Greek Antiques in Times of Economic Crisis

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January 21, 2011 – The Greek journalist Lori Keza published an article in the Greek daily paper ‘To Vima’ on October 31, 2010, in which she critically discussed the sensitivities of her compatriots, when it comes to utilising ancient Greek culture for fundraising purposes. Using the example of the Marathon run along the historical route, which is actually only popular with foreigners, she complains that residents along the route are far more interested in their own comforts than in the cash flow, which the Greek economy could generate from this international event.

Keza covers topics like sponsoring and historical leisure parks, and one particular topic, which all those should pay attention to, who work with cultural assets of any kind:
“Another source of income and another taboo: the cellars of archaeological museums are stacked high with finds that will never be seen in any exhibit, because neither the necessary funds nor the locales for them can be provided, and also because more often than not there is no real need to do so, as there are so many specimens of the same type. At the National Archaeological Museum alone, 140,000 exhibits are in storage, among them: countless unknown masterpieces. Would it really be so extreme to select and keep the rarest and most valuable for ourselves, and sell off the rest? The wealth of antiques in halls and warehouses in Greek territories would suggest that it would be reasonable to do so. 40,000 finds from North Pieria are hidden away in far-flung buildings in Macedonia. What are these? Quoting relevant reports: “Iron and bronze weapons, jewellery made from gold, silver, copper, iron, bone and glass. Ceramic and glass vases, vessels of silver, copper and lead; figurines and decorative shapes that were used for embellishing wooden bed frames – in ivory or terracotta. Coins – mostly in copper, but often also made of silver and even gold.” These finds have been piling up for over 20 years alongside tens of thousands of others from other counties. Wouldn’t it make more sense if these were to be exhibited in foreign museums at their own terms? Or they could be used for decorative purposes in private collections in exchange for some compensation for the Greek Treasury? And if their sale would really cause national agony – well, then they could simply be leased out for about 40 years.”

An interesting thought – even more so, as it comes from a highly regarded and popular columnist, and was published in the widely read Sunday edition of the most important newspaper for and by the intellectual elite of Greece.

The International Association of Dealers in Ancient Art (IADAA) is adamant that cultural relics, which are of crucial importance for the national identity of a country, should remain in their country of origin. If however, the protection, exhibition and proper maintenance of objects, which are not of outstanding importance cannot be assured, such pieces should be made available to the international market, thus entrusting their care to other museums or private collectors. This would serve the best interests of effective protection of cultural heritage.