Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Fano Athlete: Legal Case in Final Stages

Elisabetta Povoledo has covered the final stages of the legal wranglings over the Fano Athlete presently in the J. Paul Getty Museum ("Italy Presses Its Fight for a Statue at the Getty", New York Times January 16, 2010). The Italian legal team have been concentrating one one key questions: "Was the museum acting in good faith when it purchased the statue for a little less than $4 million in 1977?" Povoledo reports the Italian assertation that "the museum was willfully negligent in carrying out due diligence before buying the work".

Alfredo Gaito, one of the legal team representing the J. Paul Getty Museum is reported: "Consistent documentation suggests that the sale was done in good faith because the seller offered sufficient guarantees to overcome every doubt." Such claims of acquisitions made in "good faith" were also recorded by the Princeton University Art Museum and the private collector Shelby White (see my earlier comments on this phrase); in both those examples the objects have been handed over to Italy. Even James Cuno accepts "due diligence and good faith inquiries are no longer sufficient".

Revelations made by Jason Felch in the LA Times have reminded us of some of the issues surrounding the acquisition. Now Alberto Berardi who speaks for the return of the Fano Athlete is quoted: "No museum in the world should exhibit works whose provenance is clearly illegal".

The next stage in the legal tussle is for the Pesaro judge, Lorena Mussoni, to decide if the statue should be seized. A decision is expected in the next month.

Povoledo also notes the Italian praise for the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents in New York. There is an implicit acknowledgment that the MOU between the USA and Italy is helping to reduce the movement of recently looted archaeological material.

From the J. Paul Getty Museum

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