Latest update on the De Young…

Regular readers of Material World will note that I’ve been following the media coverage on the Friede/Jolika collection fracas at the De Young. So many wrong things here. The latest news is that the government of PNG, having publicly endorsed the collection after several anthropologists case doubts on the dubious provenance of some of the pieces, are finally making a stink about the fact that the De Young has had to deaccession some of the pieces to auction in order to pay off Friede’s debts…Here is the coverage…
If you were searching for a case study about the disjunct between collection ethics and collectors you could hardly find a better example.
Just to balance things however, I look at the American Indian Ritual Object Repatriation Foundation, founded by notable collector Elizabeth Sackler. The foundation started out using its collecting power to return objects that turned up at auction to source communities, but has now removed itself from the market, and positions itself as a mediator to instigate return and encourage a new form of ethical collection. Really impressive stuff and the only model I have found coming out of the market to really call for an engaged activist position for collectors…
I use both of these cases for teaching in my course on cultural property rights and museums.
H. Geismar.

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