Tag Archives: Gary Vikan

Artifacts and Fictions in Baltimore: Roger Atwood on the Walters’ Pre-Colombian Collection

Today we’re publishing a guest post from Roger Atwood, author of “Stealing History: Tomb Raiders, Smugglers and the Looting of the Ancient World.”   We reached out to Roger for his thoughts when we heard about an exhibition of suspect pre-Colombian material at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore. Atwood has written extensively about looting in Latin America, and took a recent trip to the Walters to see the collection. Here is what he found.

The Walters Art Museum in Baltimore has mounted a show of ancient artifacts from Latin America that belong, or once belonged, to the collector John Bourne.  According to the show’s catalogue, Bourne has already given some of the pieces to the museum while others have been promised, a long, gradual donation that maximizes the donor’s tax deduction. Aside from a few likely fakes, whose presence the Walters candidly admits, the objects all date from before the arrival of Europeans in 1492.

Collector John Bourne, circa 1947

The collection has a long and checkered history. Bourne originally intended to give it, or at least part of it, to the Museum of New Mexico’s Palace of the Governors unit in Santa Fe, which, in fact, displayed it for several years after 1997. The collection brought the Palace of the Governors some problems, to put it mildly. Four objects in the collection were seized by the FBI in 1998 and held for nearly two years, pending probes into allegations that the pieces were looted and smuggled out of Peru. The investigation ultimately fizzled, leading to no charges and the return of the pieces. But the Museum of New Mexico got some nasty publicity from that case, and one can only assume the Walters and its lawyers were fully cognizant of the risks of a repeat of it before accepting this dubious gift. I tell the story of the Bourne case in detail in my 2004 book Stealing History: Tomb Raiders, Smugglers, and the Looting of the Ancient World, based on interviews and documents acquired through the Freedom of Information Act.

A couple of weeks ago I took a train to the handsome city of Baltimore and saw the Bourne collection in its new home. It’s a revealing show with some lovely artifacts, including some I don’t remember seeing in Santa Fe. The painted Nasca stirrup bottles (right), masterpieces of design and economy dating from about 500 CE, alone were worth the trip.

Yet I came away thinking that, perhaps without realizing it, the organizers have given an object lesson in the dangers of collecting antiquities that have no record of archaeological excavation. What I wrote in Stealing History – that “not a single piece on display” in the Bourne collection “gives a specific provenance, archaeological history or other sign it emerged from any place but a looter’s pit” – remains true but needs some amending.

First, there are the fakes. To its credit, the Walters is completely up front about the fact that some pieces in the Bourne collection are probably not what they claim to be. “[T]he atypical imagery of these objects calls into question their authenticity,” says the wall label next to a pair of Maya eccentric flints. It adds, helpfully, that tests are inconclusive “because modern replicas are made using the same kinds of tools and techniques as well as the same sources of flint” as the real ones. So, in this case, we’re learning more about technique for making fakes than about Maya flints.

Another sculpture looks like a bad pastiche of old and new, or, as the wall panel says, a “modern assembly of a variety of ancient parts.” Meant to look Moche, the piece shows a wooden, crouching warrior of ungainly proportions, with a clamshell perched on its head like a fez and a backflap on its lower back that seems to have been made for a much smaller object. “Together, the C-14 [radiocarbon dating] and iconographic data suggest that the piece – in its current state – postdates Moche culture by at least 700 years,” says the show’s catalogue. The operative phrase there is “at least,” for the piece has a funny, cinematic kind of look, like a prop from “The Curse of the Andes”.

What do fakes have to do with the problem of looting? Fakes and unprovenanced, authentic antiquities often turn up together in collections because neither was found through the transparent process of archaeological excavation. They flock together.  Collectors might think their connoisseurship protects them from fakes, but they get hoodwinked all the time. This is not a sign of denseness or gullibility, necessarily; it just comes with the territory if you’re in the business of acquiring undocumented antiquities. If the Getty, with all its experts and budget, could buy a dubious piece like the Kouros, then what hope is there for a single collector such as John Bourne, no matter what the credentials of the people advising him?

The Walters is more coy on the implications of all this. Has the collector gained a tax benefit for the donation of what are quite possibly, if the Walters’ analysis is correct, worthless fakes?  Why is it even showing them? The show constantly refers to authentication and laboratory analysis on the pieces; indeed, it’s one of the main themes of the exhibit.  One piece, a Zapotec pottery figure actually has a copy of its thermoluminescence analysis report right on the wall, indicating the piece dates from 450 to 800 CE. Wall texts and the catalogue go on about CT scans and minute studies of chemical compositions.

