Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Goldberg, Ira & Larry. Auctions

Goldberg, Ira & Larry. Auctions

Online archive here.
PDF Catalogues from Godbergcoins issuu.

AUCTIONS


Gemini Auctions

AUCTIONS

6 (10.01.2010)
7 (09.01.2011) (issuu) (issuu)
8 (14.04.2011) (issuu)
9 (08.01.2012) (issuu)

Harlan J. Berk

Harlan J. Berk

Buy or Bid Sales

168. 16.03.2010 (A.M.) (issuu)
169. 01.06.2010 (A.M.)
170.
171.
172.
173.
174. (10.05.2011) (A.M.) (issuu)
175. (07.07.2011) (A.M.) (issuu)
176. (08.09.2011) (issuu)
177. (15.11.2011) (issuu)
178 (15.03.2012) (Reconstructed PDF: A.M. - issuu)
179 (24.05.2012) (issuu-Berk)
180.
181.
182.
183 (28.03.2013) (issuu-Berk)


185 (09.07.2013) (issuu-Berk)
186 (21.08.2013) (issuu-Berk)
187 (17.10.2013) (issuu-Berk)
188.
189. (25.03.2014) (A.M.-issuu)
190.
191.
192. (09.10.2014) (A.M.-issuu)
193. (30.04.2015)  (A.M.-issuu)
194. (09.07.2015) (Berk.-issuu)
195. (29.10.2015) (Berk.-issuu)


BOOK LISTS

CNG Auctions. Triton. Mail Bid. e-Auction.

MAIL BID SALE
81 (20.05.2009)
82 (16.09.2009)
83 (
84 (05.05.2010)
85 (15.09.2010)

TRITON
Triton 13 (05-06.01.2010) Session 1-2
Triton 13 (05-06.01.2010) Session 3-4

Nomos Auctions

AUCTIONS
FPL

Monday, 24 May 2010

From the Bosporous to the Adriatic – French Photographers discover the monuments of the Balkans

Image from: agelioforos.gr

One of the most important monuments of Thessalonike, the Rotonda, opens its gates to host an exhibition of photographs from the beginning of the 20th century entitled “From the Bosporous to the Adriatic – French Photographers discover the monuments of the Balkans”.


The 180 black and white photographs, dated from 1878 to 1914, where captured with the lenses of French photographers. Temples, markets, Muslim mosques and other monuments from Greece, Turkey, Albania, FYROM, Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro, Bulgaria and Bosnia-Herzegovina where captured photographically composing a “journey of the common in the Balkans”, as the director of the Museum of Photography of Thessalonike and member of the organising committee, Vaggelis Ioakimides said.


The works cover five historical periods of the countries of South-Eastern Europe. The first concerns monuments of antiquity, the second Byzantine buildings, the third is linked to the architecture influenced by the Venetians along the Dalmatian coast, the fourth is dominated by Oriental perfumes, while the fifth discusses the meaning of the term city.


“This exhibition shows the possibility of photographs to capture facets of places that are today lost”, underlines mr Ioakimides.


The exhibition is a production of the National Centre for Historical Monuments of France and was first presented in the Conciergerie in Paris.


It was co-organised by the French Institute of Thessalonike, the Museum of Photography of Thessalonike, the Department of Architecture of the Aristoteleian University of Thessalonike and the 9th Ephorate of Byzantine Antiquities, under the care of the Metropolis of Thessalonike and the General Consulate of France in Thessalonike and the Prefecture of Thessalonike as part of the Photobienale.


The exhibition will be inaugurated on Friday 28th May and will last till the 31st July. It will then travel to other Balkan Countries.


Source: Kathimerini.gr, 20.05.2010


Note: For more information about the Museums mentioned in the text, see here.


Venue: Rotonda-Church of St. George (tel. 2310968860)
Opening Hours: Tue-Sun 08.00-19.00
Duration: 28.05.2010-31.07.2010


Saturday, 15 May 2010

Archaeology Matters Strikes!


Recently David Gill of Looting Matters published a polaroid from the Giacomo Medici Archive. Just hours after the article was published, Archaology Matters struck a blow with a one line comment: "...and is now in the Bonham's sale (lot 137)".

By April 27 the lot was withdrawn from the Bonham's sale and David Gill was writing on the subject again, as were others. It even left the blogosphere in an article published by the Guardian, 27.10.2010.

It is a pity no one thought to mention our contribution, which may have been quantitatively small, but was certainly the key to the affair....

This is not to take any of the credit from David Gill and the excellent work he does with Looting Matters (and not only..!).

..................................................................................................................................................

EDIT:

Please see the comments. All credit is rightly attributed to David Gill of Looting Matters. For all his work I can but once again congratulate him!

Giacomo Medici Polaroids

The September 1995 raid on the Geneva Freeport premises of Giacomo Medici brought to light a major archive of some 4000 photographs. These images, some Polaroids, have been used by the Italian authorities to identify objects that have passed into public and private collections. (Looting Matters)

SCULPTURE


Roman Marble Figure of Youth.
1st-2nd c. A.D.
27in (68.6cm)
Standing naked, the weight on his right leg, his left leg relaxed, supported by the column and strut on his left, standing on an integral base.

