Scribner Seminar Program
Den of Antiquities: The Illicit Market in Ancient Art
Instructor(s): Leslie Mechem, Classics
What is the difference between collecting and looting antiquities? What constitutes ownership of an art object? What distinguishes individual from museum collections? What are the ethical obligations of collectors? Students will examine the trade in antiquities stretching from the first "collector"--a Roman general who stole art from Sicily after sacking it in 212 BCE--to Lord Elgin's "purchase" of the Parthenon marbles in 1806, to the current scandals in the trading of ancient art which have embroiled NYC's Metropolitan Museum and the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles. Our discussions will include the most recent controversies that have embroiled the museum, gallery and auction‑house worlds, pitting national interests against private enterprise. Various museum collections will serve as a laboratory for our study of these questions: the Tang, local museums, and the Metropolitan Museum in NYC.