Should a Museum Hire Marion True?

la dea di Morgantina

Malcolm Bell thinks so. He holds a position as emeritus professor of Greek art at the University of Virginia and the co-director of the American archaeological excavation at Morgantina. He has written a long review of Felch and Frammolino’s ‘Chasing Aphrodite’. Morgantina was the site of course where the limestone goddess was looted, and had it not been looted, Bell may well have recovered it and its full context. In 1988 when the goddess was sold to the Getty for $18 million, Marion True sent him photographs of the sculpture, asking if he knew about it. He did not, though he does write that his “lack of knowledge offered no form of assurance that it did not come from Morgantina”.

So it is quite surprising perhaps that Bell comes to the conclusion that the book ‘undervalues’ the contribution of Marion True to efforts at reform. He concludes with the following paragraph:

Today the archaeologist’s belief that ancient sites must be protected, and that ancient artifacts are best studied when we know most about them, is widely shared by our museum colleagues. That there has been a convergence of views is owed in good part to Marion True, whose bitter experience offers lessons to all parties. Her contributions far outweigh her mistakes, and were I today to be asked to recommend someone to fill a major museum position, she would be the first person to come to my mind.

Will partisans accuse Bell of not reading the book because he makes a controversial argument, or instead take his arguments on the merits?

  1. Malcolm Bell, The Beautiful and the True, wsj.com, July 2, 2011, http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303339904576405983959162302.html?mod=googlenews_wsj (last visited Jul 2, 2011).

Questions or Comments? Email me at derek.fincham@gmail.com

3 thoughts on “Should a Museum Hire Marion True?”

  1. Kuddos to you Malcolm Bell! Marion True has long taken a “rap” that many should share – beginning with the Getty Trustees who helped fund the efforts and all those archaeologists, lawyers, art historians, and others who have jumped on the “let’s get Marion” bandwagon. Apparently they must find her plight academically satisfying and rewarding – based on the seminars and academic meeting discussions that have damned her. Anyone who visits “the Villa” will understand what you mean when you write “her contributions far out weigh her mistakes.”

  2. “(…) her contributions far out weigh her mistakes”, strange assertion. So, I can still maintain good image and be appreciated even if I get caught in plundering your home. And this sharing the blame is complete bs ! Like that criminal enterprise when undertaken by prominent cultural institution is different from that of ordinary mobsters and criminals. Meaning, she was caught red handed, her board is not – end of story. If she could implicat some of the people from museum board I am certain authorities in Italy would be more then happy to hear from her.

  3. So when does the investigation into the Getty Board of Trustees begin? After all, they are complicit for NOT demanding that Dr. True present ordinary business receipts and documentation for her purchases. Did they think she was traveling to Greece and Switzerland on THEIR dime for facials? Wasn’t there some connection between the Los Angeles Times and the Getty Board of Trustees? Why SO shocked now???

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