World Monuments Fund Watch List

The World Monuments Fund has announced its 2010 “watch list”, and two sites from here in New Orleans have made the list.  The first is St. Louis Cemetery No. 2, and the modern glass and steel Phillis Wheatley Elementary School. 

St. Louis Cemetery was opened in 1823.  The tombs are above ground—a necessity because of the ground water levels, and in keeping with French and Spanish tradition.  It was created by and for the city’s “free people of color.”  St. Louis #2 contains the remains of some of the earliest and jazz and blues musicians, including Danny Barker.  It was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.  It contains some remarkable examples of cemetery art, and Creole history.  The cemetery is at risk from vandalism, water lines from the flooding during Hurricane Katrina, and neglect. 

File:All Saints Day in New Orleans -- Decorating the Tombs.jpg

These New Orleans sites join the ranks of Herat in Afghanistan, the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Machu Picchu, Taos in New Mexico, and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin homes in Wisconsin and Arizona.  

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Louvre to Return Egyptian frescos

Egypt’s decision to force France to return the potentially looted frescos has proven very successful.  The objects, allegedly stolen from Egyptian tombs in the 1980’s had been purchased by the Louvre in 2000 and 2003.  At least two consequences of this decision will soon emerge.

First, how many other nations of origin will attempt to make similar claims?  Egypt ceased all ongoing archaeological digs by French archaeologists.  Was this a threat only reserved for objects which may have been looted recently?  Will this set the precedent for this kind of treatment by German archaeologists if the bust of Nerfertiti isn’t returned to Egypt?

Second, might this signal renewed scrutiny of the acquisition practices of museums outside the US?  Much of the discussion has rightly focused on wrongdoing by some American museums and dealers.  But what of their counterparts around the world?  Shouldn’t they be subjected to the same scrutiny?

Louvre to return Egyptian frescos, BBC Oct. 9, 2009.

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Free Wally!

 The 10-year battle over the rights to this work may soon be nearing the beginning of the end:

A federal judge in Manhattan ruled that the U.S. government and the Leopold Museum in Vienna have enough evidence to possibly lay claim to the “Portrait of Wally.”  The painting by Austrian expressionist Schiele in 1912 depicts his mistress and primary model.    The U.S. government confiscated the painting when it was on loan from the Leopold, claiming the museum knew the painting had been stolen by a Nazi in 1939 from its Jewish owner, Lea Bondi.   The Leopold sent more than 100 works by Schiele to New York’s Museum of Modern Art in 1997.  Acting on information that two paintings had been looted in Austria during World War II, Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau seized “Portrait of Wally” and “Dead City” from the museum.

And the work has been in storage ever since.

Jonathan Perlow, Dispute Over Schiele Painting Heads to Trial [Courthouse News Service, Oct. 7, 2009]

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