APPEARED:








Roman Marble Torso of Youth, holding cockerel.
c. 2nd c. A.D.
24 in. (60.9 cm.) high.
Depicted nude, standing in contrapposto with his weight originally on his left leg, the right leg relaxed, his torso twisting with his right shoulder slightly forward, holding a cockerel in his left arm, his hand at the bird's left wing, its tail feathers curving along the contours of the boy's hip, remnants of a strut along his right thigh, a fragment of a support preserved along the back of his left thigh.

APPEARED:
Christie's, New York, 10.06.2010, 139.

SEE:
Looting Matters







TERRACOTTAS


A GREEK TERRACOTTA FEMALE CANOSAN, HELLENISTIC PERIOD, CIRCA 3RD CENTURY B.C.
17½ in. (44.4 cm.) high
Standing with her weight on her right leg, her left bent at the knee and pulled back, wearing a peplos and a himation draped over her left shoulder and around her torso, her arms lowered with her forearms projecting forward, holding a mask of Medusa in her left hand, the right missing, a thick fillet with radiating leaves in her center-parted hair, preserving traces of pigment, including black, white, blue and pink




APPEARED:
Christie's, New York, Sale 2323 (10.06.2010), lot 110.
(Given Provenance: Japanese Private Collection, 1980s.)
SEE:
Looting Matters here and here.
























CERAMIC

Attic
  • Bonham's, 10.2008, 6: Attic black-figured column-krater. Surfaced: Sotheby's London, Antiquities, July 13th-14th, 1987, lot 440. (Source: Looting Matters)
  • Bonham's, 10.2008, 9: Attic red-figured bell-krater. Surfaced: Sotheby's London, Antiquities, May 20th, 1985, lot 383. (Source: Looting Matters)

Apulian
  • Bonham's, 10.2008, 10: Apulian hydria. Surfaced: Sotheby's London, Antiquities, May 21st, 1984, lot 384. (Source: Looting Matters)
  • Bonham's, 10.2008, 15: Apulian oinochoe. Surfaced: Sotheby's London, Antiquities, December 8th, 1986, lot 185. (Source: Looting Matters)
  • Bonham's, 10.2008, 10: Apulian bell-krater. Surfaced: Sotheby's London, Antiquities, December 8th, 1986, lot 188. (Source: Looting Matters)

Campanian
  • Bonham's, 10.2008, 26: Campanian bell-krater. Surfaced: Sotheby's London, Antiquities, May 22nd, 1989, lot 199.(Source: Looting Matters)
  • Bonham's, 10.2008, 36: Campanian neck-amphora. "Ex Amati collection, London, acquired in the mid-1970s."(Source: Looting Matters)

South Italian Terracotta
  • Bonham's, 10.2008, 133: Figure of Eros. "Ex Australian private collection, acquired in the 1970s. Previously acquired from Sotheby's London." (Source: Looting Matters)

Κυνηγός αρχαιοκάπηλων με έδρα το Κέιμπριτζ

Ο 37χρονος Χρήστος Τσιρογιάννης είναι ίσως ο μοναδικός Ελληνας αρχαιολόγος που ειδικεύεται σε θέματα πάταξης αρχαιοκαπηλίας. Το όνομά του το ακούσαμε πρώτη φορά την άνοιξη του 2006 στην πολύκροτη υπόθεση της βίλας στη Σχοινούσσα. Το υπουργείο Πολιτισμού τον έστειλε μαζί με άλλους συναδέλφους του να καταγράψουν τα κατασχεμένα από την Αστυνομία αρχαία. Στη συνέχεια τέθηκε στη διάθεση του υπουργείου Δικαιοσύνης για να συμβάλει στη διερεύνηση του διεθνούς κυκλώματος αρχαιοκαπηλίας και... χάσαμε τα ίχνη του. Μέχρι την προηγούμενη εβδομάδα που διαβάσαμε το όνομά του στην «Guardian».

Ο  αρχαιολόγος Χρήστος Τσιρογιάννης όταν ακόμη εργαζόταν για το υπουργείο  Πολιτισμού στην Αθήνα. Ο αρχαιολόγος Χρήστος Τσιρογιάννης όταν ακόμη εργαζόταν για το υπουργείο Πολιτισμού στην Αθήνα. Ηταν ο αρχαιολόγος που απέδειξε με στοιχεία στον οίκο Μπόναμς ότι τέσσερα ρωμαϊκά γλυπτά που επρόκειτο να δημοπρατηθούν προέρχονται από παράνομο εμπόριο. Οι φωτογραφίες τους στο έδαφος, με τα χώματα της λαθρανασκαφής πάνω τους, περιλαμβάνονταν στο κατασχεμένο αρχείο των Σάιμς-Μιχαηλίδη στη Σχοινούσσα και του Μέντιτσι στην Ιταλία. Ετσι, ο λονδρέζικος οίκος τα απέσυρε (28 Απριλίου).

