Saturday, May 24, 2014

Crime and Punishment in Budapest

This lintel is from the Old Kingdom chapel of the High Priest Hunefer at Saqqara during the reign of the VI Dynasty King Pepi I, 2332-2283 BC. The lintel was along with two other pieces on display at the Fine Arts Museum in Budapest, Hungary has been demonstrated to be stolen from Egypt.

One has to wonder how a reputable museum which I would assume Budapest's Fine Arts Museum to be (?), could be acquiring such an obvious set of inscriptions and what homework did the museum do before acquiring these pieces to check if they had been stolen from Egypt. Does the museum have documents from Egypt's antiquities department to verify that they were legal for the museum to buy?

If not, then it sounds like the museum has a shoot first ask questions later attitude, I guess once the pieces are on display than the museum will deal with the issue as, and if it happens there display is proved stolen. What consequences does the museum face, its director and the purchasers of the material, is there any meat of punishment towards the institution or does the Fine Arts Museum's director hand back the pieces and say OOPS sorry, and that's the end of it.

This sounds to me like a serious crime on the international art market, that without consequences to the museum opens the door for all other institutions to do likewise and play fast with the trust and reputation of their citizens, as it sounds like the people of Budapest and their guests have been, and in the knowledge that Budapest and greater Hungary's own history can be carried away just as easily.

Photo: Al Ahram

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