The J. Paul Getty Museum has agreed to return over 40 objects from its antiquities collection, housed at the Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades, to Italy.
The Italian government has contended that many art objects at the Getty and other museums were looted from Italy. The government has been taking steps to recover artifacts that are connected with Italy’s cultural heritage.
A joint statement released on August 1 by the Getty Governing Trust and by the Italian Culture Ministry announced that the 40 pieces will include 26 works that the Getty had agreed to return to Italy last November. These include a giant statue of Aphrodite, bought by the Getty in 1988 for $18 million. This statue will be allowed to remain at the Villa until 2010.
Another work, the 4th century B.C.E. Statue of a Victorious Youth, has been the subject of legal battles which at one point caused a breakdown in negotiations. The fate of this statue has been deferred pending the outcome of ongoing legal proceedings which are now underway in Pesaro, Italy.
Other works will be returned on dates that have yet to be firmed up.
According to Ron Hartwig, Getty Vice President of Communications, the agreement came about after “lengthy negotiations that really have been going on for a number of years.” Hartwig states that when Michael Brand became the Getty’s director in January 2006, “He made it a priority to resolve requests for objects from our collection both from Greece and from Italy. And immediately he sent letters to the Ministers of Culture of both Greece and Italy. Greece had made a request to return four objects. We settled with them earlier this year and have now developed a new relationship, very positive, with Greece, in terms of long-term collaboration.
“The agreement that we reached with Italy last week signals the beginning of a new era with Italy as well. They had requested 52 objects from our collection in a list which they gave the Getty last January. Michael and his team, which included outside legal counsel as well as the curatorial staff, did a careful analysis and review of each of the objects that were requested by Italy and concluded that 40 of them should in fact be returned. Their return will open up new opportunities for us.”
Hartwig says that new art objects will be loaned to the Getty on a long-term basis to fill the gap left by many of the objects being returned. There will also be new exhibition opportunities and other collaborations with Italy, including Sicily.
“[The Getty] is the only museum in the United States that is dedicated to Greek Etruscan and Roman antiquities,” Hartwig adds. “And I think Italy values the fact that Italian cultural heritage is the focus of the Villa. I think for that reason we’re pleased too, to reach an agreement that will allow for this broader awareness of their culture here in California.”