Loot, Plunder, and the Ethics of Art Collecting
ART HIS X 445.31
This course explores the history of museums and the ethical implications of collecting, owning and curating art and antiquities.
What you can learn.
- Learn about the development of museum ethics
- Consider the future of museum collecting and stewardship
- Visit local museums to view works in person
- Critically examine the history of collecting in light of several contemporary cases
About this course:
Works of art often have a complex and sometimes illicit ownership history. This history, or “provenance” has become an increasingly important consideration for museums when making acquisitions. Acquiring works of art looted by the Nazi regime or from war torn regions is now considered ethically unacceptable. At the same time, museums are filled with legally questionable objects obtained during the last three hundred years. In Los Angeles, the Getty, LACMA, the Pacific Asia Museum, and the Norton Simon Museum have navigated legal challenges to certain art acquisitions. This course will explore the history of museums and the ethical implications of collecting, owning, and curating art and antiquities. Through selected readings, classroom discussion, and visits to local museums we will examine the history of collecting in light of several contemporary cases that challenge the ownership and trade in these materials. Students will learn about the development of museum ethics and consider the future of museum collecting and stewardship.