The purpose of the Association of Art Museum Directors is to support its members in increasing the contribution of art museums to society. The AAMD accomplishes this mission by establishing and maintaining the highest standards of professional practice; serving as forum for the exchange of information and ideas; acting as an advocate for its member art museums; and being a leader in shaping public discourse about the arts community and the role of art in society.Antiquities are covered by part of the Code of Ethics:
A museum director should not knowingly acquire or allow to be recommended for acquisition any object that has been stolen, removed in contravention of treaties or international conventions to which the United States is a signatory, or illegally imported in the United States.Antiquities are also discussed in their 2006 Report on Incoming Loans of Archaeological Material and Ancient Art (which I have discussed elsewhere: "Loan Exhibitions and Transparency").
AAMD members who violate this code of ethics will be subject to discipline by reprimand, suspension, or expulsion from the Association. Infractions by any art museum may expose that institution to sanctions, such as suspension of loans and shared exhibitions by AAMD members.
Among the Values of the AAMD are:
The Public Trust: AAMD's members hold their collections in public trust. Commensurate with this responsibility and recognizing their accountability to their institutional missions, their trustees, and their communities, AAMD's members perform their professional duties with honesty, integrity, and transparency.There continue to be issues over antiquities acquired by, or on loan to, three museums that are members of the AAMD.
- Houston Museum of Fine Arts (HMFA). The museum has the long-term loan of a bronze krater from Shelby White. (See also "A Bronze Krater in the Levy-White Collection".) Although a member of the museum staff has confirmed the presence of the krater, a further request for information about the krater has been ignored. (See "Loan Exhibitions and Transparency".)
- Cleveland Museum of Art. There are said to be some 23 antiquities acquired after 1970 that are on a list under discussion with the Italian authorities. These are in addition to the discussion over the Cleveland Apollo.
- Minneapolis Institute of Arts (MIA). In its collection is an Attic red-figured volute-krater attributed to the Methyse painter. It was purchased in 1983 from Robin Symes. It has been reported, "A Greek vase owned by the Minneapolis museum appears to match a photo of a vase that Italians say was looted" ("Italy claims Minneapolis museum holds looted vase", Star Tribune, November 9, 2005). Apparently the krater features in the dossier of Giacomo Medici's Polaroids seized in the Geneva Freeport. In 2006 it was said that the MIA was researching the krater: "The MIA is researching the vase, and has not been contacted by Italian authorities ..." (Steve Karnowski, "To protect the treasures, museums find detective work pays", AP, June 14, 2006) Is there documented evidence to show that the krater was known prior to 1970? Will the MIA release its findings?
- The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. [See Press Release.]
- The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
- The J. Paul Getty Museum, Malibu.
- Princeton University Art Museum.
Perhaps one of the best expressions of the debate has been by Mary Abbe ("Principle is at heart of antiquities crackdown", Star Tribune, November 4, 2007):
In pursuing the return of antiquities from the Getty Villa museum, the Italian government is acting to reinforce an important principle, more than its need for antiquities. For decades art collectors and archaeologists have been at odds. Collectors and art historians value antiquities primarily for their aesthetic qualities - the beauty and refinement of their design. Archaeologists are especially concerned about context, that is, what the objects reveal about the lives and customs of their makers, which is best divined by studying them where they're found, typically in graves or other archaeological digs.Members of the AAMD are emerging from the recent negotiated returns of antiquities to Italy with a tarnished reputation. But it is also clear that the some members of the AAMD continue to have an unhelpful and unreformed view of their acquisitions. Will there be change?