Tuesday, April 21, 2015

To buy or not to buy

DILEMMA: History dies in ISIL’s hands, but curators worry buying artifacts would fund terrorism (Joseph Brean, The National Post).
As ISIL terrorists use power drills, bulldozers and explosives to destroy the cultural and architectural heritage of ancient Mesopotamia — Christian, Muslim and pre-Abrahamic from the ancient Assyrian capital Nimrud to the tomb of the Biblical Jonah in Mosul — western curators hoping to preserve what is left are caught in a dilemma.

Some want to buy artifacts to protect and preserve them, such as James Cuno, president of the J. Paul Getty Trust, the world’s wealthiest art institution, who has described the vandalism as “an argument for why portable works of art should be distributed throughout the world and not concentrated in one place.”

But others are loudly calling for an effective ban on trade in Assyrian antiquities and other relics from the war zone. They say the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is not simply eradicating the idolatry it denounces as heretical, but in fact is hypocritically selling what it can on a black market, and destroying everything else. In this view, buying artifacts to preserve them in Western galleries is tantamount to funding terrorism.

This is a very difficult, no-win situation and I do not have a solution.

Background on ISIS's assault on the past is here with many links.