not from the view of cultural property but from the state concerned. Nothing else than the legal claim of a state lies behind the work of art’s alleged right of residence…
The UNESCO convention from 1970 defines national cultural property as follows: “cultural property created by the individual or collective genius of nationals of the State concerned, und cultural property of importance to the state concerned within the territory of that State created by foreign nationals or stateless persons resident within such territory“. Again it is striking that in this “collective genius” romantic terminology of the 19th century raises its head again. Yet most important here is the expression “[…] of importance to the state concerned“. Hence, it is left to the individual state which items it regards as an embodiment of its national identity (and which it doesn’t). At the same time, it is obvious that any national reference to the remains of the past is induced or even dominated by political intentions. Whoever labels a specific object as “national cultural property” doesn’t take definable qualities as a basis but resorts to political-nationalistic constructs. Their function is mainly to strengthen feelings of national identity and to affirm continuities: especially there where an objective, historical view would rather notice breaches and differences. Therefore, national cultural property belong to the realm of a (proto)nationalistic rhetoric; in a time, when the nation state has lost its implicitness as political paradigm and has perhaps become a phase-out model, this rhetoric seems more and more obsolete. As scientist one should ask oneself if and to what extent one can justify a participation in this.
Luca Giuliani (2004)*, p. 34f.
The threat comes from the idea that even endangered art – endangered by a state whose government threatens it precisely because they don’t think it is a proper part of their own heritage – nevertheless properly belongs in the state whose cultural patrimony it is.
Kwame Anthony Appiah (2009), p. 82
In the years following the establishment of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, curators at the Afghan’s National Museum, in Kabul, grew increasingly worried about the security of the country’s non-Islamic antiquities. They had heard the mounting threats made by Islamic hard-liners who considered all figurative works to be blasphemous, and they confided their concerns to colleagues in other countries, begging them to take such artifacts out of Afghanistan for safekeeping. … They had heard the rumblings about a new wave of iconoclasm, and they took them seriously.
Finally, in 1999, Paul Bucherer, a Swiss scholar who was the director of the Fondation Bibliotheca Afghanica, negotiated an arrangement with more moderate Taliban officials, including the then Taliban minister for information and culture, along with President Rabbani of the Northern Alliance. The endangered artifacts would be shipped to a museum in Switzerland that had been set up specifically for the purpose of keeping these works out of harm’s way while the danger persisted. In the fall of 2000, Dr. Bucherer, with the help of Afghan museum officials, had crated up these endangered artifacts, ready to be shipped to Switzerland for temporary safekeeping. Switzerland, as a signatory of UNESCO treaties, simply required UNESCO approval to receive the shipment.
But while Paul Bucherer and his Afghan colleagues had managed to negotiate around the Taliban hard-liners, they hadn’t counted on the UNESCO hard-liners. And UNESCO refused to authorize the shipments. Various explanations were offered, but the objection came down to the 1970 UNESCO agreement on the illicit traffic of cultural objects, and its strictures against involving moving objects from their country of origin. Indeed, at a UNESCO meeting that winter, experts in Central Asian antiquities actually denounced Dr. Bucherer for trying to destroy Afghan culture.
People I know who have visited the National Museum in Kabul recount what the staff members there have told them. Museum workers were ordered by Taliban inspectors to open drawers of antiquities, in the wake of Mullah Omar’s February 2001 edict against pre-Islamic art. Here were drawers of extraordinary Bactrian artifacts and Ghandara heads and figurines. My friends recall the dead look in a curator’s eyes as he described how the Taliban inspectors responded to these extraordinary artifacts by taking out mallets and pulverizing them in front of him.
Would the ideologues of cultural nativism, those experts who insist that archaeological artifacts are meaningless outside their land of origin, find solace in the fact that Afghan hands destroyed these works, on Afghan soil?
Kwame Anthony Appiah (2009), p. 80f.
Protection of art by its market value
As a matter of fact, the market seems highly suitable to protect archaeological goods insofar as to let them reach all by themselves the place where the highest prices are paid; however, with highest prices come the best conservational conditions. This almost 20 year old hypothesis by John Henry Merryman was often regarded as a cynical provocation: nevertheless, the truth in that statement can hardly be denied. Let us take a volute krater from the 4th cent. B. C. as an example, which – found in North Apulia in the dead of night by illegal excavators – can be sold on the international market for a six-figure sum of money in Euros. We don’t have to worry about its destiny. It is in the treasure hunters’ own interest to see to it that the krater will come to no unnecessary harm: sooner or later, the precious piece will inevitably arrive at the workshop of a skilled conservator and, after that, it will end up in a properly secured, well-illuminated showcase. Objects suitable for sale are indeed protected by the market – the bigger their value the more effective the protection. If only single objects were concerned, protection provisions were by and large superfluous.
