All posts tagged: The New Era of Restitution and Repatriation

Mexico’s ‘My Heritage Is Not for Sale’ Effort Hides a Troubling Reality

Mexico’s ‘My Heritage Is Not for Sale’ Effort Hides a Troubling Reality

[ad_1] Early last year, after experts from Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) discovered that 70 allegedly Mexican pre-Columbian artifacts were for sale on the online marketplace AuctionNinja, the country’s minister of culture took to X. Alejandra Frausto Guerrero, head of the Secretariat of Culture of the Mexican Government, wrote simply “we oppose the sale of Mexico’s cultural heritage.” In the following days, INAH and Frausto Guerrero’s office continued to condemn the auction in press statements, and filed complaints with the Mexico City Attorney General’s Office and Interpol, while the story circulated in Spanish-language news outlets. Frausto Guerrero also sent a letter to the platform demanding the auction be pulled down. Related Articles The auction nevertheless proceeded as scheduled, and all the pieces apparently sold, with AuctionNinja telling ARTnews it had no knowledge of the Mexican government’s claims. Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s administration launched an ambitious campaign to reclaim lost or stolen Mexican cultural and historic goods shortly after he entered office in 2018, and Frausto Guerrero’s effort was just the …

Nigeria’s Museum of West African Art Questions Encyclopedic Museums

Nigeria’s Museum of West African Art Questions Encyclopedic Museums

[ad_1] This fall, barring any last-minute delays, Nigeria will open the glitzy Museum of West African Art, a sprawling 15-acre complex with a world-class historical museum, a contemporary art gallery, a research and education institute, and more. Built on the razed site of the former Benin City and constructed to resemble a historic palace, MOWAA represents a new kind of museum: deeply embedded in and designed in concert with the culture it enshrines and celebrates. “We think about MOWAA as a blueprint, a convening point, and the center of outreach that helps grow and sustain museum infrastructure throughout West Africa, working with the living culture of Nigeria—our artisans, our local regional museums—and forging meaningful relationships and partnerships with museums in the West and globally,” Aindrea Emelife, an art historian and head curator at MOWAA, told ARTnews in a recent interview. Related Articles As part of the construction process, archaeological teams excavated the area to bring to the surface Benin City’s surviving walls, moats, and gates, and incorporate them into the new structures, blending the region’s …

Federal Rules Aim to Speed Up Returns of Native Remains and Objects

Federal Rules Aim to Speed Up Returns of Native Remains and Objects

[ad_1] Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in On Balance, the ARTnews newsletter about the art market and beyond. Sign up here to receive it every Wednesday. Over the past several weeks, museums across the United States have been covering up and removing displays of Native American ancestors and cultural objects. The American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) in New York closed two halls and covered seven other display cases that featured “severely outdated ” exhibits of Native American cultural items in late January. More than half a dozen other major museums recently removed or covered up Native American items on display, including the Denver Museum of Art, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Field Museum in Chicago, the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard University, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Related Articles These actions are the most visible responses to major revisions to the 1990 Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), which went into effect in mid-January . The new regulations are designed to address loopholes, speed up returns, give institutions five years to inventory and prepare all ancestors and related funerary objects for …

Universities May Be Best Repository for Private Antiquities Collections

Universities May Be Best Repository for Private Antiquities Collections

[ad_1] Editor’s Note: Elizabeth Marlowe is a professor of art and art history at Colgate University. Marlowe’s research spans antiquities looting and repatriation, the art market, and the decolonization of museums. The harms of looting—whether colonial plunder or tomb-robbing for cash—have, by this point, been well established. Religious rites go neglected and communal ties fade when sacred statues are stolen from rural shrines. The spirits of ancestors attain no peace when their physical remains and the belongings buried with them are dug up. Out of context (and with traffickers often deliberately erasing information about their origins), ancient artworks become little more than pretty things, unable to teach us anything new about the culture that produced them. Related Articles Conversely, as the general public’s understanding of these issues grows, the potential reputational harm to museums that acquire such looted objects also increases. For these reasons, the Association of Art Museum Directors and the American Alliance of Museums, the two leading professional museum organizations in the United States, issued guidelines in 2008 urging member institutions not to …

Europe, US Restitution Sees Halting Progress As Public Opinion Shifts

Europe, US Restitution Sees Halting Progress As Public Opinion Shifts

[ad_1] While restitution has been a central topic in the art world on and off for decades, there has no doubt been a sea change in recent years. In 2023 there was a near-constant stream of news about returned and seized objects, launched initiatives, lawsuits ongoing and settled, and agreements struck between countries in the Global South and Europe. While restitution and repatriation debates still run hot, we appear to have reached a tipping point. Most observers cite French president Emmanuel Macron’s 2017 speech in Burkina Faso—when he said he wanted “the conditions met for the temporary or definitive restitution of African heritage to Africa”—as the start of the new era in restitution. Similarly disruptive was a 2018 report on African cultural objects in French museums that Macron commissioned, authored by Bénédicte Savoy, head of modern art history at the Technical University of Berlin, and Senegalese academic Felwine Sarr. It estimated that 90 to 95 percent of the continent’s artistic heritage is located outside Africa, and urged repatriation of requested artifacts. Related Articles Since that …

Welcome to the New Era of Restitution & Repatriation

Welcome to the New Era of Restitution & Repatriation

[ad_1] Over the last several years, countries in the Global South, from Nigeria to Mexico, have pursued the return of treasures looted by colonizers with renewed vigor, while some European governments have passed laws or formed new agreements to disband portions of their national collections. If art and artifacts in museums like the Louvre or the British Museum are the symbols of a bygone era, it appears that former colonial powers are begining to use them to make symbolic amends for transgressions long past. In the US, meanwhile, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office has made it its mission to seize looted artifacts and bring antiquities collectors and dealers to heel. And, after the US government adjusted regulations around Indigenous artifacts and remains, museums are scrambling to be compliant. While the future may still be uncertain, it has become clear that we’ve entered a new era. Over the next week, ARTnews will explore all the facets of this new world and the power players that make it run. Follow along here for the latest stories in …