Another Hirst Heist?


Brass statue, from Nigeria (A.D. 1400-1500)
“It is one of a group of 13 heads, superbly cast in brass, all discovered in 1938 in the grounds of a royal palace in Ife, Nigeria, which astonished the world with their beauty. They were immediately recognized as supreme documents of a culture that had left no written record, and they embody the history of an African kingdom that was one of the most advanced and urbanized of its day.’’
Credit: Trustees of the British Museum

The first podcast I ever listened to was this one, back earlier in this decade.World100 Although neither the BBC nor the British Museum is maintaining the website, it is still there. I recommend getting ahold of the podcast that you can find here among other places.

Object #63 did not particularly stand out more than any of the others chosen for this innovative historical exhibit that I listened to without visual cues. But I do remember it because the description was as vivid as any (pasted after the jump). So, I am sorry to be reminded of this piece again due to the modern world’s confused and confusing approach to art as represented by this so-called bad boy (aka fraud), who is still at his naughty ways according to this news item today:

There’s controversy in Venice for Damien Hirst, the British artist who has occasionally drawn accusations that his pieces are not always wholly original but inspired by others’ work.

At the Venice Biennale this week, the Nigerian artist Victor Ehikhamenor accused Mr. Hirst of copying a well-known ancient Nigerian brass artwork, “Head of Ife,” found in 1938 in Ife, Nigeria, without giving it the proper historical recognition it deserves.

Mr. Hirst’s work, a sculpted head called “Golden Heads (Female)” is part of his “Treasures From the Wreck of the Unbelievable” show that fills the Palazzo Grassi and the Punta della Dogana museums at the Biennale.

Regarded in art circles as a comeback for Mr. Hirst, the Biennale exhibition is his first major show of new work in 10 years. It is a kind of underwater fantasy featuring art and artifacts, including a bronze statue of Mickey Mouse, that, so Mr. Hirst’s tongue-in-cheek narrative goes, were part of a fictional shipwreck…

Read the whole article here. Read the description of the original object here:

This head probably depicts an Ooni, a ruler of the West African kingdom of Ife that flourished between AD 1100 and 1500. The portrait-like realism of Ife heads is unique in African art. This naturalism astonished art historians when the first Ife heads were brought to Europe in 1911. One German explorer even proposed they were made by Greek settlers in Africa – the origins of Plato’s Atlantis myth. Eighteen heads have been found in total, and their stylistic similarities suggest that they were made by an individual artist or in a single workshop.

What was life like in medieval Africa?

The kingdom of Ife first emerged around AD 800. It was one of several competing West African kingdoms that developed during the medieval period. Ife’s power and wealth was probably partly derived from its access to the lucrative Niger River trade routes, connecting it to the wider trade networks of West Africa and the Sahara. Today Ife is regarded as the spiritual heartland of the Yoruba people of southwest Nigeria. Ife is celebrated as the place of origin of mankind, where the gods descended from heaven to populate the world.

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