Luca Giuliani, (2004)*, p. 32f.
Is the art trade responsible for the looting of archaeological sites?
The argument holds that since robbing cannot be controlled at its source, it must be controlled, blindly, at its eventual home in a collection, public or private, and indiscriminately so, regardless of evidence. But this is topsy-turvy. Surely (and the example is the international trade of illegal drugs) it is more appropriate and more effective to target the sources of criminal activity, and especially those middlemen who handle the material long before it arrives in the pockets of street dealers. In terms of the antiquities trade this suggests the need for a far more serious approach by source countries, often with the policing of their own officials, and a far more determined international effort to bring to justice the middlemen and anyone who sponsors such activities, something quite beyond the imagination of UNESCO.
John Boardman (2009), p. 115
Most new antiquities on any market are come by through an accident or as result of major public works, not design. In Athens, when a new road was cut near the Kerameikos, I saw the ditches beside it full of broken marble monuments. In Chios town it was the usual practice for builders to take their rubble, often full of antiquities, to dump beside the roads out of town, rather than have their work halted; a universal practice, I expect. From such practices many objects may be collected and reach a market, often for a modest price. All products of such activity are now to be treated on a par with the results of deliberate plunder, the most important of which never reach any open market at all and so are immune to antiquities legislation and seem often immune to laws concerning theft. This seems to me an appalling lapse in legislative judgment.
If current legislation is truly effective, anyone anywhere who now comes on a hoard of coins or Roman silver will do best simply to melt them down. What good does that do for scholarship and the heritage of humanity?
John Boardman (2009), p. 111
The true amount the ancient art market turns over
It will also be important to debunk at the start the exaggerated and often fanciful claims that have been and continued to be made, such as the claims that the trade in unprovenanced antiquities amounts to some multi-billions of U.S. dollars. Every serious survey of the art market and museum acquisitions points to a figure closer to $ 100 million to $ 150 million a year for all antiquities, provenanced and unprovenanced, which is a fraction of those billions.
Philippe de Montebello (2009), p. 64
National heritage or heritage of mankind?
True art is cosmopolitan. It knows no country. It knows no age. Homer sang not for the Greeks alone but for all nations, and for all time. Beethoven is the musician not of the Germans alone but of all cultivated nations. And Raphael painted not for the Italians alone, but for all of whatever land or age, whose hearts are open to sympathy with the beautiful in art.
George F. Comfort (1870)
But what does it mean, exactly, for something to belong to a people? Most of Nigeria’s cultural patrimony was produced before the modern Nigerian state existed. We don’t know whether the terra-cotta Nok sculptures, made something between about 800 BC and AD 200, were commissioned by kings or commoners; we don’t know whether the people who made them and the people who paid for them thought of them as belonging to the kingdom, to a man, to a lineage, or to the gods. One thing we know for sure, however, is they didn’t make them for Nigeria. …
They could reply that the Nok sculptures were found on the territory of Nigeria. And it is, indeed, a perfectly reasonable property rule that where something of value is dug up and nobody can establish an existing claim on it, the government gets to decide what to do with it. It’s an equally sensible idea that, when an object is of cultural value, the government has a special obligation to preserve it. The Nigerian government will therefore naturally try to preserve such objects for Nigerians. But if they are of cultural value – as the Nok sculptures undoubtedly are – it strikes me that it would be better for them to think of themselves as trustees for humanity. While the government of Nigeria reasonable exercises trusteeship, the Nok sculptures belong in the deepest sense to all of us. “Belong” here is a metaphor, of course. I just mean that the Nok sculptures are of potential value to all human beings.
Kwame Anthony Appiah (2009), p. 74f.
If the argument for cultural patrimony is that the art belongs to the culture that gives it its significance, most art doesn’t belong to a national culture at all. Much of the greatest art is flamboyantly international; much ignores nationality altogether. A great deal of early modern European art was court art or was church art. It was made not for nations or peoples but for princes and popes or ad majorem gloriam dei. And the artists who made it came from all over Europe. More importantly, in a line often ascribed to Picasso, good artists copy, great ones steal; and they steal from everywhere. Does Picasso himself – a Spaniard – get to be part of the cultural patrimony of the Republic of the Congo, home of the Vili people, one of whose carvings Matisse showed him at the Paris apartment of the American Gertrude Stein?
