Good Repo Man, Bad Repo Man
And then last week it was reported the Greeks have taken a similarly gingerly approach with another person they claim has possession of part of their heritage: the Pope.
Rather than implicitly threaten legal action, however, as it occasionally has in pursuing objects in major museum collections, the government hopes to rely on moral suasion, said Maurizio Fiorilli, a lawyer for the Italian Culture Ministry. He said negotiations would begin in earnest in December.
Archbishop Christodoulos, the head of the Greek Orthodox Church, has asked Pope Benedict XVI to return a fragment of the Parthenon to Athens, his spokesman said. Christodoulos made his request during his first-ever visit to the Vatican, but has yet to receive a response, spokesman Viki Markaki said.I understand there's a PR reality to the different approaches, but it does make the heavy-handed stance the Greeks and Italians are taking with museums seem like theater more than justified righteous indignation. Oh, I know, the musems are seen as behemoth bureaucracy bullies, so it's OK to beat up on them. Or, because they're so well armed with high-powered lawyers and trustees, the big artillery of public humiliation or litigation is seen as the only threat they'll respond to, but despite their size, I tend to think of the museums as belonging, in part, to me, and I so I resent the offensive approach taken with them, when clearly more well-mannered approaches are available.
Perhaps I'm naive. Perhaps the Met or the Getty or whomever would simply laugh off any appeal not backed up with serious legal consequences. Perhaps the Greek and Italian authorities did, indeed, initially ask nicely, only to have such requests fall on deaf ears.
But by the time it all reaches the tabloids (and there's that paper-selling whiff of public humiliation attached), I can't help but feel everyone loses in a way. The romance associated with the work, for me, has been tainted, brought back to its native shores not through conquest or adventure, but through the anti-climatic, penci-pushing clamor of the wonky class. I'll never travel to see those works in Greece or Italy and not associate that degree of drudgery with them.
I know how that will strike many people: who cares whether your twisted sense of romance is satisified or not...the work belongs back in country X.
I'm not arguing it doesn't...just that it's often a pity how it's getting back there.