An auction of antiquities to support Classics is the right path to killing a discipline

Classics for All, a charity that many of us know and appreciate for its work in schools, has launched a new initiative. An auction of antiquities, among other things, to raise funds:

There are even two professors in archaeological related subjects joining the auction (lot 33 and 41).

I would like to express my personal dismay for the many ethical issues surrounding the antiquities market and the troubling involvement of academia with it; not to mention the vague provenance provided for the pieces on sale. This initiative seems to me to go against the goal of making our disciplines more inclusive and ethical. The idea of auctioning ancient objects, which had been taken (legally or not) from subaltern countries, to foster Classics makes me cringe.

This auction goes against the work many (but clearly not all) of us are patiently doing in teaching and research: we try to build a field guided by equality, ethics and respect for the culture of minorities and other nations. Not in theory, in PRACTICE, our own everyday practice. This auction is not helping our job at all. We face forward, this auction faces backwards to a past that we are trying to address in a critical way in order to build a better, more inclusive and just, future.

Update: Erin Thompson, art crime professor at CUNY, has done some digging on the provenance and pricing of the pieces on sale and posted the results on Twitter. They add further worries on this auction that we hope will be cancelled as soon as possible.

If you are disappointed too, please consider sending an email to the charity or approaching them on Twitter and other social media:

List of trustees in the website:

3 thoughts on “An auction of antiquities to support Classics is the right path to killing a discipline

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