James Cuno to head the Getty

Dr. James Cuno, a noted writer on cultural policy and a firm supporter of universal art museums and the movement of art has been named the next President and CEO of the Getty Trust:

LOS ANGELES—The Board of Trustees of the J. Paul Getty Trust announced today that James Cuno, recognized both nationally and internationally as a noted museum leader and scholar and an accomplished leader in the field of the visual arts, has been named president and CEO of the J. Paul Getty Trust. Dr. Cuno, who comes to the Getty after serving as president and Eloise W. Martin Director of the Art Institute of Chicago since 2004, will assume his position August 1.
Prior to directing the Art Institute of Chicago, one of the world’s leading encyclopedic art museums, where in 2009 he presided over the opening of the museum’s Modern Wing, Dr. Cuno was the director and professor of the Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London, from 2003-2004; the Elizabeth and John Moors Cabot Director of the Harvard University Art Museums and professor of the history of art and architecture at Harvard from 1991 to 2003; director of the Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, from 1989-1991; director of the Grunwald Center for the Graphic Arts, UCLA, from 1986-1989; and assistant professor of art, Vassar College, from 1983-1986.
There are many tasks involved in this new position of course, but the one I’ll be closely watching will be how this will impact the Getty’s ongoing dispute with Italy over this ancient bronze.

  1. PRESS RELEASE: James Cuno , PRESIDENT AND ELOISE W. MARTIN DIRECTOR OF THE ART INSTITUTE OF CHICAGO, NAMED PRESIDENT AND CEO OF THE J. PAUL GETTY TRUST, (2011), http://getty.edu/news/press/center/james_cuno.html (last visited May 9, 2011).

(via)

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Asking (politely) for the Fano Athlete

The Bronze Athlete

Governor Gian Mario Spacca, president of the region of Marche where this bronze athelete was brought ashore in 1964, visited Los Angeles to seek the return of the object. Catherine Sezgin reports on the visit for ARCA here and here.

The context for the visit is an ongoing seizure action in Italy which the Getty is appealing. Even if the appeals process runs its course, and the object is ordered returned, it appears unlikely that a U.S. court will enforce the seizure order.

And so into that context comes a friendly visit from Spacca saying, as reported by Jason Felch in the L.A. Times:

“We are not here to declare war on the Getty,” Spacca said in a statement to The Times. “We are here to resolve the dispute in a way that will benefit the museum, the people of Italy, and most important, art lovers around the world.” 

Getty spokesman Ron Hartwig described the meeting as “a good discussion” but said serious talks would be possible only after the court case ends and would need to involve the Italian Ministry of Culture. 

“We were clear at the start of our conversation that the statue of a “Victorious Youth,” known as the “Getty Bronze,” was not a matter for discussion since legal issues regarding this object are ongoing in Italy.”

  1. Jason Felch, Antiquities: Italian official seeks return of ‘Getty Bronze’, L.A. Times, March 27, 2011, http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/la-et-getty-bronze-20110328,0,7566636.story (last visited Mar 29, 2011).
Questions or Comments? Email me at derek.fincham@gmail.com

"The Bulldog" Makes a Case for the Return of the "Getty Bronze"

The “Getty Bronze”

Last weekend at the 2010 ARCA conference, Italian state attorney Maurizio Fiorilli offered his thoughts on the ongoing dispute between Italy and the Getty over the disposition of this  ancient Greek bronze, often called the “Bronze Statue of a Victorious Youth”.  Fiorilli has been nicknamed “Il Bulldog” by the Italian press for his quiet persistence in securing the return of illegally exported and illegally excavated cultural objects from a number of American museums, including a number of objects acquired in recent decades from the Getty. 

One object which the Italians did not secure was this bronze, which is the subject of a seizure proceeding in Italy.  I’ve posted below four videos which find Fiorilli making a reasoned legal case for the return of the bronze.  An Italian court in February ordered the return of this object, however difficulty will arise when Italy attempts to convince a U.S. court to enforce the order.  The Getty has appealed the Italian decision, but the legal proceedings are important not only for the direct result, but for the shift in public perception which the Getty will have to navigate.  Surely the Getty does not relish the idea of a long protracted public debate over the disposition of this bronze.  The story of this bronze presents an interesting case.  Though it was certainly illegally exported from Italy, it cannot be considered a “looted” object in my view. 

