Thursday, March 12, 2015

Cuno on ISIS and Repatriation

James Cuno makes the case that far from lending support for repatriation as suggested by UNESCO's allies in the archaeological lobby, the rise of ISIS argues for dispersion of cultural assets in order to save them.

To the Editor:

The recent attacks on the ancient cities of Nimrud and Hatra in Iraq underscore a tragic reality. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization encourages — and provides an institutional instrument for — the retention of antiquities within the borders of the modern state that claims them. That state, very sadly, also has the authority to sell them on the illegal market, damage them or destroy them.

Until Unesco changes its basic position on this issue, antiquities will remain at risk. The world can only be grateful for the earlier regime of “partage,” which allowed for the sharing of Assyrian antiquities with museums worldwide that could preserve them.

This unconscionable destruction is an argument for why portable works of art should be distributed throughout the world and not concentrated in one place. ISIS will destroy everything in its path.

President and Chief Executive
The J. Paul Getty Trust
Los Angeles

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