Monday, November 29, 2010

Sherif Hassan released

Thank you to all who supported Sherif Hassan who was detained in Egypt. There were some 4000 visits to the website over the weekend. I understand that he has arrived at Heathrow this evening.

Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Rick Witschonke on the stigma of association

Rick Witschonke of Califon, New Jersey has responded in a letter to the editor of the Art Newspaper.  He comments on the report of the appearance of two items that feature in the Medici Dossier in the October sale at Bonhams.

There are several points worth noting:

  • "The stigma of association with one of these convicted antiquities traffickers is often enough to result in its withdrawal". This was not the case with either Bonhams in October 2010 or Christie's in June 2010; both auction-houses proceeded with the sales. However this was true for Bonhams in October 2008, and April 2010. (For seizures at Christie's in 2009 see here.)
  • "The larger issue, however, is that US collectors, dealers, auction houses, and museums are compelled to research the provenance of any prospective purchase to ensure it is not recently looted". The issue is that it is appropriate for vendors and buyers to conduct a rigorous due diligence process. In some recent cases the objects had passed through London sales that had included material already returned to Italy. On a minor note this is not just an issue for US collectors etc.
  • "The objective is to make the antiquities trade more transparent". This is why it is important for auction houses and galleries to provide documented collecting histories to demonstrate that the objects on offer can be traced back to the period before 1970 (and the UNESCO Convention). And note the word documented: the collecting history needs to be verifiable.
  • "If a collector could go to a public archive (the Art Loss Register, for example), and determine whether a prospective purchase was questionable, the object would likely remain unsold". If the aim is to return material removed illicitly from archaeological contexts in Italy then objects recognised from (say) the Becchina Archive may not resurface in case they are seized. Is Witschonke right to suggest that the ALR does not have access to part of the Medici Dossier?
  • There is a more important issue to note. Bonhams appears to have presented a misleading collecting history for both piece: "European private collection, formed between the 1960s and early 1990s" and "Swiss private collection formed in 1960s-1970s". Yet if the Polaroids are to be believed the two items were passing through the Swiss market in the 1970s or later. This is not the only time that the Bonhams collecting histories have not been entirely straightforward. And it appears that Christie's "forgot" to divulge a key part of the collecting history of a recently discussed object that appeared at auction earlier this year.

Witschonke is a curatorial associate of the American Numismatic Society (ANS) and Co-Director of the ANS Graduate Seminar in Numismatics.

For a further comment on the Art Newspaper letter with a response from Witschonke see here.

Image
Witschonke at the ANS Graduate Seminar.



Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Please Release Sherif Hassan!

Looting Matters normally confines itself to archaeological matters. However, in this case, I am going to make an exception as I know that these posts are widely read by those interested in (ancient) Egypt.

Mark Meynell, who works at All Souls, Langham Place (next to the BBC), has posted a story that is hard to ignore.
On 9th November, we had the terrible news from friends at All Souls. Emma and her Egyptian husband, Sherif, who only got married at All Souls in the summer, were travelling to Cairo to visit members of his family. She was immediately put back on the plane she had come in; Sherif was detained. Over the last couple of weeks, contact has been sporadic, mainly by email but one brief phone call.
Meynell has set up a website to encourage support for Sherif Hassan.

If you have an interest in Egypt please consider supporting this campaign and make Sherif's case known.

Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Friday, November 26, 2010

Looting Matters: Zeus Returns to Italy

Looting Matters: Zeus Returns to Italy
A discussion of the Zeus returned to Italy.

Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

The Barcelona Galerista and Egypt

I am very proud of my postgraduate students who are a bright group. Today we were discussing repatriation and Egypt. They drew my attention to a limestone block from the Tomb of Imep-Hor that is now listed on the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) website.

According to the SCA website the block was spotted in the Alexandra Irigoyen Art Gallery in Madrid.
On March 19th, 2009, Dr. Josep Cervello from the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona sent an e-mail to the Secretary General of the SCA expressing his concern about a limestone block that was then on display in the art gallery of Alexandra Irigoyen in Madrid.
This story had been spotted in anonymous form by the same group of students. But now we have further detail:
Dr. Cervello also was able to ascertain that the piece belongs to the Galerias F. Cervera in Barcelona.
This is the same Barcelona galerista linked to the Egyptian coffin seized in Miami. Barcelona has also been the location of seizures during Operation Ghelas.

