Monday, February 8, 2010

Art and Politics Collide Over "Cyrus Cylinder"

This article highlights many of the external issues that surround artworks, art collecting, art exhibition, etc. that we’ve been discussing this week in class.

Just a few hours ago, an argument between Iranian and British cultural institutions reached its peak, with Iran “cutting ties” with the British Museum in London. The dispute has been brewing for months, over a British loan (lack thereof, really) of a 6th century B.C. tablet called the Cyrus Cylinder.

The British Museum had agreed, over a year ago, to loan the tablet to Tehran for an exhibit being hosted by the Iranian government. However, due to “technical reasons,” as well as the turmoil that accompanied Iran’s presidential elections last summer, and many other political issues (think disagreement over nuclear programs, Western involvement in Eastern domestic issues, and the like), the deal was never completed. Sunday the 7th was created as the new deadline for the transfer, and again the tablet was not delivered.

The most relevant part of the article comes here:

"The Cyrus Cylinder has been turned from a cultural issue into a political one by the British," Baqaei said, adding that Iran "will sever all its ties with the British Museum, which has become a political institution."

What Vice President Baqaei is really highlighting, though, is the fact that issues of culture are also always issues of politics, institutions of culture are also political institutions. The two are inextricably linked.

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