Tag Archives: museum

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.

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VOA on the illicit antiquities trade

VOA's On the Line

Voice of America’s international TV program “On the Line” interviewed Jason Felch about the international trade in illicit antiquities.

You can watch the program here. (The antiquities segment starts at 11:30, about half way through the show.)

NY Post: How the Met dodged a bullet

In Sunday’s New York Post, Ralph describes how the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York narrowly avoided becoming the center of the antiquities scandal that consumed the Getty Museum.

“A few years ago, the world’s richest arts organization became the epicenter of a scandal that, like revelations of steroid use in baseball, exposed a dirty little secret of the American cultural establishment.

Antiquities dealer Robert Hecht, now on trial in Rome, poses in front of the Met's famous looted vase.

It was revealed that the J. Paul Getty Museum of Los Angeles, along with other American museums, had long been involved in the black market for looted Greek and Roman antiquities — a trade the museums themselves fueled with multimillion-dollar acquisitions of illegally excavated masterpieces.

To stop the cycle, Italian authorities took aim at the biggest customer, the Getty. A Roman court indicted the Getty’s antiquities curator, Marion True, for trafficking in looted objects. The Getty eventually expelled its most generous living donor, Manhattan socialite Barbara Fleischman, from the board for her involvement in the scandal. And the Getty was made to pay for its crimes by returning 40 of its best antiquities to the governments of Italy and Greece.

But had things gone a bit differently, what is now known as the “Getty scandal” could have very well have been the “Metropolitan Museum meltdown.”

Only timing, luck, and a grudging act of cultural contrition saved the venerable New York institution from taking the biggest fall.”

Read the full story here.