Tuesday, May 10, 2011

James Cuno as President of the Getty Trust: Reactions

Source: Getty Trust
There have been some reactions to the appointment of James Cuno as president of the Getty Trust.

Jori Finkel has written up the announcement for the LA Times ("Getty Trust's new CEO: Art Institute of Chicago's James Cuno", May 10, 2011). Cuno is quoted:
Cuno says that his appointment does not signal a change in Getty's antiquities policies. "No, I'm certain they won't change. The decisions that the Getty made were absolutely right for the Getty," he says.

"In terms of my criticism of cultural property laws, I think reasonable people can disagree on these matters, and I very much look forward to engaging in conversations with colleagues around the world. I think we are all seeking the same thing: to preserve the objects of antiquity and broaden public and scholarly access to them."

Lord Renfrew was contacted for a comment:
Colin Renfrew, a leading archaeologist at Cambridge University, calls Cuno a "seemingly odd choice" to lead the Getty because of his position on this topic.

"But if he maintains the new acquisition policy, he may do no harm," Renfrew says. "If he persuades the trustees to renege on that policy he will make the Getty once again the black sheep of the Western world. We shall have to wait and see."

Benjamin Genocchio of Art+Auction is reported in the LA Times. His response, "Why the Getty's Choice of James Cuno as CEO Is Clueless", is blunt. Here is a flavour:
So why would the Getty board have chosen to replicate the same disastrous management structure — to hire another veteran museum director (from the same Chicago institution, no less) to be its president, who in turn will have to choose a museum director to work for him? This is not just déjà vu, it smacks of an institution that is incapable of even recognizing that there is a problem with its management structure. They have just set themselves up for the same old antagonisms to arise all over again.
The publication of Chasing Aphrodite later this month will only serve to highlight institutional problems within the Trust as well as the Museum.

Lee Rosenbaum has also written an excellent response ("Archaeologists’ Red Flag: James Cuno Named Getty Trust President", May 10, 2011). Here is a short section:
This intemperate rhetoric, presuming to tell other countries that they have no "right" to enact their own cultural-property laws and suggesting that they also have no right to derive a sense of national identity and self-esteem from the rich cultures that historically flourished in their lands, is waving a red flag in front of archaeologists and officials from the source countries for antiquities---the very people with whom the Getty has been conscientiously trying to reach a rapprochement.

What is my feeling? Cuno has made his position clear through Who Owns Antiquity? and Whose Culture? I have yet to see him expand on the fragments of pottery from the Robert Guy collection that were discussed in Whose Muse? though there are some issues that still need to be addressed. I have reviewed two of these volumes: one in the American Journal of Archaeology [link] [other reviews] and the other for the Journal of Art Crime [quote].

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2 comments:

DR.KWAME OPOKU said...

"In terms of my criticism of cultural property laws, I think reasonable people can disagree on these matters, and I very much look forward to engaging in conversations with colleagues around the world. I think we are all seeking the same thing: to preserve the objects of antiquity and broaden public and scholarly access to them." Cuno.
Is this a genuine change of attitude or merely a diplomatic ploy?

Paul Barford said...

But the problem is with illicitly obtained artefacts that its not the "objects" that matter so much as the destruction of archaeological evidence inherent in their removal from the archaeological record. It seems that with all the discussion that followed the publication of Cuno's book that the Getty's new CEO has not taken this idea on board.

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