What a curious gathering of passionate art collectors in Britain today. Imagine the dignified antiquity collectors in the same room as those just as passionate to own – graffiti.
For over 200 years, the Brits have remained resolute and determined to own the Greek Parthenon Marbles as acquired by Lord Elgin at all costs. In addition to claims of rightful ownership, they have also claimed to be the best and only protectors of such heritage, yet somehow the British Museum managed to damage the marbles while trying to ‘clean’ the monuments by removing the original painted colors and even the natural color of the marble. And, now, they are confronted with a cultural theft of their own, yet not a piece of a monument of Greek or any other national cultural heritage but … graffiti.
Recently Slave Labor, an illustration done for the Queen’s Diamond’s Jubilee by Banksy an English street artist, was ripped from a wall in Poundland obviously by a thief. (Unless Banksy, himself retrieved it and finally wanted to profit from his (or her) own graffiti street art.) Only this stolen anonymous street art resurfaced for sale, across the Atlantic Ocean, in Florida.
Curiously the people in the community want the art piece back because it is ‘theirs’. A campaign has been launched to halt the sale of the art piece at the auction gallery and they are pursuing all means for its return.
As this art crime drama is unfolding, Prime Minister David Cameron recently indelicately inserted both his feet into his mouth when he declared he didn’t believe in ‘returnism’ for the Koh-i Nor diamond taken by the British during their colonization (occupation) of India and the Parthenon Marbles taken by Lord Elgin, at the time Ambassador of Britain to the Ottoman Empire, during the Ottoman Empire’s occupation of Greece.
Are the Brits confused? Or, could it be that Prime Minister Cameron subconsciously did indeed use the right concept for all stolen cultural heritage items – returnism.
By Keri Douglas, writer/photographer, Washington, D.C.