Tag Archives: Getty Villa

The Getty List: 10 Objects at the J. Paul Getty Museum that Turkey Says Were Looted

Among the dozens of allegedly looted antiquities that the government of Turkey is asking American museums to return are ten objects at the J. Paul Getty Museum.

Statue of a Muse, 200 AD. From Cremna, Turkey. Purchased in 1994 for $550,000 from Varya and Hans Cohn, Los Angeles. The Cohn’s acquired the object from Elie Borowsky (Basel) in ’68. (JPGM 94.AA.22)

The Getty declined to provide a list of the objects in question, as did the Met, the Cleveland Museum and Harvard’s Dumbarton Oaks. We obtained a list from Turkish authorities and asked the Getty to provide the collecting history for those objects.

Unlike those other museums, the Getty is obligated by its 2006 acquisition policy to provide the public with provenance information about objects in the collection. Thanks to that policy, we now know something about how the contested objects came to the Getty.

The most prominent are four marble Muses now on display in the Getty Villa’s Basilica Room. All four appear to come from Cremna, Turkey and were first acquired by antiquities dealer Elie Borowski sometime before 1968, the Getty records show.

Borowski, who died in 2003, had ties to the illicit antiquities trade. His name appears in Robert Hecht’s memoir as a client of convicted antiquities dealer Giacomo Medici; it also appears on a handwritten organization chart of the illicit trade seized by Italian authorities in 2001. Former Getty antiquities curator Marion True told Italian authorities that Borowski had also been a client of Gianfranco Becchina, the Sicilian antiquities dealer (also named on the org chart) who is on trial in Italy.

Statue of a Muse, 200 AD. From Asia Minor. Purchased for $10,137 from Elie Borowsky in ’71; Borowsky already owned in 1968 (JPGM 71.AA.461)

Statue of a Muse, 200 AD, from Cremna, Turkey. Purchased for $9,185 in 1968 from Sotheby’s London, November 26, 1968. lot no. 173. (JPGM 68.AA.21)

Statue of a Muse, 200 AD, from Cremna, Turkey. Purchased in 1968 for $13,122 at Sotheby’s London, November 26, 1968. lot no. 173. (JPGM 68.AA.22)


Several other Getty objects sought by Turkey came through another dealer connected to the illicit trade: Nicolas Koutoulakis, now deceased owner of the Paris gallery Segredakis. Koutoulaksi also appears in the org chart and last September, the Getty returned to Greece fragments of a grave stone it had acquired from Koutoulakis after scholars concluded they adjoined an object now in a Greek museum.

Portrait of a Man. (73.AB.8) Purchased in 1973 for  $125,326  from Nicolas Koutoulakis

Bronze bust. (71.AB.458) Purchased in 1971 for $90,000 from Nicolas Koutoulakis.

Bronze foot from “Bubon, Turkey, Asia” (72.AB.103) acquired from Nicolas Koutoulakis. (See the Cleveland bronze from Bubon here.)

Bronze bed (82.AC.94) purchased for $150,000 from Nicolas Koutoulakis; Koutoulakis purchased from Gilette’s estate; Joseph Gilette of Lausanne, ca 1936.

The final two Getty objects come from a private dealer and an auction house:

Roman Eagle (72.AB.151) purchased in 1972 for $200,000 from French & Company.

Bronze bust of Lucius Veres  (73.AB.100) purchased in 1973 for $37,701 from Spink & Son, London.

When asked for comment about Turkey’s request, Getty spokesman Ron Hartwig said, “We are in dialogue with officials from the Turkish Ministry of Culture regarding some objects in our collection. We expect those discussions to continue and while they do, we will not be getting into specifics.”

Chasing Aphrodite at Google: Jason Felch on the Illicit Antiquities Trade and WikiLoot

Google's pet T-Rex, Stan, is on the prowl at the Googleplex in Mountain View, CA.

On February 10th, Jason visited the Googleplex in Mountain View, CA to talk about Chasing Aphrodite and to solicit help with a new initiative, WikiLoot.

The talk was part of the Authors@Google program, and was organized by Jason’s old friend Steve Meaney, who works in marketing there. (Thanks, Steve!) Also attending were several people from the archaeology department at nearby Stanford University.

