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May 30th, 2012

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May 28th, 2012

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May 27th, 2012

Posted In: Museum thefts

DO THEY KNOW QUEEN-MOTHER IDIA

http://www.museum-security.org/opoku_queen_mother_idia.htm

May 27, 2012

Queen-Mother Idia, Benin, Nigeria, now in British Museum, London, United Kingdom.

A recent visit to the British Museum confirmed what we have observed in previous years: many Western visitors to the museum have no specific interest in any particular Benin object, even if they visit the Sainsbury Gallery and look at the Benin Bronzes. They are mostly unaware of the looted Queen-Mother-Idia(“Iyoba”) ivory mask.

Have the hundred years of illegal retention of this mask had any effect on the knowledge and interest of the average Western visitor to the museum? It seems hardly any European visitor is even aware that the mask represents an important personality in Benin history. Most Western visitors are certainly unaware of her important and decisive role and influence in stabilizing the Kingdom of Benin

during the civil war at the end of the 15th Century, a crucial period in Benin history. Contrary to the propaganda of the Declaration on the Importance and Value of Universal Museums, Benin culture has not become part of European heritage and culture even though Benin artefacts have been illegally detained in Western museums for more than hundred years. (See also, Tom Flynn THE UNIVERSAL MUSEUM). The display of the ivory mask with many other looted Benin artefacts does not draw any particular attention to the Queen-Mother.

Click for Full Size

Members of the nefarious British Punitive Expedition of 1897 posing proudly with their looted Benin artefacts

Museum visitors are thus not in a position to understand why her image has become a symbol for Nigeria, Africa and the African Diaspora. They would thus not be able to assess the arrogance and insult by the British Museum and the British Government in refusing to lend to Nigeria the Queen-Mother Idia mask even for a continental cultural festival, Second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture FESTAC in Lagos, Nigeria in 1977.

Once we move from the Sainsbury Gallery to the Egyptian gallery and approach the Rosetta Stone, it becomes immediately evident that many visitors to the British Museum are aware of the importance of this artefact from Egypt which the British have also refused to return to Egypt despite multiple requests.Rosetta Stone, Egypt, now in the British Museum, London, United Kingdom.

Rosetta Stone, Egypt, now in British Museum, London, United Kingdom

At any time during a visit to the museum, we see the Rosetta Stone surrounded by a crowd of visitors, busy taking photographs. Somebody has informed them about the importance of this stone in deciphering Egyptian hieroglyphics.

But do they also know that the Rosetta Stone is part of Egyptian culture and not British culture? Are the visitors aware that there is no longer a need for scholars to decipher the language of the Rosetta Stone and that it would now be most appropriate to return it to its homeland, as the Egyptians have requested, so that it can be placed in a new museum of Egyptian culture?

Queen-Mother Idia clearly plays no role in the culture, imagination and thinking of Westerners. So why keep her captive in London when she would be a subject of veneration and reverence in her homeland Benin, Nigeria?

Why do the British Museum and the British Government still insist on keeping in Britain cultural artefacts of others, against the will of the owners?

So far, we have not come across any reasonable justification for such an attitude. Perhaps some have not yet recognized that the world has changed since the colonialist and imperialist epoch:

“The time has come when the British Museum should recognise the change in relative status between Britain and the rest of the world. We are no longer the imperial masters and increasingly need to build constructive working relationships as between equals.”Peter Groome (“It’s time to gracefully relinquish the Rosetta Stone”, http://www.independent.co.uk).

Constructive and harmonious relations in matters of culture do not seem to matter to the British Museum otherwise we would not still be talking about the Parthenon/Elgin MarblesRosetta Stone and the Benin Bronzes. (See also Parthenon/Elgin MarblesRosetta Stone Benin Bronzes)

Parthenon Marbles, Greece, now in British Museum, London, United Kingdom.

Parthenon/Elgin Marbles, Athens, Greece, now in British Museum, London, United Kingdom.

