Sicily says 23 works won’t travel

A depiction of Scylla, one of the objects from the "Morgantina Silver" collection recently repatriated
A depiction of Scylla, one of the objects from the “Morgantina Silver” collection recently repatriated

A good reminder that even when loan agreements are crafted, they don’t always produce a good deal for the source of this art. Sicily’s regional government has declared that 23 works of art should not go abroad for loans unless there are ‘extraordinary circumstances’. The list includes important paintings by Caravaggio, but also some antiquities, many of which have been the subject of recent disputes, including the Morgantina Silver, La dea di Aidone, the Gold Phiale, and other objects.

The reason for the ban? Loans are only going one way. When these objects are loaned abroad there is not sufficient art sent to Sicily. In essence it’s a one-way exchange, at least from Sicily’s point of view. If art is to be a good ambassador, the transfer should go both ways.

Hugh Eakin reports in the NYT that:

In recent years, Sicily, long a victim of looting, has gained back some of the most prized ancient art in the world, including a seven-foot limestone and marble Greek goddess from the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles. But many of the works reside in small regional museums that struggle to draw visitors. According to a report this year in the Corriere della Sera, a leading Italian daily, the museum in Aidone, which houses the silver and the cult statue, received 13,410 visitors in 2012.

A new administration that took power in Sicily in the last year has expressed disappointment with existing loan practices. In 2005, for example, the Sicilian region sent, on its own initiative, three Antonello paintings to the Met for a much publicized exhibition. Now, those three paintings are on the “immovable” list.

“It’s perfectly understandable,” said Philippe de Montebello, the former director of the Met who negotiated the museum’s 2006 restitution accord with Italy. “Sicily doesn’t have the depth. If you take away one of these top pieces, you’ve created a big gap.”

  1. Hugh Eakin, Citing Inequity, Sicily Bans Loans of 23 Artworks, N.Y. Times, Nov. 26, 2013.

2 thoughts on “Sicily says 23 works won’t travel”

  1. All excuses aside, Italy is one dimensional. There are plenty of archaeologically rich nations with an equal share of important prices that would be more than happy to play fair.

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