|Governor Spacca at the press conference in Century City|
Italy to Getty: We’re Not Here to Declare War!
Top Italian Official Offers Innovative Peace Treaty to Resolve Long-Raging Battle with World’s Richest Museum; Share Custody of Stolen “Victorious Youth” Bronze Statue - or Risk Losing it to Italy Forever
Governor of antiquities-rich Marche Region Implores Getty: “Act Like a World-Class Cultural Institution and Behave Ethically”
Los Angeles – A senior Italian government official today offered an innovative peace treaty in an historic antiquities battle with the J. Paul Getty Museum, imploring the world’s richest cultural institution to “behave ethically” by returning knowingly looted art to its homeland – or risk losing it forever.
“We have not come to declare war on the Getty,” said Gian Mario Spacca, the Governor of Italy’s Marche Region on the Adriatic Sea – one of the richest sources of archeological antiquities and Renaissance era works of art. “We are here to try to' resolve the dispute in a way that will benefit this great museum, the people of Italy – and, most important, art lovers around the world."
Speaking at a news conference in Los Angeles, the Governor unveiled a novel “cultural exchange” proposal to share custody of the 2,300-year-old bronze statue “Victorious Youth” (also known as the “Athlete of Fano”), a nearly five-foot antiquity sculpted by the Greek artist Lisippo. The antiquity mysteriously arrived at the Getty in 1974 and was displayed to great fanfare. It was showcased as “The Getty Bronze”.
The Bronze is one of several star attractions at the Getty, including the iconic seven-foot marble and limestone “Aphrodite” which Italian police escorted home last week following a long-raging legal fight with the museum. Italy says its rare antiquities had been buried for centuries and discovered by unsuspecting citizens who sold them at a fraction of their worth to art thieves - and then purchased by the prestigious Los Angeles-based museum without legitimate historical ownership credentials. The antiquities were showcased over the past several decades to build the Getty’s reputation as a global cultural force.
The Getty’s previous curator of antiquities, Marion True, was indicted in Italy in 2005 (along with famed art dealer Robert Hecht Jr.) on criminal charges of trafficking in stolen antiquities.
“The Italian people expect a museum as prestigious as the Getty should not be trafficking in illegal art. Further, the Getty should show the world it can act like a world-class cultural institution and behave ethically,” Governor Spacca told reporters today in unveiling his proposal.
Governor Spacca characterized his proposal as a significant proactive effort to break the deadlock in the Getty stolen-art conflict and speed a resolution after decades of failed negotiations and legal wrangling.
In a separate action, the legal dispute is expected to be decided by an Italian high court later this week following multiple failed appeals by the museum, which continues to assert its legal ownership of the “Victorious Youth”. A final ownership ruling favoring Italy, could subject the priceless Bronze to the same fate as “Aphrodite,” which was one of the leading attractions at the Getty until its confiscation by Italy earlier this month.
“The Victorious Youth” by Lisippo is a very important testimonial for the Italian culture. It is of great interest for Marche to have the statue returned to Fano, from where it disappeared years ago,” said Governor Spacca.
The “Victorious Youth” was discovered by fishermen in 1964 and sold for $1600 to an art dealer. The whereabouts of the statue were shrouded in mystery until the Getty purchased it for about $3.9 million and put it on display 37 years ago.