December 14, 2006

Getty to return gold wreath to Greece

Posted at 2:57 pm in Greece Archaeology, Similar cases

Two more articles on the Getty’s latest agreement with Greece.

The Times

The Times
December 13, 2006
Getty returns Greek antiquities

LONDON The Greeks may have failed to reclaim the Elgin Marbles from the British Museum, but they scored a significant victory yesterday when the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles took the dramatic step of returning two important antiquities.

A gold funerary wreath, c320-300BC, and a marble statue of a Kore, c530BC — both jewels of the Getty’s collection — are going home after the Greek Culture Ministry proved that they had been excavated illegally.

Speaking in London yesterday, Michael Brand, the director of the Getty, told The Times the museum would lose out financially, having paid $4.5 million for the objects in the early 1990s.

There was no chance of a refund. One piece was bought from Robin Symes, the disgraced London dealer jailed for contempt of court.

The return of the antiquities is part of Dr Brand’s attempt to wipe clean the Getty’s slate. Marion True, its former senior curator, over the past year was tried on charges of conspiring to receive stolen artwork.

The Guardian

Getty returns disputed works to Greece

· Antiquities may have been exported illegally
· Museum tightens policies on provenance of objects

Charlotte Higgins, arts correspondent
Wednesday December 13, 2006
The Guardian

Michael Brand, the director of the J Paul Getty Museum, has announced in London that the museum will return two objects from its collection to Greece.

The move comes after a series of claims by Greece and Italy relating to works suspected of having been looted from archaeological sites or illegally exported to the Californian museum, one of the richest arts organisations in the world.

The objects to be returned to Greece are a gold funerary wreath and a statue of a kore (a young woman). Two other items were returned to the Greek ministry of culture in August after a similar claim.

Dr Brand, an Australian who has been director of museum since January, is hoping to resolve the issues that have plunged the Getty into disrepute over the past year. Last month the museum agreed to return 26 objects to Italy, out of 52 that had been claimed. The wreath and the kore had also been claimed by Italy.

The Greek objects have been returned “on the basis of information that we now know but did not at the time of their acquisition”, said Dr Brand. The kore appears in a haul of photographs seized in 1995 from the dealer Giacomo Medici, which showed the statue “in a less clean state than we have it” – suggesting it had been recently excavated and sold illicitly.

Meanwhile Marion True, the Getty’s former antiquities curator, who resigned last October, is on trial in Italy on charges of conspiracy to traffic in looted art. She may also face charges in Greece.

If that were not enough, Barry Munitz, the museum’s former chief executive who resigned in February amid an avalanche of accusations, was the subject of a damning report in October from California’s attorney general. Though there was no evidence of criminal activities, the report found that Dr Munitz had improperly used the J Paul Getty Trust’s funds.

But Dr Brand and his team are making efforts to wipe the slate clean of what he called “the recent unpleasantness”. James Wood, who was director and president of the Art Institute of Chicago between 1980 and 2004, was announced as Dr Munitz’s successor last week. “That Jim Wood, someone with an impeccable reputation, should come in, is a great symbol of confidence,” said Dr Brand.

In October, the museum announced a stricter acquisitions policy which states that there must be evidence that an item was in the US by 1970 and that there is no reason to suspect it was illegally exported from its country of origin; or evidence that the item was out of its country of origin before 1970 and that is has been legally imported into the US; or evidence that the item was legally exported from its country of origin after 1970 and that it has been legally imported into the US.

These rules mean that the institution will come into line with the British Museum, which adheres to a 1970 Unesco convention aimed at preventing illicit movement of cultural property.

The J Paul Getty Museum has two outposts: the Getty Centre in Los Angeles, which houses European paintings, drawings, sculpture, illuminated manuscripts, decorative arts, and European and American photographs. The second is the Getty Villa in Malibu, which reopened in January, after a major refurbishment. It houses objects from Greece, Rome, and Etruria. About 1,200 objects from its total holdings of 44,000 are on view.

The museum is funded by the J Paul Getty Trust, whose endowment is $5.5bn (£2.8bn), which draws down 5% of that sum each year. The museum’s acquisitions budget eclipses that of any British institution. But it can be “frustrating”, said Dr Brand, trying to buy art from overseas in the face of export regulations, which can halt the removal of important works from a host country.

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