British Museum’s ivory icons denied US entry for loan show
The US Fish and Wildlife Service blocked the importation of the Byzantine objects before they ever left the UK
by Victoria Stapley-Brown | 1 July 2015
The US Fish and Wildlife Service blocked the importation of six Byzantine ivory pieces due to come to the US on a loan from the British Museum for the travelling exhibition Saints and Dragons: Icons from Byzantium to Russia. The show, currently on view at the Museum of Russian Icons in Clinton, Massachusetts and due to travel to the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, Virginia, this autumn, centres on icons that are normally hidden away in storage at the London museum.
Laura Garrity-Arquitt, the registrar at the Museum of Russian Icons, which organised the show, says that despite the age of the religious works (dating from the 9th through the 12th century) any animal remains entering the US must be cleared through the federal Fish and Wildlife Service. The head of the organisation denied permission, though “they didn’t really give a concrete reason why they wouldn’t allow them”, Garrity-Arquitt says, although she did add that it was likely due to the “whole issue with elephant poaching”.