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Caravaggio Viaggio: My Public Radio Chat on Museums’ Art Rentals with Tim Rub and Steve Litt (with audio)

Caravaggio, "The Crucifixion of Saint Andrew," 1606-1607, Cleveland Museum of Art

Too Fragile for Travel? Caravaggio, “The Crucifixion of Saint Andrew,” 1606-1607, Cleveland Museum of Art

One of the first things I did last week while Lost Around Los Angeles was grant a phone interview to David Barnett, senior arts reporter and producer for ideastream, the Cleveland-based public broadcasting outlet. He wanted my views on a topic that I’ve frequently fulminated about—some museums’ exploitation of their collections as cash cows by renting them for high fees to sister institutions, contrary to the customary practice of collegial loans.

The short-term financial benefits of this gambit had inspired Sicily to make a last-minute demand that the Cleveland Museum of Art pay some $700,000 in extra fees for last year’s major loan show, in Sicily: Art and Invention between Greece and Rome

What I didn’t know when David interviewed me (but learned by listening to his incisive report, below) was that questions have been raised about whether one of Cleveland’s greatest treasures—Caravaggio‘s “The Crucifixion of Saint Andrew”—is fit to travel to Sicily. Its voyage was arranged by the museum’s previous director, David Franklin, who had successfully used it as a bargaining chip in his negotiated plan to scotch the demand for high loan fees by offering reciprocal loans instead.

What I had called a “win-win” apparently hasn’t sat well with Cory Korkow, the Cleveland Museum’s associate curator of European art, who told Barnett that “Saint Andrew” is “absolutely on the ‘do not travel’ list. It’s condition is too fragile.” Because of these concerns, Barnett reports, “it would appear that the deal to send the Cleveland Museum’s Caravaggio to Sicily is not done yet.”

Listen to our entire “rentals” conversation by clicking the arrow on the audio bar, below. Also weighing in are Steve Litt, arts writer for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and Timothy Rub, former director of the Cleveland Museum and now director of the Philadelphia Museum and president of the Association of Art Museum Directors:

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