I spoke on the phone with the director of the Walters, Gary Vikan, who said that the museum decided to go ahead and show what its conservators believed to be fakes because “there is a value in being candid and open about our own research.” He added, “our business is to gather and share knowledge, not to vindicate” a collector’s decisions. Two conservators worked full-time for two-and-a-half years analyzing the pieces, he said.

To the viewer, all this research could signal that the Walters has doubts about the larger integrity of the collection. But it also suggests the museum is trying to compensate for the lack of any archaeological information about the pieces by running them through gauntlets of laboratory tests. It’s as if the museum is trying to scratch its way to some information – any information – about pieces that are so patently lacking any hard archaeological data.

And that leads me to the second problem associated with undocumented artifacts that this exhibit so richly demonstrates: the lack of information. For all the museum’s months of laboratory work, we know strikingly little about where these pieces came from, in what context they were found, and what function or meaning they had. This is because they were, presumably, all purchased from the cast of looters, dealers and assorted hoodlums that make up the supply end of the Latin American antiquities market. Whatever information those sellers claim to have on the origin of the artifacts they sell is usually conjecture or lies.

An earthenware crocodile effigy claimed to be from Costa  Rica is said to date from 500 to 1350 CE, an absurdly wide spread that stratigraphic data or radiocarbon materials found in proper excavation could narrow down to decades. A Mayan jadeite pendant (left) dates from “250 to 450 CE” and could come from Guatemala, Belize, Mexico or Honduras, says the catalogue. In other words, from two centuries and any one of hundreds of sites over four countries.   It’s a nice piece, but how helpful is that? True, it is difficult for a private collector to buy archaeologically excavated material, since it rarely comes on the market. But a museum of the Walters’ caliber could certainly arrange loans of properly excavated pieces if wants to show pre-Columbian antiquities.

The show takes pains to stress that Bourne purchased many artifacts on trips to Latin American hinterlands starting in the 1940s, before most current rules on removing and selling cultural property were in effect. The catalogue describes Hiram Bingham-style adventures, Bourne cutting through forest to reach the lost city of Bonampak and finding artifacts in situ.  These accounts are entertaining and I don’t doubt their authenticity, but other facts make you wonder if he had other sources. Bourne himself told the FBI in 1998 that he bought merchandise from the late Ben Johnson, a notorious Los Angeles dealer in high-end pillage whose dealings were exposed in the Sipán trial of 1989.

What little information we’re given on the origin of the Bourne pieces amounts to a roll call of the most pitilessly looted parts of Latin America: the north coast of Peru, the Petén lowlands of Guatemala, rural Veracruz.  Commercial looters erased incalculable amounts of archaeological data and a valuable economic resource to gather prizes for middlemen and collectors. It’s a story of exploitation and greed that is still rarely acknowledged  by big collecting museums.

A clear example of that destructive cycle – collectors buy loot, looters destroy sites to get more loot to sell, over and over – was the pillage at Sipán in northern Peru in 1987. Before the Getty’s Aphrodite, before the Marion True trial, the case of Sipán showed everyone the power of the antiquities trade to consume heritage.  That case led to the 1990 emergency ban on the import of a long list of types of Peruvian antiquities, arguably the most important step by the federal government to tackle the illicit trade up to that time, and, later, a bilateral agreement between Peru and the United States imposing broad import restrictions that remains in effect today. (By way of disclosure, I should say that I spoke in favor of a five-year renewal of that agreement before the State Department’s Cultural Property Advisory Committee in 2007.)

The Bourne collection (now the Walters collection) includes a piece widely attributed to Sipán, a golden belt rattle (left) [Note: An earlier version of this post had an incorrect image. The mistake was ours, not Atwood's.]  It wasn’t on display when I visited Baltimore but it appears in the catalogue, which calls the piece “Moche style, North Coast, Peru.” The Sipán tomb was looted by the Bernal brothers in February 1987. Its fabulous artifacts spread quickly through the elite antiquities racket before police fenced off the site and allowed archaeologists to excavate it. They found two more, undisturbed tombs that have enriched our understanding of pre-Columbian society.