I presume that the Barcelona galerista will be providing the SCA with full information as part of their enquiries.

Image
SCA

Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Looting Matters would like to wish North American readers a Happy Thanksgiving!

Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Portable Antiquities Scheme: detail on cuts

The Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) has posted details of how it will deal with the cuts announced as part of the Comprehensive Spending Review. PAS is facing a 15% reduction by 2014-15. One of the most significant features is the impact of devolution. Historically PAS has covered England and Wales. However it is stated:
To reduce the current contribution made by the Scheme to PAS in Wales, the total costs of which is £75K pa, from £59K this year to £6K from 2012. This is on the basis that these costs should be borne by the Welsh Assembly Government, through CyMAL or the National Museum Wales
Wales is facing significant budget cuts. (See draft budget.) Last Friday, the Heritage Minister, Alun Ffred Jones, announced:
As a result of cuts to the Welsh budget by the UK government, the Heritage portfolio revenue budget will see a reduction of 3.15% over 3 years with the capital budget decreasing by 33.9% over 3 years.
The Welsh Assembly Government website does not appear to contain any mention of PAS.

Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Portable Antiquities Scheme and The British Museum

I recently completed an invited forum piece on the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) and the Treasure Act and am now waiting to write my response to the five reactions. I note that today the Department of Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) announced the new arrangement for PAS. Culture Minister Ed Vaizey "confirmed an additional £1.3m of funding going directly to the British Museum to run the Portable Antiquities scheme" (press release, October 23, 2010).

A more detailed press statement was issued by the British Museum ("British Museum to manage Portable Antiquities Scheme, as exciting new finds go on display", November 23, 2010).
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey today confirmed that the future funding of the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) has been secured with a reduction of 15% in real terms over four years. From April 2011 it will be managed directly by the British Museum.

There is a quote from Neil Macgregor:
Following the Spending Review settlement we will wish to maintain the integrity of the Portable Antiquities Scheme as much as we can. Bringing both the PAS and the administration of the Treasure Act together under the management of the British Museum will ensure an effective and efficient mechanism for dealing with archaeological finds made by the public, which also complements the work of curators, conservators and others at the museum.
Image
Ed Vaizey "handling treasure". Source: DCMS.

Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Creative collecting histories?

The "Merrin Zeus" is a reminder that purchasers need to have fully documented collecting histories that can be traced back to the period before 1970. If the Zeus was indeed removed from the Museo Nazionale Romano in 1980 it would appear that the collecting history that it had been in an old Swiss collection in the 1960s was fabricated. Who created the account? Who knew it was fiction?

The Castor and Pollux statues now on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art also have an interesting collecting history. Where did they acquire the reported find-spot of the Mithraeum in Sidon? The curatorial staff at the Met have yet to present their documented and authenticated collecting history.

What do the Zeus and the Dioskouroi have in common?

Image
Head from Roman marble statuette. The Schinoussa Archive.

Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Monday, November 22, 2010

The collecting history of the Merrin Zeus

It appears that my suggestion that the bronze Zeus returned to Italy was significant. This means that we can reconstruct the recent collecting history:

a. 1980. Statue reported to have been removed from the Museo Nazionale Romano.
b. 1982. Statue surfaced in the supplementary exhibition, The Search for Alexander, in The Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco (no. S-10).
c. 1983. Statue appeared in the supplementary exhibition, The Search for Alexander, in the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto (no. S-14).
d. 1984. Statue published by Joyce Geary Volk in California Studies in Classical Antiquity. Owner stated to be Edward H. Merrin of New York City. Collecting history stated: "Mr. Merrin purchased it from a dealer who had obtained it from a Swiss collector in the late 1960s".
e. 1988-89. Statue appeared in The Gods Delight: The Human Figure in Classical Bronze, organized by Arielle P. Kozloff and David Gordon Mitten (no. 29).  Owner stated to be: Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence A. Fleischman.  Exhibited: The Cleveland Museum of Art; The Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
f. 2004. Statue auctioned at Sotheby's New York December 9, lot 249. Sold for $164,800. Sold as: Fleischman collection, New York.
g. 2010. Statue returned to Italy.

