Thursday 26 May 2011

Further Apulian pottery formerly in the Geddes Collection

On Tuesday I noted the appearance of an Apulian krater that had formed part of the Geddes collection. The Gnathian krater ("Apulian Monumental Volute Krater") that appears alongside it on the website of the newly formed Mougins Museum of Classical Art had also derived from the same collection. It was sold at Bonham's (London) on 15 October 2008 (lot 23) for £36,000. It, too, had surfaced at Sotheby's (London) in 1985 (9 December, lot 378) and had then be placed on loan to the University of Melbourne, Australia (March 1985 - February 1994).

The observant will wonder if there is some sort of mistake. How could a krater be on loan to the University of Melbourne from March 1985, but be sold in London in December 1985, and then return to Melbourne until 1994? I suspect that there has been some inaccurate recording. Several of the items that were withdrawn from the same Geddes sale were also put on loan to the University of Melbourne.

What was the collecting history of the Gnathian krater prior to its 1985 appearance at Sotheby's?

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Tuesday 24 May 2011

Apulian pottery formerly in the Geddes Collection

LM has taken an interest in the Geddes collection. I took another look at the Mougins Museum of Classical Art that is opening this month. I have already noted that the museum has being buying from the Royal Athena Galleries and that the curator, Dr Mark Merrony, the editor-in-chief of Minerva, now owned by Christian Levett (Dalya Alberge, "'Compulsive' art collector builds French museum to display ancient treasures", Observer March 27, 2011). I was thus interested to note that one of the three ancient pieces highlighted in the Greek section was an Apulian hydria.
This exquisite red-figure example from south Italy shows a mythological scene featuring Eros, the god of Love and Hermes, the messenger god. Attributed to the Trudo [sic.] Painter.
The hydria, more accurately attributed to the Truro painter, had apparently surfaced at Sotheby's (London) on 9 December 1985 (lot 375). It had then been placed on loan to the University of Melbourne (March 1988 - July 2003) and the Museum of Mediterranean Antiquities, Monash University, Melbourne (November 2005 - April 2008). It was then sold at Bonham's (London) in October 2008, lot 18. (This sale was particularly significant.)

The sale of objects at Sotheby's in 1985 is not without interest.

What is the full collecting history of the Mougins hydria prior to 1985?

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"Pursuit of beauty at the cost of truth"

Ralph Frammolino, Ron Hartwig (of the Getty Trust), and Lee Rosenbaum had been discussing Chasing Aphrodite ("My LA Public Radio Commentary on "Chasing Aphrodite" (Hear It Now)", Culturegrrl May 23, 2001).

There were several strands to conversation. One of the initial issues was that more people would see the Aphrodite in the Getty than in the archaeological museum at Aidone in Sicily. It was suggested that Aidone has 17,000 visitors a year in contrast to the 425,000 to the Getty Villa. But does this justify acquiring objects that have been removed from archaeological contexts by illicit means and unscientific methods? Interestingly Frammolino suggested that the display of the "Morgantina Silver Treasure" (returned by New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art) will, perhaps, attract additional visitors.

The conversation then turned to the issue about who in the Getty knew about the questionable side of the market in antiquities. There was consideration of the "higher aim" of museums, to "preserve beautiful objects for posterity". But that seems to have been at the expense of the loss of knowledge. Frammolino emphasises this by reminding the audience that we cannot even be sure that the Aphrodite was that particular deity (he suggests Persephone and Demeter as possible options) or how it was displayed. He also notes that these art objects were frequently broken up to allow them to be exported from their countries of origin.

Hartwig tried to redeem the situation by talking about the good things that the Getty had been doing. Frammolino had to explain that this included conservation projects to deal with the issues of damage sustained by cultural tourism. Interestingly he reminded us that Getty conservators were often met with a measure of hostility in some situations as their museum was so closly linked to acquiring recently surfaced antiquities.

Frammoline reminds us that the problem was not just one for the Getty or even North American museums. This was a worldwide phenomenon.

