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I’ll See Your Charioteer and Raise You a Caravaggio: Cleveland Museum and Sicily Both Win at Exhibition Poker

David Franklin, director, Cleveland Museum of Art

David Franklin, director, Cleveland Museum of Art

Poker-faced David Franklin, director of the Cleveland Museum, called Sicily’s bluff and won the hand. But Sicily also walked away from the negotiation table as a winner.

Just in the nick of time, the Cleveland Museum and Sicily reached a compromise deal that will bring to Ohio, on schedule (Sept. 29-Jan. 5) and without the additional fees that Sicily had demanded, the entire loan show, Sicily: Art and Invention between Greece and Rome. That critically acclaimed exhibition closed on Monday at the Getty Museum and would have been shipped back to Italy had Sicily not backed off from its insistence that Cleveland ante up what was reportedly and additional $700,000 to secure the already agreed-upon show.

Steve Litt of the Plain Dealer reports:

In exchange, the Cleveland museum has promised to send to Sicily an exhibition of masterpieces from its own collection, including “The Crucifixion of Saint Andrew” by Caravaggio [one of Franklin’s Five Favorites].

“We’re extremely excited,” said David Franklin…. “Although it was a complex process, in the end it’s certainly a great result both for the Cleveland Museum of Art and Sicily.”

It’s also a great result for all museums that have been increasingly shelling out excessive rental fees for what ought to have been collegial loans.  Perhaps by standing his ground in this standoff and crafting a win-win solution, Franklin will cause other museum directors to reconsider the pernicious practice of extracting large fees for important loans, at the expense of sister institutions.

This could signal an auspicious sea-change for cultural exchange:

Bargaining chip: Caravaggio, "Crucifixion of Saint Andrew,"

Bargaining chip: Caravaggio, “Crucifixion of Saint Andrew,” 1606-07, Cleveland Museum

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