Saturday, August 10, 2013

Observations on Art 8.10

To start I don't mean this to be rude or to sound like I'm making fun of the writer, I don't mean to, it's just that when I first read this letter I couldn't stop laughing. I mean who even notices descriptions like the ones she is talking about and the first article was written over ten years ago. To me art thief is enough of a description, it doesn't matter if said thief is French, Romanian, or Samoan. Okay I might notice a Samoan art thief, that would be something special.

The letter was written to the editors of  The New York Times by Monica Syancu who had been an intern at the Romanian Mission to the United Nations. I'm posting it here for entirely innocent reasons, or for the links, or because I'm a snobby art bitch. Take your pick.

"You recently published an article about a Romanian mother who may have destroyed the works of art stolen by her son. In 2002, The Times presented a similar case that involved a French family. Although both articles covered art theft and destruction of property, the headlines have very different tones: "Your Stolen Art? I Threw Them Away, Dear" (lighthearted) for the French case and "Romanian’s Tale Has Art World Fearing Worst" (sensationalist) for the Eastern European case.

In the case involving the Romanian family, you quote Ernest Oberlander-Tarnoveanu, the director of Romania’s National History Museum, saying that if the stolen paintings were burned, it would be “a barbarian crime against humanity.”

While Stéphane Breitwieser, the French art thief, is described as a likable “self-taught art lover,” Radu Dogaru, the Romanian art thief, is described in another recent article, "Romanian Says Her Tale of Burning Art Treasures Was a Lie," as standing silently, “flexing his biceps,” during a hearing on his case.

Thus, Romanians are suggested to be backward while those in the West are civilized.

Headlines and articles of this nature fuel prejudice against Romanians at a time when they are already being discriminated against in Europe. The destruction of art is a great loss for our universal heritage. But there is something wrong when the same crime is presented in a more favorable light when carried out by French citizens and as a tragedy when carried out by Romanian citizens."

Basel, Switzerland, July 30, 2013