The hour-long talk gives an overview of the role of the Getty Museum and other American museums in the illicit antiquities trade. At minute 49 the talk turns to WikiLoot, an effort to harness technology to expose the illicit trade. A Q&A follows.

The Dark Side of Aphrodite: The Getty’s New Aphrodite Show Features Collection of Famous Pederast

Starting today, the Getty Villa is hosting a remarkable exhibit of ancient art, the first ever dedicated to the goddess of love and carnal desire.

“Aphrodite and the Gods of Love” features 150 antiquities centered around Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love. The show was organized by the Boston Museum of Fine Art, where it has been on display since October. It features nine stunning loans from Italy — a byproduct of collaboration deals struck in the wake of revelations that the Boston MFA, the Getty and other American museums had been purchasing looted antiquities.

But there is a darker side to this exhibit, one that until now has avoided mention.

Roughly half of the objects in the show come from the collection of Edward Perry Warren (1860-1928,) a Boston collector who the show’s organizer, MFA antiquities curator Christine Kondoleon, describes as “philanthropic gentleman scholar.”

Omitted from that account is the fact that Warren was also a renowned advocate of pederasty — sexual relationships between men and boys. Indeed, this was the source of his passion for collecting erotic ancient art — Warren hoped to revive the ancient tradition of sex between men and boys.

More than 4,000 pieces of art from his collection are now in the Boston MFA’s collection. They include sexually explicit objects that are rarely on display, including the sculpture of Priapos, the child of Aphrodite and Dionysos, displaying his genitals. Warren is also the source of the Warren Cup at the British Museum, which depicts scenes of may-boy love. (Some suggest the cup is a modern forgery, created to fulfill Warren’s desire for homoerotic antiquities.)

Warren’s defense of man-boy love culminated in his three-volume opus, “A Defense of Uranian Love.” It is considered “the premier paederastic apologia in the language,” and was republished in 2009. Here’s how it’s described on Amazon.com:

Edward Perry Warren’s three-volume A Defence of Uranian Love, written under his pseudonym Arthur Lyon Raile and privately printed in 1928-1930…is the clearest elucidation of the motives that lay behind his acquisition of Graeco-Roman antiquities for the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and other prominent collections. Warren’s acquisition practices converted those antiquities into a “paederastic evangel,” as he himself declares, and his Defence is intimately woven into this lifelong, evangelistic mission.

“My verses and my prose,” writes Warren, “advocate a morality, but it is not the current morality in certain matters.” This is understatement at its most playful, for Warren’s Defence is a detailed map to a Utopia where “Grecian grandeur” is restored, and the “Christian sublime,” all but banished; where masculine virtues topple the feminine that have mistakenly led to democracy, sexual purity, and feminism; where aristocracy, nobleness, and male supremacy establish a civilisation in which Nietzsche would have found himself at home; and where paederasty, in the form familiar to the ancient Spartans, could and needs must flourish. For, according to Warren, “Love” (in this case, Boy-love) “can revive the old Hellenic day.” It is this revival – this veritable “Renaissance of Paederasty”-that Warren’s elaborate apologia aims to begin, by reminding Western culture of what it has lost or only forgotten: a sacral Boy-love and its accompanying traditions.

Mark Miner, who translated the Greek and Latin passages in the re-released volume and brought it to our attention, explains: “Although the MFA is very grateful for Warren’s generosity, his sexuality remains unmentionable, even though his magnum opus, A Defense of Uranian Love, has now (2009) been reprinted.  Warren, to put  it simply, was quite open about being a boy-lover, and his motivations for collecting Classical art and leaving it to Boston were paederastic. Paederastic on the highest cultural level, to be sure, but undeniably paederastic.”

“Warren had a specific plan for fostering the development of classical (hard, masculine, pagan) values on American soil by deploying as much art and literature as he could lay his hands on,” Miner told us. “That plan has lain dormant for more than 100 years– ‘an acorn in the the forest’ — but is beginning to bear fruit now. I am VERY curious to see if the publicity now being generated for the MFA & Warren results in any greater understanding of his ‘paederastic evangel,’ or if a Boston silence will continue to prevail, even when Warren’s favorite objects are exposed to the West Coast’s sea-breezes.”

