The Art Angle Podcast: What Will Be the Fate of the Benin Bronzes?

In part two of our series on the Benin Bronzes, Dan Hicks discusses the current status of the looted artworks.

Exhibition view of “Looted Art? The Benin Bronzes” at MKG in Hamburg. Photo by Michaela Hille. Courtesy Artnet News.

Welcome to the Art Angle, a podcast from Artnet News that delves into the places where the art world meets the real world, bringing each week’s biggest story down to earth. Join host Andrew Goldstein every week for an in-depth look at what matters most in museums, the art market, and much more, with input from our own writers and editors, as well as artists, curators, and other top experts in the field.

The story of the Benin Bronzes is one of the bloodier, more shameful chapters in the history of the Western world’s “encyclopedic” museums.

Looted from the Kingdom of Benin in 1897 by the British in a punitive raid whose indiscriminate slaughter and wanton cruelty inspired The Hague Convention two years later, the artworks are today scattered across art institutions and ethnographic museums in Europe and the United States—a stain on the Western conscience that is ensanguined with the sins of colonialism.

Recently, the Oxford professor and Pitt Rivers Museum curator Dan Hicks wrote a book about this history called The Brutish Museums: The Benin Bronzes, Colonial Violence, and Cultural Restitution, and last week he joined the podcast to speak about the horrific events that led to the artworks leaving Africa. This week, we present part two of the episode, to discuss the urgency of righting this colonial crime and the status of the Bronzes’ restitution today.

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