The word “style” after Moche is a wink-wink that the Walters is not sure of the piece’s authenticity, as Vikan pointed out to me.  I spoke with one of the museum’s conservators, Jessica Arista, who said the surface of the belt rattle showed marks from metal tools that did not exist in ancient Peru. “There are a lot of modern polishing marks,” she said. Also, said Arista, the metal itself looked too fresh to be ancient and a corrosive pigment seems to have been applied to it, possibly with the intention of making it look older.  A sample from the piece was detached and sent to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston for analysis, she said. The piece was found to be 72 percent gold, 13 percent silver and 10 percent copper, figures similar to those found in authentic pieces, she said. (The catalogue gave slightly different numbers: 86.6 percent gold, five percent silver and 8.4 percent copper.) But the interior of the metal lacked the leaching and compositional variation that you would expect from a truly ancient piece, she said. Also, the microscopically thin gilding that you would see on the surface seems to be missing.

Still, the information is not conclusive, said Arista. The museum would need detailed comparisons with authentic Sipán pieces to give a more definitive answer on the piece’s authenticity. The Walters has not made contact with the Sipán museum in Lambayeque, Peru to arrange such a comparison, she said.

I mentioned to her that many Sipán pieces, including the backflap seized by the FBI in Philadelphia in 1997, had been soaked and scrubbed with Brillo pads while in the hands of looters and smugglers. This, I suggested, could account for the modern tool marks and the metal’s shiny appearance (which I’d also noticed in Santa Fe.) Perhaps, she said, but the metal’s inner composition, not just the surface, raises red flags about the piece’s authenticity.

The belt rattle was one of four from the Bourne collection seized by the FBI in 1998. (Another, a golden monkey head looted from a nearby site called La Mina around 1988, was restituted to Peru last year, with the cooperation of the Palace of the Governors. A pair of Moche earflares, seen at right, also seized by the FBI remain on display at the Walters. ) While the artifacts were held by the FBI, the Peruvian archaeologist who excavated Sipán, Walter Alva, went to Santa Fe and examined the belt ornament. If he had any doubts about its authenticity, he never raised them with me or the FBI.  Alva doubted the authenticity of other Peruvian pieces in the Bourne group, but not that one.  In Stealing History, I quote Christopher Donnan of UCLA, an expert on Moche iconography, as saying he also believed it an ancient Sipán artifact. I’ve never heard an authority on Moche archaeology say anything different.

So if the Sipán belt rattle turns out to be a fake – well, there are some very good forgers out there, and kudos to the Walters’ conservation team for exposing it.

But if it’s not, then the Walters will have some explaining to do. Its presence at the Walters would make a mockery of the museum’s policy (stated by Vikan here at minute 18) of not acquiring pieces that do not have a clear chain of ownership from before the UNESCO agreement of 1970.  Vikan says in the catalogue that the museum will “promptly and openly respond to any claims for repatriation … from possible source countries.”  Indeed, in a sign of transparency, the Walters has posted the collection – including the now-suspect Sipán belt rattle – on the American Association of Museum Directors’ Object Registry of antiquities acquired since 2008 that lack clear provenance dating back to 1970.

But why wait until source countries make repatriation claims? You wonder what other controversies over title might lurk behind the Bourne collection. This would be a good opportunity for a major American museum to recognize proactively a source country’s title to dubious objects, rather than make Peru or Guatemala jump through hoops — or wait for the storm as the Met did with the Euphronios krater, today recognized as property of the government of Italy.  Museums badly need to get the provenance problem past them and institute policies they can live by, permanently and consistently.  At its heart, the question is about more than ownership.  It’s about accountability, a subject on which the Walters exhibit demonstrates how far museums have come. It also shows how far they have to go.

ROGER ATWOOD investigated the illicit antiquities trade in 2002-03 with a fellowship from the Alicia Patterson Foundation. His website is http://rogeratwood.com/

VIDEO: Chasing Aphrodite at the National Press Club in Washington DC

The National Press Club has posted the full video of our entertaining — and occasionally heated — conversation on Jan 24th with former Getty antiquities curator Arthur Houghton and Gary Vikan, director of the Walters Museum in Baltimore.

On a night when President Obama was giving the State of the Union address just a few miles away, we enjoyed a standing room only crowd of about 300 people, many of whom raised insightful questions (starting at min 56.) We’re grateful to the Press Club, to our moderator James Grimaldi, and to Keri Douglas of Nine Muses International, who organized the event.

