De Young Museum Visit and Teotihuacan Mural Gallery
In this response paper I seek to analyze the ethical, legal, and museological issues that surround the Teotihuacan Mural Gallery from the de Young Museum. The gallery is inside the Art of Americas section of the museum on the ground floor. A simple room, the Teotihuacan Mural Gallery is a dim lit space dim lit space that has large mural fragments along the walls, a bench in the center of the room, and a display stand featuring small fragment pieces. A placard on the wall pays respect and expresses gratitude to Harald Wagner, a Pre-Colombian art collector who gifted the collection to the de Young Museum and mentions the great efforts put into displaying these Mexican national treasurers. While the mural gallery at appears to be nothing more than the typical non-Western cultural art and ancient artifacts showcase, the book Feathered Serpents and Flowering Trees discusses the Teotihuacan murals, the history of the murals, and the impact they had on the art world. Again, the artwork fragments from the Teotihuacan Mural Gallery came to the de Young Museum as a surprise bequeathal from Harald Wagner, a Pre-Colombian art collector and San Francisco native. The first segment in Feathered Serpents and Flowering Trees written by Thomas K. Seligman describes the gift as both “unexpected” as well as an “ethical dilemma.” Seligman discussed how the de Young Museum collaborated with the National Museum of Mexico and UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) while dealing with the ethical, legal and museological issues surrounding the enormous, seventy-plus piece gift. Seligman explained how the “Museum’s initial concern was for the safety of [the] very fragile objects” (Seligman 16), and how after the immediate museological concerns of artwork preservation was addressed that the more convoluted issues involving cultural patrimony and the return of Mexican national treasures. The...
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