Art and War
From the rescue of artworks in WWII to current endangered art in Middle East
Wars threaten people’s lives. Moreover, it endangers art and cultural properties in the occupied states. There are many examples from around the world. Currently, besides killing more than 100,000 people, Syria's civil war is exacting another irreparable toll as historic sites and artworks are looted or destroyed in the fighting.1 This also happened in the 2003 War in Iraq. Baghdad’s Iraq Museum was looted because US force failed to protect it. Thieves plundered an estimated 15,000 items, many of them choice antiquities: ritual vessels, heads from sculptures, amulets, Assyrian ivories and more than 5,000 cylinder seals.2 Regarding this tragic loss, three White House cultural advisers resigned in protest at the failure of US forces to prevent the looting of Iraq's national museum.3 However, this lack of response has not always been the case. Seventy years ago, during World War II, the US played a role of hero by sending a team of art historians and curators, who were called the “Monuments Men”. They rescued artistic masterpieces from Nazi thieves and returned them to their rightful owners. Currently, there are many controversies over art properties during wartime, such as who should be responsible to protect artworks, the occupied state or the invader, and how can we protect artworks during wartime.
I would like to propose a lecture on the destruction and protection of art during the wartime at the National Gallery of Art (NGA) in Washington DC. This museum is an ideal site because of the following reasons. 1) The mission of the NGA is to serve the United States of America in a national role by preserving, collecting, exhibiting, and fostering the understanding of works of art at the highest possible museum and scholarly standards. This art and war controversy fosters a national level conversation. 2) Since the Gallery’s role as an institution dedicated to...
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