The euphoria at the Cleveland Museum of Art regarding its new purchase of Henry Bone’s enamel-on-copper copy of Titian’s Bacchus and Ariadne for less than half a million was, alas, overshadowed today by the cancellation of its upcoming exhibition, Sicily: Art and Invention between Greece and Rome, which is currently at the Getty. It is, and was to be, a blockbuster. Take a look at the check list — some 145 antiquities, including the phiale pictured here.
Cleveland museum Director David Franklin spoke in diplomatic understatement when he told the Cleveland Plain-Dealer, “It’s very disappointing. These things don’t happen very often in the art world. This is unprecedented for me and I think unprecedented for all of us.”
Sicily had been complaining that the loan of so many ancient treasures was hurting its tourism. And in June, Mariarita Sgarlata, Sicily’s highest cultural official, had told The New York Times that the island’s government had never signed a contract for the show, which was approved instead by the Italian government. But Sicily enjoys some autonomy.
Franklin is trying to make the best of the situation. He also said in the Plain-Dealer: “In the end, we have to respect the decision Sicily made. And frankly we hope we can work with Sicily again. We don’t end with any acrimony here.”
Now what? Franklin is right to keep the temperature down. He has said he’d find something to plug the hole in the special exhibitions galleries, probably something contemporary.
I have higher hopes. Now is the time for another museum, or museums, or a collector, or Italy itself to come forward with an offer. Italy has been touting its Year of Italian Culture here, lending items such as The Boxer, a Third Century B.C. statue now on view at the Metropolitan Museum — let it step into the breech here, if not an entire exhibition, a stupendous loan from its many treasures.
Given the climate in antiquities, it would unlikely for an antiquities collector to lend his or her treasures, but — as ARTnews just revealed — there are 200 very active collectors out there, surely one or a group of them could step forward with the offer of loans.
Finally, yes, I know museums plan exhibitions years in advance. But is there no show out there that, with a little arm-twisting, might go to one more venue? Think!
Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Getty