Saturday, December 4, 2010

Princeton: correction

I am grateful to a reader for pointing out that Catherine Duazo's article on acquisitions by the Princeton University Art Museum has been updated. It now states:
In June 2010, the Italian government accused the Princeton University Art Museum’s antiquities curator, J. Michael Padgett, of acquiring nearly two dozen Italian artifacts for the museum that were the property of the Italian government. The University conducted an internal investigation and is now waiting for the Italian government's response.
It should be noted that the New York Times disclosed the Italian papers in June 2010.

There is an additional note at the end of the article:
Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that J. Michael Padgett was accused of illegally donating artifacts to the Princeton University Art Museum when, in fact, he allegedly assisted in the artifacts' acquisition from an alumnus.
This story is about the due diligence process conducted by a curatorial member of staff at the Princeton University Art Museum. And the correction is misleading in that the report that appeared in The New York Times included loans as well as acquisitions.

The alumnus has given an interview to Princeton Alumni Weekly (and see my earlier comments):
The New York Times recently reported that Italian authorities are investigating Edoardo Almagià ’73 for illegal trafficking in antiquities. The Times cited a document written by Italian authorities alleging that the former antiquities dealer loaned, donated, and sold ancient artifacts to the Princeton University Art Museum through curator Michael Padgett, who also is under investigation.
Objects linked to Almagià have been returned from Cleveland to Italy.

What are the fully documented collecting histories of the twenty or so disputed pieces? What loans were made? Will Princeton make all this information available via its website? (A model for this would be Boston's Museum of Fine Art where it is extremely easy to find objects derived from Almagià, e.g. Roman portrait acquired in 1991, "By 1991: with Edoardo Almagià, 136 East 56th Street, New York, NY 10022; purchased by MFA from Edoardo Almagià, May 22, 1991"). Will Princeton make available its full due diligence process?

James Steward, the present director of the Princeton University Art Museum, claims:
We ask a very rigorous set of questions about any work of art that hypothetically might enter our collection either as a gift or a purchase ... We really have a tough standard in that regard, and I would say one of the toughest standards in the country.
If such a "rigorous set of questions" have been asked about the twenty or so objects, Princeton University Art Museum has an academic responsibility to make a full disclosure of this information.


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