Sunday, April 29, 2012

Cultural Security News (Apr. 22 - Apr. 28)

Voluntary and Involuntary Exchange
The Thwarted Return of the Mummy: Turning the Trend on Returning Looted Antiquities from U.S. Museums to Foreign GovernmentsThe week experienced both sharing of culture between nations and forced returns of cultural patrimony. In the public sector, Austria and Mexico signed a treaty governing the loan of cultural artifacts, and a traditional Japanese puppet theater performed in Cuba. In the private sector, architect Alvaro Cirillo continued promoting Latin American art through exhibitions in Asia, and an on-line initiative sought to promote Moroccan contemporary art in London. On the other hand, the United States Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Attorneys made headlines in several seizures and returns of cultural property. In particular, Italy fell victim to a seizure of a loaned painting in Florida last year, and the painting in question was returned to the heirs of the rightful owner last week.
For similar news, visit Cultural Security News.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Preemptive Repatriation

Recent returns of cultural property from the United States to Italy contrast sharply with the controversy between American and European museums in 2006. The contentious cases for repatriation of antiquities from The Getty and The Met to Italy and Greece, in retrospect, led to a policy of proactive repatriation. What does the initiative for repatriation mean for the role of cultural property in diplomacy?
Reports of investigations of American museums suggest that contested ownership of cultural property is being converted from a cause of controversy to a means for cooperation. Further, members of security services are being cast as diplomats. The Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Janet Napolitano, agents of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and U.S. Attorneys feature prominently in the reports. The agents and attorneys speak of vigilance in working with their Italian counterparts "to ensure cultural artifacts and treasures that were stolen and entered this country illegally are recovered and returned to their rightful home nations."
The cases have mixed success, which results in return, retention, or indecision. Reuters reported a recent return of objects from the U.S. to Italy, while in April a "Thwarted Return of the Mummy" from a St. Louis museum to Egypt marked a downturn in the trend of repatriation. Interestingly, also in April, Cambodia vacillated on accepting the help of U.S. Attorneys who stood ready to seize the 10th-century figure of a mythological warrior from Sotheby's. In any case, the initiative seems quite clear. The United States is devoting domestic security and legal resources to respond to foreign concerns over cultural patrimony.
Proactive repatriation by DHS and the Department of Justice seems like a good example of how cultural security bridges hard power with soft power.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Indian court evicts villagers from fortress

More than 60,000 destitute inhabitants of a village in Tughluqabad, India, will be homeless soon after the country’s supreme court ruled in favor of the destruction of their settlement near a 14th-century fortress complex.
The medieval site houses a series of forts and tombs, including the extravagant mausoleum of the founder of the Tughlaq dynasty (pictured above).  Despite the historical and cultural significance of the site, local politicians and community leaders have rallied to the cause of the soon-to-be displaced villagers.
In opposition stands the Archaeological Survey of India, the government agency responsible for the protection of India’s historical sites. During the past year, the ASI has issued countless eviction notices on the inhabitants of structures deemed to encroach upon archaeological sites throughout the country.
Upon hearing of the evictions, a Tughlaqabad villager was sent into such a state of frenzy and despair that he died of shock. While nations must fight to protect their cultural heritage, is the preservation of cultural heritage more important than human life?
Originally posted by Joshua Mix on CulturalSecurity.net.
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Sunday, April 22, 2012

Cultural Security News (Apr. 15 - Apr. 21)

Art of Financial and Economic Strategies
The presence of Chinese collectors continues to increase in Hong Kong and spread to London and Paris, as reported by The Guardian. Their collecting interests, according to the Taipei Times, range from connoisseurship to purely financial considerations of art as a "safe haven" for investments. Correspondingly, the global interest in art and antique insurance grows with AXA Art estimating a $5.4 billion market in annual premiums. At the same time, the role of art in development strategies in the Middle East experienced acceleration and revision. For example, the Royal Family of Qatar is expected bid on the last privately held version of Edvard Munch's "The Scream" in early May, but reportedly financial concerns have delayed the construction of the Guggenheim in Abu Dhabi.
For similar news, visit Cultural Security News.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Art of Economic Development and Advancement

Just as the art market now attracts collectors, and investors, from the super rich, to the wealthy, to those of more modest means, nations at many different stages of economic development see the art world as a means for advancement.
Two recent examples clearly characterize the contrast of participating nations. Bangladesh held an art fair earlier this month. The Samdani Foundation hosted the first Dhaka Art Summit with the intent of raising international awareness of Bangladeshi artists in the vein of recent advancements of China and India in the art world. On the other end of the economic spectrum, the Royal Family of Qatar is expected to bid on the last privately held version of "The Scream" by Edvard Munch in early May. The Royal Family reportedly paid $250 million last year for the "The Card Players" by Cezanne, and as the "second most famous painting in the world," "The Scream" will also fetch a significant price. Two such high-end purchases suggests that the nation sees Western art as important to cultural advancement.
The two examples indicate that the art market plays a role in development of emerging and affluent nations alike. Bangladesh sees the advancement of artists as part of a strategy for economic development, and Qatar seems to value the idea of becoming a cultural center as a means to adding dimensions to its oil-based economy.

