The Art World Faces Its Challenges

ATHENS – Should the British Museum return an ancient sculpture known as the Marbles Parthenon to Greece? Does the art world contribute to global warming? Is the hot market for digital art known as NFT over?

These are among the most annoying challenges facing the art world today, especially the question of how – or whether – to return what many see as looted art, such as the Parthenon Marbles, to their rightful owners.

These issues and more were debated vigorously last week at the Art for Tomorrow conference in Athens, a three-day meeting of art administrators, artists, cultural entrepreneurs, galleries and collectors held in conjunction with The New York Times. Among the featured guests were artist Jeff Koons, who talked about sending his latest creation to the moon with the help of SpaceX Elon Musk; Brian Donnelly, better known as Kaws, who recalls his beginnings as a graffiti artist; and billionaire Greek entrepreneur Dimitris Daskalopoulos, who recalls his recent contribution of more than 350 works to museums, including the Guggenheim and the Tate.

Appropriately, the question of restoration was discussed in front of the 2,500-year-old Parthenon on the terrace of the Acropolis Museum, housing about half of the surviving marble sculptures that were part of the Parthenon’s original decoration. The others are in the British Museum, after Lord Elgin, the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire (which ruled Greece at the time) had issued them two centuries ago.

Greece’s claim for marbles was unsuccessful because the British Museum was prohibited from donating any collectibles. But last week, museum chairman George Osborne said, “I think there’s a deal to be done” – which marbles can be shown in both London and Athens – as long as there’s no “prerequisite burden” or “a lot of red lines.”

Since then, a number of British lawmakers have told the Greek press that the marbles should be returned, and a group of scholars and supporters of the return of the statue showed up at the British Museum on Monday.

Greece did not officially respond at the conference to a statement by Mr Osborne. Instead, the director general of the Acropolis Museum, Nikolaos Stampolidis, issued a statement, read out during his absence, in which he described the Marbles Parthenon as representing a procession that symbolizes Athenian democracy.

“The violent removal of half of the decorations from the Parthenon can be thought of, in fact, as isolating, dividing and depriving half of the participants in the actual procession, and detaining them as captives in foreign lands,” said En. Stampolidis in his statement. “It consists of destruction, disruption, disunity and the abandonment of the idea of ​​democracy.”

“The question arises: Who is the owner of the ‘captive?'” He asked. “The museum where they were imprisoned, or the place where they were born?”

Although the British Museum was not represented on the panel, Victoria & Albert Museum director Tristram Hunt, one of the speakers, explained the legal ban on returning objects.

He said the law was introduced because as recently as the late 1970s, “so much had been destroyed and given away” by museum trustees, including works of African furniture and design deemed “worthless”, and plaster castings South Asian monuments and sculptures.

Today, new laws on the restoration of cultural heritage are not a priority for politicians or voters, said Mr Hunt, a former MP. Instead, the museum seems to be working with the government demanding to “think about how we share this collection,” including as part of a long -term loan, even though the government said, “You want us to borrow from you stuff you stole from us?”

One panelist, British writer Tiffany Jenkins, defended the status quo. Keeping half of the marbles in Athens and the other half in London was, he argued, “an excellent situation.”

“Here, you can see it in the context of pre-classical Athens,” he said, “and also look across the Acropolis and think,‘ God, that’s where they really are. ’“ In the British Museum, ”you can see it in the context of world civilization. ”

“That considers me a win-win,” he added.

Among other issues discussed at the conference was the future of NFT: digital certificates of ownership and authenticity that are assessed in cryptocurrencies and stored in blockchain.

NFT has been a hotly -traded art market commodity since March 2021, when Mike Winkelmann – better known as Beeple digital artist – sold one for $ 69.3 million in a Christie’s online auction. By the end of the year, NFT’s market capitalization had increased from $ 400 million to $ 16.7 billion.

However, in recent weeks, cryptocurrencies have fallen freely, eroding the value of the digital artwork attached to them. And NFTs face criticism for their carbon footprint: According to Cambridge University research, Bitcoin mining (the leading cryptocurrency) uses more energy in a year than Pakistan’s.

The three speakers on the NFT panel – all of whom are involved in making or dealing in the medium – defend it as a legitimate artistic endeavor rather than a way to generate easy cash.

“We’re a business at the end of the day, and our profits are to make money, but the big reason why we’re involved in the space isn’t to make money: It’s to benefit our artists,” said Christiana Ine -Kimba Boyle, director of sales in online at Pace Gallery.

Given some of the opportunities that exist in the history of the traditional art market, he said, NFT is “an opportunity to allow our artists to offer work to different markets, at lower prices, that also expand their communities.”

He cites the example of artist John Gerrard, who has 196 unique NFTs of his work released in editions. While these don’t represent surprising numbers, they are still “volume,” he said.

Mazdak Sanii, chief executive and co-founder of Avant Arte, a creative marketplace, explained that “the hype has definitely driven a lot of interest around this space.” Yet there is also “something deeper going on” in terms of the artistic community connecting talent with collectors.

Kenny Schachter, an artist, writer and NFT collector, dismisses allegations that NFT is more polluting than the delivery of artwork and private jets used to fly ultra -rich collectors to art exhibitions. He said the cryptocurrency was “on the verge of major change” when a carbon neutral form of it emerged.

For a collapsing price, they may have a silver lining.

“The crypto market has declined 80 percent plus in the last seven months, and I welcome that,” he said. “Let it remove all the bubbles and excessive speculation and crime and fraud.

“The leftist stand will be people who value art and make things as well as express themselves,” he added.

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