Rosenbaum picked up on an important aspect of Chasing Aphrodite. Some 350 objects at the Getty had been acquired from "suspect" dealers. Will the full collecting histories for these pieces be disclosed? She also comments on the position of the "hawkish" James Cuno in his new role at the Getty. She praised Felch and Frammolino for their "tour de force of investigative reporting'.

The interview raises one further issue. How will the Getty scandal have an imapct on the public perception of museums?

Note: Discussion starts at 8:36.

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Curatorial change at the Getty

Karol Wight, who succeeded Marion True at the senior curator of antiquities at the J. Paul Getty Museum, will be leaving to be the Executive Director at the Corning Museum of Glass ("Getty Museum's senior antiquities curator leaving for Corning Museum of Glass", LA Times Culture Monster May 23, 2011). Wight has been extremely helpful to me with my research and I would like to offer her the best of success in her new role.

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Saturday 21 May 2011

Chasing Aphrodite: Reviews

A review of Chasing Aphrodite will appear in tomorrow's LA Times (review, May 22, 2011). Wendy Smith starts with the question that came to her mind as she read about the acquisitions at the J. Paul Getty Museum: "What were they thinking?"

Smith considers the "loophole" that allowed the Getty to acquire material that appeared to be fresh out of the ground while using rhetoric to distance the museum from any association with looting.

We are reminded of the problems with the Fleischman collection that undermined the revised museum acquisition policy.
"True, at once the greatest sinner and the greatest champion of reform, has been made to pay for the crimes of all American museums," Felch and Frammolino conclude. That seems an accurate assessment, though it could also be argued that True's breathtaking ability to say one thing while doing another, coupled with the Getty's institutional arrogance, made her a fair target. This chronicle of her painful, protracted fall from grace certainly makes for a riveting cautionary tale.

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Cultural Heritage in Wartime: summary

There was an extremely fruitful workshop on Archaeology and Cultural Heritage in Wartime in Swansea on Friday. Dr Laurie Rush reminded us of the key issues facing troops in action. Dr Charles Kirke placed us in a scenario in Central America where we had to plan a defence that would include archaeological sites of world heritage status. Dr Richard Osgood showed us the issues facing the MOD training grounds such as use of heavy equipment in wet weather.

More historical papers showed that the French army deployed an archaeological force at Gallipoli and in Macedonia, while the British adopted a more amateurish approach (Gill). Amara Thornton charted the development of archaeological services in the mandated territories of the Middle East following the First World War. Professor Carlotta Coccoli discussed the differences in protecting cultural heritage in Italy and Japan during the Second World War.  Dr Nigel Pollard considered the bombing in Pompeii in September 1943 against the background of the Salerno landings.

Dr Nigel Pollard should be thanked for organising such a profitable day.

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Thursday 19 May 2011

Sifting the Soil of Greece

Sifting the Soil of Greece explores students at the British School at Athens from 1886 to the end of the First World War.

The antiquities dealer R. de Rustafjaell appears as a member of Robert Carr Bosanquet's team at Cyzicus. His proposal to export some of the finds was rejected.

Material from some of the BSA's excavations in Greece and on Cyprus was donated to various museums in the UK. This will be of interest to those who have been discussing the issue of partage in the contemporary cultural property debate.

David W.J. Gill, Sifting the Soil of Greece: the Early Years of the British School at Athens (1886-1919). Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies, suppl. 111. London: Institute of Classical Studies, 2011. ISBN 978-1-905670-32-1. £38. xiv + 474 pp.

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Wednesday 18 May 2011

Chasing Aphrodite: now available

My printed copy of Chasing Aphrodite has now arrived. The focus is very much on the acquisition policy of the J. Paul Getty Museum. However other museums in North America, Europe and Australia that have thus far failed to feature in the list of returns to Italy now get featured.

Followers of LM will no doubt want to purchase a copy. The sections are:

  • Part I: Windfalls and cover-ups
  • Part II: The temptation of Marion True
  • Part III: "After such knowledge, what forgiveness?"

