Thursday, April 2, 2015

Nancy Charak exhibiting Tucson Open Studios Come on by...

Tucson Open Studios, April 18-19, Sat-Sun, 11a-5p, exhibiting with Greta Ward at 652 S. Meyer, Tucson AZ. Come on by.
Check in to see the work of the Barrio Viejo artists of Tucson, Katja Fritsche, Lisa Mele, Alex Streeter, Tony Guzman, Greta Ward, Catherine Eyde, Leslie Cho Newman, Barbie Lock Lee, Stinkbug Studio, Keith Marroquin, Charles "Chip" Hedgcock, Tom Baumgartner AND me, Nancy Charak.

Once More Britain Refuses to Return the Elgin Marbles

Elgin Marble Horse, Nancy Charak photographer c. 2004.
Contemporary classicist Mary Beard admits to being conflicted: "Personally I hold no brief for Lord Elgin (I have remained uncomfortably "on the fence" on the whole issue for many a year)."

Clearly the Elgin Marbles are the crown jewels of any visit to the British Museum. They were removed from the Acropolis between 1801 to 1812, installed in the museum in 1817. From the museum's website:

"Material from the Parthenon was dispersed both before and after Elgin’s time. The remainder of the surviving sculptures that are not in Athens are in museums in various locations across Europe. The British Museum also has other fragments from the Parthenon acquired from collections that have no connection with Lord Elgin."
The museum's statement is as follows [which translates to "we're not giving them back."]

"The British Museum tells the story of cultural achievement throughout the world, from the dawn of human history over two million years ago until the present day. The Parthenon Sculptures are a significant part of that story. The Museum is a unique resource for the world: the breadth and depth of its collection allows a world-wide public to re-examine cultural identities and explore the complex network of interconnected human cultures. The Trustees lend extensively all over the world and over two million objects from the collection are available to study online. The Parthenon Sculptures are a vital element in this interconnected world collection. They are a part of the world’s shared heritage and transcend political boundaries."

"The Acropolis Museum allows the Parthenon sculptures that are in Athens (approximately half of what survive from antiquity) to be appreciated against the backdrop of ancient Greek and Athenian history. The Parthenon sculptures in London are an important representation of ancient Athenian civilisation in the context of world history. Each year millions of visitors, free of charge, admire the artistry of the sculptures and gain insight into how ancient Greece influenced – and was influenced by – the other civilisations that it encountered."
"The Trustees are convinced that the current division allows different and complementary stories to be told about the surviving sculptures, highlighting their significance within world culture and affirming the place of Ancient Greece among the great cultures of the world."
"Such claims on the national identity of antiquities are at the root of many states’ cultural property laws, which in the last few decades have been used by governments to reclaim objects from museums and other collections abroad. Despite UNESCO’s declaration that “no culture is a hermetically sealed entity,” governments are increasingly making claims of ownership of cultural property on the basis of self-proclaimed and fixed state-based identities. Many use ancient cultural objects to affirm continuity with a glorious and powerful past as a way of burnishing their modern political image -- Egypt with the Pharaonic era, Iran with ancient Persia, Italy with the Roman Empire. These arguments amount to protectionist claims on culture. Rather than acknowledge that culture is in a state of constant flux, modern governments present it as standing still, in order to use cultural objects to promote their own states’ national identities."
"But it’s impossible to visit the marbles today without feeling slightly uncomfortable about their provenance — especially in a time when looting in the Middle East has become the focus of international attention. Many individuals and organizations have been advocating for the Greek sculptures’ return, including the British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles, the Marbles Reunited Campaign, the Melina Mercouri Foundation, and most recently, the human rights lawyer Amal Alamuddin Clooney, who has been advising the Greeks on the dispute."
I admit to feeling no discomfort at all when visiting encyclopedic catch-all museums full of the loot of empires, the Louvre, the Prado, the British Museum [which still houses many Benin bronzes]. Having spent much of my childhood and later adult time in encyclopedic museums in Chicago, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Field Museum of Natural History, Cuno's argument that "no culture is hermetically sealed" rings true.