Πρώτη φορά αποσύρονται από δημοπρασία αντικείμενα με στοιχεία που δεν κατατέθηκαν από κυβέρνηση αλλά από ιδιώτες, σύμφωνα με τον κ. Τσιρογιάννη. Στο Πανεπιστήμιο του Κέιμπριτζ υπάρχει τα τελευταία χρόνια 4μελής επιστημονική ομάδα που ασχολείται με τον εντοπισμό αρχαιοτήτων ύποπτης προέλευσης πριν βγουν στο σφυρί. Αρχικά την αποτελούσαν ο Ντέιβιντ Γκιλ (υφηγητής του Πανεπιστημίου Swansea) και ο Κρίστοφερ Τσιπιντέιλ (καθηγητής του Κέιμπριτζ). Προστέθηκε ο καθηγητής Αρχαιολογίας του Κέιμπριτζ λόρδος Ρένφριου, ο οποίος ενέταξε και τον Χρήστο Τσιρογιάννη. Εκείνος, άλλωστε, τον είχε καλέσει να κάνει διδακτορική έρευνα στο Κέιμπριτζ για το διεθνές κύκλωμα αρχαιοκαπηλίας.

Η απόσυρση των τεσσάρων ρωμαϊκών αγαλμάτων από τη δημοπρασία των Μπόναμς αποτελεί επιτυχία της παραπάνω ομάδας και όχι των ελληνικών και ιταλικών αρχών - όπως λανθασμένα μας είχαν πληροφορήσει από το ΥΠΠΟ. Η νεοσύστατη Διεύθυνση Αρχαιοκαπηλίας δεν έκανε τίποτα για να μπλοκάρει τις δημοπρατούμενες αρχαιότητες, που ίσως να προέρχονται από τη βόρειο Ελλάδα. Παραμονές της δημοπρασίας και έπειτα από ελληνικά δημοσιεύματα η διευθύντριά της έψαχνε το αρχείο των Σάιμς-Μιχαηλίδη που κατασχέθηκε από την Αστυνομία στη Σχοινούσσα και παραδόθηκε στο υπουργείο Πολιτισμού. Το περιεχόμενό του όμως, όπως και του διαβόητου ντίλερ Μέντιτσι, καταδικασμένου για αρχαιοκαπηλία στην Ιταλία, το έχει λάβει επισήμως ο κ. Τσιρογιάννης για το διδακτορικό του. Ετσι προέβη και στην ταύτιση των ρωμαϊκών αγαλμάτων.

Εβρισκε αρχαία ως στρατιώτης

Ο κ. Τσιρογιάννης αποφοίτησε από το πανεπιστήμιο το 1998. Από τα φοιτητικά του χρόνια αποφάσισε να δουλέψει ως εργάτης στις ανασκαφές της Β'Εφορείας Αρχαιοτήτων στα Γλυκά Νερά. Το 2000 προσελήφθη ως συμβασιούχος στην Αρχαία Αγορά και ύστερα από λίγους μήνες πήγε στον στρατό, απ' όπου απολύθηκε αφού στο μεταξύ είχε εντοπίσει μια οχυρή τοποθεσία στην Κρήτη, ένα νεκροταφείο στην Καστοριά και έναν αρχαίο οικισμό στα ελληνοαλβανικά σύνορα!

«Είχαμε ως αξιωματικοί να καταλάβουμε κάποια υψώματα στην Κρήτη. Ολοι σκαρφάλωναν τρέχοντας, εγώ έμεινα κάτω κι άρχισα να συλλέγω κεραμεική. Τα δήλωσα μέσω του στρατού στην Εφορεία Ηρακλείου. Δεν ξέρω αν υπήρξε καμιά συνέχεια, αν έγινε ανασκαφή».

Σαράντα μέρες πριν απολυθεί είχε κι άλλα ευρήματα. Τα παρέδωσε στην Εφορεία Αρχαιοπωλείων. Η επιβράβευσή του ήταν μια θέση συμβασιούχου στην ίδια Εφορεία. Μια έρευνα σε μοναστήρι στα Μέγαρα το 2004, όπου η Αστυνομία ζήτησε έναν αρχαιολόγο, γιατί είχε βρει και κατασχέσει δεκάδες αρχαιότητες, τον εισήγαγε στο κυνήγι της παράνομης διακίνησης πολιτιστικών θησαυρών. Οι επικεφαλής της Γενικής Αστυνομικής Διεύθυνσης Αττικής τού εκμυστηρεύθηκαν τότε ότι δεν βρίσκουν αρχαιολόγο πρόθυμο να τους βοηθήσει. Αλλοι φοβούνται μην μπλέξουν κι άλλοι γιατί δεν αμείβονται υπερωρίες. Ο νεαρός αρχαιολόγος τούς υποσχέθηκε μετά το ωράριό του στην Αρχαιολογική Υπηρεσία να τους βοηθάει εθελοντικά. Ενημέρωνε παράλληλα και τον προϊστάμενό του κι έτσι η Εφορεία Αρχαιοπωλείων στην πορεία τον έστελνε επισήμως.

