Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Looting of Kuwaiti Museums

Some sort of a tempest in a tea cup is going on about Donny George's role in the Iraqi looting of Kuwait, and David Gill has even felt the need to issue a press release. I'm a little surprised that this has become an issue again.

I interviewed Donny George way back in 2006, and asked him about it; he told me, in front of a British Museum employee and on tape, his own account of his role in the Iraqi looting of Kuwaiti Museums.

It was old news at the time, and many of us were aware of the fact that Dr George had helped pack up the collections (museum and private) in Kuwait in 1990. It wasn't news to me. It wasn't news to the British Museum employee. And when I wrote up the related conference going on in London for Minerva Magazine, it wasn't news to the editor, who didn't think it was worth including in the summary (available online here).

Yes, Donny George was very much involved in the Iraqi looting of Kuwaiti cultural property. No, Dr George's life is not whiter than white, but then again whose is? He's been working in the real world rather than an Ivory Tower, and so he has had to get his hands dirty over the years. Oh, and let's not forget that Saddam Hussein was in charge of Iraq at the time - so Dr George wouldn't really have been able to say 'no' ... Obviously I wish that the contents of the private collections had been as scrupulously returned as those of the Museum, but it was not to be. The man is not perfect, but he was just obeying orders, and sometimes that's the only option people feel they have.

1 comment:

Peter Pascal said...

I went to a contemporary art fair in Shanghai recently, which was a real eye-opener. Chinese contemporary art
has come leaps and bounds from the watery Zen landscapes to huge canvases of strange-looking beings. The
prices being asked and paid were huge too.
Oriental, if not Chinese, my print of Jean-Léon Gérôme's painting, http://en.wahooart.com/A55A04/w.nsf/OPRA/BRUE-8BWS6R,
bought some time ago from wahooart.com, is as lovely as ever.

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