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Met Museum to Exhibit Israeli Artifacts, but It Will Be Show Planned by Smithsonian Institution

March 3, 1982
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The Metropolitan Museum of Art has reconsidered its decision to cancel an exhibit of Israeli archaeological material and will now go ahead and mount the show, museum officials said. However, the show will be that planned by the Smithsonian Institution Travelling Exhibit Service rather than the one the museum was to have mounted originally.

The museum’s reversal followed an exchange of letters between Mayor Edward Koch and Douglas Dillon, chairman of the museum’s board of directors. Koch charged that the museum had “surrendered” the political freedom “conferred on the arts and cultural institutions” and had “subordinated curatorial considerations to political hallucinations and speculative fears of reprisals by terrorists.”

Koch was referring to the museum’s announcement last week that it was cancelling the exhibit because same of the artifacts came from the West Bank, which the museum described as “disputed territory. ” and that showing the artifacts would involve “security risks from radical elements.” Spokesmen for major Jewish organizations denounced the museum’s decision as capitulation to fear and pressure.

Dillon, in his response to Koch, said, “The Met is and remains firmly committed to the fundamental doctrine that curatorial and cultural decisions must not be politicized.” He added that the museum would now work “with our colleagues in Israel” and with the Smithsonian Institution to move quickly towards a solution.

But Shmuel Moyal, spokesman for the Israel Consulate in New York, said today, “To the best of my knowledge and recollection, the representatives of the Metropolitan Museum of Art have not made any contact with the representatives of Israel since last July, 1981.”

Metropolitan president William Macomber said yesterday that if the Smithsonian show, due in 1984, does not materialize, the Met will stage its original show as planned. The show includes artifacts from the earliest times to the Crusades.

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