Cuno Shakeup at the Getty: The Memo

UPDATE: As the Getty announced cost cutting measures, new fundraising efforts and the dismissal of two senior museum staff members, we found this tidbit on the Trust’s updated financial disclosure: Timothy Potts will be paid $690,000 a year as Getty Museum director, and will receive a signing bonus of $150,000. As already reported, CEO James Cuno earns $728,000 per year in base salary plus a $20,000 per month housing allowance, plus a one-time bonus of $150,000 for moving expenses and $250,000 in signing bonuses, plus a $500,000 deferred comp payment if he stays until 2016.

Here is the memo Getty Trust CEO James Cuno sent to museum staff regarding forthcoming changes across the institution:

Dear Museum Colleagues,

Among the most important responsibilities for the trustees, including the Trust President, is establishing strategic priorities for the J. Paul Getty Trust and ensuring that the resources available to us are focused on those priorities.  Another important responsibility is to assist the program directors in attracting additional resources, where possible, to achieve our goals.

As I discussed at the all-staff meeting in January, these responsibilities are especially important in the current economic environment when we cannot rely on growth in the value of our endowment investments to fund new ideas, projects and acquisitions.  That is why constant attention to finding better and more effective ways to accomplish our work is critical, and it is one of the reasons the trustees approved a plan for the expansion of development activities here at the Getty.

You know that I have had meetings with the leadership of each of the Getty’s programs to better understand the goals and aspirations of each of the programs as well as their operations since my arrival last August.  Likewise, I have been working directly with various Museum departments to review their operations and policies.

It is very possible that these reviews will result in changes by the end of the fiscal year. Even as this review process goes forward, however, I believe it is appropriate to make some immediate changes that will allow the Museum to focus more on collections and exhibitions and less on administrative matters and site-wide operations.  The savings created by these changes will remain within the Museum to address new Museum priorities that will be established by Tim Potts when he arrives in consultation with the trustees and me.

First, we will move Visitor Services to the Trust reporting to a newly named department, Visitor Services and Security.  This makes sense since these staff and our dedicated volunteers serve the entire Getty, not just the Museum.  We will also combine the Museum’s Events Department with the Trust’s events team, in the Facilities Department.  And we will move the operation of the Museum stores to the Trust, reporting to the Controller.  This relieves the Museum of the administrative oversight of the stores, as well as the obligation to meet the stores’ annual revenue target.

As a result of these changes, combined with the earlier relocation of Publications to the Foundation, the Museum’s administrative responsibilities have been reduced substantially.  There will no longer be a need for an Associate Director of Administration at the Museum, and regretfully, I must report that Tom Rhoads, who has held this post since 2006, will be leaving the Museum.  Tom’s assistant will be placed in an open position at the GRI.  The job of Museum Manager/Villa will also be eliminated and Guy Wheatley will be leaving the Museum.

I am very pleased that Tim Potts will join the Museum as its Director September 1.  By completing the review of Museum operations before then, we will be able to welcome him to a Museum that is focused directly on its core mission, with its financial and staff resources deployed in a more efficient and effective way.  I believe it is important for Tim to be able to focus on our collections, exhibitions and programming from day one, and not be distracted by administrative and financial functions that can be more efficiently handled by the Trust.

- Jim

LA Times: “Antiquities issue rears head with Getty leaders Potts, Cuno in place”

Here is Jason’s article from Saturday’s LA Times on Timothy Potts’ views on the antiquities issues:

Over the last five years, the J. Paul Getty Museum has earned a reputation as a leading reformer on a topic that has embroiled American museums in scandal for the past decade: the acquisition of recently looted antiquities.

After evidence of the museum’s longtime participation in the illicit trade was uncovered by Italian and Greek investigators, the Getty agreed to return 49 of its most prized pieces of ancient art, cultivated collaborative relationships with those countries and adopted a strict acquisition policy, setting a standard that has been adopted by museums across the country.

But come September, when Timothy Potts starts as director of the Getty Museum with Getty Trust CEO James Cuno as his boss, the institution will be led by two men who opposed the adoption of some of those reforms.