Chasing Aphrodite in Washington DC: 1/23 @ Steptoe, 1/24 at National Press Club

We’re off to Washington DC for two great events. If you’re in the area, please join us for back-to-back evenings of lively discussion about the state of American museums and the black market in looted art.

Reminder: Both events require an RSVP via the links below. 

January 23: 6:30 pm at Steptoe and Johnson

The Society for the Preservation of Greek Heritage and the American Friends of the Acropolis Museum will host Jason for an evening lecture and book signing at the lawfirm Steptoe and Johnson.

Details: 6:30 pm at 1330 Connecticut Avenue, NW
Washington, DC. RSVP by sending an email to: classic.heritage@verizon.net


January 24th: The National Press Club.

Jason (in person) and Ralph (via phone) will speak about Chasing Aphrodite, the press and transparency at American museums with former Getty antiquities curator Arthur Houghton and Gary Vikan, director of the Walters Museum of Art. Our moderator will be James Grimaldi, investigative reporter at the Washington Post. Q&A and book signing to follow. (We’ll be done in time for you to watch POTUS give the State of the Union address at 9pm.)

Details:  6pm at The National Press Club. 529 14th St. NW, 13th Floor. Open to the public, $5 dollars for non-members. Tickets and details available here.

Los Angeles Readers: In you’re in Los Angeles on Monday, Jan 23, be sure to check out Getty CEO Jim Cuno’s talk at the Petersen Automotive Museum. He’ll be defending museums against those who say they are the trophy cases of imperialism and promoting his new book, Museums Matter: In Praise of the Encyclopedic Museum. Details here.

Upcoming Events: Chasing Aphrodite at the National Press Club, Google and UCLA

Here are several new events we’ve lined up in the coming months :

January 23, Washington DC: The Society for the Preservation of Greek Heritage, the American Friends of the Acropolis Museum and the lawfirm Steptoe and Johnson will host Jason for an evening lecture and book signing at Steptoe and Johnson in Washington DC. Details TBA.


January 24th: The National Press Club, Washington DC.

Jason and Ralph will speak about Chasing Aphrodite, the press and transparency at American museums with former Getty antiquities curator Arthur Houghton and Walters Museum director Gary Vikan. Our moderator will be James Grimaldi, investigative reporter at the Washington Post. Q&A, book signing and reception to follow.

Details: Open to the public. 6pm at The National Press Club. 529 14th St. NW, 13th Floor. Phone: 202-662-7500 or www.press.org

February 10th, 2012: Google HQ, Mountainview CA.

Jason will talk about Chasing Aphrodite and how crowd-sourcing might be harnessed to fight the illicit antiquities trade at the Googleplex, Google’s Mountainview headquarters.

Details: Open to the public. 12- 1pm @ 1600 Amphitheatre Parkway in Mountain View, CA.

February 15, 2012: UCLA. Details TBA.

You can find updates at our events page here.

Our past events include: The Jonathan Club; Chapman University; Central Michigan University; The Walters Art Museum; UPenn Law School; UPenn Museum; The Harvard Club of New York City; The National Arts Club; Princeton University; Villanova Law School; Rutgers University; New York University; Cardozo Law School;  Archaeological Institute of America’s New York Chapter; SAFE; The Benson Family Farm; Elliot Bay Bookstore in Seattle; Powell’s Book in Portland; The Commonwealth Club of San Francisco;  Loyola Law School; Barnes and Noble of Thousand Oaks; Book Soup on Hollywood Blvd.;  The LA Festival of Books.

To suggest an event near you, please contact us: ChasingAphrodite@gmail.com.

Fall Book Tour wraps up after 14 events in 15 days. VIDEO: Chasing Aphrodite at UPenn.

We’ve just wrapped up our fall book tour — 14 events in about 15 days.

Thanks to everyone who came out to learn about museums and the illicit antiquities trade. And our sincere gratitude to our hosts at Rutgers, Princeton, UPenn Museum, UPenn Law School, Villanova Law School, NYU, The National Arts Club, The Harvard Club of NYC, Cardozo Law School, AIA, SAFE, The Walters Museum of Art, Chapman University and Central Michigan University.

Keep an eye on our events page for more events coming soon. If you’re interested in hosting an event near you, please contact us at ChasingAphrodite@gmail.com.

For those who missed us, here’s a video of our presentation at the UPenn Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, where we were introduced by Dr. Richard Leventhal:

Looted Antiquities at the Walters Art Museum?