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Archaeology and Cultural Heritage Protection in Wartime

Archaeology and Cultural Heritage Protection in Wartime: 
Contemporary and Historical Perspectives

Callaghan Centre for the Study of Conflict/Research Institute for the Arts and Humanities, Swansea University, 20th May 2011

Introduction: Professor Nicola Cooper, Director, Callaghan Centre for the Study of Conflict, Swansea University

Session 1: Contemporary Approaches to Heritage Protection in Wartime

Richard Osgood (Defence Infrastructure Organisation, UK Ministry of Defence): 'The Contemporary Operating Environment: Cultural Heritage Protection and the British Army'

Laurie Rush (US Army): ‘Protecting the Past to Secure the Future; Heritage Training for Military Personnel’

Charles Kirke (Cranfield University): ‘The View from the Trench: Practical military considerations when Heritage meets War’

Session 2: Historical Approaches 1: War, Politics and Archaeology in the First World War

David Gill (Swansea): 'Excavating under Gunfire: Archaeologists in the Aegean during the First World War'

Amara Thornton (Institute of Archaeology, London): ‘A "Non-Political" Field? Archaeology in Palestine 1917-1926.’

Session 3: Historical Approaches 2: Heritage Protection in the Second World War

Carlotta Coccoli (Milan/Padova): ‘Allied Armies and Preservation of Architectural Heritage during the Second World War: The Cases of Italy and Japan’

Nigel Pollard (Swansea): ‘Methods, Weaknesses and Lessons to be Learned. The Allied Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives Sub-Commission in World War Two’

Concluding Comments Dr Jonathan Dunnage, Swansea University


Dr Carlotta Coccoli

Contract Professor of Principles of the Conservation Project of Historical Buildings (Polytechnic of Milan, 1st School of Architecture) AND Contract Professor of Architectural Restoration (University of Padova, Faculty of Arts and Philosophy)

Dr David Gill

Reader in Ancient History, Department of History and Classics, College of Arts and Humanities/Callaghan Centre for the Study of Conflict, Swansea University

Dr Charles Kirke

Lecturer, Military Anthropology and Human Factors, Cranfield University, Defence Academy of the United Kingdom, Shrivenham

Dr. Richard Osgood

Senior Historic Advisor, Defence Infrastructure Organisation, UK Ministry of Defence

Dr Nigel Pollard

Lecturer in Ancient History, Department of History and Classics, College of Arts and Humanities/Callaghan Centre for the Study of Conflict, Swansea University

Dr. Laurie Rush

US Army, Fort Drum (NY) and The American Academy in Rome

Amara Thornton

PhD candidate, Institute of Archaeology, University College London

The workshop is organised by Dr Nigel Pollard. 

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Egypt: MOU under consideration

Dr Zahi Hawass reports that one option to restrain the movement of recently surfaced Egyptian antiquities onto the market could be a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the US ("The International Coalition to Support Protection of Egyptian Antiquities").  One of the projects under immediate consideration is the monitoring of Egyptian archaeological sites by satellite technology.

Such a development is likely to unsettle those selling Egyptian antiquities. These objects form a significant section of the New York auction market and few have collecting histories that can be traced back to the period before the 1970 UNESCO Convention. Clearly there is a need for those involved with the market to  demonstrate the past history of these items especially as it is now clear that collecting histories can be fabricated by some sectors of the commercial community.

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Thursday 12 May 2011

James Cuno at Harvard

Jason Felch, co-author of Chasing Aphrodite, has written a piece on James Cuno's appointment as CEO to the Getty Trust ("James Cuno says he accepts the Getty's antiquities acquisition policy", LA Times May 11, 2011). Felch looks back to Cuno's time at Harvard:
In one case, Cuno approved the purchase of more than 180 Greek vase fragments with unclear ownership histories. Cuno has said he inquired into their origins. With no clear evidence that they came from illicit excavations, Cuno said Tuesday, "we were satisfied these were appropriately acquired."