Cuno has denounced repatriation claims of looted antiquities as “nationalistic” and argued against placing limits on museum purchases of objects with an uncertain origin. Potts, whose appointment Cuno announced this week, has echoed some of those views. He played a central role in establishing lenient acquisition standards for American museums — which were eventually abandoned — as a member of the Assn. of Art Museum Directors, which sets ethical guidelines for art museums.

A highly respected museum director and Oxford-trained archaeologist, Potts was well positioned to wrestle with the looting issue. From 1983 to 1989, he was co-director of the University of Sydney’s excavations in Pella, Jordan. Later at Oxford, he conducted research in Iraq, and was among the most outspoken museum directors to decry the looting there in 2003.

Participants in the museum directors’ group deliberating new ethical standards in 2004 recall Potts as intelligent, persuasive and open to hearing others’ arguments. But the positions he advocated often put him at odds with advocates of reform and with fellow archaeologists, who criticized the willingness of museums to purchase objects whose murky ownership histories suggested they were likely the result of looting.

Potts also had brushes with the issue as director of the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, where he was director from 1998 to 2007.

In late 2000, Potts approved the acquisition of a rare Sumerian statuette for $2.7 million. The 15-inch alabaster figure was an ancient masterpiece from the cradle of civilization, the region Potts had specialized in while studying at Oxford. It was to be an important contribution to the Kimbell’s small but highly regarded collection.

But shortly after the statue arrived at the museum, court records show that Potts took the unusual step of returning it to the dealer and asking for a full refund.

Publicly, Potts said that he wanted to free up money for other acquisitions. But he later testified that he had learned the dealer — Hicham Aboutaam, owner of the New York City antiquities gallery Phoenix Ancient Art — was under investigation by the IRS, and decided against buying from him.

Soon, though, Potts changed his mind about doing business with Aboutaam. After receiving repayment for the Sumerian statuette in November 2001, Potts moved to acquire a $4-million Roman torso he had admired on an earlier visit to Aboutaam’s gallery on East 66th Street in Manhattan.

Five days after the Kimbell board approved the purchase, the museum received a federal grand jury subpoena for museum records related to Aboutaam.

Aboutaam had been targeted in a sweeping investigation of the illicit antiquities trade. Several months earlier, Italian investigators had raided the dealer’s Swiss warehouse and seized dozens of antiquities. (All were later returned.)

The Kimbell abruptly abandoned the acquisition of the torso, sparking two breach of contract lawsuits by Aboutaam.

When asked about the two abandoned acquisitions this week by The Times, Potts and the Kimbell declined to comment. But in 2002, Potts told Art & Auction magazine that he had decided to pursue the Roman torso after learning the IRS investigation of Aboutaam was “benign.”

The lawsuits were ultimately dismissed. Aboutaam was arrested in 2003 and charged by U.S. authorities with smuggling a looted antiquity from Iran and making a false customs declaration. He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and paid a $5,000 fine.

While the Kimbell controversy was still unfolding, Potts played a prominent role in formulating a policy on how American museums should handle questions about ancient art with unclear ownership histories.

As a member of a task force of museums directors between 2002 and 2004, Potts allied himself with Philippe de Montebello, then director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, who opposed putting limits on collectors and museums. Potts and De Montebello eventually championed a 2004 policy that allowed museums to collect ancient art as long as they could demonstrate it had been out of its country of origin for a decade.

The position struck some on the task force as effectively sanctioning the acquisition of looted antiquities. And it proved out of step with the times when, a year later, Getty antiquities curator Marion True was indicted by Italy for trafficking in looted antiquities, some of which had been acquired under a Getty policy that was stricter than the one Potts and De Montebello supported.

Soon, the antiquities controversy grew into a full-fledged scandal, with Italy and Greece demanding the return of some of the most prized objects in American museum collections. American museums have since returned more than 200 looted objects to Italy and Greece, valued at up to $1 billion.

Potts first met Cuno while chairing a 2006 AAMD task force on loans of archaeological material. Cuno had recently taken the reins of the Art Institute of Chicago and, like De Montebello, was an outspoken critic of attempts to limit the collecting of antiquities. Cuno and Potts became like-minded allies in the heat of a growing controversy.

