Turkey’s Efforts to Repatriate Art Alarm Museums – NYTimes.com

Tough talk on cultural patrimony and other related issues from Turkey:

Turkey is not alone in demanding the return of artifacts removed from its borders; Egypt and Greece have made similar demands of museums, and Italy persuaded the Met to return an ancient bowl known as the Euphronios krater in 2006.But Turkey’s aggressive tactics, which come as the country has been asserting itself politically in the Middle East in the wake of the Arab Spring, have particularly alarmed museums. Officials here are refusing to lend treasures, delaying the licensing of archaeological excavations and publicly shaming museums.

“The Turks are engaging in polemics and nasty politics,” said Hermann Parzinger, president of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, which oversees the Pergamon. “They should be careful about making moral claims when their museums are full of looted treasures” acquired, he said, by the Ottomans in their centuries ruling parts of the Middle East and southeast Europe.

via Turkey’s Efforts to Repatriate Art Alarm Museums – NYTimes.com.

6 thoughts on “Turkey’s Efforts to Repatriate Art Alarm Museums – NYTimes.com”

  1. I love this article that brings up some fabulous points on diplomacy, crime, culture and art. We live in an exciting time in which art is available for all and in which beauty is appreciated all around the world. I thought it was interesting when, “Marc Masurovsky, an expert on plundered art at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, said it was no surprise that in the absence of an international agency to enforce anti-plunder measures, the Turks were resorting to hard-nosed diplomacy.” What a great idea to create an international agency for art. One that has the knowledge, expertise, and funding to decide where works of art belong and help to lesson the bureaucratic battles going on right now. my other thought is why cant countries learn to share and rotate the works of art that are transportable? this would allow more cultures to appreciate the diversity of other regions. I think art is such a powerful tool for peace in the world today.


  2. I found this article particularly interesting because I lived in Turkey for the past year and a half and have a personal connection with this issue. Culture is a highly significant factor when dealing with the Turks in any capacity. Art plays a large role in their culture and traditions, and thus a situation such as this is highly controversial within the country itself. Home of thousands of years of heritage, the region in which Turkey is located has been home to several empires and capitals of trade such as Constantinople. It is needless to say that Turkey holds some of the most historic and beautiful relics in the world, many of which originate from different regions. Thus, decades later, claims and accusations are being made, for their Turkey does not wish to loose their precious artifacts to other countries. While I was living in Turkey I experienced the government’s tactics to reduce the movement of their art and to keep a tight hold on their prized possessions. With already limited trade policies, in the past year several thefts and disputes over art have caused the government to tighten their grip. It is not a matter of the art specifically, it is a matter of pride and a desire to maintain the rich culture of the the Middle East. If Turkey, and specifically the touristic capital of Istanbul were to allow more of their art to travel and be shared internationally, the overall effects may not be significant, but the cultural and political repercussions would be very apparent. I would like to end by saying that having seen a significant portion of Islamic and Turkish Art, I can truly say that it is some of the most beautiful work in the world. I personally feel that it should be shared with as many people as possible, specifically in the U.S., and I hope Turkey can sometime in the near future realize the\is need. I hope that the art from that area of the world will be preserved and made available to the public eye for generations to come, for it is a sight to behold.

  3. i think that the whole idea of who owns what art is extremely interesting. Art serves as inspiration and knowledge for the entire world, and just because it is from a certain country doesn’t mean it should remain there. This global perspective is shown in this quote from the New York Times article. “If all Westerners are just thieves and robbers,” Parzinger asked, “then who has been restoring their cultural heritage?” I agree with the idea presented in this quote that art has been protected, contributed to, and is in some ways owned by all of humanity. Also, it is obvious that Turkey is being aggressive towards museums as part of its attempt to gain more political prominence in the Middle East.

  4. When touring the Louvre in Paris, while marveling at all the works from various periods and places, I remember the group’s guide pointing to several works of art and laughing, in her thick, French accent, “Italy wants us to return these to them, but we don’t and keep them here, so Italy is not happy with us.”

    The idea of art belonging to a specific nation can be rather convoluted. The history of man has been wrought with border changes, migrations, and, as noted in the article above, wars and plunders. It’s difficult to determine whose is whose.

    But what I think is important is not who owned the art, but what can be done with it. The Islamic exhibit at the MOA, though diminutive compared to other art museums, really struck me because for a time, I was able to observe and learn about the Islamic culture through the various pieces of art on display. Not one of the many ancients pots or prayer rugs belonged to BYU, let alone the United States. Yet, I feel that having those pieces, even for a brief time, was justifiable.

    Art is a view into someplace else. Artifacts bring us to different time periods and places, and can facilitate a connection between the viewer and the country of origin. Art shouldn’t be viewed as monetary or something to hoard. Art was created to be shared.

    The New York Times wrote an article, “Who Owns Art?” in 2009 and attempts to explore just that. (http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/29/arts/artsspecial/29treasures.html?pagewanted=all)

  5. I thought it was interesting that all of a sudden so many countries in the regions of southeastern Europe and the Middle East have made demands for the return of artifact. It looks as though more and more countries are jumping on the bandwagon. But are they considering also the artifacts which reside in their museums which they acquired from regions outside their borders in past centuries. Also, some of the demands seem a little rash in that some of the demands are that the artifacts be restored almost immediately. This is not the right way to diplomatically handle such a situation.


  6. In America we have the rule of law, which includes that all laws cannot be retrospective. This is a principle that most nations uphold. This means you cannot be held accountable for breaking a law before the law is made. Much of this art was acquired hundred of years ago, and even before nations like Turkey were Turkey. So first off, any laws broken were not really Turkish laws. Second, we in the church believe that man will be punished for their own sins, and not for their ancestors. So No country should be punished for their predecessors crimes. Finally, although I understand Turkey’s desire to modernize further, if all countries claim their ‘prizes’ then we will reverse our current globalization and begin reverting towards nationalism in a way that harms every nation.


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