This Saturday I participated in the ARCA Conference on the study of art crime in Amelia Italy. I’ll have a lot more to say about my time in Italy, ARCA, and the masters course generally in the coming days, but I wanted to share one of the highlights.
One of the speakers, and the recipient of one of the ARCA awards was Francesco Rutelli, former Culture Minister of Italy. Following his short discussion there was time for a couple of questions, and I was able to ask about his thoughts on the current disposition and position of the Euphronios Krater, on display here at the Villa Giulia. Michael Kimmelman had an interesting piece last week in the New York Times, arguing “Italy’s biggest prize in the war against looting antiquities went on view recently at the Villa Giulia in Rome” but that “Italians didn’t seem to care much”. I found that to be pretty typical, as an American visiting Rome,
itis not really easy to see how or it can be quite difficult to find where the Krater, or many of the other returned objects are currently on display, particularly in a city and country with so many beautiful objects and heritage sites, wich which truly is an enormous open-air museum.
I asked Rutelli about that, about how Italian’s don’t seem all that interested in the Krater and how not many people are visiting it. He responded with what I thought was a pretty thoughtful answer. He stated that the piece is in “the correct place” and that in “scientific terms it is correct”. It is an Etruscan object, and the Villa Giulia is the Etruscan museum—arguing that if the piece had been properly and legally excavated from Cerveteri, this is where the piece would have been displayed.
He did acknowledge though, that there may have been problems with “publicity and information”, a problem he traces to the current government, which he argued “should do more”, and these repatriated objects should all be displayed together as part of a meaningful message.
He had a lot of interesting things to say, and the presentation of the award, and the audience of ARCA Masters students, interested observers, and reporters gave him an opportunity to look back on the repatriations of the last few years; and of course he was the public face of much of the negotiations between Italy and many North American museums. Though he did point out that it was not just North American institutions. Repatriations were also reached with Japanese and other European institutions—a fact often overlooked. I’ll have much more to say about his other comments, which included Robin Symes, and a kind of a response to James Cuno, in the next few days.