The British Museum seems more interested in telling the histories(or stories as some prefer) of other nations rather than let the others tell their own histories, with the restitution of some of themillions of materials that the museum keeps, some with doubtful acquisition histories.

Oba Ovonramwen, during whose reign the British looted the Benin Bronzes with guards on board ship on his way to exile in Calabar in 1897. The gown he is wearing hides his shackles. Photograph by the Ibani Ijo photographer J A Green. From the Howie photo album in the archives of the Merseyside Maritime Museum

Kwame Opoku, 26 May, 2012.via DO THEY KNOW QUEEN-MOTHER IDIA.

May 27th, 2012

Posted In: Dr. Kwame Opoku writings about looted cultural objects

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May 25th, 2012

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May 25th, 2012

Posted In: books and manuscripts, insider theft, library theft

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May 23rd, 2012

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May 22nd, 2012

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May 21st, 2012

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May 20th, 2012

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May 19th, 2012

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May 19th, 2012

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May 15th, 2012

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May 15th, 2012

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May 10th, 2012

Posted In: Cultural Heritage Lawyer Rick St. Hilaire, Saint Louis Art Museum

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May 10th, 2012

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May 2nd, 2012

Posted In: Museum thefts

Museums Journal

http://www.museumsassociation.org/museums-journal/comment/01052012-how-to-combat-museum-takeaways

May 1, 2012

Is the rise in museum thefts due to the economic crisis?

The Museum Security Network has been online since December 1996. In the past 15 years, there have been more than 40,000 reports of incidents including thefts, fake and forgeries, vandalism, and embezzlement.The number of thefts of sculptures from gardens and towns has grown tremendously, so much so that we have stopped recording them.

This year alone, stone-age axes have been stolen from the Yorkshire Museum, a number of Lord Nelson artefacts from Norwich Castle Museum; two statues of Buddha from Ulster Folk and Transport Museum; artefacts worth £2m from the Oriental Museum at Durham University; and a model lifeboat from the RNLI museum in Whitby. This list is far from complete.

Thieves have wrenched the horns off stuffed rhinoceroses in European museums and officials at Europol, the European Union’s criminal intelligence agency, claim the number of thefts of rhinoceros horns has increased sharply in Europe during the past year. Since 2011, the agency has recorded 56 successful and 10 attempted thefts.

According to a recent report by the Council for British Archaeology and Newcastle and Loughborough universities, 75,000 heritage crimes were committed in the UK in 2011 and experts have warned that the alarming figures show that Britain’s history is being destroyed.

So do all these stats add up to an alarming development, or is it just business as usual? Several newspaper reports and internet blogs claim there has been a rise in museum thefts because of the economic crisis and security budget cuts.

So far, official police statistics do not substantiate these claims – statistics are always a bit late, and per annum; 2011 figures are not yet available. It is quite possible there has been a rise in reporting rather than a rise in incidents.

The link between the present economic crisis and thefts from museums is impossible to prove. Only a very small percentage – 5%-10% – of art crimes are solved, so our knowledge is based on anecdotes rather than facts.

Some of the more infamous thefts from museums took place before the economic crisis hit the western world. Benvenuto Cellini’s Saliera was stolen in 2003 from the Vienna Museum of Art History. That theft took only 58 seconds. The value of the Saliera: €35m.

The facts justify the conclusion that security was far below standard. The largest art theft outside war time – the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist – took place in March 1990. Again, it appears the security was lacking.

In 2010, several paintings were stolen from the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. Afterwards, it was revealed that part of the security system had been out of order for about a year.

All these thefts took place not because of budget cuts or economic crisis, but rather because of neglect at a managerial level. Security and safety is part of museums’ core business, but too often they do not get the attention they deserve.

Museums by nature find themselves caught between showing their most prized and often most valuable objects to million of visitors, and safeguarding these objects for present and future generations. It is a difficult, but not impossible, task.