In anticipation of our event at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore on Sat, Oct 29th at 2pm, we took a look at the museum’s wonderful collection of ancient art. It appears to have dozens of objects purchased from dealers with ties to the black market.

Robert Hecht poses in front of the famous looted Greek vase he sold the Met in 1972 for $1 million.

Most prominent of those dealers is Robert Hecht, a 92 year-old Baltimore native and heir to the Hecht department store chain. Hecht is currently on trial in Rome on charges of trafficking in looted antiquities over his nearly six decades as a prominent dealer based in Paris and New York. He has been well-known for trafficking in looted antiquities since 1972, when he sold the Metropolitan Museum of Art its famous Euphronios krater, which was returned to Italy. In his handwritten memoir, seized by Italian authorities in 2001, Hecht recounts a long career of buying looted objects from Italian middlemen and selling them to American museums.

Among the more than a dozen pieces at the Walters purchased from Hecht is this griffin “protome,” which the Walters bought directly from the dealer in 1999. It is said to be Greek from 640 BC.

In his memoir, Hecht describes buying griffin protomes from his “faithful purveyor” Giacomo Medici, the Italian dealer who has been convicted of being a key middleman in Italy’s illicit antiquities trade. It’s not clear if the Walters’ protome is among those Hecht mentioned.

We asked Gary Vikan, museum director since 1994, about the protome and other Hecht objects in the collection.

“Most of the Hecht stuff goes back a long way,” Vikan said in an email. “The protome came from an old collection, said Bob [Hecht], and our file does not reveal the name, and the curator on hand at the time cannot fill in the name with her memory. The purchase was consistent with the AAMD code of ethics as it then existed, and Bob Hecht did not carry the baggage then that he does now.”

We’re fond of Vikan, but we find his answer on this one a bit troubling. After all, it was Vikan who a decade before the griffon acquisition had testified as a “due diligence” expert in the Peg Goldberg case involving looted Cypriot mosaics. In the case, Vikan said Goldberg had ignored “sirens blaring and red flags waving” — clear signs of looting when she purchased the mosaics. This appears to be what Vikan did in 1999 when approving the acquisition of the griffon from Hecht. The object has no documented ownership history beyond Hecht, who was known since the 1970s to invent bogus stories claiming that recently looted objects came from “old collections.”

Hecht was also the source of several remarkable Byzantine floor tiles at the Walters, including this one depicting Ignatius the Bishop of Antioch, which was purchased from Hecht in 1950s. According to the Walters’ website, Hecht acquired them directly from a man in Turkey.

Another man who regularly supplied the Walters was Nicolas Koutoulakis, a prominent dealer who owned the Paris gallery Segredakis. His named appears in the “org chart” of the illicit antiquities trade found by Italian police in the 1990s with a direct link to Hecht.

Greek drinking cup purchased from Nicolas Koutoulakis.

Many of the Hecht and Koutoulakis objects in question — though not the griffons — were purchased by the Walters before 1970, the date of the UNESCO accord on cultural patrimony which most museums and archaeologists today accept as bright ethical line. But if the Hecht and Koutoulakis objects were looted from Italy or Greece, as is reasonable to suspect, they could be considered stolen property under US law, and the Walters would not hold clear title to them.

The Walters’ policy suggests that the museum will proactively investigate such objects: “If the Museum, as a result of its continuing research, gains information that establishes another party’s right to ownership of a work, the Museum will bring this information to the attention of the party, and if the case warrants, initiate the return of the work to that party, as has been done in the past.”

When we asked Vikan what he thought should be done with such objects, his answer was somewhat glib: “Put ‘em out there!” We applaud the Waters for its transparency with provenance information — many museums do not post an object’s ownership history online. But in our view, putting suspect antiquities on display is not the same as a proactive investigation or notification of Italian or Greek authorities.

There’s no easy answer for how to handle the thousands of suspect objects still in American museum collections today. But waiting for Italian authorities to knock on your door has not always worked out well for other museums.

We look forward to exploring these issues with Gary and former Getty antiquities curator Arthur Houghton on Sat at 2pm.

Gary Vikan on Moving Museums Beyond Ownership

In February 2006, shortly after Getty Trust CEO Barry Munitz was forced to resign in the wake of an LA Times expose on his personal excesses with Getty money, New York Times art critic Michael Kimmelman weighed in with an analysis of the institution’s core problem.

