Marion True Interview

The Chimera d’arezzo, on loan at the Getty from the Museo archeologico di Firenze 

Hugh Eakin has an interview with Marion True in the online version of the New Yorker. She seems relieved her trial is over, but also a little angry that she was the sacrificial curator:

There is the remarkable fact that without ever reaching a verdict, the trial had an enormous effect on American museums.
My greatest sadness is that the Italians were able to intimidate the entire American art world, and especially museums, without having to produce any evidence at all. Why didn’t museums band together and say, “How are we going to deal with this?” They ran off instead to make their own deals—deals which may not exactly be very good in the long run. Why did we hand over all this stuff without asking for more documents? The trial was a gigantic threat that everyone reacted to. The message was, “You could be next.”

Another irony is that precisely some of the changes in museum standards you were calling for in the nineteen-nineties have now come to pass. There is much more talk now of using major loans from archaeological countries in lieu of purchases—something that you had been advocating for many years.
That’s right. But I haven’t seen a genuine opening about loans. There are plenty of things that could be done in loans, possibilities for collaborations. Italy has lent the Chiamera of Arezzo to the Getty, a kind of trophy piece. In truth, there are hundreds of objects sitting in the basements of Italian museums, at Pompeii, everywhere, that need to be conserved. Why not lend them to American museums for conservation work, and so they can be seen?

Has the Getty made any effort to reconcile with you?
No. And I have nothing but the greatest contempt for them in the world. They acted like I ran the place. Above me I had a chief curator who was deputy director, a director, an in-house counsel, a president, a board of trustees to whom the president reported, and a chairman of the board. What about the lawyers who drafted the acquisition policy, who were supposed to be vetting all documents? They were perfectly happy to assure all that [the alleged acquisition of illegal art] was my work. Never once have [former Getty director] John Walsh or [his successor] Deborah Gribbon stepped forward to say one word about their responsibility.

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One thought on “Marion True Interview”

  1. There are so many aspects of this interview that I couldn’t help but comment. The “evidence” Italy presented to American museums to entice them to fork over their antiquities was hundreds of polaroids seized from Medici’s warehouse showing looted antiquities that perfectly matched recently acquired antiquities from American museums. The smart museums (read: Not the Getty) did not want the bad publicity, and decided it was in their best interests to quietly settle the issues while they still had an upper hand: the ability to receive loans from Italy. Marion True must not have been to many museums recently, otherwise she would have known that Italy has loaned scores of pieces to the museums that settled. As for blaming her former employer for the trial and her actions, True fails to admit that she was complicit in the institution’s illegal purchases. She is bitter that the Getty pinned the illegal purchases on her, but in actualtiy she deserves her own punishment for her personal wrongdoing. There is an important ethical lesson to be learned here: CYA by not engaging in illegal transactions to begin with! Marion True should take solace in the fact that the Getty’s name was just as smeared as hers through this prolonged trial.

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