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Tina Brown:

“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."

Christopher Hitchens:

“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.”

Douglas Preston, author of The Monster of Florence:

"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."

Lucette Lagnado, author of The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit:

“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."

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November 18, 2008

CultureGrrl Takes it Back: 'Loot' is a "Tour de Force"

Many thanks to Lee Rosenbaum, the influential cultural blogger and writer at www.culturegrrl.com who blasted me a couple of weeks ago for talking about sex at the Getty, and refused to name the book in her column she was so mad.

She's changed her mind, now that she's read it, and a tip of the hat to her for being willing to be moved. She writes: 

"I take it back.

A couple of weeks ago I blasted (without naming it) the new book Loot, a chronicle of the recent antiquities wars, by former NY Times culture reporter Sharon Waxman. The only thing I then knew about the book's contents was the outrageously irrelevant bit of tabloid journalism that was excerpted for advance publication on Tina Brown's recently launched news-aggregating website, The Daily Beast.

To my surprise, after I wrote my diatribe, I was sent a copy of the book. You can't judge an artwork without seeing it, and you can't judge a book without reading it. It turns our that the excerpt was an anomaly and did the rest of the book a gross injustice. That's why I did it an injustice. (But really, Sharon, why sabotage your own book like that?)

"Loot" is a recap and fleshing-out of stories already broken by others, but it's well worth having for its comprehensiveness. It's enlivened by the blunt candor of major and minor figures on all sides of the cultural-property debate who acceded to interviews with this manifestly skilled reporter. Waxman seems to have met with most of the major players in the recent controversies, with two important exceptions. John Walsh, former director of the Getty, and Shelby White, the controversial collector/patron refused to answer her queries. Just about everyone else (except for those under a legal cloud) did, from the directors of the major museums beleaguered by antiquities claims to the cultural officials of source countries to the security guard at the Getty who mourned the departure to Italy of objects that he had admired every day.

Though not breaking new ground, Waxman's book is a journalistic tour de force---an exhaustively researched, even-handed compendium of the disputes roiling museums and source countries, as seen through the eyes of the protagonists."

Here's the full post.

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