Monday, April 16, 2012

When Economic Policy Threatens Cultural Security

In times of economic crisis, a nation’s artistic and cultural programs often suffer harsh fates. The financial woes facing Greece have forced the struggling country to levy strict economic austerity measures to combat years of government corruption and deficit spending.
These drastic measures have forced the Greek Ministry of Culture to begin firing up to 50% of its personnel , including archaeologists, civil servants and guards assigned to protect and preserve cultural heritage sites and museums. Such cutbacks already have resulted in the looting of museums in Olympia and Athens.
Government plans to raise funds by allowing advertising at Greek cultural heritage sites, such as the Acropolis, have been met with shock and outrage. In a particularly ironic twist, as Greek archaeologists struggle to find funding for legitimate excavations and face the threat of unemployment, smugglers of illicit antiquities continue to thrive.
From the public suicide of a single citizen to protests involving thousands, Greeks have taken to the streets to protest the dire economic situation, and the resulting threat to Greek cultural heritage. Unfortunately, after almost two years of violence and civil unrest, an end to this crisis and the subsequent threat to cultural security seems nowhere in sight. 
Originally posted by Joshua Mix on CulturalSecurity.net.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Rebellion Threatens Cultural Heritage

Cultural patrimony is constantly at risk from armed uprisings. Just two days ago, on April 13th, CNN reported on the Islamist and Tuareg rebels occupying Timbuktu. The rebellion poses a significant threat to cultural security; UNESCO has already voiced its fears that the occupation of the city could result in its destruction or the looting of Mali’s treasures.
Following the withdrawal of the Malian government forces, two rival groups have overrun the city: the Ansar Dine, who are fighting for the enforcement of Sharia law, and the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad, who are fighting for the independence of the nomadic Tuareg people. Timbuktu’s symbolic significance makes the city a “prize,” and the rebel groups are fighting for control of it.
Timbuktu is home to illustrious mosques and a trove of manuscripts. In 1988, the city was made a UNESCO World Heritage site. UNESCO has appealed to the rebel groups to “respect and protect” the city’s heritage. Fearing what will become of the ancient, fragile manuscripts that local families have protected for generations, librarians and curators have been attempting to hide the texts or smuggle them out of the city. Timbuktu’s heritage is important to the locals’ identity, cultural pride, and income. This uprising has already resulted in the displacement of an estimated 200,000 people in the surrounding region, and armed conflict could result in the destruction and looting of the city.
We are at risk of losing the cultural treasures that comprise Timbuktu’s world-heritage status. Timbuktu has existed within Western imagination as a mythical city filled with exotic treasures and intellectual wealth. How are we to preserve these ancient manuscripts in the face of armed uprising? How are we to safeguard the great mosques of Djingareyber, Sankore, and Sidi Yahia? We must take action against threats to our heritage; we must ensure cultural security.
Originally posted by Sally Johnson on CulturalSecurity.net.

Cultural Security News (Apr. 08 - Apr. 14)

Political Economy of Cultural Security
The recession continues to threaten cultural heritage in Greece and Italy. Greece suffers not only from looting of cultural artifacts but also from lack of public funds for archaeological digs, and Italy struggles to apply private funding for the preservation of historic structures such as the Colosseum. Apparently protests over the nature of a 25 million Euros ($33 million) in private funding might delay the start date for restoration of the Roman amphitheater. Meanwhile, Turkey's initiative to retrieve cultural patrimony draws criticism for mixing claims for illicitly removed objects with claims for legitimately excavated objects, such as by German archaeological expeditions in the latter half of the 1800s and the first half of the 1900s. In more positive news, Bangladesh had its first art fair and Sotheby's and Christies auctions in Hong Kong thrived.
For similar news, visit Cultural Security News.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Controversy, Concession, and Cooperation

Exchange of cultural property, as with other objects of value, can lead to controversy, which may be resolved by concession or even mitigated through cooperation. Nations seem to have different strategies for leveraging each of the three “Cs” in foreign relations. What is the optimal balance in a particular nation’s foreign policy on cultural property?
Controversy, Concession, and Cooperation
Exchange of cultural property, as with other objects of value, can lead to controversy, which may be resolved by concession or even mitigated through cooperation. Nations seem to have different strategies for leveraging each of three “Cs” in foreign relations. What is the optimal balance in a particular nation’s foreign policy on cultural property?
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 Mystic 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.
For similar news stories visit http://culturalsecurity.net/newssummary.htmThe 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.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Cultural Security News (Apr. 01 - Apr. 07)

