Oops, he did it again.
In May I reported that Francesco Rutelli‘s penchant for repatriation through the press, rather than through quiet diplomacy, had survived his terminated tenure as Italy’s culture minister: He had, at that time, told the credulous Associated Press that Italy had reached a verbal agreement with the Cleveland Museum for the return of objects, which the museum’s spokesperson emphatically denied when I did my fact-checking.
Now, in a phone interview published yesterday in Il Messaggero, the Rome-based newspaper, Rutelli claims:
[Italy’s] accord with Cleveland has been
concluded. I have handed over the documents to my successor. They now
need to be carried out.
So I contacted Cleveland for verification and its answer was much as it had been in response to Rutelli’s previous jump-the-gun pronouncement:
Information that is currently appearing in Italian media sources is incorrect with respect to works in the collection of the Cleveland Museum of Art. The Cleveland Museum of Art continues to hold discussions with Italian officials; however, no agreement has been reached to transfer any objects from the collection of the Cleveland Museum of Art to Italy and no timetable for conclusion of these discussions has been set.
A spirit of cooperation and confidentiality has informed the discussions between the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Italian government to date, and we look forward to this continuing.
Aside from the controversies it stirred up—not only with the Cleveland Museum but also with Sandro Bondi, the man who, after the recent Italian elections, usurped the politically appointed post that Rutelli clearly relished—I enjoyed the Italian newspaper piece because it taught me that my soubriquet for Rutelli is “il Grande Rimpatriatore” in Italian. I also now know that Italian for “blogger” is “blogger” and that Rutelli knows how to work the press (as if I didn’t know that already).
spouse of a journalist, Rutelli first got his PR guy to alert me that the Great Repatriator was putting in an appearance at the Getty Museum. Then he made sure to inform Fabio Isman, the “Messaggero” interviewer, about my nickname for Rutelli, which I had included in my post about the planned visit. Isman led with my ironically intended soubriquet (which I suppose Rutelli likes, even though he’s smart enough to get my satiric edge):
A New York blogger who for years has, with great persistence, followed “stolen art” [Isman’s word for antiquities illegally removed from source countries] has called him “the Great Repatriator” and announced his visit with a “peace pipe” [Isman’s term, not mine, even though he put it in quotes], intending to smoke it [!?!] with Michael Brand [the Getty’s director], who was at the door waiting for him.
What I REALLY want to know is: Did they inhale? And what’s Rutelli smoking?
And in related news: Arts funding in Italy, post-Rutelli, has apparently fallen on hard times, according to this piece by Elisabetta Povoledo in yesterday’s NY Times.