In case the economic crisis really becomes a threat to security budgets, why not sell those rhino horns at $30,000 per kilo, and replace the originals with resin copies?

Ton Cremers is the founder of the Museum Security Network

Museum takeaways | Museums Association.

May 1st, 2012

Posted In: Museum thefts

Ton Cremers on “Rise in Thefts from Museums: Due to Economic Crisis?” in the Spring/Summer 2012 issue of The Journal of Art Crime

Columnist Ton Cremers speculates on the “Rise in Thefts from Museums: Due to Economic Crisis?” in the Spring/Summer 2012 issue of The Journal of Art Crime.Mr. Cremers is a security consultant and the founder of The Museum Security Network (MSN). He was awarded the 2003 Robert B. Burke Award for excellence in cultural property protection. Here’s an excerpt:

The Museum Security Network (www.museum-security.org) has been on line since December 1996. In the past fifteen years over 40,000 reports have been disseminated about incidents with cultural property, such as thefts, fakes and forgeries, vandalism, and embezzlement. The number of thefts of sculptures from gardens and towns has grown tremendously, so much so that we have stopped trying to record all of them.
This year alone (and this is just a brief summary, far from complete) Stone Age axes were stolen from the Yorkshire Museum, a number of Lord Nelson artifacts were stolen from the Norwich Museum, as well as Buddhas from Ulster Folk and Transport Museum, artifacts worth £1.8m from Durham University’s Oriental Museum, watches from Silverton Country Historical Society museum, a lifeboat from RNLI’s museum; Museum Gouda (in The Netherlands) was robbed of a 17th century religious object, after the museum door was forced open using explosives; the National Gallery in Athens suffered a theft of Picasso and Mondrian paintings; and the Olympia Museum in Greece lost over 70 objects, after a early morning robbery. Thieves have wrenched the horns off stuffed rhinoceroses in European museums: Bamberg, Germany, Florence, Italy, Haslemere Educational Museum, Ritterhaus Museum Offenburg, Germany, Sworders Auctioneers, Stansted Mountfitchet, and more. Officials at Europol, the European Union’s criminal intelligence agency, claim the number of thefts of rhinoceros horns has increased sharply in Europe during the past year. Since 2011, the agency has recorded 56 successful, and 10 attempted, thefts.
According to a U.K. report 75,000 heritage crimes were committed in one year (experts warn that the “alarming” figures show that Britain’s history is being destroyed in an “insidious and often irreversible way” for future generations): the study found nearly a fifth of the country’s 31,000 Grade I or II* buildings were subject to criminal acts, while more than 63,000 Grade II buildings were targeted. The report, compiled by the Council for British Archaeology and Newcastle and Loughborough universities, found that crimes such as metal theft were more likely to occur in the north, while at least 750 sites were hit by “devastating” arson attacks.
All together an alarming development, or is this just business as usual?

The Journal of Art Crime is now available to subscribers.

May 1st, 2012

Posted In: Geen categorie

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May 1st, 2012

Posted In: Museum thefts

It would be interesting to see whether the issue of the legality of the possession/control of the Nok artefacts would be raised in the course of this case

http://www.museum-security.org/opoku_damaged_nok.htm

May 1, 2012

DAMAGE TO NOK SCULPTURE IN PRIVATE WESTERN COLLECTION. WILL OTHER AFRICAN ARTEFACTS END IN THIS WAY?

 

(Photos from New York Daily News)

It has been reported in the New York Daily News that the widow of the French artist Arman, is suing in Manhattan Supreme Court for damage to a Nok sculpture caused during a photo shooting session for an art magazine. The sculpture fell and broke into pieces as shown above. Apparently, assistants of the magazine had moved the sculpture from its usual secure position. Mrs Arman has claimed that the sculpture was worth some $300,000. What will the average Nigerian think of this sum?

A question that will surely be raised is whether the precious object was insured against damage and for how much. If it was not insured, this may well reflect on the value attached to it by the owner.

