August 3, 2007

Getty to return 40 Italian antiquities

Posted at 1:46 pm in Similar cases

Details of an agreement reached between Italy & the Getty Museum, after re-opening talks on the matter.

Bloomberg News

Getty Agrees to Give Italy 40 Disputed Antiquities (Update3)
By Stephen West and Catherine Hickley
Aug. 1 (Bloomberg)

The J. Paul Getty Trust agreed to hand over to Italy 40 antiquities, including a statue of Aphrodite that Italian officials say was looted from Sicily, largely settling a dispute with the Los Angeles museum.

The two sides agreed to postpone discussions on the Getty Bronze, a statue that became a sticking point in the talks, until a legal case involving the statue brought in the town of Pesaro is resolved, Getty Director Michael Brand and Italian Culture Minister Francesco Rutelli said today in a joint statement.

“Both sides are pleased that after these lengthy and complex discussions they have reached an agreement and are now moving toward a renewed collaborative relationship,” the statement said.

Rutelli had threatened to end cultural cooperation with the Getty Museum, which is funded by the $5.6 billion Getty Trust endowment, if a settlement wasn’t reached by today. The two sides agreed on “broad cultural collaboration that will include loans of significant art works, joint exhibitions, research and conservation projects,” the statement said.

The Italian side agreed to drop its claims to 12 objects in the Getty’s collection, Brand said today in an interview. The Getty added one object found in storage to the group that will be returned, raising the total to 40.

Italian Loans

Brand said the agreement includes assurances by Italy that it will lend the Getty artifacts of similar importance to the ones being returned.

“The Italian side has been very generous,” especially concerning the “Cult Statue of a Goddess,” or Aphrodite, Brand said. The statue will stay at the Getty until 2010. The larger- than-life sculpture of a goddess, which probably served as a cult image in a temple, is made from a combination of limestone and marble, and scholars believe it was carved in the Greek colonies of southern Italy or Sicily between 425 B.C. and 400 B.C. The Getty bought the statue in 1988 from a London dealer for $18 million.

A schedule for transferring the remaining objects will be worked out in the coming months. Brand said the agreement doesn’t include any monetary payments and doesn’t specify which Italian works will be loaned to the Getty in the future.

“We have not attempted to identify specific objects,” he said. “It’s much better to do that curator to curator,” depending on the topics of exhibitions planned by both sides. “We’re also talking about recently excavated objects,” he said. “It’s best to leave it open.”

Future Exhibitions

Two shows will be helped immediately by the agreement, Brand said: a Bernini exhibition next year, organized by the Getty and the National Gallery of Canada, that’s seeking several loans from Italy; and a Canova exhibition in Italy later this year that will include a sculpture loaned by the Getty.

Brand said the breakthrough in negotiations was made in mid- June, when Rutelli suggested that the status of the Getty Bronze be deferred until after the completion of the Pesaro legal case.

“That allowed us to get back to negotiations,” Brand said, adding that he and Rutelli were the principal negotiators of the agreement.

The Getty Bronze, or “Statue of a Victorious Youth,” is a life-sized Greek sculpture of an athlete made between 300 B.C. and 100 B.C. that the museum acquired in 1977 for $3.95 million. The Getty has said the statue was found in international waters and Italy has no legal claim to it; Italian officials say it was found by Italian fishermen, brought ashore to Italy near Fano, then secretly sold and smuggled out of the country.

Brand wouldn’t speculate on what may happen after the legal case in Pesaro is concluded.

“We’ll deal with that at the time,” he said.

Earlier Settlements

After the U.S. and Italy signed a cultural treaty in 2001 that required the U.S. to return artifacts illegally exported after that year, the Italian government targeted antiquities in several American collections, including the Getty, New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts.

The Metropolitan Museum agreed in February 2006 to return 20 disputed objects in its collection to Italy, including a 2,500- year-old vase painted by the Greek artist Euphronius. The Museum of Fine Arts agreed to return 13 objects, including a 6 1/2-foot marble statue of the Roman empress Sabina, in September 2006.

Italy has charged two art dealers and Marion True, the Getty’s former curator of antiquities, with buying looted artifacts. One dealer is appealing his conviction and the other remains on trial with True, who denies the charges. True resigned her position at the museum in 2005.

“We certainly believe the talks with Italy were more complicated” than those for the New York and Boston museums because of True’s continuing trial, Brand said. Today’s agreement, whose text will not be made public, contains “standard disclaimers” on liability but nothing specific concerning True’s case, Brand said. Still, he said it may help clear away complicating factors in her trial.

“We hope this makes her situation much less difficult,” said Brand, praising her scholarly work and long service to the museum.

Last Updated: August 1, 2007 17:30 EDT

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