Marion True has finally caught a break: a Greek court threw out criminal charges against her in the case of a golden wreath bought by the Getty in 1993, and returned to Greece earlier this year. The AP is reporting that a three-judge panel ruled today that the statute of limitations in the case had run out. (The wreath is pictured here at Athens' archeological museum, but apparently it has been moved to Thessaloniki.) True remains on trial on criminal charges in Italy, and she still faces a possible trial in Greece over possessing undeclared antiquities in her Paros vacation home. True has denied all charges against her. More: An interested observer points out this unusual fact: in dismissing the charges, the Greek judges accepted the argument of True's lawyer that the California three-year time limit had expired. I wonder how unusual it is for a Greek court to accept a foreign law as a legal argument.
“Sharon Waxman has written a compelling page turner about the world of antiquities and art-world skulduggery. She manages to combine rigorous, scholarly reporting with a flair for intrigue and personality that gives Loot the fast pace of a novel. I enjoyed it immensely."
“Sharon Waxman’s Loot is the most instructive as well as the most intelligent (and the most entertaining) guide through the labyrinth of antiquity and the ways in which the claims of the departed intersect with the rights of the living.”
"Loot is a riveting foray into the biggest question facing museums today: who should own the great works of ancient art? Sharon Waxman is a first-rate reporter, a veritable Euphronios of words, who not only explores the legal and moral ambiguities of the conflict but brings to life the colorful -- even outrageous -- personalities facing off for a high noon showdown over some of the world’s iconic works of art. Vivid, witty, and delightful, this book will beguile any reader with an interest in art and museums."
“Sharon Waxman approaches her subject with the passion of a great journalist and the rigor of a scholar. It may never again be possible for some of us to walk down the halls of the Louvre or the British Museum or the Metropolitan without a vague sense of disquietude, a frisson of wonder about the provenance of some of their showcase works of ancient art.”
Karl E. Meyer, author of The Plundered Past and co-author of Kingmakers: The Invention of the Modern Middle East:
"Sharon Waxman’s Loot is indispensable for everyone concerned with the illicit trade in smuggled antiquities. She exposes the self-serving humbug that too often afflicts both affluent possessors and righteous nationalists and shows that we all have a stake in getting an honest account of how great objects came to rest in our grandest museums."
November 27, 2007
November 21, 2007
Is anyone keeping score here? Word comes from Cairo that Germany has agreed to establish a joint committee to decide whether the famed bust of Nefertiti (that's her along the left column of this blog) can go back to Egypt on loan, as has been requested by the country's leading archeological gadfly/pharaoh, Zahi Hawass. Hawass told a wire service that he received a letter from Berlin giving him news of the committee, a change from the earlier German position, which was that Nefertiti was too fragile to travel. Hawass had threatened to suspend all German excavations and exhibits if Nefertiti did not come as a loan in time for the opening of a major new museum in Cairo in 2012. For those keeping track, Hawass has asked for five pieces; one, a sculpture of one of the pyramid architects, has been relinquished by the Hildesheim museum. Now Nefertiti might be allowed a furlough. Remains another architect bust at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts; the Rosetta Stone in London; and a zodiac temple ceiling at the Louvre.
A sad sight. I went to the Getty Villa in Malibu today to see the last of the 40 objects that are in the process of being returned to Italy over the next few weeks. It was a quiet day, and a sunny one. Pieces have been quietly disappearing from one day to the next. I met Surinder Kent, a security guard, who said he had a shock on coming to work today. "I came in this morning, and he was gone," he said, referring to the towering marble statue of Apollo that stood in the central niche of the gallery called the Basilica. Normally Apollo is the main figure in a long hallway lined by the muses and gods, one of which -- a Dionysus -- has also been removed for restitution. "I miss him like I was missing a person," Kent said. "It's strange. It shook me up. It's just stone. But you get emotionally involved." He sighed. "The gallery will never be the same." The Apollo was acquired in 1985, and was looted, according to Italy, a position that the Getty accepted in its agreement to turn it over. Kent has worked here for 18 months, and said it's a full-time education. "The beautiful thing ab out working here is all the oohs and aahs you hear," he said. "You grow inside a little bit." Here's the Apollo:
November 06, 2007
Who's next? Why, the dealers are next. Jerome Eisenberg, the long-time and much in-the-mix antiquities dealer, has given Italy eight pieces of art valued at about a half-million dollars, according to reports today. (See AP and Bloomberg .) Eisenberg, now 77, has claimed to be doing so "for ethics and good will," but we may fairly imagine that the Italians were prepared to use less esoteric tactics than appealing to Eisenberg's higher angels. "The circle is tightening," said Culture Minister Francesco Rutelli, with characteristic cheeriness. The art and archeology community seems to be of two minds about Eisenberg, who on the one hand, has helped publicize issues related to illegal antiquity excavation and export in his magazine, Minerva, and on the other hand been accused of engaging in the very same, as is most any dealer who buys and sells antiquities. "I brought 27,000 pieces out of Egypt from 1958 to 1965," Eisenberg says on a 2005 Greek documentary about looted antiquities. "Of those, 70 or 80 had a provenance." Eisenberg has returned three bronze Etruscan statues, four vases and a marble sculpture, according to the Italians. How did they track these pieces down? They visited his Royal-Athena gallery on East 57th Street where they were on display. Buyer, beware. Seller, beware too.