May 27, 2003
The means of reproduction

Here are two extraordinarily interesting chunks of writing, which both converge, from wildly different starting conversations, on the same end-point. The first version of this end-point is the throwaway sting in the tale of this.

If you only read The New York Times, you might think the only truly important recent event in Iraq was the looting of the Iraqi National Museum. For art lovers, this branded the U.S. occupation with the worst of all possible labels, worse than "imperialist," worse than "illegal" -- "Philistine."

Robert Deutsch, an archeologist at Haifa University and a licensed antiquities dealer, shakes his head at all the coverage of the museum sacking. The Times originally reported that 170,000 pieces had been stolen. "Nonsense," says Deutsch. He points out that there would have to be "miles and miles" of display area for such a massive amount of material to be readily available for the snatching. …

"They just had to have something to complain about," Deutsch says of the museum hype from skeptics of the war. "The war was fast. It was clean. They found a small place where they can complain." ...

"I don't see any big or significant damage from this looting," says Deutsch. "It was very small-scale. And the historical value of an antiquity is in its publication. Once it's published, it's part of our knowledge." Thereafter, its value is mostly as an object of art.

Those paragraphs were reproduced in full by the indispensable Instapundit, to whom deep and reverent thanks as always, who got it from Bill Quick, who got it from Rich Lowry of townhall.com.

And here is a letter from the latest (paper so no dedicated link) issue of Prospect magazine, from Martin Mayer, of Westoning, Bedfordshire:

In support of Patrick Lyndon, I recall my own experience as a student in Rome in 1964. In that year there was an exhibition to mark the 400th anniversary of Michelangelo's death. It did not include a single original work. Instead it showed reproductions of every major work of his, from alabaster copies of his sculptures to, sometimes, just black and white photographs of his paintings. I went every day for a week. And I would still say, 39 years later, that I was more inspired by seeing his complete body of work in this way than I have been by any exhibition of originals I have seen since.

It seems to me – and I'm sure I've said this here before and that I will say it again here many, many times – that you just cannot understand the place of "art" in the modern world if you glide past the profound effects – on painting itself, and on the publicising and disseminating of the achievements of painters, and sculptors, and architects, and the whole lot of them – of the means of artistic reproduction.

Think what it will do to the culture when three dimensional reproduction is perfected – when we can all just set up our 3DRepro boards on our coffee tables and click our way through all of sculpture and architecture. This surely isn't far away.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 07:15 PM
Category: Photography