Monday, June 21, 2010

The Cleveland Apollo: "I don't know who they're protecting by secrecy"

In 2009 the Cleveland Museum of Art returned 14 antiquities to Italy. Among them was a piece donated by Edoardo Almagià who has been linked to a recent report with the Princeton University Art Museum. At the time of the announcement about these returns it was reported that a special committee had been set up to look into the collecting history of the controversial acquisition of a bronze Apollo. (Another committee was also looking into the collecting history of a Winged Victoria.)

The statue, attributed to the sculptor Praxiteles, is said to have been purchased for around $5 million from Phoenix Ancient Art. Its collecting history is far from clear. One of the reasons for confidence on Cleveland's part lies in the fact that the Art Loss Register (ALR) "found no claims on the piece". But recently surfaced antiquities will not appear in the ALR (unless those removing the objects took photographs and those photographs passed to the ALR).

Cleveland is now being upbeat about its aquisition (Steven Litt, "Cleveland Museum of Art's Apollo sculpture is a star with intriguing past", cleveland.com June 20, 2010).
Michael Bennett is a confident man these days. The Cleveland Museum of Art's curator of ancient Near Eastern, Greek and Roman art believes that he made the purchase of a lifetime in 2004, when he persuaded the museum to buy a beautiful and controversial ancient bronze statue of Apollo Sauroktonos, or Apollo the Lizard Slayer.
Although the museum has yet to reveal all the details it holds, Cleveland's interim director, Deborah Gribbon, commented: "The issue is not that there are things to hide, it's that some of this is ongoing research and other elements are proprietary information".

If there is nothing to hide, why not make all the information public? And when will this committee report?

Patty Gerstenblith was also interviewed:
It's a public institution supported by the taxpayers and the government ... I think they should come forward with the evidence they have. I don't know who they're protecting by secrecy.
Why is the Cleveland Museum of Art acting as if there is something to hide? What else was purchased from this source? After all, Michael Bennett claimed he had been dealing with the individuals concerned "for years". When will Cleveland make the findings of its internal report public?

And let us not forget that we do not know where this Apollo was originally displayed.



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