Kwame Anthony Appiah (2009), p. 79.
In the context of the museum, there is the possibility of allowing people – all of us – to think and to imagine different histories from those with which we were raised. The Sudanese exhibition was addressing all of us, in one way or another. It allowed the Sudanese diaspora to reappropriate their own history, their own culture, in a way that I think is impossible to do in Sudan. And it made the rest of us want to learn more about Sudan, its people and culture, and their relations with the world, with us and us with them, in very profound ways our many interrelated cultures.
Neil MacGregor (2009), p. 47f.
Furthermore, the insistence for keeping objects at their excavation sites is contrary to the principle of encouraging broad access to works of art since most archaeological sites are, by dint of historical circumstance, in remote locations. Let me give you an example, a rather dispiriting one at that. As you well know, the Metropolitan Museum of Art returned to Turkey in 1993 a group of spectacular West Anatolian objects of precious metals: the so-called Lydian Treasure dating back to the sixth century BC. After considerable research, it was determined that it had been illegally removed from a site in or near Usak in the 1960s. Because pieces of the Treasure have reportedly been recently stolen from the Usak Museum, press attention has focused on the museum, its professionalism and visitation. An April 20, 2006 article in the Turkish press quotes the chief officer of the Usak culture and tourism department as stating, and I quote, that “in the past five years, 769 people visited the museum in total.”
Philippe de Montebello (2009), p. 61.
It has been too easy to lose sight of the global constituency. The American legal scholar John Henry Merryman once offered some examples of how laws and treaties relating to cultural property have betrayed a properly cosmopolitan (he uses the word internationalist) perspective. “Though we readily deplore the theft of paintings from Italian churches,” he wrote, “if a painting is rotting in a church from lack of resources to care for it, and the priest sells it for money to repair the roof and in the hope that the purchaser will give the painting the care it needs, then the problem begins to look different.”
Kwame Anthony Appiah (2009), p. 83.
In the 1930ies, the necropolis of the Etruscan city of Vulci was excavated which then belonged to the territory of the Papal States. Large quantities of Greek vases of outstanding quality were unearthed from the graves. The enterprise became a huge success: also and not least economically. The vases were traded in great style, and the big European collections then laid the foundation in Greek vases that remains essential until the present day: this holds true for London as well as for Berlin, and for Paris as well as for Munich. One (and not the least) participant in these excavations were the Papal States themselves: after founding a company with private providers the state bore 50% of the costs and, in turn, claimed 50% of the findings in the end: these was the foundation of the Museo Gregoriano Etrusco which opened its doors in 1837. I certainly don’t want to idealize the excavation enterprise at Vulci. … Admittedly, the objects found were registered week after week, but without documenting the single grave inventories. As a result, enormous amount of information got lost; nevertheless we know relatively much about the Vulci excavation. Arpi in North Apulia is an entirely different case. In the late 50ies of the 20th century, the ancient settlement was identified – roughly 20 years later, the plundering of the necropolis began. Arpi soon became the most yielding place of discovery throughout South Italy and gained an importance readily comparable to that of Vulci in the early 19th century. In contrast to Vulci all findings discovered in Arpi were legally supposed to belong to the state. De facto, though, this legal claim only prompted the excavators to disappear into the shadows of illegality. From there, the excavation was advanced quite vigorously. Out of the hundreds of graves only two were excavated by tenured archaeologists following scientific standards with exemplary publications at the end. …Current legislation wasn’t able to prevent this destruction of findings. Only one step ahead lies the question if the laws rather promoted it.
I close with an archaeological myth. Imagine: at the beginning of the 90ies, the Italian state had condemned those land on which the graves of the Arpi necropolis were located; the owners had received a particular price per square meter plus the express warranty to get a percentage share of the proceeds when the findings were sold later on. After that, international investors had funded an excavation campaign planned to take five years under the close supervision by the local Soprintendenza; in Foggia the findings were restored and processed as well as split in two parts thereafter: one part remained in state possession whereas the other half of the findings (all tagged with documentation of provenance and regular export licence) were sold at an international auction sale in Rome one year after the excavation was concluded. With the proceeds from the sale a local museum at Arpi was financed; the rest was paid out to the dispossessed land owners as well as to the excavation investors.