If the identification is correct, and I have no reason at present to doubt it, then there are serious questions to ask.

Where did Edward H. Merrin obtain the bronze Zeus? What is the name of the "dealer who had obtained it from a Swiss collector in the late 1960s"? And what is the identity of the anonymous Swiss dealer?


Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The bronze Zeus returned to Italy: a little more detail

The Italian press has been commenting on the report that a female marble torso and a bronze Zeus have been returned to Italy ("Busto romano in vetrina a New York riportato in Italia da un maresciallo", Corriere della Sera November 20, 2010).
Il pregevole bronzetto era detenuto da una ricchissima collezionista di Manhattan, che l'aveva comprato da una casa d'aste per 537 mila dollari. La donna, messa al corrente della provenienza illecita, l'ha restituito senza chiedere contropartite. In precedenza era transitato per una mostra a Cleveland, nell'Ohio, dove era stato presentato con un'expertise di Marion True processata poi per gli acquisti del Getty Museum di Malibù e mostrato sulla rivista «Gods Delight».
The Italian report confirms the Zeus was in the exhibition The Gods Delight at the Cleveland Museum of Art.

But who is 'la donna' described as 'una ricchissima collezionista di Manhattan'?

Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Friday, November 19, 2010

The bronze Zeus returned to Italy

Earlier today I noted the return of a marble female torso and a bronze Zeus to Italy. The statue of the Zeus is distinctive with the right arm lost below the elbow. (There is now a short statement on the Carabinieri website; see also "Zeus statue returned to Italian museum after 30 years", Daily Telegraph November 19, 2010)

Paul Barford also noted the story and added a quote from AFP.
The bronze statue, which was stolen from the National Roman Museum in 1980, was sold by Sotheby's auction house in New York in 2006 and later put on display at an exhibition in Cleveland in the US state of Ohio.
I have been unable to find a bronze Zeus at auction at Sotheby's in 2006. However a bronze figure of a Zeus, some 24 cm tall, with a "missing right hand" (it appears to be missing from the elbow) was auctioned at Sotheby's New York on 9 December 2004, lot 249.

The Zeus auctioned at Sotheby's in 2004 had been exhibited at the Cleveland Museum of Art:
The Gods Delight: The Human Figure in Classical Bronze, Arielle P. Kozloff and David Gordon Mitten, eds., catalogue of the exhibition at The Cleveland Museum of Art, November 16th, 1988 - January 8th, 1989, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, February 9th - April 9th, 1989, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, May 9th - July 9th, 1989, Cleveland, 1988, no. 29, pp. 168-172, illus.
At the time of the Cleveland exhibition this Zeus was the property of Mr and Mrs Lawrence A. Fleischman. The Fleischman statue had appeared in the Search for Alexander exhibition at The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco in 1982. It was published by Joyce Geary Volk ("A Lysippan Zeus", California Studies in Classical Antiquity 3, 2 [1984] 272-83) who reported that in 1984 the Zeus was the property of Edward H. Merrin: "Mr Merrin purchased it from a dealer who had obtained it from a Swiss collector in the late 1960s".

Image
AP via artdaily.com

Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Two Stolen Statues Return to Italy

It has been reported that two statues stolen from collections in Italy have been returned ("Italy announces return from US of 2 stolen statues", New York Post November 19, 2010; "Eagle-eyed officer helps return stolen art to Italy", BBC News November 19, 2010). The marble female torso had been stolen from a museum at Terracina in 1988. It was spotted by off-duty Carabinieri officer, Michele Speranza, in an antiquities gallery in Madison Avenue. He recognised it from the image database of stolen items.

The bronze head of Zeus was stolen from the Museo Nazionale, Rome in 1980. It had resurfaced at an auction at Sotheby's in 2006 and was found in a New York collection.

I am grateful to Katie Downey for alerting me to the story.

Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Looting Matters: The Treasure Act and the Crosby Garrett Helmet

Looting Matters: The Treasure Act and the Crosby Garrett Helmet

Lord Renfrew calls for a review of The Treasure Act (1996) in the wake of the sale of the Crosby Garrett Roman helmet.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Lord Renfrew calls for transparency

The sale of the so-called Crosby Garrett helmet for £2.2 million ($3.6 million) has started to raise some uncomfortable questions. It is now clear if the helmet was found by "a young guy" (Georgiana Aitken of Christie's) or "an unnamed father and son" from Peterlee County Durham (The Independent). Dr Roger Bland of the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) has talked about "the real gap" in The Treasure Act (1996). (Indeed the real issue is the term used for the act.)

A month ago Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn called a review of The Treasure Act in a letter to The Times (London).

On October 20, 2010 Lord Renfrew tabled a written question:
To Ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will review the definition of "treasure" so that major heritage discoveries, such as the Roman parade helmet found at Crosby Garrett and recently sold by public auction, should fall within the scope of the Treasure Act.[HL2515]

Baroness Rawlings (the President of the British Antique Dealers' Association [BADA]) presented a written reply:
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport plans to review the Treasure Act Code of Practice and this will include the definition of Treasure contained in the Treasure Act 1996. This review will take the form of a public consultation and so will provide the opportunity to consider whether it would be appropriate to extend the definition of treasure to include items such as the Roman parade helmet found at Crosby Garrett.

Lord Renfrew has now returned to the theme in the House of Lords by asking the question (November 11, 2010):
To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will review the definition of “treasure” in the Treasure Act 1996 in the light of the sale at auction of the Roman parade helmet recently found in Cumbria for £2 million.

Baroness Rawlings reminded Lord Renfrew of her written reply. In response Lord Renfrew noted:
It is strange that a national treasure can be sold at public auction by an anonymous vendor to an anonymous buyer.
But he then added a question that must cause concern for those dealing in antiquities within the United Kingdom:
will the Government consider reviewing the law on antiquities at sale by auction in favour of some transparency?
Transparency would mean auction houses and galleries providing full details of collecting histories and vendors.

Lord Redesdale returned to the issue of the Crosby Garrett helmet:
My Lords, are moves afoot to look at the practices of the auction houses, given that this helmet was found in many pieces and an enormous amount of archaeological information was lost when conservators put the pieces back together without consulting archaeologists? Is that a practice that auction houses should undertake, given that loss of information on a very rare artefact? Are the Government looking at sales of antiquities through internet sites such as eBay? That is becoming a real source of worry, as much of our heritage is disappearing abroad without any record whatever.
The restorer's report on the helmet is indeed enlightening and I am very grateful to Georgiana Aitken of Christie's for sending me a copy. There is indeed real concern that such an unusual object - could we use the term 'national treasure'? - was not put in the hands of an archaeological conservator.

But Lord Redesdale also raises the issue about eBay. He appears to be suggesting that archaeological material from the United Kingdom is slipping abroad. Are these just chance finds? Or are there those who make a deliberate search for archaeological material? And are all these items recorded by the Portable Antiquities Scheme? How much material goes unrecorded?

Baroness Rawlings responded by talking about 'provenance' (or more accuratley 'collecting histories'):
It is in the interests of both auctioneers and dealers to check that the provenance of items is acceptable to reduce any risk of prosecution for handling stolen goods or dealing in tainted or mended goods.
This brings us back to Lord Renfrew's point for the need of greater transparnechy in the market and the full disclousre of documented collecting histories when archaeological material is offered for sale on the market.

The sale of the Crosby Garrett helmet may well be seen as a turning-point in the debate over the market in archaeological material.


Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

RSS Subscriptions and Cultural Property Blogs


Back in July 2010 I took a snapshot of those subscribing to Looting Matters via RSS and Google Reader. I have just taken another look and note that 287 people receive LM in this way. (RSS is also delivering to other Web 2.0 contexts so this is a partial figure.) This means that in October approximately 8000 posts were delivered to electronic desktops, smart phones, iPads and other mobile devices. This was in addition to the 13,695 visits to the website over the same period; email subscriptions are on top of that figure.

