Julien Anfruns defends the Athens friezes staying in the British Museum
Saul Fernandez_One of the debates without any apparently immediate solution
is the one proposing that big museums return the property extracted/taken
(esquilmados) during the years during which artistic conscience did not
exist. One of the most noted cases in this area is the transfer of the
Parthenon friezes of Athens to the British Museum of London at the beginning
of the 19th century. It is the well-known bequest of Lord Elgin. Julien
Anfruns, director general of the International Council of Museums (ICOM),
explained that ³these pieces still give rise to misunderstandings², and in
this regard that, “had the transfer never happened who knows if we would be
able to contemplate these pieces today at all.”_Anfruns explained that the
facts/events have a determined historical context. In the case of the
friezes: “Greece formed part of the Ottoman Empire, it was not an
independent country, there did not exist a consciousness that art
encompassed (resumed) the roots of a nation.² Therefore, he concluded in
stating that at least one thing is sure is that Elgin¹s bequest can be seen
(comtemplated) in the British Museum today. Does the British feed itself on
all the spoils of the empire? ³Not only this museum,² asserted Anfruns. At
this point, he gave the example of the Louvre taking the ³Venus de Milo² or
³Samothrace¹s Winged Victory².
Should the heritage of a nation remain in the nation that originated it?
Anfruns explained that this possibility is absurd. ³What are we talking
about here? To bring together all the Velasquez in Spain, to do the same
thing with all the heritage of Egypt? The ICOM Director recalled that Tony
Blair¹s government promoted a law according to which the Elgin pieces cannot
leave the United Kingdom. ³Nonetheless, the friezes are the trees through
which the actions of the direction of the British (Museum)are not seen,² he
noted, ³The museum has returned aboriginal Maori human remains to Australia
and New Zealand², he commented.
Anfruns considered, therefore, that it would be ideal to discuss ³case by
case, country by country². He recalled, in this sense, that in France the
temporary exhibition of material from any provenance(dubious provenance?) is
permitted. He gave as an example the Japanese sword that has been exhibited
in the Musée de l¹armée of Paris since the 19th century. ³Very soon, it will
return to Japan,² he said.
-Should modern museums be great containers of culture or should they
³The Museum of Beaux-arts of Abu Dhabi, with the help of the Louvre, has
leaned toward the possibility of universalizing all knowledge. There is
another museum, also in Abu Dhabi, although a modern art museum, which
nevertheless is leaning toward specialization. Nothing is
regulated/(fixed),² he concluded.