The United States seems to be employing a strategy to resolve, and perhaps even forestall, controversy through concession. Recently, federal prosecutors attempted to seize the Mythic Warrior statue, which Cambodia contests was illicitly removed in the 1970s and Sotheby’s maintains has valid provenance. Proactive measures on behalf of a foreign nation suggest that the U.S. would like to appear cooperative in repatriation of cultural property. Similarly, federal prosecutors challenged a St. Louis museum on the provenance of a 3,200-year-old mummy’s mask, perhaps in anticipation of a case for repatriation by Egypt.
China and Mexico are pursuing cooperation through an accord to protect their respective millennial cultures from looting and trafficking. “The accord aims to increase cooperation in matters of cultural heritage and to combat contraband while increasing efforts to halt the robbery of historical treasures.” Russia also seems to be angling for cooperation. Russia has an embargo on loans of artworks to American museums due to concerns that the objects are vulnerable to lawsuits on grounds of suspect provenance. Coincidentally, a bill in the U.S. congress seeks to grant immunity to nations that loan art for exhibit in American museums.
The assertiveness of “source nations,” such as Turkey, in pursuing repatriation suggests the increasing political clout of cultural patrimony. The clout seems to be putting “market nations” on the defensive and inspiring innovation in foreign policy on matters of artworks and cultural artifacts.
Learn about the framework for Cultural Intelligence.