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Loot: The Battle over the Stolen Treasures of the Ancient World Paperback – September 1, 2009


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Loot: The Battle over the Stolen Treasures of the Ancient World + Chasing Aphrodite: The Hunt for Looted Antiquities at the World's Richest Museum + Who Owns Antiquity?: Museums and the Battle over Our Ancient Heritage
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Times Books; First Edition edition (September 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805090886
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805090888
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.5 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #108,078 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. After covering Hollywood's cutting-edge directors (Rebels on the Backlot), former New York Times correspondent Waxman embarks on a grand tour of some of the world's finest museums—the Met, the Louvre, the British Museum, the Getty—and the countries from which some of their most famous antiquities were illicitly taken. Skillfully blending history and reportage, Waxman traces the stories of treasures like the Elgin Marbles, then jumps into the debate over whether they should be restored to their countries of origin. She finds no easy answers: while acknowledging the dubious means by which European and American museums acquired many antiquities, she concedes that the governments clamoring for their return don't always have adequate plans for their maintenance. (Turkey compelled the Met to hand over the famous Lydian Hoard, only to have its masterpiece stolen.) Waxman's account is animated by interviews with museum curators, accused smugglers and government officials, putting a human spin on the complex cultural politics before arriving at a middle ground that strives for international collaboration in preserving a broad, global heritage. 8-page color insert, 20 b&w photos. (Nov. 1)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Sharon Waxman raises many challenging questions in this important, well-researched study about the conflict over classical antiquities and the breach of international regulations by Western countries. Compelling and fast-paced, the story spans countries (mostly Western) and centuries. Despite Waxman's generous narrative, a few critics thought her perspective uneven, as she favors allowing Western museums to keep their purloined treasures. Similarly, although she gives everyone equal voice—from curators to archaeologists to journalists uncovering these crimes—the museum directors and curators fare relatively badly. Despite these criticisms, Lootoffers intelligent analysis about a difficult dilemma with no easy answer.
Copyright 2009 Bookmarks Publishing LLC --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Further, some intriguing issues raised here, unfortunately, are not pursued.
Daniel C. Church
The subheading of Loot, by Sharon Waxman, is "The battle over the stolen treasures of the ancient world," which gives you a pretty good idea of the content.
Alex K.
I couldn't put it down--and I certainly will never look at the Louvre or the Met the same way again.
Glenn Kessler

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

36 of 40 people found the following review helpful By S. McGee TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 18, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Whose art is it, anyway?

That is the question at the heart of this carefully-crafted and insightful analysis of the ongoing battle of the ownership of antiquities from Greek, Egyptian and other ancient societies. Sharon Waxman has done an admirable job of covering the key personalities and issues, never allowing herself to be distracted and accomplishing the impossible -- taking a passionate view of the importance of these objects to art and history without losing sight that their is no simple answer to that fundamental question of their ownership.

Waxman profiles both sides of the debate, the activists and government officials in countries such as Egypt, Turkey and Italy who are lobbying for the return of everything from the Elgin Marbles (hacked off the Acropolis some two centuries ago) to unique Etruscan artifacts likely looted and smuggled overseas within the last decade. There are no heroes in this saga. Museum directors continue to duck the question of how some of the objects on display ended up in their galleries and argue that their collections form part of the broader "human heritage" that only institutions in giant Western cities from New York to Berlin can adequately care for and display. On the other side are those pressing for the return of these objects so that they can be displayed as part of the heritage of the country where they were created and, millennia later, rediscovered.

But... What happens when objects are repatriated? Waxman takes the reader to the site of nearly-empty museums in Luxor, Egypt and Antalya, Turkey, filled with precious objects but devoid of local visitors.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By las cosas on May 20, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I read this book when it first appeared, and find that over the months I am mellowing in my opinion of it. The author is a reporter who writes about Hollywood. It shows. The premise of the book is that museums in the US and Europe continue to purchase works of art that have been looted from other cultures and illegally purchased by those museums. This is not a simple subject since virtually all conquests and wars throughout the centuries have included pillaging by the winners, hauling the loot back to the conqueror's home land. We are supposedly above such things now, and the countries where the works originated should, the author argues, have a right to determine whether those works can leave the country.

The problem is in the endless nuances of how such laws should be implemented, and Waxman is of little help in trying to articulate and determine how those decisions should be made. Instead she bludgeons us with various chapters each focusing on a hero (trying to recover loot) or villain (museum personnel trying to keep the loot). Of course even the title provides a not-very-subtle clue as to Waxman's sympathies.

But my big problem with this book is that it reads like a collection of newspaper articles. Lots of interviews, virtually no historical research other than a tangent on Napoleon's grabing Egyptian artifacts for what would become the Louvre. And the chapter on the Getty and its travails is filled with who-slept-with-whom at the museum. Not terribly relevant to anything but the author's day job as far as I could tell.

But while this book provides little help in delineating possible global solutions to this issue, or even in framing the issues in a nuanced manner, she does ask the questions, and several months later, I find myself thinking of this subject each time I enter a museum. What should a museum purchase, and under what circumstances should it return a work to another country?
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By D. Woollard on May 22, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I wanted to love this book but ended up merely liking it. For those without a basic knowledge of the arguments in the museum acquisition and antiquities world this is a good basic book outlining many of the key issues. Waxman is at her best when drawing character sketches. At times she seemed to be fumbling for a point to the whole book and her end conclusions don't seem to be informed much by any of her experiences. It felt like a series of newspaper pieces, well-researched, accurate but devoid of the sort of passion and intensity that keeps a book like this entertaining for the reader.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Chuck Brooks on June 7, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Art may be a symbol of a culture, but its perceived value has been a prize of conquest since before recorded history. The chief distinction between then and now has been the application of the industrial revolution's technology to loot with amazing abandon, a predominantly Western European endeavor. While the author's sympathies are with the exploited countries of origin, as we know them now, the case for the alternative is succinctly made and explored: If rich westerners saw works of amazing art, the locals saw cheap building supplies and raw materials. The builders of these amazing works of art were races and societies apart from those who inhabit those regions today, who more often then not are indifferent, if not actually hostile, to what we might consider to be cultural patrimony. The focus on four western art institutions that have benefited from the plunder, still ongoing, is contrasted with the political entities who are exploiting the western hand wringing with the raw exercise of power for its own sake. Well written if not a bit preachy, the book's 399 pages are organized into 15 chapters within four parts.
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