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Over 200 Artworks Missing from Turkish Museum … since 1980?!

The State Art and Sculpture Museum in Ankara
The State Art and Sculpture Museum in Ankara (image via Wikipedia)

The Turkish government has admitted that some 202 artworks are missing from the State Art and Sculpture Museum in Ankara. The Culture and Tourism Ministry waited until last week to release details of a report conducted in 2010, which found that of the 202 missing pieces, 46 objects had been replaced with false replicas, while another 27 works were “highly suspicious.”

Among the artists whose work has disappeared are Turkish painters Şevket Dağ and Hikmet Onat and sculptor Zühtü Müridoğlu.

The ministry has blamed the thefts on the 1980 coup d’etat in the country. According to the Hürriyet Daily News, Culture and Tourism Minister Ertuğrul Günay said:

The Ankara State Art and Sculpture Museum was founded in April 1980 and left significantly unattended and managed inadequately as a result of the Sept. 12 [1980] coup. During this time, the museum records were not kept, healthy inventory work was not done and necessary minimum precautions were not taken.

Sadly, this is too often the case when a country undergoes political upheaval: Iraq and Syria are just two more recent examples of how war devastates cultural heritage. But that still doesn’t quite explain the three decades that passed between the coup and the discovery of the thefts — not to mention the extra two years from when the the investigation was carried out until the publicizing of its results. On this last topic, the ministry said it was afraid of the reaction the news might provoke. At least they got something right.

Not long after this news broke, the Hürriyet followed up with a story saying that it looks like some of the pieces were loaned out to official institutions, including the Presidency and the National Intelligence Agency, where 50 of the missing works have reportedly been found. The information comes from an unnamed source at the Culture Ministry, and while it’s reassuring, since much of the art may not in fact have been stolen, it also suggests complete and utter disorganization at the museum (and perhaps at the ministry, too).

It’s a relief to know that 50 artworks have been located, but that still leaves another 152 unaccounted for.

(h/t Real Clear Arts)

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