Here is an excellent post by John Beckett, and something I’ve been bringing up for a while.
In Australia we don’t have big museums like the British Museum, instead ancient artefacts are found in art galleries. The National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) has some beautiful examples of Greek and Italian marbles, especially a nicely preserved Athlete torso and a beautiful Kore statue (now damaged). They also have an okay collection of Greek pottery and Egyptian pieces including seals, burial objects, statuettes, tools and weapons. The problem with keeping these sacred objects in art galleries is that they are not treated with respect, nor viewed as artefacts, but rather viewed by the modern secular understanding of art.
The NGV is the first major art gallery in Australia and still one of the largest. It’s layout is meant to be designed based on the history of art, the ground floor being ancient art, then each floor continues with subsequent time periods with contemporary art on the top floor.
In the last couple of years the NGV has gone under a ‘business remodelling’ making the gallery more approachable for ‘common people’ and family orientated. The first thing they did was shut down the Egyptian and Greek display areas on the ground floor and convert them into a kids corner! So now in the kids corner are the Egyptian pieces, you literally have a playground decorated by burial objects, no fucking joke.
As for the Greek pieces… they are now scattered all over the gallery, before it was damaged by the mishandling of incompetent staff, the last time I saw the Kore was in the textiles area! It had a fucking blurb stating it was, “a juxtaposition of the advancements of fashion, blah, blah.” Nothing to do with the actual fucking sacredness of the statue, but a secular view solely based on an outward material idea of fashion.
The athlete torso gets moved around a lot, my latest visit found it was in the 1800’s art area next to a Neoclassical work to again illustrate “juxtaposition”.
As for the Greek pottery, they can be found in a corridor leading to the toilets!
Here is the problem with art galleries, gallery curators are trained in art schools, they are essentially failed artists who focus more on art theory rather than art itself. The art theory is a pretty toxic place for history and religion as it falls under the domain of modern art philosophy that views art a secular concept of just objects. They intentionally strip away the context of why the art was actually made and apply a modern context to it which is objectifying i.e., a statue of a god, is just a marble statue. They disregard the holy to claim it for themselves so it “fits” into their understanding of “art history”. This means they intentionally ignore the history and true meaning behind the work – especially if it once held a religious significance.
This is a form of cultural appropriation that is really sickening and something that upsets me so much I often walk out of the NGV shaking in anger.