Sanctimony over deaccession – whose art is it?

I’m teaching a First Year Seminar this fall on cultural property and just found another article for them to read. A regional museum in England sells an Egyptian statue to pay for building a new wing – and everyone is getting up in arms. 

I’m especially amused by the Egyptian ambassador’s fulminations. I’ve BEEN to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo – it’s a museological disaster. And, though there are plenty of packing crates just sitting around in the public areas, they have works in storage, too.

Metal detectorists – a subculture, and a legal one at that.

Read this article:  the man who found the gold bracelets has made a number of other finds – and he was part of a 100-person group searching the Forest of Dean that weekend.

I’m in the process of getting a First Year Seminar called “Stealing Art/Saving Art” approved for next fall. The main topic is understanding cultural property – who owns art? One of the units I’m planning is a compare and contrast between the practices and legal situation of metal detectorists in the UK and tombaroli in Italy. The British experiment beginning in the 1990s (I believe) with allowing detectorists to profit from their finds legally has been wonderful for archaeology. Meanwhile, in Italy, where the finds are much bigger, no one but the State (through its designates) can excavate anything legally.

You mean that’s a Van Dyck over there in the corner?

A British effort to put pictures of all the oil paintings in the UK online pays off – an art historian spotted a previously unknown Van Dyck portrait.

The painting, which was not thought to be important and in a bad condition, was covered in layers of dirt and varnish and was not on display at the Bowes Museum.


But it was photographed as part of the Public Catalogue Foundation’s mission to document every oil painting in public ownership and added to the BBC’s Your Paintings website, where it was spotted by art historian and dealer Dr Bendor Grosvenor.


“Although as part of our national heritage values are irrelevant, for insurance purposes it should now be valued at anything up to £1m,” Dr Grosvenor said.


“Had it appeared at auction as a copy, and in its dirty state, it would probably only have been estimated at about £3,000-5,000.”

Grosvenor runs Art History News – here’s an example of what he’s doing with this picture.

The general initiative is called Your Paintings.

Ptolemy Dean, Surveyor of the Fabric of Westminster Abbey . . .

Ptolemy Dean, Surveyor of the Fabric of Westminster Abbey.  It sounds like a young adult book title, almost, but he really is the 19th Surveyor of the Fabric of Westminster. Who names a child Ptolemy? Parents who are sure their little darling will grow up to be someone interesting!

He’s got plans for Westminster Abbey, too – we might be able to get up into the triforium (the gallery between the arches of the nave arcade and the visible stained glass windows above) soon!

50,000 Celtic coins found on Jersey

Not in Jersey, on Jersey. The Channel Island, not the State. The story.

Click and look at the picture in this version – the find is a block that weighs 3/4 of a ton!

There’s almost no way to have a find of that size without it eventually telling us things we didn’t know about, say, Celtic exchange and trade around the time of Julius Caesar.

The President of the 57 States Strikes Again

Is this the worst foreign presidential trip ever? I mean even George Bush, Sr., only threw up on a Japanese prime minister once.

The Falklands? The Malvinas? No, no, he called them the Maldives. So let’s offend our actual ally, the UK, to suck up to a South American failed state that has never been particularly friendly, Argentina. But then let’s call the islands by the name of another place entirely. Did he leave the teleprompter at home?

Oh – if you doubt that the candidate Obama was being given extra credit by the media during his first campaign, here’s the 57 States moment. Less Alaska and Hawaii. So are there 59?

Is he funny? Or Bushian? Or was Obama just a wildly overestimated human being? I vote for the last. Oh – no, I didn’t vote for any of the 3 interpretations; I voted against him (not for McCain/Palin. Did anyone vote for Biden, by the way?). Somehow I didn’t believe all my colleagues who thought this was the smartest candidate ever, the best-spoken candidate in living memory, the man who would execute a generational Democratic Party shift, etc, etc. I think Mr. Obama has disappointed everyone who is willing to admit to his or her honest impression.

I guess this mis-speaking isn’t as bad as the way his Secret Service detail is behaving. But when you have to rely on whoremongering to get you off the hook, that’s not a strong international presence.