ARCENCPostings

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Art expert slams Toledo museum on sale of antiquities - The Blade


http://www.toledoblade.com/Art/2016/10/24/Art-expert-slams-Toledo-museum-nbsp-sale-of-nbsp-antiquities.html
  • Among the 68 total items for sale in the auction are several Egyptian shabtis, or funeral figurines, including the one above, and many examples of Egyptian pottery.

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Art expert slams Toledo museum on sale of antiquities

Auction of 68 pieces from Egypt, Cyprus, Greece and Italy spurs ire

Items in the online auction include a Roman bronze strigil, which is a curved blade used to scrape the skin to get rid of sweat and dirt after a bath or exercise.

Joan Connelly, a renowned art expert, nationally known archaeologist, professor, and winner of the MacArthur Foundation Genius Award, has strongly criticized the Toledo Museum of Art’s auction of nearly 70 antiquities originally from Egypt and other countries.

Ms. Connelly, a Toledo native and professor of classics and art history at New York University, said she felt sick to her stomach when she learned of the sale. Viewing items such as these antiquities at the Toledo Museum of Art is what inspired her to become an archaeologist, she said.

“It’s just, for me, puzzling and distressing to see this shortsighted decision,” Ms. Connelly told The Blade Sunday. “As an archaeologist I’m just astounded any museum would sell off items with good provenance, which can be held forever.”

Joan Connelly, a renowned art expert, nationally known archaeologist, professor, and winner of the MacArthur Foundation Genius Award, has strongly criticized the Toledo Museum of Art’s auction of nearly 70 antiquities originally from Egypt and other countries.

Modern international cultural heritage laws make it impossible to acquire such antiquities, meaning the Toledo museum is unlikely to ever be able to replace the objects if leaders would choose to do so, she said.

“I think they’re all a great loss to Toledo,” she said of the items. Even, she said, if the museum has other very similar items to those being put up for sale, she said that multiples are always more powerful in teaching about the ancient experience.

The auction of antiquities is being done through an online sale and a Tuesday auction in New York.

The sale is not only being decried by Ms. Connelly, who knows the antiquities well, but also by officials of the government of Egypt, who have called for the auction to be stopped.

About half of the 68 items for sale are from Egypt and the rest are from Cyprus, Greece, and Italy. Some of the objects have been available in an online sale that began Oct. 19 and will close Tuesday. The rest will be sold at an auction of antiquities at Christie’s in New York City on Tuesday.

The museum’s offerings at the Tuesday auction include pieces of Egyptian pottery, bowls, jars, and cups, along with an alabaster jar lid in the form of the Egyptian god Hapi, bronze cats, a bronze falcon, and a limestone model of Ptolemy I.

Items in the online auction include a Roman bronze strigil, which is a curved blade used to scrape the skin to get rid of sweat and dirt after a bath or exercise, from the first or second century; several Egyptian shabtis, or funeral figurines; and Egyptian pottery.

Among the items being sold on the online auction, which ends Tuesday, is an Apulian red-figured kantharos.

Ms. Connelly is a graduate of St. Ursula Academy and Princeton University. She majored in classics at Princeton University and received her PhD in classical and near eastern archaeology at Bryn Mawr College, where she later served as assistant dean and as a member of the board of trustees.

In 1996, Ms. Connelly was awarded a MacArthur Foundation Genius Award for her work in Greek art, myth, and religion. A field archaeologist, she has excavated throughout Greece, Kuwait, and Cyprus where, since 1990, she has directed the NYU Yeronisos Island Expedition. She is an honorary citizen of Peyia Municipality, Cyprus .

She called the museum a cultural lifeline in the Midwest that has led many people to their career choice.

She learned about the sale, for instance, from a renowned art historian as they rode the train to a board of members meeting at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J. The historian told her that he grew up in Fort Wayne, Ind., and had visited the Toledo museum as a youngster and said, “That’s why I’m an art historian,” Ms. Connelly recalled.

And, of course, she said that visits to the museum led to her life’s work.

So here were two people who would not have been headed to the Institute meeting, except for the Toledo Museum of Art.

But then he told her that the museum was selling a chunk of its antiquities collection and pulled up the catalog on his phone.

Ms. Connelly said she remembered seeing those items at the museum and felt absolutely sick at the thought of the sale.

“Those objects moved me deeply and inspired me,” she said. The Egyptian government also has expressed opposition to the sale in Egyptian news coverage.

An official with Egypt’s antiquities ministry told the Egyptian news organization Ahram Online in a story published Friday that the country would seek to stop the sale.

Shaaban Abdel Gawad, of the ministry’s antiquities repatriation department, told the news organization that the Egyptian government had contacted UNESCO and the International Committee of Museums, asking that they work with the Egyptian embassy in the United States to halt the auctions and have the items returned to their countries of origin.

Toledo museum director Brian Kennedy said the sale is expected to generate about $500,000, which can be used to acquire new works of art.

Among the items being sold on the online auction is an Egyptian black-topped pottery jar. A prominent archaeologist has criticized the sale as a mistake.

Mr. Kennedy said the objects were chosen by the Toledo Museum of Art’s art committee during a review of the antiquities collection that took about two years. The museum’s board approved the list of objects for sale, he said.

The process is called deaccession. The Toledo museum used a similar process to choose items to sell from its modern contemporary collection in 2002, its Old Masters collection in 2006, and its Asian art collection in 2008 .

Once the items are selected for deaccession, the museum prefers to sell them at public auction because that method is the most transparent, he said.

“We have hundreds and hundreds of antiquities,” Mr. Kennedy said. “These were determined to be not up to the quality of our current collection.”

Many of the objects have not been on display for decades, or only have been periodically on display, said Candace Harrison, the museum’s communication director. The objects have not generally appeared in museum literature and scholars have not asked to study them, she said.

Most of the items for sale have been with the museum since the early 20th century, Mr. Kennedy said. Many were acquired directly from their countries of origin in the 1910s and 1920s, with some coming to Toledo as late as 1972.

A catalog of the items can be seen online at christies.com.

Contact Wynne Everett at: weverett@theblade.com, or 419-724-6081, or on Twitter @wynneeverett.


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