Skip to main content

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?


Bookmark and Share so Your Real Friends Know that You Know

Comments

DR.KWAME OPOKU said…
It is very likely that Cuno will stick to his old and contested views. After all, the Trustees of the Getty must have known Cuno's position regarding certain issues before they selected him from the number of available candidates. They appointed him not to represent the past but the future of the museum which apparently will correspond to Cuno's past positions and achievements. We wait to see but do not expect an intellectual to abandon his positions expressed in several books and articles merely because he has a new appointment.

Popular posts from this blog

Codename: Ainsbrook

I have been watching (UK) Channel 4's Time Team this evening. The programme looked at an undisclosed field (under a potato crop) where a Viking burial had been found. The location in Yorkshire was so sensitive that it was given a codename: Ainsbrook. Here is the summary:
In late 2003 two metal detectorists were working in a field in Yorkshire. They found 'treasure' buried just beneath the surface – a collection of Viking material next to a body. Although they had been detecting on the site for a number of years, during which time they had made large numbers of finds, nothing they had uncovered previously compared with this. They decided to share their discovery with archaeologists.The programme explored the tension between metal-detectorists and the English Heritage sponsored archaeologists putting six trenches into the field based on a geo-physical survey. Finds made by the metal-detectorists did not easily map onto the archaeological features.

Part of the programme had an …

The scale of the returns to Italy

I have been busy working on an overview, "Returning Archaeological Objects to Italy". The scale of the returns to Italy from North American collections and galleries is staggering: in excess of 350 objects. This is clearly the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the material that has surfaced on the market without a history that can be traced back to the period before 1970. 

I will provide more information in due course, but the researcher is a reminder that we need to take due diligence seriously when it comes to making acquisitions.

Stele returns to Greece

The Hellenic Ministry of Culture has announced (Saturday 8 September 2018) that a stele that had been due to be auctioned at Sotheby's in London in June 2017 has been returned to Greece (Friday 7 September 2018). The identification had been made by Cambridge-based forensic archaeologist Dr Christos Tsirogiannis.

It appeared that the stele had been supplied with a falsified history as its presence with Becchina until 1990 contradicted the published sale catalogue entry. It then moved into the hands of George Ortiz.

A year ago it was suggested that Sotheby's should contact the Greek authorities. Those negotiations appear to have concluded successfully.

The 4th century BC stele fragment, with the personal name, Hestiaios, will be displayed in the Epigraphic Museum in Athens. It appears to have come from a cemetery in Attica.