The policy resulting from the 2006 task force allowed museums to accept loans of objects even if their ownership histories were clouded “because of their rarity, historical importance and aesthetic merit.” Potts told the New York Times that the focus on the role of museums and collectors in fostering the destruction of archaeological sites was “misplaced.”

By 2008, the policies Potts had advocated were replaced with a stricter one that required objects to have an ownership history dating back to 1970. It emulated the position of the Getty Museum, which had been hardest hit by the antiquities controversy.

Asked how he felt about operating under a policy he had opposed, Potts said in an email Thursday that he “completely respects the Getty’s antiquity policy,” which he called “increasingly the national standard.”

“I have persistently emphasized the need to do more to protect sites and contexts on the ground before the looting takes place,” he said, adding, “Perhaps the nearest thing to a certainty is that whatever policy we have in place today will be seen to have been flawed in the future.”

Potts and Cuno have signaled that their priority will be to build the Getty’s collection in new directions and shift attention back to the Getty Villa, where the museum’s antiquities collection is displayed.

Might the Getty expand its antiquities collection into ancient Near Eastern art, the area of Potts’ specialty? Cuno said in an interview Thursday that he “couldn’t rule it out.”

That could put the Getty back in business with Hicham Aboutaam, who, despite his past legal worries, continues to be a leading dealer of antiquities.

In an interview this week, Aboutaam praised the selection of Potts, and said he held no grudges from the past lawsuits. “It’s rare to find a museum director with such a sophisticated eye for quality,” he said.

He has similar words of praise for Cuno, who as director of the Art Institute acquired antiquities from Aboutaam as recently as 2009. That same year, Aboutaam voluntarily returned 251 antiquities to Italy, valued at $2.7 million, conceding they were likely the product of illicit excavations.

With Cuno and Potts in charge, the dealer couldn’t help but wonder: “Do you think the Getty will now buy more?”

The Best of Chasing Aphrodite 2011

Happy New Year!

We want to share our profound thanks for the 24,000 visits we’ve had since we launched this site with the release of Chasing Aphrodite last May. You’ve helped make the book a success while shining a light on art world shenanigans. Thank you for reading.

We’ve got many more revelations in store for you in 2012. If you’d like to keep receiving updates, be sure to subscribe via the box on the top right. You can also follow our more frequent comments on the latest news by liking our Facebook page or following us on Twitter.

We hope to see some of you at our upcoming events, which include talks at the National Press Club in DC on January 24th and Google and UCLA in February. You can get details and find our other event listings here.

Without further ado, here are your favorite posts of 2011:

1. An Exchange with Hugh Eakin at The New York Review of Books

Our exchange with Hugh Eakin in The New York Review of Books caught a lot of attention last year. We found the review flattering in several places, but also curiously littered with contradictions. Here is Hugh’s June  review, and our response. An abbreviated version of the exchange was printed in the NYROB’s August issue here.

2. The Secret FBI File: J. Edgar Hoover vs. J. Paul Getty

Was J. Paul Getty a Nazi collaborator? That is the provocative question that J. Edgar Hoover asked in 1940, when the FBI opened a secret investigation into J. Paul Getty’s possible ties to the Nazi regime. While reporting Chasing Aphrodite, we obtained Getty’s FBI file under the Freedom of Information Act. We posted the annotated file online and pulled out highlights of the investigation.

3. Getty Museum Returns Two Objects to Greece, Signs Collaboration Deal

In 2011, American museums continued to return looted antiquities to their country of origin, and the Getty Museum was no exception. In September, the Getty agreed to return two objects to Greece and formalized a broad cultural agreement that will lead to loans, joint research and other collaboration with the art-rich Hellenic Republic. The agreement mirrors similar deals struck with Italy and Sicily in the wake of a negotiated settlement to claims the Getty had for years purchased ancient art looted from those countries.

