April 20, 2007LOS ANGELES—The following statement was issued Friday, April 20, 2007 by Michael Brand, Director of the J. Paul Getty Museum, reacting to an announcement by Francesco Rutelli, Italy's Minister of Culture, imposing a "cultural embargo" on the J. Paul Getty Museum:
"While we have yet to learn the details of the cultural embargo imposed by the Italian Ministry of Culture, all of us at the Getty have worked diligently for over a year to resolve the Italian claims and are extremely disappointed by this unproductive step taken by the Ministry.
"For almost three decades, Italy and the Getty Museum have exchanged works of art to our mutual benefit. The Getty Foundation, the Getty Conservation Institute, and the Getty Research Institute have provided grants and supported significant research and conservation projects throughout Italy, as well as invited many Italian scholars and conservators each year to attend Getty programs. While the Ministry's embargo undoubtedly will affect the Getty, its effect will not be limited to the institution itself. The greatest victims of this decision by the Italian Ministry will be the scholars and the public who strive for higher knowledge and understanding through international cultural exchange.
"I made resolution of the Getty's issues with both Italy and Greece a priority when I arrived at the Museum in December 2005. Since then the Getty has returned several highly important objects to Greece and has forged a new and dynamic relationship with the Greek Ministry of Culture that I am confident will lead to long-lasting and fruitful cultural cooperation. We have approached the Italian negotiations in the same spirit. For reasons we still cannot understand, our efforts have not been successful.
"There is no principled reason for this embargo. The Getty has taken the Italian Ministry's claims for the return of objects very seriously. Since the Ministry made a claim for 52 objects from the Getty's antiquities collection early in 2006, the Getty has carefully reviewed the provenance of each object. Based on this scholarly research, and following intensive negotiations with the Ministry, an interim agreement to resolve Italy's claims was reached and signed by the Italian government in October last year.
"Unfortunately, in early November, the Ministry reneged on its signed agreement. Nonetheless, we told the Ministry that we were prepared to return immediately 25 of the objects claimed by Italy, plus an additional object uncovered during our own research, without the promise of anything in return. We also made it clear to the Ministry that we were prepared to discuss the remaining objects.
"Furthermore, we told the Ministry we were prepared to return the Cult Statue of a Goddess, often referred to as the Aphrodite, while indicating we planned to take up to a year to complete additional research on the origins of the statue. This is research we had hoped to conduct jointly with the Ministry. The Getty will hold a scientific workshop on May 9, at which an international panel of experts will define a research project for the Cult Statue to supplement research done at the time the Cult Statue was acquired by the Getty in 1988. The Italian Ministry of Culture has been asked repeatedly to participate in this project, but to date, has not responded. We are pleased the Sicilian Regional Ministry of Cultural and Environmental Heritage and Public Education is sending two representatives to the workshop.
"As promised in our October 2006 agreement with Italy, the Getty provided a formal legal response to their claim on the Statue of a Victorious Youth, referred to as the Getty Bronze. Based on this information, we have made it clear to the Ministry that we cannot and will not meet Italys demand for its transfer. This Greek statue was found in 1964 in international waters, and was acquired legally by the Getty in 1977. Indeed, the Italian high court confirmed Italy has no legal claim to the Bronze. The Ministry itself has repeatedly stated that it has no legal claim to the statue. As a result, the Ministry has never before asserted a claim to the Bronze in any of the legal proceedings relating to this object. It is the Ministrys unsubstantiated claim for this one object—a Greek statue with no connection to the cultural heritage or history of Italy—that has led to this unfortunate embargo.
"We will return objects that rightfully belong in Italy. But we will not return an object where there is no evidence to suggest that this should be done; nor will we compromise our standards or our professional and ethical responsibilities simply to reach an agreement.
"The Getty also shares the Ministry's commitment to stopping the illegal trade in antiquities. This is clearly evidenced by our newly adopted acquisitions policy, which is fully in line with the standards established by UNESCO.
"I urge Minister Rutelli, with whom I have met several times, and who I believe also wants to resolve this matter, to reconsider the action taken today. The Getty is prepared to resume talks with Italy at a moment's notice. By removing the Statue of a Victorious Youth from the center of this debate, I believe we can conclude an agreement that ultimately will benefit the entire community dedicated to the study, conservation and exhibition of works of art from antiquity on both sides of the Atlantic. Let us resolve our differences so we can work together to achieve this important goal."
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