Having highlighted the issue in an earlier post, the criticism of the upcoming British Museum exhibition, Indigenous Australia: Enduring Civilization (a purposely ambiguous title?) has become more vociferous with a cutting article published recently in The Guardian provocatively entitled ‘Preservation or plunder? The battle over the British Museum’s Indigenous Australian show’. Past events involving the Dja Dja Wurrung bark etchings are mentioned, as is the possibility of protest when the exhibition opens this Thursday (it runs until early August).
Australian groups have also compared the Museum’s refusal to restitute the artefacts taken from indigenous groups in the 19th and early 20th centuries to the Museum’s stance on the Parthenon Marbles. Is it a mere coincidence that the Museum’s other exhibition this spring is Defining Beauty: The body in ancient Greek art, which includes several choice pieces from the collection of Lord Elgin? Or is this the Museum’s way of challenging its critics head-on? Whatever the motives, the Greek exhibition pleased at least one Guardian reporter, Jonathan Jones, who during his visit had a Damascene revelation and ended up seeming to believe that the Marbles were fine right where they were.