4. The Becchina Dossier: A New Window into the Illicit Trade

The conviction of Italian dealer Giacamo Medici set off the whirlwind of controversy detailed in the final chapters of Chasing Aphrodite. But Medici was just the opening move of the Italian investigation of the illicit antiquities trade. In 2001, Italian authorities raided the warehouse of Medici’s main rival, Gianfranco Becchina, seizing 13,000 documents, 6,315 antiquities and 8,000 photographs of objects, many of which appeared recently excavated.  Today, it is the Becchina Dossier that forms the center of Italy’s continuing investigation of the international trade in looted antiquities. Like the Medici files, the Becchina Dossier provides a striking record of the illicit trade, showing the path of thousands of looted objects from tombs across the Mediterranean to the display cases of leading museums around the world. Stay tuned as we’ll be making public more details from the Becchina case in 2012.

5. Chasing Persephone?

When the Getty’s statue of Aphrodite was returned to Italy in May, we were there to tell the story. In this report for the LA Times, Jason described how new theories about the goddess are being considered now that she’s back home. Who is the goddess? Does her slightly awkward marble head really belong atop the massive limestone body? Where precisely was she found? And what can she tell us about the ancient Greek colonists who worshiped her some 2,400 years ago? The fact that so little is known about the marble and limestone statue — one of the few surviving sculptures from the apex of Western art — illustrates the lasting harm brought by looting and the trade in illicit antiquities.

6. Jiri Frel: Scholar, Refugee, Curator…Spy?

In the early 1980s, the antiquities department at the J. Paul Getty Museum was a hotbed of whispered political intrigue. Rumors swirled that the department’s Czech curator, Jiri Frel, was a Communist spy. And many believed the deputy curator, former State Department official Arthur Houghton, was a CIA plant tasked with keeping an eye on Frel’s activities. Frel’s once-classified FBI file, obtained by the authors under the Freedom of Information Act, reveals that the US Government asked similar questions about Frel in 1971, when an investigation was conducted into his “possible intelligence connections.”

7. The Getty Fights to Keep its Bronze

A week after sending its statue of Aphrodite back to Italy, the Getty was fighting to keep another ancient masterpiece: its priceless bronze statue of an athlete, whose 1964 discovery by Italian fisherman is featured in the opening chapter of Chasing Aphrodite. Here’s our report on the latest in the fight for the Getty  bronze.

8. Houghton on The McClain Doctrine and Crimes of Knowledge

Did American museum officials violate US laws when buying looted antiquities? We attempt to answer that hypothetical using internal Getty memos written by former curator Arthur Houghton, who spelled out the risk of violating the National Stolen Property Act when buying objects with unclear provenance.

9. The Truth about Marion True

When archaeologist Malcolm Bell reviewed Chasing Aphrodite in The Wall Street Journal in July, he largely agreed with our premise — that  American museums fueled the destruction of knowledge by acquiring looted antiquities and using what Bell calls a “fabric of lies” to obscure their complicity in an illicit trade. But Bell’s review took an odd turn when he recommended that former Getty antiquities curator Marion True, who was fired after we revealed her blatant conflicts of interest, be hired “for a major museum position.” We respond.

10. Looted Antiquities at American Museums: An On-Going Crime

For those who might be tempted to think the issues raised in Chasing Aphrodite are behind us, we discuss a recent law review article that argues that continued possession of unprovenanced antiquities (ie most of those in American collections) could be an on-going crime under US law.

BONUS: Finding Loot at Your Local Museum

Marion True once told her museum colleagues: “Experience has taught me that in reality, if serious efforts to establish a clear pedigree for the object’s recent past prove futile, it is most likely — if not certain — that it is the product of the illicit trade and we must accept responsibility for this fact.” In that same spirit, we gave fellow investigative reporters from around the world a few tips on how to find looted antiquities at their local art museum during the June meeting of Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE).

In 2011, we put that advice to work with revelations about objects in several museum collections. Our New Year’s resolution: to do much more of the same in 2012!

Fall Book Tour: Chasing Aphrodite across the East Coast

Here’s the line up for this week in New York City and beyond. Hope to see you there. To suggest an event near you, please contact us at ChasingAphrodite@gmail.com

October 26th: The National Arts Club in New York City hosts Jason for 6:30pm lecture and book signing. 15 Gramercy Park South. (Members and guests only.)

October 26th: Archaeological Institute of America The Institute’s New York Society will host Ralph for an evening talk about Chasing Aphrodite. Details here.