Από την Τρου στον Μιχαηλίδη

Ηταν φυσικό, λοιπόν, να πάει τον Μάρτιο του 2006 στην Πάρο, στην έρευνα της οικίας της Μάριον Τρου, επιμελήτριας του Μουσείου Γκετί, όπου κατασχέθηκαν αδήλωτες αρχαιότητες. Δεκαπέντε μέρες αργότερα, ήταν μέλος της ομάδας των αρχαιολόγων που έστειλε το ΥΠΠΟ στη Σχοινούσσα για να καταγράψουν τις δεκάδες κατασχεμένες αρχαιότητες μετά την έφοδο της Αστυνομίας στη βίλα της εφοπλιστικής οικογένειας Παπαδημητρίου (αδελφής του Χρήστου Μιχαηλίδη). Εκτιμήθηκαν κάτι λιγότερο από 1 εκατομμύριο ευρώ, συνιστώντας κακούργημα. Το σημαντικότερο «εύρημα» ήταν, όμως, το φωτογραφικό αρχείο των Σάιμς-Μιχαηλίδη, όπου απεικονίζονται παράνομες αρχαιότητες προς πώληση.

Η εξιχνίαση της υπόθεσης ανατέθηκε στον εισαγγελέα Ιωάννη Διώτη, που χρειαζόταν έναν αρχαιολόγο. Ο διοικητής του Τμήματος Δίωξης Αρχαιοκαπηλίας Γεώργιος Γληγόρης συνέστησε τον Χρήστο Τσιρογιάννη, που μετατέθηκε προσωρινά στο υπουργείο Δικαιοσύνης και μετείχε στην άτυπη ομάδα που συγκροτήθηκε τότε από τους Ιω. Διώτη, Γ. Γληγόρη, και τους δύο νομικούς συμβούλους του ΥΠΠΟ, Ειρήνη Σταματούδη και Κωνσταντίνο Κυριόπουλο. Η ομάδα θα λειτουργούσε αυτόνομα από το ΥΠΠΟ και θα «άνοιγε» κι άλλες υποθέσεις με χρονίζοντα αιτήματα για επαναπατρισμό αρχαίων. Για παράδειγμα, επί 14 χρόνια διεκδικούσαμε από το Μουσείο Γκετί τέσσερα κλεμμένα αρχαία. Μας τα επέστρεψαν μέσα σε 7 μήνες, αποδεικνύοντας πως όταν θέλουμε, μπορούμε...

Τον κέρδισε ο λόρδος Ρένφριου

Ιούλιο του 2006 άρχισε να λειτουργεί η ομάδα. Σεπτέμβριο του 2007 η υπόθεση αφαιρέθηκε από τα χέρια του Ιωάννη Διώτη και τέλη του έτους διαλύθηκε και η ομάδα. Ο αστυνομικός Γ. Γληγόρης μετατέθηκε δυσμενώς στη Λευκάδα και έξι μήνες μετά πέθανε ύστερα από τροχαίο. Η τελευταία πράξη γράφτηκε με τη μη ανανέωση της σύμβασης του Χρήστου Τσιρογιάννη. Τότε δέχτηκε την πρόταση του Κόλιν Ρένφριου να συνεχίσει την έρευνά του για τη διεθνή αρχαιοκαπηλία ως διδακτορικό στο Κέιμπριτζ.

Ωστόσο, την περασμένη εβδομάδα το ελληνικό κράτος, που τον παρέδωσε στην ανεργία, ζήτησε τη βοήθειά του για τη δημοπρασία στους Μπόναμς. Ο κ. Τσιρογιάννης, αμέσως μετά την ανάρτηση του καταλόγου της δημοπρασίας στην ιστοσελίδα του οίκου, είχε διαπιστώσει ότι τα αγάλματα περιλαμβάνονταν στα αρχεία των Σάιμς-Μιχαηλίδη και Μέντιτσι. Ενημέρωσε σχετικά το Πανεπιστήμιο του Κέιμπριτζ και τη ΓΑΔΑ (αρ. πρωτ. 3010/2/2461). Εμαθε πως προωθήθηκε το έγγραφό του και προς το ΥΠΠΟ. Αυτό όμως τι έκανε για να μπλοκάρει τη δημοπρασία; Θυμίζουμε πως και η υπόθεση της Σχοινούσσας ακόμη δεν έχει φτάσει στην αίθουσα του δικαστηρίου.*


Source: Eleutherotypia, 08.05.2010

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Who Draws the Borders of Culture?



