26 April 2009

More Cuno in the NY Review of Books

Last month I wrote about James Cuno, director of the Chicago Institute of Art, who is on a quixotic quest to abolish nation-states' control of antiquities in order to allow museums like his to buy more artifacts, regardless of their provenience.

In this week's New York Review of Books, Hugh Eakin offers an in-depth, nuanced, and I think fair critique of Cuno's recent work. A couple highlights:
For Cuno, the disjuncture between modern states and the civilizations of the distant past exposes a central flaw in the concept of cultural property. For if the correlation is arbitrary, he maintains, so must also be the laws in archaeological countries that give the state control of ancient art found within their borders...

[But] rather than a threat to the cosmopolitan ideal... the new détente between foreign governments and American museums should be seen as an essential step in confronting the urgent problem of the destruction of archaeological sites. For the most crucial challenge is not the aggressive nationalism of some countries or the voracious appetites of some museums: it is the disappearance of the ancient past so coveted by both.
Read the rest!

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