It would be interesting to see whether the issue of the legality of the possession/control of the Nok artefact would be raised in the course of this case.

Many of the Nok sculptures in the West are presumed to be of doubtful provenance, a large number having been looted from Nigeria.

Mrs Arman is reported to have stated “I lived with it for over 25 years,”

If the Nok sculpture was acquired in1986/87, the question arises as to the applicability of the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import.Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. Both the United States of America (02/09/1983) and Nigeria (24/01/1972) are parties to this convention. Did the acquisition of the Nok sculpture violate the UNESCO Convention?

Nok artefacts have been placed since 1997 on the ICOM Red List for Africa

It is since then prohibited, and therefore illegal, to export or import Nok artefacts from Nigeria. These objects are part of the historical records of Nigeria and should under no circumstances leave Nigeria.

It would also be instructive to see if the Nigerian Government/the National Commission on Museums and Monuments will intervene in this case to make representations on behalf of the Nigerian peoples and Government. After all, the Nok sculpture may have been exported in violation of a Nigerian law. There has been a ban on export of antiquities from Nigeria without permission from the authorities as far back as the 1953 Antiquities Ordinance. The relevant laws, ordinances, and decrees issued in 1969, 1974 and 1979 have been consolidated in the National Commission for Museums and Monuments Act, Chapter 242, Laws of Nigeria, 1990. Section 25 (1) of the Act provides that no antiquity shall be exported from Nigeria without a permit issued in that behalf by the Commission.”

In this connection, it would be useful to have a list of the number of authorizations Nigeria has given for exportation of antiquities, including Nok sculptures, outside the country.

If the possessor or controller of the broken Nok sculpture is unable to establish the legality of its acquisition, various issues arise. For example, can one compensate a holder of an illegal object for damage inflicted on the object by another person?

What is really the value of a cultural and historical object that means more to Nigerian history and culture than to US American history and culture? Will the court be guided by the market price of an object that is not, in its country of origin, regarded as saleable object but evidence of the history of the people?

The lawyer of the claimant is reported to have stated that the accident was “a loss of world heritage. It’s a terrible, terrible thing.” Hopefully, all concerned would realize that the removal of the Nok sculpture from its original location in Nigeria was equally a terrible thing. The great Ekpo Eyo declared that

“It is indeed unfortunate that so much Nok material has been looted over time to supply the international market. Properly excavated, such pieces might have shed valuable light on the Nok culture.”

These words should be borne in mind by all those who deal with Nok sculptures and other African antiquities removed from their original locations under dubious conditions.

The broken Nok sculpture raises the fundamental question whether artefacts of a particular people or country should at all be allowed to be kept in private homes in the West. The irreparable loss caused by damage, as in this case, should finally awaken those in the West who have always supported such practices. Artefacts that are important to a particular country or people should be kept by that country or people and not by others in foreign countries that need the objects for their personal prestige and aesthetic contemplation.

Symbols of African culture and achievement do not belong to Western homes. How would Westerners feel if precious evidence of their culture and their history were to be kept in African locations after being looted or stolen from Europe? It is evident from Ekpo Eyo’s, magnificent book, Masterpieces of Nigerian Art, that the majority of Nigeria’s finest artworks are in Western

countries. And yet some persons do not see anything wrong with this perverse situation.

Will a judge be able to order the return of the Nok sculpture to its country of origin? Properly informed and advised, a judge may well come to the conclusion that, in view of the atrocious history of plunder of African artefacts, the return of sculpture, even a broken one, may be a contribution to the fight against the illicit traffic; it may also strengthen attempts to restore to Africans their human right to independent cultural development and free practice of their religion, free from the constant threat of looting for the West.

The fate of the broken Nok has given lie to the argument that African sculptures are better protected in the West. An African sculpture that is some 2,630 years old has thus been destroyed in a Manhattan home in the United States of America.

Kwame Opoku, 1 May 2012.

May 1st, 2012

Posted In: Dr. Kwame Opoku writings about looted cultural objects