For convenience I have combined the latest figures (red) with those for July (blue) to give some idea of how subscriptions have changed.

Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Robin Symes material on the market

Antiquities handled by Robin Symes are always of interest. Three pieces are listed for the 9 December 2010 sale at Christie's, Rockefeller Plaza.

  • Lot 88: "A Cycladic Marble Reclining Female Figure". Attributed to the Schuster sculptor (or 'master' as Christie's choose to use the now obsolete terminology). Collecting history: Marion Schuster, Lausanne, acquired before 1965; in North American private collection in 1987 (Early Cycladic Art in North American Collections, no. 58); with Robin Symes, London, 1990s; U.S. Private Collection; with Phoenix Ancient Art, Geneva (c. 2006); 'Now owned by a private collector' (Phoenix Ancient Art). A report in the New York Times (Carol Vogel, "Potential Titian Buyers Get an Advance Look", October 28, 2010) states: 'And while Mr. Bernheimer will not identify the seller, people familiar with antiquities say the work is being sold by Michael Steinhardt, the Manhattan financier and collector, who is on Christie’s advisory board'. Estimate: $3-5 million. Pat Getz-Gentle, Personal Styles in Early Cycladic Sculpture (2001) 167-68 [reviewed here] lists 16 figures attributed to 'The Schuster sculptor'. Six of the items formed part of the 'Keros haul', while one was excavated on Keros. 
  • Lot 148: "A Roman Marble Draped Female Herm". Collecting history: "Sambon Collection, early 20th century"; "with Robin Symes, London, 1974"; "Property from the Collection of Max Palevsky". Estimate: $250,000-$350,000.
  • Lot 150: "A Roman Marble Head of Aphrodite". Collecting history: "with Robin Symes, London, 1974"; "Property from the Collection of Max Palevsky". Estimate: $150,000-$250,000.

These lots remind us that some material handled by Symes came from collections formed prior to 1970 (the date of the UNESCO Convention). This is why it is so important to establish full (and documented) collecting histories.


Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Monday, November 15, 2010

Washington Lobbyist and Coins from Bulgaria

I have recently noted that the sale of some medieval coins from Bulgaria had been stopped. It now appears that Classical Numismatic Group Inc. (CNG), with an office in Bond Street, London, has issued a press statement. The release included this statement:
On 5 November, CNG's London office received a faxed letter from the Bulgarian Embassy in London notifying CNG that "The Bulgarian authorities have reasons to believe" that one of the lots in the CNG auction was part of a collection reportedly stolen in Bulgaria in 2007, and requesting CNG to withdraw the Bulgarian coins from the auction in order to allow the Bulgarian authorities to further investigate the matter.
The interesting thing is that the press release does not appear on the CNG website (as far as I can see). Is there a reason?

So where does the press release appear? On a paid-lobbyist's blog - and if you want to read the release you can click here because this same Washington lobbyist has thoughtfully left the text on Looting Matters. (There is a link to the lobbyist's original page.)

It appears that this same lobbyist is currently retained by two organisations: the International Association of Professional Numismatists (IAPN), and the Professional Numismatists Guild (PNG).

The IAPN has apparently paid Bailey & Ehrenberg $20,000 this year for lobbying. (In 2009 is was $10,000.)

IAPN has also apparently paid $10,000 in 2010 to the DLM Group, and specifically to William B. Driggers and Marc P. Lupin.

CNG is a member of the IAPN.

Will the CNG disclose the name of the anonymous private collector who is reported to have consigned the coins at issue?

Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Coins from Bulgaria

There are reports that Bulgarian police have stopped the auction of medieval coins reported to have come from Bulgaria ("Bulgarian Police Bust Illegal Medieval Coins Auction", Novinite [Sofia] November 11, 2010). The sale is reported to have been through the London registered Classical Numismatic Group (CNG). Apparently the sale included material from a collection stolen in 2007. It would seem to be a good example of pan-European co-operation.

But there must be another question. The London office of CNG was involved with the silver denarius of Brutus. At that time Eric McFadden of CNG was quoted in the London press:
"One looks at the deal on the table. We're business people. If there's any indication something's not legitimate, we don't deal in it."
If that is the case, how did CNG come into the possession of the Bulgarian material? Who sold it to them? What were their sources?

