In politics, repatriation and activism draw on the perceived cultural significance of cultural property. Nations such as Italy, Greece, Turkey, Peru, Nigeria, and Cambodia exploit international sentiment on repatriation of cultural property to challenge prominent museums over possession of prized antiquities and ancient art. Insurgents such as Ansar Dine in Mali target cultural property of opposing ideologies in acts of political violence.
In economics, tourism and the art market serve as sources of revenue for nations. The potential for museums to draw tourism motivates nations to aggressively pursue repatriation of cultural property. The worldwide $60 billion market for art has implications for economic development, and emerging nations such as Bangladesh foster local artists by hosting art fairs. While contemporary art can represent, and may inspire, political dissent, the financial gains from export of works by local artists requires nations to balance the net potential benefit.
In security, the perceive value of cultural property puts nations with a wealth in cultural heritage at risk. The Taliban’s destruction of the giant statues of Buddha in the Bamiyan Valley of Afghanistan in 2001, looting of the Iraq National Museum in Baghdad in 2003, and a worldwide multi-billion dollar illicit trade in fine art and antiquities security threat that precipitates from the perceived value of culture property and puts cultural identity at risk.
The arrows represent interconnections between the motives for exploiting the perceived economic and political value of cultural property. The inner triangle of arrows illustrates the cycle of looting leading to repatriation which leads to tourism that inspires collecting that, through the market for cultural property, motivates looting The outer triangle of arrows illustrates that the perceived political value of cultural property motivates targeting of religious monuments and historic structures in acts of political violence and that the success of contemporary artists can not only foster economic development but also support political activism. Also, the illicit trade in art has political ramifications when market demand for antiquities motivates looting in regions of conflict such as Syria, Mali, and Afghanistan.
Learn about the framework for Cultural Intelligence.