Around the World - March 2011

1. The Museum Security Network - Cairo Egypt - "On Thursday, the Antiquities Minister Dr. Zahi Hawass released on his popular blog site a list of looted places since the fighting began this January, and after President Hosni Mubarak relinquished power to the military.  Apparently, criminals broke into De Morgan, the Met’s storage facility there, and tied up guards before looting the facility.
Met director Thomas Campbell released a statement on Thursday, stating his concern on current affairs in the Middle East.  As the New York Times posts, Campbell states: “The world cannot sit by and permit unchecked anarchy to jeopardize the cultural heritage of one of the world’s oldest, greatest and most inspiring civilizations.  We echo the voices of all concerned citizens of the globe in imploring Egypt’s new government authorities, in building the nation’s future, to protect its precious past.  Action needs to be taken immediately.”


2. New York Time March 3, 2011 - Cairo Egypt - Updated Zahi Hawass, Egypt’s antiquities minister, said in a telephone interview on Friday that while he is planning to resign he had not yet and still holds the post. He clarified his status after an ArtsBeat report on Thursday said he had already stepped down.
After Egypt’s prime minister resigned on Thursday and the army asked his replacement to form a caretaker cabinet, Mr. Hawass, a powerful and controversial figure, said he would not be part of the new government. His comments came after he posted on his Web site for the first time a list of dozens of sites that have been looted since the beginning of the uprising that led to the fall of President Hosni Mubarak.
Reached by telephone on Thursday Mr. Hawass said he was happy that he had made the “right decision” and lashed out at colleagues who have criticized him, including one who has accused him of smuggling antiquities.
Among the places Mr. Hawass named as having been looted were the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s storerooms at its excavation site in Dahshur, south of Cairo. In a statement the Met’s director, Thomas P. Campbell, described that incident as having taken place several weeks ago.

3. SAINT PETERSBURG.- Spanish King Juan Carlos and his wife Queen Sofia on Friday presided over the opening of an exhibition of works from Madrid's Prado museum in Russia's imperial capital Saint Petersburg. The State Hermitage Museum, the Museo del Prado and the State Society for Cultural Action [Sociedad Estatal de Acción Cultural] today signed the collaborative agreements for the celebration of the exhibitions "The Prado in the Hermitage" and "Treasures from the Hermitage", to be shown this year in Saint Petersburg and Madrid respectively within the context of the bi-lateral Spain-Russia Year 2011. The Prado in the Hermitage (25 February to 29 May 2011) presents in Saint Petersburg a group of 66 paintings from the Spanish, Italian and Flemish Schools that will allow Russian visitors to appreciate the historical and artistic importance of the Prado’s collect ...

4. NEW YORK, NY.- Highly creative re-imaginings of the iconic form of the African mask comprise a unique installation held at The Metropolitan Museum of Art beginning March 8. Featuring 20 works of art—19 sculptures and one photograph—Reconfiguring an African Icon: Odes to the Mask by Modern and Contemporary Artists from Three Continents reflects on the enduring relevance of African masks as a source of inspiration for artists across cultures into the present. Highlights of the installation are whimsical sculptures created from discarded consumption goods by contemporary artists Romuald Hazoumé (b. 1962) and Calixte Dakpogan (b. 1958), both from the Republic of Benin. Seventeen of the 20 works selected are on loan from European and American private collections; the others are drawn from the Museum's own collection. (artdaily.org)

5. CAIRO (REUTERS).- Egypt's Antiquities Ministry has recovered some of the national treasures that went missing from the Egyptian Museum during an uprising which unseated Hosni Mubarak, the country's top Egyptologist said Monday.
Items including a statue of King Tutankhamun and objects from the era of the Pharaoh Akhenaten went missing when looters broke into the museum during mass protests that engulfed the streets around the museum in central Cairo.
But Zahi Hawass, recently named minister of state for antiquities affairs, said in a statement that some objects including a Heart Scarab and a small Ushabti statue were found.
Part of a coffin dating back to the Modern Kingdom 3,000 years ago was also found outside the museum.
"We found two of the eight missing artifacts outside the museum between a government building that got burned and the gift shop. We are continuing the search and will find more," Hawass told Reuters.
Artefacts still missing include a statue of Akhenaten's wife Nefertiti making offerings, a stone statuette of a scribe from Amarna and the torso and upper limbs of a gilded wood statue of Tutankhamun.
Hawass said thieves also attacked a storehouse near the pyramids of Dahshour 35 km (21.75 miles) south of Cairo on Sunday, the second attack on the site in days.