The bronze was found by Italian fishermen somewhere in the Adriatic in the 1960’s.  I wrote a long summary of the story of the bronze back in 2007.  To summarize, the statue was found by fisherman in the Adriatic in 1964, smuggled out of Italy, and eventually purchased by the Getty in 1977.  The bronze was discussed a great deal in the very public battle between Italy and the Getty over other looted objects in recent years.  Yet there was a lack of direct evidence linking the Getty to any wrongdoing in the acquisition.  Criminal proceedings were brought against some of the fishermen and handlers of the statue in Italy in 1968.  Left with little concrete evidence to secure a conviction, the fishermen were acquitted.  Yet as Fiorilli argued, these proceedings were made difficult because the actual statue had been smuggled abroad, and Italian prosecutors were unable to meet their burden. 

I’ll let Fiorilli make his case in the videos below, and apologies for the low sound levels.  Fiorilli spoke beautiful English, but chose to make his case in Italian, with the help of a translator. 

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Italian Seizures, the Bronze Athelete, and the Getty

The Getty has decided to appeal the February decision in which an Italian court ordered the seizure of this statue, Bronze Statue of a Victorious Youth.  An Italian appeals court judged ordered the work returned to Italy.  This was a new legal approach as nations as far as I’m aware have not attempted to bring forfeiture proceedings domestically, with an expectation that a foreign government or court would uphold the order.  Perhaps the Italian courts could seize other assets the Getty has in Italy in lieu of recovery, but my initial conclusions are shared by Patty Gerstenblith in Martha Lufkin’s excellent summary of the current disposition of the dispute.  Gerstenblith notes two problems.  First, illegal export does not give Italy a tenable claim in U.S. courts.  It may in conjunction with a law like the Cultural Property Implementation Act and bilateral agreements, but those were all enacted after the bronze was brought to California.  Second, an awful lot of time has elapsed, and it is likely that an American court will take a dim view of the length of time Italy has taken before this action.  Indeed, charges were brought in Italy against the fisherman who brought the bronze up in their nets in the 1960’s, but the defendants were acquitted. 

There is an extralegal dimension to the appeal as well, in that Italy continues to put pressure on the Getty, and its means of acquisition of the statue. 

We may question the Getty’s acquisition of the bronze, question where it currently belongs, and even debate the merits of restitution of these objects.  However, there is no evidence that this bronze was “looted” in the same way the Euphronios Krater was for example.  All reports I’m aware of indicate the fishermen fortuitously brought this up in the Adriatic, in international waters, in 1964.  They may have later passed it on to others who smuggled it out of the country, but this is not a looted object.

For noteworthy previous posts on the bronze, see here.

  1. Martha Lufkin, Greek bronze will stay in the Getty Villa, The Art Newspaper, April 14, 2010.
Questions or Comments? Email me at derek.fincham@gmail.com

Italian Appeals Court Orders the Return of the Getty Bronze

A surprising ruling today by Judge Mussoni in the case involving this statute, known as “The Bronze Statue of a Victorious Youth” currently on display at the Getty Villa in Malibu.  I’ve looked at the merits of Italy’s repatriation case in some detail before, here and here.  Essentially, this Bronze was found in the Adriatic in the 1960’s, and Italian fishermen and others smuggled the work abroad.  It was eventually purchased by the Getty.  Criminal proceedings were brought against some of the smugglers decades ago, but they were never convicted.  

The present case was brought by the Italian government, seeking a forfeiture of the statue.  The Getty has indicated it will appeal; but the confiscation order will take effect immediately according to Maurizio Fiorilli, an attorney representing the Italian government.  There are a few hurdles to be crossed before the Getty has to pack up the Bronze and ship it to Italy however.

I haven’t had time to research the legal specifics yet, but I would like to offer some tentative observations.  First, I do not see how the Italian court has jurisdiction over the statue; and getting it returned will require the cooperation of the State Department or Department of Justice.  Second, this case presents a unique situation.  I’m not aware of any case in which a nation of origin brings suit in a domestic court to seek the return of an object from abroad.  If the Italians are successful in securing the return of the bronze, it would rewrite the law governing repatriation in many respects.  But finally, none of the law may matter.  As I’ve argued before, the court of public opinion is often the most important arbiter in many of these cases.  Italy would seem to have a difficult time compelling the State Department or DOJ to compel the Getty to ship the Bronze to Italy; but they could impose a kind of cultural embargo on the Getty, or on other American archaeologists if they want to force the repatriation of the Bronze.