IT was gridlock in the British Museum the other morning as South African teenagers, Japanese businessmen toting Harrods bags, and a busload of German tourists — the usual crane-necked, camera-flashing babel of visitors — formed scrums before the Rosetta Stone, which Egyptian authorities just lately have again demanded that Britain return to Egypt. From the Egyptian rooms the crowds shuffled past the Assyrian gates from Balawat (Iraq is another country pleading for lost antiquities) and past the Roman statue of the crouching Aphrodite (ditto Italy), then headed toward the galleries containing what are known in Britain as the Elgin marbles (but in Greece as the Parthenon marbles, or simply booty), where passers-by plucked pamphlets from a rack.

The British Museum is Europe’s Western front in the global war over cultural patrimony, on account of the marbles. The pamphlets give the museum’s version for why they should stay in Britain, as they have for two centuries — ever since Lord Elgin, the British ambassador to the Sublime Porte at Constantinople, and with the consent of the ruling Ottomans (not to mention a blithe disregard for whatever may have been the wishes of the Greek populace), spirited them from the Acropolis in Athens. The pamphlet stresses that the British Museum is free and attracts millions of visitors every year from around the world, making the sculptures available to, and putting them in the context of, a wide swath of human civilization.

For their part the Greeks, before their economy collapsed, finally opened the long-delayed New Acropolis Museum last year to much fanfare: it’s an up-to-date facility, forbidding and frankly ugly outside, but airy and light-filled inside, a home-in-waiting for the marbles, whose absence is clearly advertised by bone-white plaster casts of what Elgin took, alongside yellowed originals that he left behind. The view through a broad picture window, eloquent but baleful under the circumstances, looks onto the ruined Parthenon, playing on visitors’ heartstrings. Greeks deem the museum a slam-dunk argument for the marbles’ return.

It’s definitely compelling.

But the British still make the better case.

Siding with the imperialists drives good people bonkers, I know. It’s akin to Yankees worship, with the Greeks playing the underdog role of the old Red Sox. That said, patrimony claims too often serve merely nationalist ends these days, no less often than they do decent ones, never mind that the archaeological and legal arguments by the Greeks, while elaborately reasoned and passionately felt, don’t finally trump the British ones.

Mostly, though, the issue comes down to the fact that culture, while it can have deeply rooted, special meanings to specific people, doesn’t belong to anyone in the grand scheme of things. It doesn’t stand still. When Walter Benjamin wrote in the last century about the original or authentic work of art losing its aura, he was in part suggesting that the past is not something we can just return to whenever we like — it’s not something fixed and always available. It’s something forever beyond our grasp, which we must reinvent to make present.

Today’s Acropolis is itself a kind of fiction. Over the centuries and through succeeding empires and regimes, it became Christian and Turkish, and briefly Venetian, after it had been Roman. The Parthenon was a pagan temple, a church, a mosque, an arms depot (disastrously, under the Turks) and even a place from which the Nazis hung a big swastika flag whose removal by Greek patriots helped spur a resistance movement. Modernity has mostly stripped the site of all those layers of history to recover a Periclean-era past that represents, because it has come to mean the most to us, its supposed true self — a process of archeological excavation, based on another modern kind of fiction about historical and scientific objectivity that inevitably adds its own layer of history.

One of the paradoxes of the marbles debate is that it was precisely their removal to London, and all the anguish and furor and archaeological interest and study this provoked, starting with Hellenophiles like Lord Byron heaping scorn on Elgin and fellow Britons, that helped galvanize the Greeks’ own sense of national identity and their pride in the Parthenon sculptures. Now the Greek government has even chosen to name its consolidation plan to combat the economic collapse after an architect of the Parthenon, Kallikrates.

But the general question, looting and tourist dollars aside, is why should any objects necessarily reside in the modern nation-state controlling the plot of land where, at one time, perhaps thousands of years earlier, they came from? The question goes to the heart of how culture operates in a global age.

The Greek proposal that Britain fork over Elgin’s treasures has never involved actually putting the sculptures back onto the Parthenon, which started crumbling long before he showed up. The marbles would go from one museum into another, albeit one much closer. The Greeks argue for proximity, not authenticity. Their case has always been more abstract, not strictly about restoration but about historical reparations, pride and justice. It is more nationalistic and symbolic.

Over the centuries, meanwhile, bits and pieces of the Parthenon have ended up in six different countries, in the way that countless altars and other works of art have been split up and dispersed among private collectors and museums here and there. To the Greeks the Parthenon marbles may be a singular cause, but they’re like plenty of other works that have been broken up and disseminated. The effect of this vandalism on the education and enlightenment of people in all the various places where the dismembered works have landed has been in many ways democratizing.

That’s not an excuse for looting. It’s simply to recognize that art, differently presented, abridged, whatever, can speak in myriad contexts. It’s resilient and spreads knowledge and sympathy across borders. Ripped from its origins, it loses one set of meanings, to gain others.

Laws today fortunately prevent pillaging sites like the Acropolis. But they stop short of demanding that every chopped-up altar by Rubens, Fra Angelico or whomever now be pieced together and returned to the churches and families and institutions for which they were first intended. For better and worse, history moves on.

