Is is acceptable to sell prized cultural relics that belong to a nation when the economy turns sour? This is the question that the popular columnist Lori Keza addressed in her column in the Greek daily paper “To Vima” on October 31, 2010. It’s a sensitive issue for many; how proper is it to use the ancient culture and antiques that are so integral to Greek identity for fundraising purposes?
To Keza, selling or leasing Greek cultural artifacts is an entirely sensible way to generate revenue in this tough economic climate. Keza writes “Another source of income and another taboo: the cellars of archaeological museums are stacked high with finds that will never be seen in any exhibit, because neither the necessary funds nor the locales for them can be provided, and also because more often than not there is no real need to do so, as there are so many specimens of the same type. At the National Archaeological Museum alone, 140,000 exhibits are in storage, among them: countless unknown masterpieces.
Would it really be so extreme to select and keep the rarest and most valuable for ourselves, and sell off the rest? The wealth of antiques in halls and warehouses in Greek territories would suggest that it would be reasonable to do so. […]These finds have been piling up for over 20 years alongside tens of thousands of others from other counties. Wouldn’t it make more sense if these were to be exhibited in foreign museums at their own terms? Or they could be used for decorative purposes in private collections in exchange for some compensation for the Greek Treasury? And if their sale would really cause national agony – well, then they could simply be leased out for about 40 years.”
With the Greek economy expected to shrink by more than 5% this year, hundreds of billions of dollars of IMF/EU bailouts, tax hikes and spending cuts, this may be a rather sensible idea. Sales will of course not make too much of a dent in the $55 billion Greek debt held by EU partners nor in its $455 billion dollar economy, but its a start nonetheless. It could also spur further interest in Greece’s tourism sector, which now accounts for more that 14% of Greece’s annual economic growth, as potential tourists become more exposed to Ancient Greece at home and increase their interest in and demand for Greek culture. It is an interesting thought nonetheless — of looking to the gifts of the ancients to help solve a very modern crisis.
“Greek Antiques in Times of Economic Crisis.” International Association of Dealers in Ancient Art. International Association of Dealers in Ancient Art, 2011. Web. 17 Sept. 2011. <http://www.iadaa.org/en/greek-antiques-times-economic-crisis>.
Reuters. “Greek Economy Will Shrink More Than Expected, Finance Minister Said.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 10 Sept. 2011. Web. 17 Sept. 2011. <http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/11/business/greek-economy-will-shrink-more-than-expected-finance-minister-says.html>.
Bouras, Stelios, and Alkman GRANITSAS. “Greek Economy Shrinks by 6.9% – WSJ.com.”Business News & Financial News – The Wall Street Journal – Wsj.com. Wall Street Journal, 12 Aug. 2011. Web. 17 Sept. 2011. <http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424053111904006104576503772694181858.html>.