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"Ruins and the Rebirth of Art in Italy" - Spotlights Saved Art - UPDATE

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Author Topic: "Ruins and the Rebirth of Art in Italy" - Spotlights Saved Art - UPDATE  (Read 99 times)
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« Reply #15 on: October 10, 2008, 03:36:55 pm »

The new Library of Alexandria stands across the street from the University of Alexandria, with its 140,000 students; its alumni include the Nobel laureate Ahmed Zewail. Zahi Hawass may be a baron in his position as head of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, but he serves notice to the barons who dwell in the world’s encyclopedic museums that they must now take the bright, eager young people of Egypt into account.

Cuno gives a detailed analysis of the way in which China has been grappling, on a colossal scale, with some of the problems that Italy faced in the 20th century: a deep, complex cultural tradition; the dual status as archeological source and increasingly wealthy consumer; the legacies of totalitarianism. China is also sensitive to what it sees as international disdain. Its environment, its past, its myriad traditions, its diverse archeological heritage: all have come under devastating pressure in an aggressive modernisation.

This is not simply a problem of nationalism, but also one of of what is considered old, what is new, what is enlightened, what is barbarous. In the name of internationally recognised ideas of progress — many going back, alas, to the Enlightenment — the Three Gorges Dam, like the Aswan High Dam before it, threatens general environmental disaster, of which archeological disaster is only a subset.

Cuno’s solution to the ills of the antiquities market is to rehabilitate the 19th-century scheme of partage, in which a museum sponsors excavations in exchange for rights to some of the excavation’s findings. But in the 19th century, museums were unabashed instruments of imperialism, and ownership was proof of dominion.

Imperium is no excuse. Cicero saw this long ago.

The only plausible arrangement for museums today is to work as a peer among peers in schemes of international co-operation, already increasingly the norm for archeological expeditions.

Another solution lies in long-term loans of archeological material from source countries to the countries that want to display it. Cuno complains about the short terms of loans granted by the Italian government, while noting that the law was recently changed to lengthen those terms. Rutelli was negotiating still longer terms for the loan of specific objects in his dealings with the Met and Boston: that is, quietly finding a solution to some of the very problems that Cuno expatiates on.   
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