The Elgin marbles, from the cultural crossroads of imperial London, reshaped cultural history over the course of the last 200 years by giving rise to neo-Classicism around the globe. Or perhaps it is more precise to say that the Parthenon marbles, by virtue of their presence both in Athens and London, helped spread that movement along with sympathy for the Greeks’ cause.

Americans, excepting Indians, may find this whole issue hard to grasp. We don’t tend to think in terms of American cultural patrimony, save perhaps for the Liberty Bell or the Brooklyn Bridge, because we’re an immigrant nation worshipful of the free market. Demanding the return of American art and artifacts to America sounds, well, un-American, not to mention bad for the bottom line. We are too diverse in our roots, too focused on the present, too historically amnesiac and individualistic (not to mention rich) to worry overly about a collective culture or who might own it.

And in the end patrimony is about ownership, often of objects that as in the marbles’ case, come from bygone civilizations. What, in this context, does it really mean to own culture?

Italy recently celebrated the return of a national treasure after the Metropolitan Museum gave back a sixth-century B.C. Greek krater by the painter Euphronius that tomb robbers dug up outside Rome during the 1970s. Stolen property is stolen property. But how curious that an ancient Greek vase, which centuries after it was made came into the possession of an Etruscan collector (a kind of ancient Elgin) living on what is now the outskirts of Rome, and then ended up buried for thousands of years below what became modern Italy, is today Italian cultural patrimony. By that definition, Elgin’s loot is arguably British patrimony.

It’s not coincidental that conflicts over patrimony have accelerated in recent decades thanks to globalizing trends: the increasing circulation of information along with objects and money — consequences of the Web, jet travel and mass tourism — and the evolution of institutions like the British Museum from sleepy, scholarly repositories of artifacts into entertainment palaces and virtual town squares. Authorities in countries like Greece, having seen the escalating economic and symbolic value of works like the marbles, have naturally sought to take advantage.

It isn’t to belittle a deep-seated connection to such works to point out that claimants to far-flung patrimony may have various motives. When Zahi Hawass, Egypt’s chief archaeologist, who made the recent fuss about the Rosetta Stone, also demanded that Germany hand over Nerfertiti, the 3,500-year-old bust of Akhenaten’s wife, he chose the moment when the Neues Museum in Berlin opened with the bust as its main attraction.

This was just after Farouk Hosny, Egypt’s candidate to run Unesco, the United Nations cultural agency, was defeated in a vote that Egyptian leaders considered a diplomatic slap. Mr. Hawass used Egypt’s only real weapon on the international stage, its cultural patrimony, to lash out by proxy at the perceived enemies of Mr. Hosny’s candidacy and pander to the wounded egos of Egypt’s ruling elite.

It was a public relations gambit. Practically speaking, Egypt had to know there was no immediate shot at getting Nerfertiti back. The sculpture served in a passing form of political theater common these days, with Egypt playing plucky David to the West’s Goliath.

Patrimony debates often end up in this moral fog of shifting geopolitics. The world was outraged when the National Museum in Iraq was looted after the war there started. But almost nobody (outside Germany, anyway) cares today whether Russia returns storerooms of treasures it stole at the end of World War II. Nigeria holds the moral high ground in demanding the return of sculptures burgled from that country’s beleaguered museums, even though insiders were often complicit in the crimes.

And after the Taliban destroyed a Buddhist temple and burned centuries-old illuminated manuscripts, hardly anybody outside the country blinked when Unesco refused to authorize shipments of artifacts from Afghanistan to Switzerland because the move violated international rules against the removal of “national patrimony” — and also because nobody was really paying much attention to that region yet.

Then Taliban inspectors pulverized priceless treasures before the eyes of helpless Afghan curators and blew up the Bamiyan Buddhas in obedience to Mullah Omar’s edict against the existence of pre-Islamic art. Only then did people in the West wake up and Unesco reconsider its position. Too late.

In the Parthenon’s case the Greek actress Melina Mercouri kicked off the modern repatriation push during the 1980s as part of the nationalist program of a Greek leader, Andreas Papandreou, whose slogan was “Greece for the Greeks.” What started in conjunction with a political campaign then evolved into a genuine street movement. Dimitris Pandermalis, the New Acropolis Museum’s director, told me before the museum opened last year that the Elgin marbles’ return “unifies us,” meaning the Greek people, although surveys show that few of them actually bother to visit the Acropolis after grade school, while antique sites rivaling the Parthenon in archaeological significance often go neglected across Greece. As I said, it’s ultimately about nationalism and symbolism.

So be it. That’s why Greek authorities always decline diplomatic solutions like sharing the marbles or asking for their loan. They assume any loan request would legitimize Britain’s ownership. The principle is high minded. What results is, in effect, nothing, which doesn’t diminish the Greeks’ connection with the missing marbles.

But as the Princeton philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah has cautioned about the whole patrimony question: “We should remind ourselves of other connections. One connection — the one neglected in talk of cultural patrimony — is the connection not through identity but despite difference.”