Luca Giuliani (2004)*, p. 40f.
The quotes: exact source and a short vita of the scholars quoted
Those texts asterisked have been translated from another language.
Kwame Anthony Appiah (2009)
Kwame Anthony Appiah, Whose Culture is it?, in: Whose Culture? The promise of Museums and the Debate over Antiquities, Ed. James Cuno, Princeton and Oxford (2009), p. 71-86.
Kwame Anthony Appiah is the Laurance S. Rockefeller University Professor of Philosophy and the University Center of Human Values, Princeton University. He has held teaching positions at Yale, Cornell, Duke and Harvard universities. His many books include In My Father’s House (1992), which deals, in part, with the role of African and African American intellectuals in shaping contemporary African cultural life … He is a member of the American Philosophical Society.
From: Whose Culture? The promise of Museums and the Debate over Antiquities, Ed. James Cuno, Princeton and Oxford (2009), p. 209.
Michael Bennett (2013)
M. Bennett, Praxiteles: The Cleveland Apollo, The Cleveland Museum in Art in association with D Giles Limited London (2013).
Michael Bennett is the Cleveland Museum of Art’s first curator of Greek and Roman Art. His many publications include Belted Heroes and Bound Women: The Myth of the Homeric Warrior King in the monograph series Greek Studies: Interdisciplinary Approaches.
Bennett has overseen the reinstallation of the museum’s collections of Ancient Near Eastern, Greek, Etruscan, and Roman antiquities, reopened to the public in June 2010. In 2002, he co-organized the exhibition, Magna Graecia: Greek Art from South Italy and Sicily, for which he won an Award of Achievement from Northern Ohio LIVE magazine in the Cultural Exhibition category. In 2004, he received another Northern Ohio LIVE award of Achievement for his acquisition of the only known bronze, life-size statue of the Apollo Sauroktonos, a sculpture he has attributed to the ancient Greek master sculptor Praxiteles. Bennett is also the co-curator of the exhibition, Sicily: Art and Invention between Greece and Rome and co-editor of the sourcebook of the same title published by the J. Paul Getty Museum in association with the exhibition, which opens at the Getty Villa in 2013.
He holds a BA from San Jose State University and a PhD in Fine Arts from Harvard University.
John Boardman (2009)
J. Boardman, Archaeologists, Collectors and Museums, in: Whose Culture? The promise of Museums and the Debate over Antiquities, Ed. James Cuno, Princeton and Oxford (2009), S. 107-124.
Sir John Boardman is Emeritus Lincoln Professor of Classical Art and Archaeology at Oxford University and a staff member of the Beazley Archive, a research unity of the Oxford Faculty of Classics. He is widely regarded as the world’s greatest living authority on ancient Greece vase painting. He has excavated at Smyrna, Crete, Chios, and Libya, and served as Assistant Director of the British School in Athens. … He is a Fellow of the British Academy.
From: Whose Culture? The promise of Museums and the Debate over Antiquities, Ed. James Cuno, Princeton and Oxford (2009), p. 209f.
George F. Comfort / Syracuse University’s College of Fine Arts, 1870
Quoted after Philippe de Montebello, „And what do you propose should be done with those objects?“, from: Whose Culture? The promise of Museums and the Debate over Antiquities, Ed. James Cuno, Princeton and Oxford (2009), p. 55.
James Cuno, The Value of Antiquities, in: Whose Culture? The promise of Museums and the Debate over Antiquities, Ed. James Cuno, Princeton and Oxford (2009), 87-88.
James Cuno is the President and the Eloise W. Martin Director of the Art Institute of Chicago. Previously director of the Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London, and the Harvard University Art Museums, Cuno has published and lectured often on the subject of U.S. art museums and the acquisition of antiquities, most recently with his book Who owns Antiquity? Museums and the Battle over Our Ancient Heritage (Princeton University Press, 2008) and essays in Imperialism, Art, and Restitution (John Henry Merryman, ed., 2006) and Who Owns The Past: Cultural Policy, Cultural Property, and the Law (Kate Fitz Gibbon, ed., 2006). He edited and co-wrote the book, Whose Muse? Art Museums and the Public Trust (2004). He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and past president of the Association of Art Museum Directors.
From: Whose Culture? The promise of Museums and the Debate over Antiquities, Ed. James Cuno, Princeton and Oxford (2009), p. 209f.