October 27: Harvard Club of NYC will be hosting us for a lecture, book signing and dinner. (Members only.)

October 28: Beacon Award Dinner. SAFE will host a dinner honoring Jason and Ralph for “their dedication to uncovering the truth” about the role of museums in the illicit antiquities trade. Details here.


October 29: Walters Museum of Art in 
Baltimore. Museum Director Gary Vikan will be moderating a public talk with Ralph, Jason and Arthur Houghton, the former interim Getty antiquities curator and a staunch advocate of collector’s rights. Discussion at 2pm, followed by book signing. Details here.


Chasing Aphrodite events in October: NYC, Philly, Princeton, Rutgers, Baltimore and more

Next month we’ll be heading East for several lectures and book events. Please help us spread the word:

October 17th: Rutgers University. The university’s program in Cultural Heritage and Preservation Studies (CHAPS) will host us for a talk about Chasing Aphrodite. Open to the public. Details here.

October 19th: Princeton University. The Center for Arts and Cultural Policy Studies, will host us for a discussion. Open to the public. Details here.

October 20th: University of Pennsylvania will host us for a 12:30 pm lecture at the Penn Museum’s Cultural Heritage Center.

That evening at 6pm, Penn Law and the Museum will host us for a discussion on the illicit trade with Robert Wittman, former head of the FBI’s art squad and author of “Priceless: How I Went Undercover to Rescue the World’s Stolen Treasures.” Open to the public. Details here and here.

October 24th: New York University. 

NYU’s Department of Classics will be hosting us for an evening chat. Details TBA.

October 25: The National Art Club in New York City hosts us for a lecture and book signing. Details here.

October 26th: Archaeological Institute of America The Institute’s New York Society will host us for an evening talk about Chasing Aphrodite. Details here.

October 27: Harvard Club of NYC will be hosting us for a lecture, book signing and dinner. (Members only.)

October 28: Beacon Award Dinner. SAFE will host a dinner honoring Jason and Ralph for “their dedication to uncovering the truth” about the role of museums and the illicit antiquities trade. Details here.


October 29: Walters Museum of Art in 
Baltimore. Museum Director Gary Vikan will be moderating a public talk with Ralph, Jason and Arthur Houghton, the former interim Getty antiquities curator and a staunch advocate of collector’s rights. Discussion at 2pm, followed by book signing. Details here.

We also have some exciting events in Southern California lined up for November:

November 2: Chapman University. The Department of Art and Chapman Law School will host Jason for an evening lecture and book signing. Details TBA.

November 12: An Insiders Tour of the Getty Villa. Jason will lead a tour of the Getty Villa, discussing the Getty’s origins, the highlights of its controversial antiquities collection and its recent collaboration with Italy. Organized by SAFE Tours. Details TBA.

November 18th: Jonathan Club in LA. (Private event.)

Hope to see you at one of these. To suggest an event near you, please contact us: ChasingAphrodite@gmail.com

Video: The (Slightly Whitewashed) History of the Getty Villa

While we’re off on vacation for two weeks, we thought you’d enjoy this (somewhat whitewashed*) history of the Getty Villa. Produced by the Getty for promotional purposes, it features Stephen Garrett, the Getty’s first museum director, as well as former antiquities curator Marion True, who oversaw the transformation of the original museum into the Getty Villa as we know it today. Sadly, many of the galleries were designed around objects — such as the statue of Aphrodite seen in a diagram dominating the Gods and Goddesses Gallery at minute 7:00 — are no longer part of the Getty’s collection.

*Whitewashed: Missing from the glossy promo video are many of the less flattering facts about the Getty’s history — J. Paul Getty started the museum as a tax dodge, not because of some philanthropic instinct. He left many of his most important works, like the Landsdowne Herakles, outside in the elements for years. The world’s richest museum charges for $15 for parking, despite Getty’s explicit wish that his museum be free of charge for admission and parking. Worst of all: the governing metaphor of the site’s $275 million redesign is that of an archaeological excavation. Unmentioned is the irony that most of the objects on display were illegally ripped from just such an archaeological site. While it pretends to celebrate archaeology, the Villa is in many ways an affront to it.