Where the heck have I been? A valid question, I grant you. I have been where the Internet lines are shaky and the sunshine-dappled cafes entirely more enticing than fighting a losing battle with technology. I've been in Paris, conducting interviews for "Stealing with the Pharaohs," and making sure the City of Light still merits its reputation. (It does, it does.) I'm equally glad to report that the Louvre finally coughed up its officials. I was able to interview Henri Loyrette, the director of the Louvre, about the question of looted antiquities and the role of museums in an age of restitution demands. I also met various other French characters, including the official in charge of those very restitution demands and acquisitions for all French museums, Anne Distel. And, most fun of all, an 85-year-old antiquities dealer whose son is the fourth generation of antiquity sellers -- and the last. Roger Khawam is closing up shop and moving to New York. But not before his father spilled lots of juicy stories about how to get around the ban on antiquities exports. But you'll have to wait for the book.
“Sharon Waxman has written a compelling page turner about the world of antiquities and art-world skulduggery. She manages to combine rigorous, scholarly reporting with a flair for intrigue and personality that gives Loot the fast pace of a novel. I enjoyed it immensely."
“Sharon Waxman’s Loot is the most instructive as well as the most intelligent (and the most entertaining) guide through the labyrinth of antiquity and the ways in which the claims of the departed intersect with the rights of the living.”
"Loot is a riveting foray into the biggest question facing museums today: who should own the great works of ancient art? Sharon Waxman is a first-rate reporter, a veritable Euphronios of words, who not only explores the legal and moral ambiguities of the conflict but brings to life the colorful -- even outrageous -- personalities facing off for a high noon showdown over some of the world’s iconic works of art. Vivid, witty, and delightful, this book will beguile any reader with an interest in art and museums."
“Sharon Waxman approaches her subject with the passion of a great journalist and the rigor of a scholar. It may never again be possible for some of us to walk down the halls of the Louvre or the British Museum or the Metropolitan without a vague sense of disquietude, a frisson of wonder about the provenance of some of their showcase works of ancient art.”
Karl E. Meyer, author of The Plundered Past and co-author of Kingmakers: The Invention of the Modern Middle East:
"Sharon Waxman’s Loot is indispensable for everyone concerned with the illicit trade in smuggled antiquities. She exposes the self-serving humbug that too often afflicts both affluent possessors and righteous nationalists and shows that we all have a stake in getting an honest account of how great objects came to rest in our grandest museums."
May 28, 2007
May 13, 2007
This is Aphrodite, they think. She is the Getty Museum's most prized classical sculpture, the only example in this country of a cult statue, meaning the figure that stood in the midst of a temple in ancient times, worshipped as the deity herself. But she, just like a heartstopping gold wreath that just went back to Greece, will probably be leaving the museum soon. I explain why in a piece in Saturday's paper: "The Getty has not reached a formal conclusion based on the conference, which was convened at the museum on Wednesday and was closed to the public. But museum officials and some of the experts who attended said their discussions buttressed what the museum says are its own suspicions that the statue, acquired by the Getty in 1988, might have been illegally excavated in southern Italy. (Here's the rest.)
And further on the topic of headache-inducing requests from source countries, our pal Zahi Hawass, Egypt's chief of antiquities, is making lots of noise about the five pieces he wants returned -- loaned, is what he calls it, for the moment -- to Egypt. One is the Rosetta Stone, at the British Museum, another is the famed bust of Nefertiti (see her to your left on my blog) in Berlin. The Boston Museum of Fine Arts also has a piece that he wants back. This is the start, not the end, of a new chapter in east-west cultural relations.