Barry Munitz, former CEO of the Getty Trust

“The Getty, at staggering cost and at little or no obvious benefit to the general public, directed millions to new programs,” Kimmelman wrote, referring to the Trust’s investments in conservation, research and education. Instead, Kimmelman argued the Getty should do what the Met had done a century earlier: spends its money buying A-list objects with the hope that, over time, the museum could catch up with the world’s great collections.

Gary Vikan, the director of the Walters Museum in Baltimore, read the piece and immediately recalled a conversation he had had with Munitz a few years earlier. During a seminar at the Trust, the profligate CEO had proposed a surprising new direction for the Getty, one that flew in the face of critics like Kimmelman:  rather than spending vast amounts buying a handful of masterpieces, why not bring them to the Getty on loan, leveraging the Getty’s conservation expertise for a chance to display world-class art.

Gary Vikan, Director of the Walters Museum

This ” “simple and provocative” idea — moving the museum beyond ownership — stuck with Vikan, and he expanded on it in a rebuttal to Kimmelman that was never published. Here are excerpts of Vikan’s letter, whose ideas have taken on new relevance in the wake of the antiquities controversy recounted in our book:

“Why shouldn’t the Getty, with its spectacular wealth, its enormous prominence among the world’s art centers, and its relative ‘institutional youth,’ challenge the very notion of art acquisition and ownership?” Vikan asked. Such a move would “cut to the heart of the disequilibrium” between artifact-rich but cash poor nations like Italy and the wealthy young museums like the Getty, which have the expertise to conserve works and the burning desire to show them.

Museums “can offer an art experience, with its associated learning and scholarship, without having to own the work of art.” Vikan proposed replacing many acquisitions with a system of “innovative long-term loans derived from partnerships across the divide that separates the cash-rich/art poor from the cash-poor/art rich.”

“Such a visionary reordering of Getty Museum priorities would not only create a shining new model for art museums worldwide, it would remove a troublesome roadblock that would almost immediately open up at least two great opportunities. First would be the the opportunity to form a much stronger, more synergistic community of purpose among the four programmatic components of the Getty Trust under a single, education-centered mission — one wherein the Museum becomes at once the laboratory and showcase for the aspirations and achievements of all that the Getty Trust undertakes….Second would be the opportunity for the Getty Trust to play a leadership role in forging a community of purpose among museums internationally, and in establishing new, transparent models of mutually beneficial partnership….”

“This,” Vikan concluded, “is a vision that could help to re-shape the entire world community of art museums in the 21st century.”

Vikan and Munitz did not invent this vision — others had made similar proposals, notably Max Anderson of the Indianapolis Museum of Art and Wolf-Dieter Heilmeyer of the Berlin Museums. Ironically, former Getty curator Marion True emerged as the the greatest champion of the idea before her indictment by Italy. (See our Chap 8.) Still, the vision articulated by Vikan and others was strikingly audacious:  a rethinking of centuries of collecting practices.

Remarkably, five years later, it is a vision that appears more and more like reality, especially at the Getty. A year after Vikan’s letter, the Getty ended its decade-long controversy with Italy over its purchase of looted antiquities and forged an agreement that embraces the key ideas in Vikan’s letter. Subsequent agreements were also struck with the National Archaeological Museum in Florence and the autonomous region of Sicily. In the end, the Getty lost 40 of its most prized antiquities, but has begun receiving on loan prized masterpieces from Italy, some of which had never before left Italy.

Here are a few (click the images for details on the loan):

Chimaera of Arezzo

Agrigento Youth

The Gela Krater

Statue of Ephebe from Pompei

Apollo from Pompei

Mozia Charioteer (coming Spring 2012)

To be sure, the Getty continues to purchase art, and – cautiously – antiquities. But with the growing roster of loans and collaboration, the historically underachieving Getty has also begun to look something like that 21st Century museum that Vikan envisioned. And the Trust’s new CEO Jim Cuno has already signaled that he hopes to continue in this direction.

As we wrote in the epilogue of Chasing Aphrodite: “The new era…is now within sight. It is one in which museums and countries alike will look beyond questions of ownership and embrace, as True said, the “sharing of cultural properties, rather than their exploitation as commodities.”

What are other examples of museums moving beyond ownership? Leave a comment below and we’ll raise them Baltimore, where we’ll be speaking with Vikan at the Walters Museum on October 29th at 2pm. Details here.