Course blog for American University PERF-570, Fall 2014
Here’s a great article from Monday’s LA Times about James Cuno, president of the J. Paul Getty Trust.
I’ve been following the repatriation conversation peripherally for several years with mixed feelings – usually bought up after seeing that the Getty had returned an artifact.
This article does an excellent job of framing the issue, and helped me clarify my opinion. I’m on Cuno’s side: keep what was acquired legally, return what was acquired illegally. And I have a few thoughts about the gray areas.
There’s no doubt that this is an enormous, very complicated issue that’s being addressed by folks far smarter than I. Nonetheless, I very strongly do not believe that all antiquities should be returned to their country of origin. Should the Met return the Egyptian temple? No. It’s there because it was saved from destruction, and in the last 40 years has been a source of education, inspiration, and most importantly – cultural awareness for millions. Should a Klimt stolen from a family during WWII be returned to that family’s descendants? Definitely.
The other issue that the LAT article mentions is the concept of Empire. For millennia, the rule has been “to the victor go the spoils.” I do not believe that we should participate in revisionist history. I’d love to see a cutoff date established (1900?) and if an object was legally acquired (based on the laws at the time), then it should not be subject to repatriation.