What he means is that people make connections across cultures through objects like the marbles. These objects can become handmaidens for ideologues, instruments for social division and tools of the economy, or cicerones through history and oracles to a more perfect union of nations. Art is something made in a particular place by particular people, and may serve a particular function at one time but obtain different meanings at other times. It summons distinct feelings to those for whom it’s local, but ultimately belongs to everyone and to no one.

We’re all custodians of global culture for posterity.

Neither today’s Greeks nor Britons own the Parthenon marbles, really.


The New York Times, 09.05.2010

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COMMENT:
Once again it is the well-known and well worn argument: If you are for the return of antiquities, you are a nationalist...Thus the only correct posision to have is to let the big museums keep their collections, despite the fact that if they remove antiquities today they would be considered thieves and be condemned as such (see the Marion True case, for example).

It would however have been better if the writer had at least had the decency to keep irrelevancies as well as down right lies out of his text:

1. "...the Greeks, before their economy collapsed...": The state of the Greek economy has what to do with cultural heritage?
2. "...[The New Museum is] up-to-date facility, forbidding and frankly ugly outside...": And your personal views have what to do with the case?
3. "...alongside yellowed originals...": Are you implying that the originals that remain in Greece are poorly looked after? If this is the case, it would be better said outright. But, again, if it is the case, you might also want to mention the case of the Parthenon marbles being scrubbed with wire-brushes in the British Museum. I would also add that the last time I visited the BM a group of [American] tourists were having fun placing their hat on an Egyptian statue, and hugging it to take amusing photographs, while an apathetic guard looked on. My wife was so annoyed that she had words with the guard, who replied "we can't chase them all off..!". I visited the [Old] Acropolis Museum the same year and a [German] tourist stepped over the protective rope to have his picture taken and was immediately pounced upon by three [3] guards...
4. "One of the paradoxes of the marbles debate is that it was precisely their removal to London, and all the anguish and furor and archaeological interest and study this provoked, starting with Hellenophiles like Lord Byron heaping scorn on Elgin and fellow Britons, that helped galvanize the Greeks’ own sense of national identity and their pride in the Parthenon sculptures.": Rubbish. The Hellenophile movement had started long before Lord E. removed the sculptures, and was in fact the reason he was interested in the marbles in the first place: Because of all the interest in Greek civilisation he knew he would get a good price for them in the West, which is why he removed them. Not vice-versa...
5. "Now the Greek government has even chosen to name its consolidation plan to combat the economic collapse after an architect of the Parthenon, Kallikrates.": The Kallikrates plane is in fact the second of that name (the first dating more than a decade ago)...And for the record it concerns the unification of municipalities and was initiated before the current crisis. Still, this is but a detail in the storm of inexactitudes that mr Kimmelman so eloquently presents.
6. "Over the centuries, meanwhile, bits and pieces of the Parthenon have ended up in six different countries...": And many have actually been returned (by Sweden and the Vatican)...
7. "The Elgin marbles, from the cultural crossroads of imperial London, reshaped cultural history over the course of the last 200 years by giving rise to neo-Classicism around the globe.": Ooops! Another bubu mr Kimmelman: From Wikipedia: "Neoclassicism is the name given to quite distinct movements in the decorative and visual arts, literature, theatre, music, and architecture that draw upon Western classical art and culture (usually that of Ancient Greece or Ancient Rome). These movements were dominant during the mid 18th to the end of the 19th century. This article addresses what these "neoclassicisms" have in common.". How could the removal of the Parthenon Marbles (1801-1812) have inspired a movement that dates to half a century earlier? Again you are confusing cause and causuality: The Parthenon Marbles were removed because the Neoclassist movement was in full swing and Lord E. figured he would get a bundle from the antique-crazed westerners. Their removal was not THE cause for the Neoclassisist movement, nor the Philhellenic movement.
8. "Demanding the return of American art and artifacts to America sounds, well, un-American, not to mention bad for the bottom line.": Exactly which artefact or work of art has been forcefully removed or stolen from the USA, so that you could reclaim it?
9. "And in the end patrimony is about ownership, often of objects that as in the marbles’ case, come from bygone civilizations.": At last the truth summed up: WE are the big boys, and we do what we like. You (Greeks, Egyptians, Irakies, Afghans, Nigerians...) are poor buggers with no rights.
10. "Stolen property is stolen property.": Again a moment of truth. And yet somehow "stolen property" of the 1970ies MUST be returned, while "stolen property" removed previously, must not. Surely there is a leap of logic here...
11. "But how curious that an ancient Greek vase, which centuries after it was made came into the possession of an Etruscan collector (a kind of ancient Elgin) living on what is now the outskirts of Rome, and then ended up buried for thousands of years below what became modern Italy, is today Italian cultural patrimony.": How many inexactitudes in a small phrase! The Greek vase was made in Athens specifically to be exported and bought by Etruscan customers. The buyer was certainly not a "collector", Etruscan or other, but a dude who wanted a nice vase for his house. And he certainly was not "a kind of ancient Elgin" as he did not rip the vase from the facade of a temple mutilating the ensemble in the precess. It should also be mentioned that Lord Elgin actually resold the stuff...He was in it for the cash, not for the artistic value, while the Etruscan dude bought a piece of modern art - or rather a nice piece of contemporary furniture for his house. Its like comparing someone who stole from a church with a shopper in IKEA...
12. "It’s not coincidental that conflicts over patrimony have accelerated in recent decades thanks to globalizing trends: the increasing circulation of information along with objects and money — consequences of the Web, jet travel and mass tourism": As you tell us later in the text "In the Parthenon’s case the Greek actress Melina Mercouri kicked off the modern repatriation push during the 1980s"... Correct me if I am wrong, but I think that the Web had not mad a great impact in the 1980s...
13. "When Zahi Hawass, Egypt’s chief archaeologist, who made the recent fuss about the Rosetta Stone, also demanded that Germany hand over Nerfertiti, the 3,500-year-old bust of Akhenaten’s wife, he chose the moment when the Neues Museum in Berlin opened with the bust as its main attraction.": The dude has been a champion for the return of aniquities for years, if not decades. He also started planning the International conference on Looted Antiquities years ago...Poof goes that conspiracy theory.
14. "Egypt’s only real weapon on the international stage". Two words: "Suez Canal". A number of wars have been fought over its control...If that is not a "weapon on the international stage", then Nefretity, or even pyramids ain't gonna help!
15. "But almost nobody (outside Germany, anyway) cares today whether Russia returns storerooms of treasures it stole at the end of World War II. ": Noone, except, surprisingly, France, Poland, Austria, and a few other insignificant countries that Germany originally looted the treasures from originally...
16. "even though insiders were often complicit in the crimes.": Shock! Horror! Nigerians helped loot the country's museums? Well that changes everything! We have every right to keep the looted treasures then! That'll show'em!
17. "And after the Taliban destroyed a Buddhist temple and burned centuries-old illuminated manuscripts, hardly anybody outside the country blinked when Unesco refused to authorize shipments of artifacts from Afghanistan to Switzerland because the move violated international rules against the removal of “national patrimony” — and also because nobody was really paying much attention to that region yet. ": Where to start on this one? Of course UNESCO refused to authorise the export of artifacts...As to no-one paying attention...How many wars have been fought over Afghanistan in the last, say, 50 years? You may have been napping, but every one else sure was paying attention...
18. "Then Taliban inspectors pulverized priceless treasures before the eyes of helpless Afghan curators and blew up the Bamiyan Buddhas in obedience to Mullah Omar’s edict against the existence of pre-Islamic art. Only then did people in the West wake up and Unesco reconsider its position. Too late.": Did you purpusefully omit to mention that the Bamiyan Buddhas had not been considered for export? Or did it escape your notice that they were the size of small mountains making transport a tad difficult?
19. "That’s why Greek authorities always decline diplomatic solutions like sharing the marbles or asking for their loan. They assume any loan request would legitimize Britain’s ownership.": Duh! If you ask someone for a loan, it is obvious you recognise their ownership of the object to be loaned...

