Marion True: Did the good outweigh the bad?

In archaeologist Malcolm Bell’s review of Chasing Aphrodite in this weekend’s Wall Street Journal, he echoes our premise that museums have destroyed our knowledge of the past by fueling the trade in looted antiquities. “A fabric of lies was woven around artifacts whose real history was suppressed or unknown,” Bell writes.

But controversially, Bell also suggests we “undervalue” True’s role as a reformer of the illicit antiquities trade, concluding:  “Her contributions far outweigh her mistakes, and were I today to be asked to recommend someone to fill a major museum position, she would be the first person to come to my mind.”

One critic has called Bell “a liar,” while another says Bell “has an agenda” but calls his review “informed and informative.”

We’re preparing a response to Bell’s review. In the meantime, we’d love to hear your thoughts. Weigh in with the poll below, and feel free to ellaborate on your answer in the comments section:

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2 responses to “Marion True: Did the good outweigh the bad?

  1. I have just finished reading Chasing Aphrodite andI have concluded that Marion True was made a scape goat. My only regret is that she did not sue the Getty for destroying her career. I have spent my entire career in museums and know for a fact that no curator could have made those purchases without the approval of the director and the board; and in every case she made the recommendations on each piece wanting to build an impressive collection for her museum. When she had doubts about the provenance of a work she made sure to say so. She even tried to
    change the culture of buying looted art and was ostracized by many museum colleagues for doing so, both within and outside of the Getty.
    It is such a shame that none of the reprehensible directors under whom she worked felt it their duty to support her. I am sure today the culture at the Getty within the administration remains the same, each man for himself; such a shame. V.Hyatt

  2. I listen to Forum regularly, and today’s program is great!

    I was listen to today’s program on Forum about the book Chasing
    Aphrodite, and I wanted to email regarding Marion True of the Getty
    Museum in LA.

    I have not had a chance to read Chasing Aphrodite (though I will be
    buying a copy this week), but from what I heard regarding who Marion
    True is and her position with the Getty Museum in LA, it seems that
    her behavior in regards to reforming and participating in the purchase
    of looted ancient art doesn’t conflict as much as one might believe.

    Again, this is just from the preliminary info I heard, and my limited
    knowledge of the Art World and culture, but by Marion True championing
    reform she could increase the Getty’s dominance/prominence of the
    incredibly large/revered collection of Greek and Roman ancient art.
    Ancient Greek and Roman art is a limited commodity (since they aren’t
    making any new pieces, right?), and since the Getty already has such a
    large collection the reforms Marion True championed would make it
    difficult for other prominent museums to acquire a comparable or
    competitive collection.

    From what I understand the Getty, and LA’s standing in the US’s
    museum/art world is around 3rd place behind museums/the cities of New
    York and Chicago, so by making it more difficult and expensive for
    museums to acquire looted or stolen ancient art, in particular Greek
    and Roman art, it aids in cementing their place as #1 in that field.

    If it costs more or becomes more difficult to acquire these looted
    pieces, so what? Marion True and the Getty, from what I heard,
    already have huge collections, and if LA/the Getty Museum has one
    thing it’s money, so why wouldn’t she want to capitalize on the
    advantages a large reserve of cash affords the Getty over other
    prominent museums?

    Again, great show, and I look forward to purchasing and reading
    Chasing Aphrodite!

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