6. MEXICO CITY. Mexico and Austria have moved a step closer to sharing Moctezuma’s Crown as Austria seriously considers returning the feathered headdress on loan for three years. It would mean that for the first time in 500 years the headdress returns to Mexico. The Mexican government is even discussing a change in its antiquities law to make the loan possible. Should the loan happen, it would set an important precedent for European museums with contentious objects in their collections.
Christian Feest, the director of Vienna’s Museum of Ethnology, describes the fabled object as “the Mona Lisa of ethnology”. Once assumed to be the crown of the Aztec rulers, the feather headdress is unique in its survival from the pre-Columbian Americas. Made from the tail feathers of over 200 quetzal birds, it is decorated with gold. In 1878, it went to the forerunner of the Museum of Ethnology (now part of the Kunsthistorisches Museum).
Last year the two countries agreed to co-operate over this part of their shared cultural heritage with Mexico’s National Institute for Anthropology and History and Austria’s Museum of Ethnology forming a bi-national commission.
Mexico’s foreign ministry says the goal is “to enable Mexicans to admire the headdress”. It also says that “an artefact currently in a Mexican museum that is of interest to Austria” might be lent to Vienna. This could be the golden coach of Mexico’s Emperor Maximilian in the Museo Nacional de Historia.

6. NEW HAVEN. After a lawsuit initiated by Peru and an acrimonious high-level public battle, Yale University has signed an agreement Peru that will result in the return this year to Peru of some 5,000 artefacts taken a century ago from Machu Picchu. The objects were carted off by the American explorer Hiram Bingham III (1875-1956), and have since been in the possession of Yale University’s Peabody Museum. While Yale officials have long claimed the right to keep the objects, Peru has maintained that Bingham failed to abide by an agreement to return the collection.
The accord, reached on 11 February between Yale and the Universidad Nacional de San Antonio Abad del Cusco (UNSAAC), builds upon a memorandum of understanding struck in late 2010 and establishes the UNSAAC-Yale International Centre for the Study of Machu Picchu and Inca Culture in Casa Concha, an Incan palace in the centre of Cusco. The objects will be housed at a specially designed facility in Cusco with exhibits planned to mark the centenary of the “scientific discovery” of the Incan site and on the 1911-1912 Yale-Peruvian Scientific Expeditions. An exhibition of the most important works of the Machu Picchu collection is planned later this year at museums in Lima and Cusco.
“The collection is not being returned within a framework of a repatriation,” said Richard Burger, a Yale University professor, archaeologist and curator of the Machu Picchu Collection. “The agreement is that Yale is returning [the collection] in recognition of the unique role that they have for the Peruvian people and Peruvian identity,” he said. Burger hopes that the agreement will be a milestone in international archaeological restitution cases, and that the resulting academic, scientific and institutional outcomes could be emulated in similar situations. (The Art Newspaper)

7. LONDON (REUTERS).- China overtook Britain as the world's second largest art and antiques market last year, a new report showed, and British art officials voiced concern that an EU levy planned in 2012 would further undermine its position.
"The Global Art Market in 2010: Crisis and Recovery" underlined what auction houses and consigners had seen throughout last year -- a sharp rise in the number of wealthy Chinese buyers, and, with them, prices.
The report, commissioned by the European Fine Art Foundation, estimated the value of the global art and antiques market in 2010 at 43 billion euros ($60 billion), up 52 percent from 2009 when values slumped as a result of the financial crisis.
"The period from 2008 through 2010 has been one of crisis and recovery for the market for art and antiques," said the report, released on Monday.
"Luxury spending contracted sharply in many countries during 2009, however 2010 brought the first signs of economic recovery with a rebound in consumer confidence and with Chinese consumers driving growth in many luxury sectors."
The report highlighted concerns in Britain that an EU art tax due to be imposed in 2012 could further damage the country's ability to cope with increasing competition from abroad.
An EU levy on the sale of works by living artists was introduced in the United Kingdom in 2006, and, according to the British Art Market Federation, was a "significant factor" behind the country's declining share of the contemporary art market.
Under European Commission plans, in 2012 this levy is due to extend in the UK to sales of works by artists who have died within the last 70 years, affecting auction favorites like Pablo Picasso and Alberto Giacometti. Artsdaily.org