Sat. May 17, 2003

Erase In

Artists Against War invites artists and art lovers in New York gathered from 9:30 AM until 9 PM on Saturday, May 17, 2003, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's new exhibition, "Art of the First Cities: The Third Millennium BC from the Mediterranean to the Indus." Works from Iraq and other countries currently living under the threat of US military aggression were displayed in the show. Artists quietly drew the objects around them, and before leaving the museum, each erased the drawings to symbolically reflect the erasure of Iraqi culture and the silencing of dissent here at home.

The artists objected to the death, destruction and lawlessness that the "coalition of the willing" unleashed with its invasion of Iraq. Jay Garner called upon Americans to beat their chests proudly because the army prevented major damage to oil infrastructure! Far from proud, Artists Against War denounce the U.S. government's contempt for Iraqi life, culture and history. The Iraq National Museum in Baghdad was looted on April 12, and people throughout the world believe this was an organized crime. Vandals entered the vaults with keys and glass cutters--replicas were left untouched while valuable pieces disappeared. News sources reported that the US army was nearby and did not protect this great repository of culture. Other museums and archaeological sites throughout Iraq were looted and trashed, libraries burned, and universities bombed.

Artists Against War oppose all attempts to reverse or modify the Cultural Property Implementation Act of 1982, which set restrictions on the entry of antiquities into the United States. European and American archaeological expeditions historically plundered "other cultures' booty" excavated in Mesopotamia. After the Gulf War of 1991, there was a huge increase in the global trafficking in Near Eastern art. Concerned archaeologists, art historians and museum curators warned that another war would bring more cultural carnage and asked our government to observe the terms of the 1954 Hague Convention on Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict. These art professionals met with officials in Washington and received assurances that international law would be observed, but their warnings were ignored and promises were broken. We share their fear that in time, stolen Iraqi art will appear in American collections with impunity. The participating artists voiced their opposition to this profiteering from the illegal activities of art thieves and tomb raiders, and their support for all efforts to repatriate stolen artifacts.

This solemn vigil expressed mourning after a great loss. Respectful of the art, the museum, and the public, the group erased its drawings at 12, 2, 4, 6 and 8pm.