The Easel

11th August 2020

Activist curators are sharpening the debate on restitution

A topic that refuses to go away. The British Museum holds 900 (!) of the acclaimed bronze sculptures from Benin (now Nigeria). New scholarship casts further doubt on whether they were purchased legally. ‘Legal purchase’ has been the usual defense for holding onto colonial acquisitions. A fallback idea is the “world” museum, one place where everything is together, a concept characterised as “what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is mine.”