Afghanistan Exhibition Provokes Questions





The National Geographic Society has struck a $1 million deal with the Afghan government to bring a rare cache of gold artifacts to the United States in a traveling exhibition. But some cultural experts who have followed the negotiations are questioning whether Afghanistan is being properly compensated.

Plans call for the ancient Afghan pieces — part of the storied 2,000-year-old Bactrian hoard — to be displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco and the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, although contracts have not yet been signed by those institutions.

The National Geographic Society and the Afghan government signed a protocol accord over the weekend in Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital, outlining an exhibition schedule that would begin in May 2008 at the National Gallery. The document calls for Afghanistan to receive $1 million as well as 40 percent of “total revenue,” which is defined as exhibition revenue, minus expenses.

Lynne Munson, the former deputy chairwoman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, which helped finance the cataloging of the Afghan treasures, said the arrangement would leave Afghanistan with “40 percent of absolutely nothing,” because expenses would be significant.

“This is a travesty,” she said in a telephone interview from Washington. “The Bactrian hoard is simply the most valuable possession of the poorest people on earth. To ask them to lend it and give so little in return is unconscionable.”



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