Sunday, August 18, 2013

Could the Return of Sicily's Exhibit put a Wench in future Rapatriation deals?

Last month, news broke that Sicily wanted an exhibition“Sicily: Art and Invention between Greece and Rome,” returned.  The collection has been touring the world for a period of time, and was recently on display at the J. Paul Getty, and I believe that this is a way to promote cultural awareness.

The Mozia Charioteer taken from
The exhibition was scheduled to debut at the Cleveland Museum of Art later this year.

In July, Sicily announced the cancellation of the exhibition opening at the Cleveland Museum.

Why Cancel the Traveling Exhibition?

In my recent post concerning Greece, I wrote that because of the economic downturn the country had to make cuts to its cultural programs.  The economic downturn has directly affected the tourism market, that is one of the main sources of income.  The economic situation in Greece parallels the situation in Sicily.

The Sicilian government believes that a return of the collection will provide a boost to the local economy, but there are major concerns:

  •  The cultural industry in Rome supported the exhibition and this could cause tension between relations between Sicily and Italy
  • The boost to tourism will be short-term at best
  • This might prevent museums in the future from engaging in long-term loans or traveling exhibitions
I find the last point most troubling because one of the main factors that I propose for a successful repatriation (a museum returning contested artifacts to a country of origin) is for long-term loan agreements between museums and countries, but if a country is willing to renege on an agreement, how likely is a museum willing to engage in that agreement?

I fear that those who argue against repatriation will use the Sicily case as an example of a country trying to retain all of its antiquities (James Cuno's retention argument) and hoard culture.

How the return of this exhibition benefit anyone?  I do not think any party benefits.  Before, the traveling exhibition served as promotion of Sicilian culture and rich archaeological past.  Now Sicily is cutting that promotion.  Also, the cancellation is a sort of snub to the museums that arranged to showcase the exhibition and to those who planned on visiting those museums.  I completely disagree with Sicily's decision, and I believe this will cause more harm then good.

Any thoughts on Sicily's decision?

Head of a Goddess taken from