Skip to main content

Cleveland Museum of Art: More Decisions Ahead?

Yesterday's announcement about the return of antiquities from Cleveland to Italy presented a rather mixed bag. But Elisabetta Povoledo ("Pact Will Relocate Artifacts to Italy From Cleveland", New York Times November 19, 2008) has indicated that two further pieces are under consideration.
Yet not all has been resolved. A committee will be set up to discuss two other objects in Cleveland: a first-century chariot attachment depicting a Winged Victory with a cornucopia, and a renowned fourth-century B.C. bronze statue of Apollo slaying a lizard, which the museum attributes to the classical Greek sculptor Praxiteles.
The Roman bronze Victory with Cornucopia, Roman (1984.25) is known to have “traveled through the art market and conceivably found with [63-65]” (Gods Delight, no. 66). The three other pieces, nos. 63-65 in the exhibition catalogue are now in the J. Paul Getty Museum. So discussions with Italy have implications beyond Cleveland.

The Apollo has been the subject of previous comment.

Povoledo also quotes Timothy Rub, director of the Cleveland Museum of Art:
Mr. Rub said the museum acted in good faith when it acquired the pieces, but when presented with evidence of problems, it resolved to “honor our obligation to acquire in a manner that is ethical and transparent” and returned the works “to their rightful owner.”
As the museum acted in good faith, why is the museum refusing to provide the sources for the pieces?

Steven Litt ("Cleveland Museum of Art strikes deal with Italy to return 14 ancient artworks", cleveland.com November 19, 2008) reported:
Rub said the agreement with Italy is based on the understanding that neither the museum nor its directors or curators are in any way tainted by the return of objects.

Instead, Rub said, the understanding is that the museum innocently acquired objects that "clearly were associated with bad actors" at some point in their past.

Rub also said the museum purchased all the artworks in question after the 1970 UNESCO convention governing international trade in antiquities, aimed at halting illegal trade in antiquities.

The majority of the objects were purchased between the 1970s and the 1990s. Rub declined to give names of dealers involved in the histories of the objects.
I am left puzzled by this. Did the curatorial staff at Cleveland not have any suspicions if the objects had no recorded histories prior to 1970? And would the disclosure of the names of dealers help to close this disturbing period for American museums? Are other museums in North America, Europe and the Far East holding material from the same sources? Disclosure would help other museums to re-examine their due diligence processes.

Image
Corinthian krater (formerly Cleveland Museum of Art 1990.81). Source: MiBAC.

Comments

RB said…
In terms of other museums' behavior, supposedly the Getty Museum was awfut but the Boston Museum of fine arts was great--that's what I read in this article [http://tinyurl.com/6zgdly] which also links to some of the history on looting.

Another good site is PBS...http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/europe/jan-june08/returnhome_02-18.html it's an interview with Italy's minister of culture.

Popular posts from this blog

Marble bull's head from the temple of Eshmun

Excavations at the temple of Eshmun in Lebanon recovered a marble bull's head. It is now suggested that it was this head, apparently first published in 1967, that was placed on loan to New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art (Tom Mashberg, "Met Museum Turns Over Another Relic With Disputed Past to Prosecutors", New York Times August 1, 2017 ). The head is reported to have been handed over to the Manhattan district attorney after a request was received from the Lebanese authorities.

It is suggested that the head may have been looted from an archaeological storage area at Byblos in the 1980s during the Lebanese civil war. Mashberg has rehearsed the recent collecting history:
The owners of the bull’s head, Lynda and William Beierwaltes of Colorado, say they have clear title to the item and have sued Manhattan prosecutors for its return.  The Beierwaltes bought the head from a dealer in London in 1996 for more than $1 million and then sold it to another collector, Michael …

The Toledo skyphos and a Swiss private collection

The Attic red-figured skyphos attributed to the Kleophon painter in the Toledo Museum of Art (inv. 1982.88) is now coming under further scrutiny following the research of Dr Christos Tsirogiannis. The skyphos shows Hephaistos returning to Olympos.

Tsirogiannis has identified what appears to be this skyphos in five photographs in the Medici Dossier. The museum acknowledged that the skyphos had resided in a 'private Swiss collection'. Tsirogiannis suggests that this is probably a reference to Medici.

Enquiries to the museum by Tsirogiannis elicited the information that the skyphos had been acquired from Nicholas Koutoulakis (although that information does not appear on the museum's online catalogue).

The curatorial team at the Toledo Museum of Art will, no doubt, be contacting the Italian authorities to discuss the future residence of the skyphos.

For further discussion of the Toledo Museum of Art on LM see here.

Reference
Tsirogiannis, C. 2017. "Nekyia: Museum ethics an…

Metropolitan Museum of Art hands over Paestan krater

In May 2014 I commented on a Paestan krater acquired by New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art after it had been identified by Dr Christos Tsirogiannis in photographic images seized from Giacomo Medici. Tsirogiannis published his full concerns in the Journal of Art Crime in 2014, but it has taken a further three years for the museum to respond.

The krater showing Dionysos in a hand-drawn cart was purchased in 1989 from the Bothmer Purchase Fund (details from the Museum's website, inv. 1989.11.4). The krater surfaced through Sotheby's New York in June 1989.

It is unclear who consigned the krater to Sotheby's New York.

It has now been revealed that the krater has been handed over to the US authorities after a warrant had been issued (Tom Mashberg, "Ancient Vase Seized From Met Museum on Suspicion It Was Looted", New York Times July 31, 2018).

It appears that the museum did make an attempt to resolve the case in December 2016. Mashberg notes:
The Met, for its par…