Experts Say Artifacts at De Young Museum Looted
SAN FRANCISCO, April 24, 2006—San Francisco's de Young Museum has come under fire since revealing a newly donated collection of Papua New Guinea tribal artifacts. Experts in the field have closely examined the 400 works and concluded that at least 9 were likely looted from the impoverished island nation, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
The $100 million collection, being donated to the museum by Annenberg family heir John Friede, was cross examined in the latest edition of Nature magazine. Experts identified nine items, including a wooden gong and a carving of a copulating woman, that could "allegedly be traced back to worldwide trade networks, in which misappropriated specimens are sold to antiquities dealers," West Coast correspondent Rex Dalton wrote in Nature.
Anthropologists had already sounded the alarm even before Nature published the article. One anthropologist, who had once worked at New Guinea's national museum in Port Moresby, questioned whether a mask in the collection had been judged a cultural treasure by the New Guinea government, and therefore should never have left the island, immediately after the exhibition opened. In February, a second anthropologist from the Bay Area identified two other pieces from the collection that raised concern.
Christina Hellmich, recently hired as the curator of the de Young's New Guinea collection, said there was "absolutely no question" that Friede bought the artifacts on good faith from international dealers and hadn't engaged in illegal exports from Papua New Guinea. Friede plans to donate about 3,000 relics to the de Young.The San Francisco Chronicle: War Drums Pound over de Young Display
Images © 2006 Corporation of the Fine Arts Museums, photographer: Jorge Bachman.
San Francisco magazine (May Issue)
Whose Art Is It Anyway? by Michael Stoll.
LATimes, June 3, 2006
The Papua New Guinea De Young dilemma
By Lee Romney
Papua New Guinea claims the San Francisco museum doesn't have a right to items in an exquisite collection. It adds a twist in the debate over cultural treasures.