The “plundered art” blog just passed its first anniversary.
This might be a good time to revisit its reason for existence.
It’s not that simple to decide one day: “Oh! Let’s write about the restitution of art objects looted by those Nazis and Fascists during the 1930s and 1940s and how so much of it was never returned to the rightful owners and why the current owners of those objects look for every way under the sun not to return those objects and why governments pretend that there is no problem.”
This blog is certainly not about settling scores, old and new.
It’s actually a complicated beast.
At first, I was very shy about putting anything in writing about an issue that has already absorbed several decades of my life. Truth be told, the initial motivation for this blog was to share the story of the Holocaust Art Restitution Project (HARP), how it came into existence and what it was able to accomplish.
The telling of HARP’s story has not been a simple affair and is still incomplete.
It runs afoul of important and enduring taboos:
As of now, the following items remain unanswered, more than sixty-five years after plunder was denounced at the International Military Tribunal at Nurnberg as a crime against humanity and a war crime:
To make a long story short, for now, the telling of HARP’s story ran afoul of these unanswered questions and the overwhelming taboo that endures today as strongly as it did two decades ago of venerable institutions that seek to educate the world about the Holocaust and genocide and yet refuse out of principle—yes, OUT OF PRINCIPLE!—to avoid at all costs any discussion, any debate, any addressing in any way, shape or form, of the question of cultural plunder, despite the fact that millions of members of the Jewish community suffered unspeakable losses, physical, material, and spiritual—among them, the loss of objects that tied them to culture—their own and that of others.
Let’s be clear about one thing: it is far easier to ignore the problem than to address it. And for those who seek to address it absent any filters, any caveats, any disclaimers, any compromises, the road is long, steep, and lonely. But every time progress is made, however small, even the mere existence of this blog, justifies the desire to induce even the slightest change in society’s approach to the question of cultural rights, cultural ownership, and cultural restitution.
The second year of the “plundered art” blog opens on a renewed commitment to speak, document, critique, applaud, proclaim, advocate and document, document, and document more. Because transparency is the only way by which we can grasp the full breadth and scope of the problem, a problem made so complicated by those who oppose restitution. Those who refuse to address it are simply acting as accomplices, aiding and abetting in the crime of rewriting history by denying its existence.
I wish to thank you, our readers, listeners, observers, and critics alike, for checking into “plundered art.” I invite you to continue.
Year two promises to explore cultural plunder in other realms, like the Far East, the universality of cultural rights and its nemesis, cultural plunder; and the search for enduring, long-term solutions to remedy the ills of cultural thefts anchored in mass conflict, genocide, ethnocide, and other forms of wholesale persecutions perpetrated by a State or a group against individuals because of who they are and what they are.
Works and objects will be discussed with dubious ownership histories which are displayed, bought, and sold, across the globe.
And, of course, there is no shortage of historical information on plundered objects that have either been restituted or remain out of reach of their rightful owners.
Until next time…