Monday 20 December 2010

David Gill Did Not Contact Minneapolis About Spiffed-up Krater?

Lee Rosenbaum (CultureGrrl) takes up the story of a krater in the collections of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (Transparency Gap: Minneapolis Institute Refuses to Discuss Greek Hot Pot). The MIA is run by Kaywin Feldman, who happens to be president of the Association of Art Museum Directors. The pot features in some on;line discussions by David Gill who has recently raised questions about its origins. She wrote to the museum's director of press and public relations, for an update on that situation. In reply Anne-Marie Wagener apparently wrote in rely that David Gill had "never contacted the MIA to ask any questions or, perhaps more importantly, confirm any facts about the krater". Apparently the MIA "continues to undertake provenance research with respect to this object".
Since Looting Matters allegedly never asked questions or tried to "confirm any facts," CultureGrrl would pick up the ball. What I quickly discovered, though, was that the museum wasn't nearly as keen to entertain questions as it purported to be.

The krater was purchased by the museum in 1983 with funds from Mr. and Mrs. Donald C. Dayton, the executors of the estate of the founders of the 'Target' supermarket chain might like to take an interest in what these funds were in fact used for.

Lee Rosenbaum also mentions an effect of the period of Kaywin Feldman's presidency of the AAMD:
And while we're on the subject of Greek antiquities, has no one yet noticed AAMD's new get-tough stance towards Greece's recent request for U.S. import restrictions on antiquities from Greece?
This seems to be a variant form of the neo-colonialist "Witschonke arguments" against bilateral cultural property MOUs discussed earlier in this blog (for example, here, here, and here).

Finally CultureGrrl describes the difference visible between the krater on display and what seems to have been its state before sold as having been "spiffed-up". Indeed if these really are the same object it has. Surely as part of the collecting history (and description of just what it is the Minneapolis Institute of Arts is actually showing people as an example of "Greek art") there should be some form of acknowledgement that at least some of what we see today is modern reconstruction, and some indication should be given of when and where this took place and in what medium. Surely the modern artistic spiffer-upper does not have to be as anonymous as perforce the original painter? After all, the added embellishments intended to turn a decontexctualised archaeological find into a saleable "work of art" have compromised its integrity as a source of information about burial conditions at the unknown findspot. What other information was lost in the process?

UPDATE: See now Looting Matters on this story.
Vignette: Minneapolis spiffed-up hot pot (Dayton collection)

1 comment:

David Gill said...

Just to note the Minneapolis krater is discussed in my "Looting Matters for Classical Antiquities: Contemporary Issues in Archaeological Ethics", Present Pasts 1 (2010) [abstract and full paper].

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