Preserving the World's Art Treasures?

Dates:April 15 - May 13, 2020
Meets:W from 6:45 PM to 8:15 PM, 5 sessions
Hours:7.50
Instructor:Instructor Information
Fee: $142.00

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Course Description

Gary Vikan, Program Coordinator

We all have strong opinions about the right and wrong of cultural property preservation: How should Notre Dame be restored? Should the Elgin Marbles go back to Greece? How about ISIS and the Assyrian statues their henchmen pulverized in Mosul? Wouldn't it have been better had those sculptures been spirited out to the Met or the Walters decades ago? And closer to home: Should those sexist murals in the lobby of Shriver Auditorium be covered over? Why do we care so passionately? And are we becoming modern day iconoclasts?

Apr. 15 Why Do We Care? Who gets to Decide?
This talk, as an introduction to those that follow, will explore the puzzling questions of why some monuments and images have enormous power over us, of who "owns" the world's art treasures, and of who has the right to decide their fate?
Gary Vikan, Ph.D., former director of the Walters Art Museum, is, in retirement, an aspiring author and a sometimes Byzantinist. His two most recent books are Sacred and Stolen: Confessions of a Museum Director (2016) and The Holy Shroud: Brilliant Hoax in the Time of the Black Death (2020). He has just completed his childhood memoir, Pictures Left Behind of Growing up in Minnesota.

Apr. 22 Preserving the Treasure from the Acropolis Museum
The Elgin Marbles are a source of controversy between modern Britain and Greece. It is about an extensive collection, some 247 feet of a frieze removed from the ruins of the Ancient Greek Parthenon in the nineteenth century. Thomas Bruce, Seventh Lord Elgin claims that he RESCUED these works during his service as Ambassador to the Court of the Ottoman Sultan in Istanbul between 1801-05. Now Greece wants them back. Do the citizens of modern Greece have any claim over items produced in their region by people thousands of years ago? Surely there are no easy answers, but many controversial ones.
Joseph Paul Cassar, Ph.D., is an artist, art historian, curator and educator. He studied at the Accademia di Belle Arti, Pietro Vannucci, Perugia, Italy, the School of Art in Malta (Europe), and at Charles Sturt University in NSW, Australia. He lectures at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC, Towson University, and Johns Hopkins University, among others.

Apr. 29 Saving Iraq's Cultural Heritage in a Time of War
Looting of the National Museum in Baghdad during the Iraq War and the subsequent destruction of pre-Islamic cultural heritage in Iraq and Syria by ISIS shocked the world. Such significant loss has galvanized efforts to protect and preserve global cultural heritage, especially during times of conflict. This lecture provides a case study focusing on a collaborative project to save Iraq's badly damaged ancient Nimrud ivory treasure and a broader initiative to train Iraqis to preserve their cultural heritage to international standards.
Terry Weisser, former Director of Conservation & Technical Research at the Walters Art Museum, earned degrees from Swarthmore College and University of London. She teaches at Winterthur/University of Delaware Conservation Training Program, and has published widely on preservation subjects. She serves on the Advisory Council of the Iraqi Institute for Conservation of Antiquities and Heritage and received the ICOM-US Service Award for her work training Iraqi conservators.

May 6 Resisting Preservation: Complications in Modern and Contemporary Art
The preservation of significant artworks may seem like a simple and laudable goal, but many celebrated modern and contemporary pieces complicate the issue. The use of fragile or specific materials can raise difficult questions involving artistic intent and effect, while some artists' embrace of ephemerality poses philosophical complications. And how can, say, a work of performance art be meaningfully preserved? This class will focus on numerous examples and the increasingly nuanced conversation addressing their conservation.
Kerr Houston, Ph.D., is Professor of Art History, Theory and Criticism at MICA, where he has taught since 2002. He is the author of The Place of the Viewer: The Embodied Beholder in the History of Art, 1764-1968 (Brill, 2019) and An Introduction to Art Criticism (Pearson, 2013), and has published numerous articles on Renaissance, modern and contemporary art. He is also a regular contributor to BmoreArt, and an occasional instructor for Odyssey and for JHU's MLA program.

May 13 Panel Discussion: Wrap Up
The Perspective ends with all of our esteemed Odyssey lecturers, led by Gary Vikan, discussing the controversy generated by this extraordinary topic. Questions from enrolled students are welcome.