Friday, 28 March 2008

Following the Trail of Robin Symes

Lee Rosenbaum has drawn attention to a long review by Francesco Rutelli ("20 mesi di cultura in Italia"). In a section on "Cultural diplomacy" he states:
Un altro argomento centrale nelle recenti politiche del nostro Ministero è quello del recupero degli oggetti d’arte e soprattutto archeologici trafugati. Su questo delicatissimo fronte abbiamo intrapreso un’importante battaglia e la stiamo vincendo, come dimostra l’accordo per la restituzione dei 40 capolavori che erano conservati nel Getty Museum di Malibu. La forza etica degli argomenti e soprattutto l’impegno intransigente del Governo sono riusciti a ribaltare in poco tempo quel che non si muoveva da decenni: prevedo che nell’arco dei prossimi anni altre centinaia di opere rubate al nostro patrimonio nazionale e portate all’estero torneranno in Italia: l’accordo che ho stipulato con il Ministro della Cultura inglese per fare luce sulla collezione Symes ospitata a Londra ha aperto nuove, considerevoli opportunità.
By my reckoning around 100 antiquities have been returned to Italy (from Boston, Malibu, New York, Princeton; University of Virginia Art Museum at Charlottesville; Shelby White and Jerome Eisenberg). So the prospects of "hundreds" of other capolavori returning "home" is an interesting one.

What are they?

My hunch is that Rutelli will not be revisiting any of the above collections (with the possible exception of the J. Paul Getty Museum for the Fano athlete) unless there are new and spectacular revelations. He has negotiated and agreements have been reached.

He has already indicated that three museums are in his sights: the Ny Carlsberg Glyptothek in Copenhagen, the Miho Museum, and the Cleveland Museum of Art. But will they yield a mere 20 or 30 pieces between them?

So why the expected "hundreds"?

The fact that the "Symes collection" is under discussion is significant. P. Watson and C. Todeschini in The Medici Conspiracy (ch. 17) have noted that the "holding company" for Symes' private collection was "Xoilan Trader" (with an administrative address in Geneva, Switzerland). (Note that the Attic red-figured krater sold to the Minneapolis Institute of Art by Symes was published as having been in "private collections" in Great Britain and Switzerland.)

The Medici Conspiracy also maps Symes' assets:
In his thirty-three warehouses ... Symes had 17,000 objects worth an estimated £125 million ($210 million).
Are these objects the subject of Rutelli's discussions with Margaret Hodge, the Minister in the UK's Department of Culture, Media and Sport?

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