And it should be noted that McFadden wrote an extensive submission on the recent proposed MOU with Greece. This latest incident over the Bulgarian material puts McFadden's comments in new light.

Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The IADAA position on "looted" antiquities

I have been rereading the IADAA (International Association of Dealers in Ancient Art) position on "looted" and "stolen" antiquities. Their statement is uncompromising:
IADAA also stands against the destruction of the past, whoever is responsible. ... IADAA will use every effort to raise awareness of such destruction. As our code of ethics makes clear, we refuse to deal in pieces, which are looted or stolen.
The code of ethics for the IADAA clearly states:
2. The members of IADAA undertake not to purchase or sell objects until they have established to the best of their ability that such objects were not stolen from excavations, architectural monuments, public institutions or private property.
Do members of the IADAA provide complete and transparent collecting histories for the objects on offer? Do members of the IADAA try to trace objects back to the period before the benchmark 1970 data of the UNESCO Convention?

How do members of the IADAA define "looted" or "stolen" antiquities? How do they conduct due diligence searches?


Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

The Met to return objects from Tomb of Tutankhamun

It has been announced today that New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art will be returning objects that had been found in the tomb of Tutankhamun ("Metropolitan Museum and Egyptian Government Announce Initiative to Recognize Egypt's Title to 19 Objects Originally from Tutankhamun's Tomb", press release, November 10, 2010). Tom Campbell, the Director of the Museum is quoted:
Research conducted by the Museum's Department of Egyptian Art has produced detailed evidence leading us to conclude without doubt that 19 objects, which entered the Met's collection over the period of the 1920s to 1940s, originated in Tutankhamun's tomb. Because of precise legislation relating to that excavation, these objects were never meant to have left Egypt, and therefore should rightfully belong to the Government of Egypt. I am therefore pleased to announce—in concert with our long-time colleague Zahi Hawass, who has contributed so greatly over many years to the recognition and preservation of the historic treasures of Egypt—this formal acknowledgment that title to the objects belongs to Egypt.
The press statement also quotes Zahi Hawass:
This is a wonderful gesture on the part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art ... For many years the museum, and especially the Egyptian art department, has been a strong partner in our ongoing efforts to repatriate illegally exported antiquities. Through their research, they have provided us with information that has helped us to recover a number of important objects, and last year, they even purchased and then gave to Egypt a granite fragment that joins with a shrine on display in Luxor, so that this object could be restored. Thanks to the generosity and ethical behavior of the Met, these 19 objects from the tomb of Tutankhamun can now be reunited with the other treasures of the boy king.

See also:


For recent returns from New York:






Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Friday, November 5, 2010

Marion True: "sacrificial victim”

The Rome case against Marion True was dropped, and now her lawyer Francesco Isolabella has spoken out (Gareth Harris, "Marion True's defence lawyer speaks out", The Art Newspaper 4 November 2010). Harris quotes extensively from Hugh Eakin's New Yorker commentary on True.

Lord Renfrew was asked to comment on the case and recognised, as True has asserted, that there was a wider institutional issue:
"It was unjust that senior figures at the Getty did not publicly share the responsibility with Marion True who was clearly not the principal decision maker".
The report finishes with a quote from Isolabella:
“It is worth considering how the Italian state orchestrated a major campaign to obtain works that are now in less committed and less organised environments than before. Considering the universality of these items [belonging to humanity], wouldn't it have been better to leave them in the museums where they were?”
There is no consideration of the wider issues. The recently-surfaced antiquities returned to Italy from the Getty had all lost their archaeological contexts. Why did the Getty acquire such much material? Is Isolabella suggesting that it is acceptable for archaeological material to be ripped from (say) Etruscan tombs so long as it ends up in "universal" museums? Would each of the North American museums that returned material to Italy have wanted all the evidence linked to their acquisition policies paraded in public (and through the press) as part of a legal claim? The Italian authorities have waged a successful campaign that has indeed changed the collecting habits of North American museums. And has that reduced the incentive to loot archaeological sites in Italy?


Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails