an blog | AJBlog Central | Contact me

CultureGrrl’s Q & A with Getty Museum Director Michael Brand

Michael Brand, the Getty’s director, responds by e-mail to CultureGrrl‘s questions about the antiquities agreement with Italy (here and here):
CultureGrrl: Italian Culture Minister Francesco Rutelli said that the accord was reached with the help of the U.S. administration. What was he referring to?
Brand: He could be referring to the fact that the U.S. Ambassador to Italy has been interested in this matter for some time, and asked us to keep him briefed on progress during the negotiations, but otherwise you would have to pose that question to Mr. Rutelli.
CultureGrrl: Why did you decide that giving back all 40 objects (instead of 26) was the right thing to do? What is the rationale for relinquishing those objects?
Brand: First of all, we are not returning “all” the objects, but rather 39 of the 52 claimed by Italy, with an additional object we identified during our own research. For each object, we studied the information provided by Italy alongside our own research before coming to a conclusion as a part of a fully consistent process. In the end, we agreed that the dividing line between “should be returned” and “should not be returned” fell after 39 objects (with the Bronze deferred).
CultureGrrl: Is it possible that the upcoming Italian findings on the Getty Bronze could change your mind about this, or are you committed to keeping the bronze?
Brand: We were pleased the Minister suggested that any further discussion about the Bronze should be deferred until the conclusion of legal proceedings in a Pesaro court, and we are not going to comment further right now.
CultureGrrl: Is there a chance that the California Attorney General’s office may now take action against the Getty for wasting assets by acquiring the 40 objects in the first place (as discussed with me by AG spokesman Thomas Dresslar here)?
Brand: The Attorney General’s office is aware of our agreement.
CultureGrrl: Is it possible that Italy may come after you for additional objects in the future?
Brand: Anything is possible, though clearly we believe our agreement with Italy has resolved issues between us. As part of the agreement, both sides are committed to resolving any future issues with the same spirit of honest collaboration that has inspired this agreement. That said, the Getty’s position with regard to claims on antiquities could not be clearer: if evidence is presented that suggests an object in our collection should be returned, we will study it, thoroughly discuss findings with the country making the claim, and if it is determined an object should be returned, it will be.
CultureGrrl: Are there any details about what objects Italy will lend to the Getty, as part of this agreement, and for how long they will be lent?
Brand: We will soon be working out the details regarding loans to the Getty with our Italian colleagues, but from the beginning we decided not to include specific works of art as part of the agreement. With respect to the “Aphrodite”, however, Italy has generously offered to find replacement loans of an especially important nature. At the moment, Italian law does not allow works of art to be lent internationally for more than a period of four years.
CultureGrrl: Is there anything else that you feel is important to say about this?
Brand: This is in many respects an historic agreement. While clearly no one at the Getty is happy that 40 objects from our antiquities collection will be leaving the museum, the prospect of having an ongoing rotation of long-term loans from Italy to supplement our magnificent permanent collection, as well as short-term loans as part of temporary exhibitions is very exciting, and will provide Getty Museum visitors a unique opportunity to enjoy aspects of Italian cultural heritage they might never have had the chance to witness without traveling to Italy. The Getty has always had a special affinity for Italy, and putting these difficulties behind us will permit both sides to realize its full potential.

an ArtsJournal blog