To sum up let us just say that this article is one of the most popularist and demagogic articles I have read trying to make a case for the "right of might" in cultural affairs.

As far as the "art is universal" argument is concerned, it should be noted that it can be used in many ways: If art is universal, why does not the British Museum (for example) give all its collections to, let me think, say China, where the artifacts would get exposere to a much larger (and I mean MUCH larger) audience, thus better serving the cause of artistic universality? Somehow I think objections will be raised to this proposal.

As far as the millions of tourists that the BM gets, and thus should be allowed to keep all the treasures...The tourists come to the BM because it holds these treasures, not because it is the BM...Once again the writer puts the horse before the cart, twisting logic in fritening ways...

There is only one valid argument that can be put forward in the case of stolen antiquities remaining in the Great Museums: The extensive collections of Greek (or Egyptian, or Chinese or whatever) artifacts in the British Museum (or the Louvre, or the Berlin museums or the Metropolitan...) serves as a permanent tourist advertisment for the country of origin. But as far as ownership is concerned there is no doubt (at least as long as the current state of affairs exists in the world): They belong to the country of origin, and this should be universally recognised and accepted. It is then up to the country of origin to decide whether and which artifacts it wants to loan to foreign museums (on a more or less permanent basis), following an examination of its own interests.

Byzantine and Venetian Hoard found in Skopje, Republic of Macedonia














A pot with byzantine coins was found in "Kale" (Castle), Skopje, the Republic of Macedonia. It contains 46 gold coins issued around 1250 by John III Doukas Vatatzes, emperor of Nicaea and 77 silver coins minted by various venetian rulers and dated up to the 1280s. The hoard was discovered during digs by a team of archaeologists led by Dr Mitrevski.

Source: Utrinski Vesnik, 12.05.2010