January 5, 2007

Fresh claims on artefacts in the Getty

Posted at 10:10 pm in Similar cases

Any hopes that the Getty might have been having that 2007 would be a better year for them than 2006 with regards to restitution claims are probably rapidly vanishing.
With all of the disputed artefacts in their collection, they claim that they were originally purchased in good faith. New evidence now seems to suggest that they had been warned off some of their more dubious acquisitions right from the outset though.

The Guardian

Fresh claims fuel row over Getty’s ‘stolen’ antiquities
Suzanne Goldenberg in Washington
Thursday January 4, 2007
The Guardian

The Getty museum, repository of some of the finest antiquities in the world, yesterday discounted charges it had traded in plundered art by acquiring the 2,400-year-old statue that is the jewel of its collection.

The furore over looted antiquities at the Getty comes at a difficult time for the Los Angeles museum, which last year saw a former curator and an executive of its trust charged with theft.

Yesterday, the Los Angeles Times stirred the controversy by quoting Italian and American archaeologists and former Getty curators as saying they had strenuously warned the museum not to buy a marble and limestone statue of Aphrodite because its provenance was uncertain.

The Getty Trust responded in a statement, saying: “The [statue] was acquired by the Getty based on information and research into its provenance available at the time.”

The 2.3 metre (7ft 6in) figure is the most prized piece in the museum, which is blessed with a $5bn (£2.5bn) endowment left by the late oil magnate J Paul Getty. At the time of its purchase in 1988 for a then record $18m, the museum was told that it had been in the possession of a Swiss collector since 1939, the year it became illegal to export antiques from Italy.

But the Times said the statue had been illegally dug up in Sicily, and that members of the Swiss collector’s family were unaware of the statue’s existence.

Instead, dirt encrusted in the folds of Aphrodite’s limestone gown indicated another history of a recent and clandestine excavation. The statue also had fractures in the torso, suggesting it had been broken into pieces for easier smuggling.

“Any museum professional looking at an archeological piece in those conditions had to suspect it came from an illicit origin,” Luis Monreal, the director of the Getty Conservation Institute, told the newspaper. Mr Monreal advised the former director, John Walsh, to carry out pollen tests on the dirt found on the statue to establish its former resting place. The tests were not performed.

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