Monday, June 10, 2013

Sculpture and Politics

Never underestimate the power of art.

A small stature from a small temple on a small island is making waves between Japan and Korea.
The bronze statue, originally made in Korea, has been in a temple on Tsushima, Japan for centuries. Last year, thieves stole it and tried to sell the sculpture for over $1 million. Five Korean men are being held for the theft.

Given that the statue is of a Buddhist deity of compassion, it's ironic that relations between Japan and Korea are contentious. Korea says that the sculpture was stolen by Japanese pirates. The Japanese abbot says that the statue was sold or given to the temple centuries ago.

A Korean court issued a temporary order preventing the statue from returning to Tsushima until both  Korean and Japanese temples could present evidence of rightful ownership. Keep in mind that it has been in the Japanese temple for centuries.

This makes the provenance issues at the Metropolitan Museum seem simple. Read the article here
photo by Ko Sasaki, from the New York Times
Here's where the new technologies of scanning and milling would help art and politics. Make an exact duplicate of the sculpture, a child of it, if you will, and have the two temples share the art.

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