Ivory Artworks Loaned by British Museum Denied Entry to the US

Byzantine Ivory Relief (ca. 1000) Photo: Worcester Art Museum

US authorities have stopped the British Museum from loaning six ivory religious panels, dating from the 9th to the 12th century, to a touring exhibition in Massachusetts and Virginia.

The artworks were originally destined to be part of the “Saints and Dragons: Icons from Byzantium to Russia” exhibition, organized by the Museum of Russian Icons in Massachusetts.

The artworks didn’t even leave the UK after an import permit was denied by US authorities. All animal remains must be approved for import by the federal Fish and Wildlife Service.

Laura Garrity-Arquitt, registrar at the Massachusetts museum, told the Art Newspaper  that the authorities “didn’t really give a concrete reason why they wouldn’t allow them” but added that it was probably related to the “whole issue with elephant poaching.”

The Museum of Russian Icons had to borrow a similar ivory panel from the Worcester Art Museum Photo: blogs.umass.edu

The Museum of Russian Icons had to borrow a similar ivory panel from the Worcester Art Museum
Photo: blogs.umass.edu

“A potential risk to the shipment of six British Museum objects was identified and it was agreed to remove the works in consultation with the borrower,” said a representative from the London museum.

Although officials at the Massachusetts museum have been planning the exhibition for over two years, they were only confronted with the import difficulties in March, just two months before opening of the show.

The British Museum agreed to loan six panels Photo: Jacek Halicki via Wikimedia Commons

The British Museum agreed to loan six panels
Photo: Jacek Halicki via Wikimedia Commons

The Museum of Russian Icons managed to borrow a similar ivory work from the nearby Worcester Art Museum, also in Massachusetts.

Curators were trying to illustrate the opulence of the Byzantine era with the ivory panels, which include depictions of a nativity scene, the Archangel Michael, and Saint John the Baptist.


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