Luca Giuliani (2004)
Luca Giuliani, Archäologische Bodenfunde als nationale Kulturgüter, in: Illegale Archäologie?, ed. Wolf-Dieter Heilmeyer & J. Cordelia Eule, Berlin (2004), 32-42.
Luca Giuliani studied archaeology in Basel and Munich between 1969 and 1975. Having finished his PhD we worked … at the Antikenmuseum / Berlin. 1984 he habilitated at Heidelberg … Between 1992 and 1998 Giuliani served as professor for archaeology at the University of Freiburg, 1998-2007 at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, since 2002 he has served as head of the Museum für Abgüsse Klassischer Bildwerke. In 2001 he was elected member of the Berlin-Brandenburgischen Akademie der Wissenschaften.
In 2006 he was elected as new principal of the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin. … In addition to that he works as professor for archaeology at the Humboldt-Universität at Berlin. From Wikipedia https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luca_Giuliani*
Neil MacGregor (2009)
Neil MacGregor, To Shape the Citizens of „That Great City, the World“,in: Whose Culture? The promise of Museums and the Debate over Antiquities, Ed. James Cuno, Princeton and Oxford (2009), 39-54.
Neil MacGregor is Director of the British Museum. He was previously Director of the National Gallery, London, 1987-2002. He is a Fellow of New College, Oxford, a fellow of Birkbeck College, an Honorary Fellow of the British Academy, and an Honorary Member of the Royal Scottish Academy. He is a member of the United Kingdom’s Arts and Humanities Research Council, and is the Chair of the State Hermitage Museum International Advisory Board. From 1987 to 1997, he was Chairman of the UK National Museums Directors’ Conference and of the European Commission Steering Committee for multimedia access to European cultural patrimony. He has served on selection panels and juries concerned with the rebuilding of the Museumsinsel, Berlin, the remodeling of the Louvre, and the reorganization of the Venice museums.
From: Whose Culture? The promise of Museums and the Debate over Antiquities, Ed. James Cuno, Princeton and Oxford (2009), p. 211
Philippe de Montebello (2009)
Philippe de Montebello, „And what do you propose should be done with those objects?“, in: Whose Culture? The promise of Museums and the Debate over Antiquities, Ed. James Cuno, Princeton and Oxford (2009), 55-70.
Philippe de Montebello was for thirty years, until his recent retirement, Director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the world’s most encyclopedic art museum. Its permanent collections, housed in seventeen curatorial departments, embrace more than two million works of art spanning five thousand years of world culture, from prehistory to the present, from every part of the globe. Among his recent initiatives are the ongoing renovation, expansion, and reinstallation of the Metropolitan’s Greek and Roman galleries… He has written and lectured extensively on museum issues, often on the questions of museums’ acquiring antiquities, and has received many honors, including Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur in 1991 and the National Medal of Arts, awarded by the president of the United States, in 2003. He is a trustee of the Association of Art Museum Directors and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
From: Whose Culture? The promise of Museums and the Debate over Antiquities, Ed. James Cuno, Princeton and Oxford (2009), p. 211f.
David I. Owen (2009)
David I. Owen, Censoring Knowledge: The Case for the Publication of Unprovenanced Cuneiform Tablets, in: Whose Culture? The promise of Museums and the Debate over Antiquities, Ed. James Cuno, Princeton and Oxford (2009), 125-142.
David I. Owen is the Bernard and Jane Shapiro Professor of Ancient Near Eastern and Judaic Studies in the Department of Near Eastern Studies at Cornell University. From 1961 to 1989 he was actively engaged in archaeological research in the Mediterranean… He has written and edited or coedited more than thirty books and over two hundred articles, reviews and notes.
From: Whose Culture? The promise of Museums and the Debate over Antiquities, Ed. James Cuno, Princeton and Oxford (2009), p. 212.
James C. Y. Watt (2009)
James C. Y. Watt, Antiquities and Importance – and Limitations – of Archaeological Contexts, in Whose Culture? The promise of Museums and the Debate over Antiquities, Ed. James Cuno, Princeton and Oxford (2009), 89-106
James C. Y. Watt (Qu Zhi-ren) is Brooke Russell Astor Chairman of the Department of Asian Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He has also served as Curator of the Department of Asiatic Art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and Chairman of the Board of Studies in Fine Arts, at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, among other positions. He has organized and contributed to the catalogues of a number of exhibitions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
From: Whose Culture? The promise of Museums and the Debate over Antiquities, Ed. James Cuno, Princeton and Oxford (2009), p. 212.