It should come as no surprise then that the Getty’s Press Release this afternoon was critical of the decision:

The Getty is disappointed in the ruling issued February 11 by Judge [Lorena] Mussoni in Pesaro, Italy, involving the Statue of a Victorious Youth, often referred to as the Getty Bronze. The court’s order is flawed both procedurally and substantively.

It should be noted that the same court in Pesaro dismissed an earlier case in 2007 in which the same prosecutor claimed the Statue of a Victorious Youth belonged to Italy. In that case, the judge held that the statute of limitations had long since expired, that there was no one to prosecute under Italian law, and that the Getty was to be considered a good faith owner.

In fact, no Italian court has ever found any person guilty of any criminal activity in connection with the export or sale of the statue. To the contrary, Italy’s highest court, the Court of Cassation, held more than four decades ago that the possession by the original owners ‘did not constitute a crime.

The Getty will appeal the Pesaro court’s order to the Court of Cassation in Rome and will vigorously defend its legal ownership of the statue.

  1. Court orders seizure of Getty bronze, ANSA, Feb. 11, 2010.  
  2. Nicole Winfield, Italian court orders contested bronze statue confiscated from Getty Museum, CP, Feb. 11, 2010.  
Questions or Comments? Email me at derek.fincham@gmail.com

Suspicious Bronze not the Fano Athelete

Earlier this month in a Jan. 14th article the L.A. Times had apparently uncovered some evidence linking the Getty to criminal wrongdoing in the acquisition of this piece.  This bronze statue has been known by many names, including the “Getty Bronze”, the “Fano athelete”, or the “Bronze statue of a victorious youth”.  I’ve received a note from Julie Jaskol, Assistant Director of Media Relations at the Getty notifying me that the “Bronze” discussed in the letters was not this Bronze Athlete. 

The Times has corrected the story:

Bronze statue: A Jan. 14th article in Section A about an Italian legal  case involving the J. Paul Getty Museum’s statue of a bronze athlete mischaracterized a 1976 letter to museum director Stephen Garrett. The  letter from the late antiquities expert and Getty adviser Bernard Ashmole, which referred to the museum’s “exploits over the bronze statue” as a “crime,” was describing a different bronze statue in the museum’s collection. Garrett, who initially told The Times the letter referred to the bronze athlete, now says he was mistaken.

I wrote a very long summery of the dispute back in 2007.  The statue was found by fisherman in the Adriatic in 1964, smuggled out of Italy, and eventually purchased by the Getty in 1977.  The bronze was discussed a great deal in the very public battle between Italy and the Getty over other looted objects in recent years.  Yet there was a lack of direct evidence linking the Getty to any wrongdoing in the acquisition.  Criminal proceedings were brought against some of the fishermen and handlers of the statue in Italy, yet there was not enough evidence to secure a conviction.  At present a prosecutor has brought suit in Italy to attempt to secure possession of the statue.  Had the letter discussed in Felch’s original piece referred to this bronze, this would have provided strong corroborating evidence in the court of public opinion for the return of the bronze. 

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

More on the Getty Bronze

Jason Felch has an interesting story updating the long history of this bronze statue known either as the “Getty Bronze”, the “Fano athelete”, or the “Bronze statue of a victorious youth”.  I wrote a very long summery of the dispute back in 2007.  The statue was found by fisherman in the Adriatic in 1964, was smuggled out of Italy, and was eventually purchased by the Getty in 1977.  As Felch rightly points out, this dispute does not fit neatly into the legal framework governing many antiquities dispute.  This bronze really was found by accident, and early Italian attempt to prosecute the fisherman were unsuccessful.

The bronze was discussed a great deal in the very public battle between Italy and the Getty over other looted objects.  There was a lack of direct evidence linking the Getty to any wrongdoing in the acquisition.  However at “Times reporter” has uncovered a letter and other documents which reveal there were serious questions regarding the statue:

1976 letter from Ashmole to Garrett referring to “the crime”

These documents should not come as any real surprise I don’t think. And though they may not provide enough of a legal basis to secure the return of the bronze, but they will add to the growing public pressure which Italy may try to exert to secure the return of the statue.

  1. Jason Felch, A twist in Getty Museum’s Italian court saga – latimes.com, L.A. Times, January 14, 2010.
Questions or Comments? Email me at derek.fincham@gmail.com