A week of contrasts
mummyThe continued success of the contemporary art market contrasts sharply with threats to cultural heritage. Damien Hirst continued to thrive with an exhibition at the Tate Modern in London, and Sotheby's Hong Kong took in $27 million in one evening for a sale of Asian contemporary art. In contrast, austerity measures in Greece increasingly place sites of cultural heritage at risk of looting, and the chaos of conflict in Syria enables looting of museums, excavation sites and monuments. Russian authorities thwarted an attempt by workers in St. Petersburg to steal a treasure trove, but at the same time, Russia has banned loans to American museums out of concern for seizure of items of questionable provenance. On the bright side, a couple of 3,000-year-old sarcophagi smuggled from Egypt were seized in Israel, and in a case a year in the making, relics that were seized in Belgium are being returned to Egypt.
For similar news, visit Cultural Security News.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Detroit’s Heidelberg Project

The Heidelberg Project is artist Tyree Guyton’s two-block artistic creation in downtown Detroit. Guyton and his grandfather began the project in 1986 by adorning Heidelberg Street with colorful, symbolic, and intriguing everyday discarded objects. Its purpose: “Using art to provoke thought, promote discussion, inspire action and heal communities.”
Detroit is famous for its urban decay and inner city abandonment. The Heidelberg Project is a reminder of the spirit and imagination of the Motor City. The project is about inspiring people to think outside the box and taking a stand to save forgotten neighborhoods; it is about healing communities through art. The project strives to provide a bright vision for the future of Detroit.
Artistic city projects are cropping up all over the country—the Watts House Project in Los Angeles, the “Before I Die” artwork in New Orleans—as artists work to strengthen community through interactive street art. These projects are a testament to the power of art to heal and inspire entire communities. Not everyone, however, appreciates this form of art.
The Heidelberg Project, for example, has already suffered the demolishment of several of its houses. Twice the city has tried to destroy this two-block work of art. Luckily, it is now a protected landmark. For over 25 years the Heidelberg Project has remained a tribute to the Detroit community’s resilience and creativity.
Originally posted by Sally Johnson on CulturalSecurity.net.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

ESP - Eastern Soft Power

The development of world class museums in Qatar is not necessarily news, but recent acquisitions and exhibits suggest additional foresight in recognizing the significance of artworks in international affairs.
As covered below on February 8th, the Royal Family of Qatar made headlines with the announcement of the acquisition of The Card Players by Cezanne for $250 million. Such an investment demonstrates admiration of and respect for Western culture even if competing with collectors in the United States, Europe, China, and, for that matter, the world. But acquisitions alone do not establish the viability of a museum as a cultural institution. Exhibitions based on loans make up an equally significant part of a museum’s existence.
Recent court cases of repatriation of cultural artifacts and restitution of artworks have disrupted the transnational flow of loans of cultural property. Amid concerns over objects of questionable provenance being seized while on loan, various nations have imposed bans on loans to American museums. In a specific example, a Russian embargo on loans to the United States impaired the ability of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) to complete an exhibition on Islamic art that has historically become part of Russian cultural patrimony.
So what does that have to do with Qatar? Well, it turns out quite a bit. Since the Russian embargo did not include Qatar, the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha could receive the loan. With the assistance of LACMA curators, Qatar’s museum put on a show that included art that Islamic rulers had sent to the czarist courts and was loaned from the State Hermitage Museum and National Library of Russia. In effect, Qatar became a bridge between Russian politics and U.S. interests and enabled the exhibition to reach its full potential.
Does the Royal Family of Qatar have ESP about the role of artworks in soft power and the future global balance of power?

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Cultural Security News (Mar. 25 - Mar. 31)

Talking Turkey
In the past week, Turkey made headlines in protection and repatriation of cultural property. Apparently, a couple of Turkish television programs may be on the hook for damaging the historic site of the Yarimburgaz Cave. In one case, a pair of archaeologists recognized the site while watching one of the programs and filed a complaint. Turkish Penal Code for such violations stipulates a prison sentence of up to five years. Also, an article in the Los Angeles Times reported that the Turkish government has contacted several U.S. museums for verification that objects have proper provenance. If it turns out that the objects were illegally excavated, then Turkey may pursue repatriation from the Getty, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Cleveland Museum of Art. and Harvard University's Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection.
For similar news, visit Cultural Security News.