Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Cleveland Rocks

Cleveland, Ohio, is best known for that American cultural icon, "the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame."  But the Cleveland Museum of Art should also be considered a museum-world stand-out.  The current exhibits, Sicily: Art and Invention Between Greece and Rome and Praxiteles: the Cleveland Apollo, are both well worth a visit. Numismatists should be particularly thrilled with the unique Aitna Tetradrachm from the Belgian National Collection.  It is truly a magnificent ancient coin with a fascinating history.

But this is a blog on cultural property.  From that perspective, Sicilian cultural officials should be happy that they ultimately allowed the Cleveland Museum exhibit to go forward.  One can easily imagine the number of attendees on the Saturday afternoon CPO visited vastly exceeding the number of visitors its star attraction, the so-called Charioteer of Motya, receives in an entire year in its out-of-the-way Sicilian home.

Then there is the issue of the MOU with the Republic of Italy.  Archaeologists and other proponents may point to the exhibit as a testament to the MOU's success.  But tickets cost $15.  Moreover, the exhibit only went to two museums, the Getty and Cleveland, which have made voluntary repatriations.  One really wonders then if this is truly the case or if the exhibit would have traveled to the US anyway. Certainly, in the future, Sicily will likely demand even more money before it lets its treasures travel abroad.

As for the Cleveland Apollo, some in the archaeological community have questioned its provenance, presumably hoping that it too will be repatriated (but to where)?   However, Cleveland has been forthright with its purchase.  And the statue's current display "in context" alongside other, Roman era copies demonstrates that archaeological context should not be deemed supreme.

Kudos to the Cleveland Museum to Art for all it has done to further the appreciation of ancient Italian and Greek culture through these exhibits.  Cleveland-- and in particular its Museum of Art-- does indeed "rock."

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