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Turkey Accused of Cultural Blackmail
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Turkey Accused of Cultural Blackmail

The Turkish government is keen on reclaiming 18 objects housed at the Met as part of the Norbert Schimmel collection. Although the Met is no stranger to controversy surrounding the origin of its antiquities, as The Guardian reports, Turkey poses a very new kind of restitution battle.

Turkey and the United States have both signed onto a UNESCO convention declaring that if an antiquity left it’s country of origin before 1970, the item does not need to be returned. Although this date means that the majority of antiquities housed at the Met are safe, Turkey remains insistent that the antiquities be returned. According to Turkish official Ertugrul Gunay, “When they [artifacts] are repatriated to their countries, the balance of nature will be restored.”

Turkey is citing it’s own, century old law to demand that the artifacts be returned. In the meanwhile, Turkey is denying loans to any museum that, according to Turkey, houses antiquities that belong to Turkey. This is dangerous to museums like the Met because they often need the permission of national governments before mounting large exhibitions.  Museum officials are referring to this practice as cultural blackmail.

Interestingly, many antiquities in Turkish museums originated in regions once controlled by the Ottoman Empire. Turkey is not nearly as forthcoming about these collections.

4 Comments

  • The author of the article should read the 1970 UNESCO Convention. Nothing in the Convention supports the view of the author that “if an antiquity left it’s country of origin before 1970, the item does not need to be returned”. On the contrary, Article 15 of the Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property 1970 states explicitly that
    “Nothing in this Convention shall prevent States Parties thereto from concluding special agreements among themselves or from continuing to implement agreements already concluded regarding the restitution of cultural property removed, whatever the reason, from its territory of origin, before the entry into force of this Convention for the States concerned”

    Kwame Opoku.

  • Turkey as Italy, as Egypt and many other countries have large collections of foreigner artifacts. The collection of Palmyrene busts in Turkey is amazing … But they are not Turkish , but Syrian and they are there displayed conveniently . The Museum of Oriental Art in Rome is also terrific and they are there like AMBASSATORS of that marvelous and ancient cultures , displayed and enriching Rome , Italy is very worried with repatriation of artifacts but surely will not have good will to return all that cultural patrimony .
    The UNESCO Convention needs a serious review and update in order to be accepted in a globalized world …
    Yesterday and today we had the Bonhams Auction in London and hundreds of antiquities were sold . I won 3 lots and what is the warranty that any of them were not removed before 1970 ?
    We were discussing about repatriation and we saw what happened to Egypt . The same happens in Peru day-and -night . Huaqueros are working hard to remove and sell the artifacts abroad.
    The question is deeper and more serious than it seems.
    It is time to start to think in a MUSEUM WITHOUT FRONTIERS and sum up our efforts to register, catalogue and maybe help the Government of Italy, Peru , Egypt to take care of their patrimony .
    all the best, Christiano de Monaco

  • In 1983, Italy returned over 12,000 pre-Columbian objects to Ecuador. The case was resolved after a seven-year litigation. The moral support expressed by the UNESCO Committee was recognized by the Ecuadorian authorities as a significant factor in the success of their cause.
    The question is : while Italy is full of artifacts spread everywhere and cannot care of all of them … While Ecuador is in the same level … WHY not have one exchange of artifacts and each other enrich their museums and Collections at the same time ?
    The solution is : MUSEUM WITHOUT FRONTIERS that Unesco needs to start to think about .

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