Antiquities and the New Leadership at the Getty

Jason Felch reports for the LA Times on the new director of the Getty Museum, Timothy Potts, who has opposed reforms of the antiquities trade. He will join James Cuno, the Getty Trust CEO, who has also been critical of efforts to restrict the flow of looted antiquities. The Getty has a very strict acquisitions policy, so I’m not sure how much their criticism of the reform will lead to the actual acquisition of objects. They will be subject to a great deal of scrutiny like this report where Felch details a previous controversy involving a Roman torso:

 In late 2000, Potts approved the acquisition of a rare Sumerian statuette for $2.7 million. The 15-inch alabaster figure was an ancient masterpiece from the cradle of civilization, the region Potts had specialized in while studying at Oxford. It was to be an important contribution to the Kimbell’s small but highly regarded collection. 

But shortly after the statue arrived at the museum, court records show that Potts took the unusual step of returning it to the dealer and asking for a full refund. 

Publicly, Potts said that he wanted to free up money for other acquisitions. But he later testified that he had learned the dealer — Hicham Aboutaam, owner of the New York City antiquities gallery Phoenix Ancient Art — was under investigation by the IRS, and decided against buying from him. 

Soon, though, Potts changed his mind about doing business with Aboutaam. After receiving repayment for the Sumerian statuette in November 2001, Potts moved to acquire a $4-million Roman torso he had admired on an earlier visit to Aboutaam’s gallery on East 66th Street in Manhattan.

  1. Jason Felch, Antiquities issue rears head with Getty leaders Potts, Cuno in place, Los Angeles Times Articles, February 17, 2012, http://articles.latimes.com/2012/feb/17/entertainment/la-et-getty-antiquities-20120217 (last visited Feb 20, 2012).
Questions or Comments? Email me at derek.fincham@gmail.com

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