What We Are Reading Today: Who Owns Antiquity? 

Updated 16 September 2018

What We Are Reading Today: Who Owns Antiquity? 

  • James Cuno calls for measures to broaden rather than restrict international access to antiquities

BOOK AUTHOR: James Cuno

Whether antiquities should be returned to the countries where they were found is one of the most urgent and controversial issues in the art world today, and it has pitted museums, private collectors, and dealers against source countries, archaeologists, and academics.

Maintaining that the acquisition of undocumented antiquities by museums encourages the looting of archaeological sites, countries such as Italy, Greece, Egypt, Turkey, and China have claimed ancient artifacts as state property, called for their return from museums around the world, and passed laws against their future export. 

But in Who Owns Antiquity?, one of the world’s leading museum directors vigorously challenges this nationalistic position, arguing that it is damaging and often disingenuous. “Antiquities,” James Cuno argues, “are the cultural property of all humankind,” “evidence of the world’s ancient past and not that of a particular modern nation. They comprise antiquity, and antiquity knows no borders.”

Cuno argues that nationalistic retention and reclamation policies impede common access to this common heritage and encourage a dubious and dangerous politicization of antiquities — and of culture itself. Antiquities need to be protected from looting but also from nationalistic identity politics. To do this, Cuno calls for measures to broaden rather than restrict international access to antiquities. 

He advocates restoration of the system under which source countries would share newly discovered artifacts in exchange for archaeological help, and he argues that museums should again be allowed reasonable ways to acquire undocumented antiquities. Cuno explains how partage broadened access to our ancient heritage and helped create national museums in Cairo, Baghdad, and Kabul. The first extended defense of the side of museums in the struggle over antiquities, Who Owns Antiquity? is sure to be as important as it is controversial.


Lebanese-Brazilian label presents new UAE-inspired collection at Arab Fashion Week

Updated 23 October 2020

Lebanese-Brazilian label presents new UAE-inspired collection at Arab Fashion Week

DUBAI: Dubai-based label AAVVA on Thursday presented its fall-winter 2020 collection, Mother of Pearl, during Arab Fashion Week (AFW), which runs virtually until Saturday.

AAVVA was founded by Lebanese and Brazilian design duo Ahmad Ammar and Vincenzo Visciglia. The ready-to-wear label has been on the market since 2011, continuously creating stylish and avant-garde silhouettes.

The brand showcased its new pieces as part of Brazil Noble, the first ever virtual fashion event that aims to bring Brazilian fashion to the world through AFW.

The brand showcased its new pieces as part of Brazil Noble, the first ever virtual fashion event that aims to bring Brazilian fashion to the world through AFW. (Supplied)

For their latest collection, the pair were inspired by the UAE’s history and success.

“We wanted to pay tribute to the country that inspired us to start and grow to where we are today, and also mix the free-spiritedness, art, and vibe of the Brazilian design,” they told Arab News.

The new creations feature black and white looks embroidered with angelic white pearls.

“We wanted to be chic, but also since our previous collection was full of color, we were in the mood for something more muted yet extremely lavish. The pearl embroidery is not like something we’ve done before, intricate, full, and yet simplistic in essence,” they said.

For their latest collection, the pair were inspired by the UAE’s history and success. (Supplied)

The designers said the collection was “empowering and unique” because they “placed importance on volume and movement to enhance the female silhouette, a signature of our design element.”

Has the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic affected AAVVA’s design process? Yes, is the answer.

“We think the pandemic has affected everyone and all walks of life,” they said. “We were blessed to be in the UAE – a country that is so involved in the welfare of its people. The country took amazing measures to protect its people. While the world around us shut down, we were still able to work slowly but surely amidst the lockdown.

“The measures held us back from sourcing fabrics internationally, or getting the work done on the pieces as we usually do – but we still created a collection that we are proud of and that definitely brought a smile to many faces,” they added.

They noted that since the virus outbreak, businesses and the fashion industry had become more digitalized.

“Fashion has been shot into digital space and it is proving a fascinating journey. While people in fashion are aware of what they are missing – the emotional and storytelling impact of real fashion shows – we have to adjust to the new alternatives. As they say, ‘the show must go on.’”