Wednesday 11 March 2015

Getty Recognizes Islamic State?

ISIL - their state apparently recognised by the Getty

James Cuno, President and Chief Executive of the J. Paul Getty Trust, Los Angeles, writes to the Editor of the NYT (Deploring ISIS, Destroyer of a Civilization’s Art March 11, 2015):
The recent attacks on the ancient cities of Nimrud and Hatra in Iraq underscore a tragic reality. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization encourages — and provides an institutional instrument for — the retention of antiquities within the borders of the modern state that claims them. That state, very sadly, also has the authority to sell them on the illegal market, damage them or destroy them. Until Unesco changes its basic position on this issue, antiquities will remain at risk. The world can only be grateful for the earlier regime of “partage,” which allowed for the sharing of Assyrian antiquities with museums worldwide that could preserve them. This unconscionable destruction is an argument for why portable works of art should be distributed throughout the world and not concentrated in one place. ISIS will destroy everything in its path.
In doing so, he seems to accept the legitimacy of the Islamic State, endowing it with the "authority to sell them on the illegal market, damage them or destroy them". If Mosul Museum had not been a provincial museum with local-made finds, but one of the great encyclopaedic museums Cuno so favours, with a Rubens or two, a Van Gogh, two Memlings, a couple of Rodins, a Degas ballet dancer, a Hokusai brush drawing and so on, totally trashed - would he still shrug his shoulders and say it s all UNESCO's fault? There is nothing in UNESCO to stop states building encyclopaedic collections of licitly exported items, and I can hardly accept that Cuno was suggesting that objects should be acquired in breach of article 3 of the 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property in order to 'protect' them.

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