In an interview, David Mitten, the retired Harvard curator and professor who recommended the purchase, has a slightly different account. He said he and Cuno knew that two antiquities dealers known to traffic in looted antiquities — Robert Hecht and Frieda Tchacos — were the source of some of the fragments.
Felch contacted Cuno who is quoted: "At the time I didn't know the extent of his reputation". (I presume this meant Hecht.)

More at stake is the fact about what we now know about Hecht and Tchacos, and what was known to Cuno when he wrote Who Owns Antiquity? (2008). Cuno made his position on the acquiisition of the fragments quite clear (see here).

Felch also raises the issues about Shelby White's acquisition of the Icklingham bronzes that are apparently derived from a Roman site in Suffolk, England.
In 1996, Cuno oversaw an exhibit of bronze statues that included objects with murky ownership histories on loan from private collectors Leon Levy and Shelby White and Lawrence and Barbara Fleischman.

Irene Winter, the chair of Harvard's fine arts department, filed a complaint with the university's then-president, Neil Rudenstine, requesting that the loans be barred under the school's loans and acquisitions policy. Dozens of objects from the two private collections have since been returned to Italy or Greece.

Rudenstine today is a Getty Trustee and a member of the committee that selected Cuno. In an interview, he said he was satisfied that Cuno had conducted the proper due diligence.

Will Cuno be toning down his position as he takes up his new role?

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Tuesday 10 May 2011

The Trebenishte krater: where should it be displayed?

Source: Blic
The Trebenishte krater has been returned to the National Museum in Belgrade, Serbia after conservation in Italy (Milena Marjanovic, "Prince’s treasure 2,500 years old", Blic May 10, 2011). The krater was discovered in what is now the Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), close to the frontier with Albania (see earlier comments).

So why not return this stunning piece of archaic craft to FYROM? Why display it some 400 km away from where it was found?

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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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Monday 9 May 2011

James Cuno as President of the Getty Trust

Source: Getty Trust
It has been announced that James Cuno is to be the next president of the Getty Trust [press release].
The Board of Trustees of the J. Paul Getty Trust announced today that James Cuno, recognized both nationally and internationally as a noted museum leader and scholar and an accomplished leader in the field of the visual arts, has been named president and CEO of the J. Paul Getty Trust. Dr. Cuno, who comes to the Getty after serving as president and Eloise W. Martin Director of the Art Institute of Chicago since 2004, will assume his position August 1.
Cuno's position on cultural property is well-known (see some of the reviews of his work).

This announcement coincides with the publication of Chasing Aphrodite that is raising issues about the J. Paul Getty Museum's acquisition policy.

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Thursday 5 May 2011

Chasing Aphrodite: Australian museum noted

Chasing Aphrodite will be revealing that objects in a certain Australian museum appear in the Medici Polaroids.

What else will emerge? Order your copy now.

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Wednesday 4 May 2011

Chasing Aphrodite: more North American museums listed

Since 2006 some 130 antiquities have been returned to Italy from North American public and private collections. Chasing Aphrodite has an important discussion of the Medici Polaroids and the authors identify material in four further major North American museums.

I will not reveal the names here. Order your copy! [Amazon]

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Tuesday 3 May 2011

Chasing Aphrodite: the Europa interview

The publication of Chasing Aphrodite will unmask the culture of collecting by North American museums. Authors Jason Felch and Ralph Frammolino have been interviewed for Europa.
Most American museums have yet to fully acknowledge their role in the illicit antiquities trade over past decades. But we have seem a remarkable and relatively sudden change in the policies and practice of American museums, led by a new generation of museum directors who are sensitive to these issues of cultural patrimony. After decades of turning a blind eye, they’re confronting the issue of provenance.
I will comment in more detail about the book in due course but its focus on the J. Paul Getty Museum allows readers to understand the motivation for collecting.

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The Stern Collection in New York: Cycladic or Cycladicising?

Courtesy of Christos Tsirogiannis There appears to be excitement about the display of 161 Cycladicising objects at New York's Metropolit...