Sunday, June 28, 2009

Our city ruined, and sorrow evermore to sorrow added

There are a couple of interesting articles in the NYT about the new museum in Athens that houses ancient art right at the base of the Acropolis - apparently it's amazing (Greece is near the top of the list of Places I Want To Go). Art critic Michael Kimmelman reviews the space and brings up the issue of the most glaring missing pieces - the Elgin Marbles - which have been in the British Museum since 1816. In case you're less aware of early 19th century British/Ottoman art history, Elgin stole them all those years ago, and then sold them to the British govt.

Blow-hard Christopher Hitchens (who I agree with on this account) rightly calls for the frieze pieces to be returned to Greece, especially now that they have an excellent facility to house them. (For a long time, the claim was that the marbles were better cared for in England - an imperialist argument if I ever heard one!).
I think it's great that the Acropolis museum is re-opening the conversation about the return of the pieces to their home. These are hard decisions and if it did happen, a great reshuffling might occur in museums all over the world, but I think people have only to look at the relative success of the policy on the return of Nazi looted art. While a museum or individual's return (no refunds/no exchanges) of a piece might be a momentary financial hardship - what it earns the individual or organization is a lot of respect for doing the right thing.

O my country, O unhappy land,
I weep for thee now left behind;
now dost thou behold thy piteous end;
and thee, my house, I weep, wherein I suffered travail.
O my children! reft of her city as your mother is, she now is losing you.
Oh, what mourning and what sorrow! oh, what endless streams of tears in our houses!
The dead alone forget their griefs and never shed a tear.

   The Trojan Women
   415 B.C.E

1 comment:

Indiana Fan said...

Right on, K.

btw, you can add "professional drunk" to Christopher Hitchens' job description. Not that should discount the truth (Kissinger is a war criminal) or vapidity (Invading Iraq was the only correct choice in 2003) of his various arguments, you can do that on your own. He just believes life is better lived, drunk.