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Getty Publishes New Antiquities Acquisition Guidelines

This just in: Michael Brand, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum, makes good on his pledge to develop a new set of acquisitions guidelines, to help prevent the Getty from getting embroiled in future antiquities controversies.
The Getty guidelines (reproduced in full here) require that the following be provided in connection with future Getty antiquities acquisitions:
—Documentation or substantial evidence that the item was in the United States by November 17, 1970 (the date of the UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property) and that there is no reason to suspect it was illegally exported from its country of origin, OR
—Documentation or substantial evidence that the item was out of its country of origin before November 17, 1970 and that it has been or will be legally imported into the United States, OR
—Documentation or substantial evidence that the item was legally exported from its country of origin after November 17, 1970 and that it has been or will be legally imported into the United States.

It is notable that the Getty chose 1970 as its cutoff year, not 1983, which is when the U.S. adopted legislation to implement the UNESCO Convention. And this is a much more stringent standard than the one that was announced in February by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which stated that it will consider acquisitions of antiquities known to have been out of their countries of origin for merely 10 years.
The Getty’s previous policy required objects to be from “established, well-documented collections” and published before 1995.
The Getty guidelines further state that all provenance information “shall be made available to the public upon written request,” with one major loophole: Provenance information can be withheld if, “in the opinion of the Museum Director and the Getty Trust’s Office of General Counsel, specific circumstances dictate otherwise.” (Would such “specific circumstances” include a seller’s requirement of confidentiality?)
Also, an acquisition “will be published no later than in the annual report for the year in which it was acquired.”
What about an object with problematic provenance that is already in the museum’s collection? The Getty’s actions “may, in the appropriate circumstances, include a return of the object to its country of origin or restitution of an object to an earlier owner, provided such a return or restitution is consistent with the Trustees’ legal and fiduciary duties as stewards of a charitable trust.”
Now if only the Getty could just settle its little tiff with Italy.

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