Serpentees and flowering trees

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FEATHERED SERPENTS AND FLOWERING TREES: AN EXTRAORDINARY BEQUEST OF TEOTIHUACAN MURALS1 In 1993, from May through October, The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco showcased the exhibit Teotihuacan: City of the Gods/Ciudad de los Dioses. Over two hundred objects had been assembled from collections throughout Mexico, Europe, and the United States to focus on the arts of the pre-Columbian Teotihuacanculture. (see Exhibit 1) According to Harry Parker, III, Director of The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco: Teotihuacan: City of the Gods/Ciudad de los Dioses is more than an exhibition. It is a remarkable artistic and cultural event. It grows from a special relationship between Mexico and The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.2 The exhibition was envisioned to serve many different objectives,including increased understanding of an ancient culture of great importance both to the people of Mexico and to the members of California’s Mexican-American community. In addition, it represented a symbol of good will between Mexico and the United States. According to Rodolfo Figueroa, Consul General de México in 1993: Teotihuacan siempre ha sido el alma y el corazón del pueblo mexicano.Representa la grandeza de la herencia prehispánica mexicana, el elemento vital de la historia nacional y de la identidad de México. ... Creemos que eventos como éste, contribuyen en forma significativa a las buenas relaciones y la comprensión entre los pueblos de orígenes y naciones distintas.3 [Teotihuacan has always been the heart and soul of the Mexican people. It represents the grandeur ofpre-Columbian Mexican heritage, the lifeblood of Mexico’s national history and identity. ... We believe that events like this one contribute significantly to good relations and understanding among people of different origins and nations.] To Thomas K. Seligman, Director of the Stanford University Museum of Art, the exhibition was of special significance. It represented, in large measure, the fruits of asuccessful negotiation that had begun more than fifteen years earlier when he had been curator in charge of the Art of Africa, Oceania and the Americas (AOA) department at The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. ___________ Professor Susan Brodt and Christy McCammon wrote this case. It is based on interviews and additional documents including Thomas Seligman’s chapter “An Unexpected Bequest and anEthical Dilemma” in Feathered Serpents and Flowering Trees: Reconstructing the Murals of Teotihuacan, (1988). K. Berrin (Ed.), San Francisco: The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. 1995 Susan Brodt. For copies, contact Susan Brodt, Queen’s School of Business, Goodes Hall, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada K7L 3N6. tel/fax: 613.533. 3231/6847; sbrodt@business.queensu.ca

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TheExtraordinary Gift In early 1976, Thomas Seligman received a telephone call from the probate department of Crocker National Bank. Mr. Harald Wagner, a San Francisco architect, had died on February 4, 1976 and his will bequeathed a collection of pre-Columbian murals and other objects to San Francisco’s M. H. de Young Museum. Although Seligman was not acquainted with Wagner or his collection, as AOAcurator at The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (which included the de Young Museum) it was his responsibility to examine and possibly take possession of these objects. Seligman referred the bank to Judith Teichman, Deputy City Attorney for the City and County of San Francisco, which was the customary procedure for bequests. Two months later Seligman met with an officer of the bank at Wagner’s house.Seligman was astounded by what he found. Sections of colorful painted murals, ranging in size from a few inches to fourteen feet in length, were lying on the floor and on tables, and other pieces were mounted on the walls of the living room. Many more mural fragments were in the dining room and basement--over 70 mural fragments in total. Seligman stood speechless as he surveyed the collection;...
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