Italy offers olive branch over stolen Getty statue

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An Italian politician offered an olive branch to the Getty Museum on Monday, in a long-running dispute over antiquities allegedly looted for display in California. 

Gian Mario Spacca, governor of Italy’s Marche region, called on the Los Angeles-based cultural center to “behave ethically” by returning works which did not belong to it, or at least to agree to a deal to share them. 

A Getty spokeswoman welcomed Spacca’s visit — he toured the Museum on Friday — but pointed out that the main contested work, the so-called Getty Bronze, was subject to ongoing legal action in Italy. 

“We have not come to declare war on the Getty … 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,” Spacca told reporters. 

Specifically he proposed a “cultural exchange” deal to share custody of the 2,300-year-old “Victorious Youth” statue — commonly known here as the Getty Bronze — by Greek artist Lisippo. 

“The Italian people expect a museum as prestigious as the Getty should not be trafficking in illegal art,” Spacca said, adding: “The Getty should show the world it can act like a world-class cultural institution and behave ethically.” 

Getty spokeswoman Julie Jaskol said Spacca toured the museum near Malibu, north of Los Angeles. “It was a friendly meeting and we were pleased that the (governor) and his group were able to visit the Getty Villa,” she said. 

Governor Gian Mario Spacca from the region in Italy known as Marcha, stands in front of a projected image [Credit: AFP]

But she added: “We were clear at the start of our conversation that the ‘Statue of a Victorious Youth,’ known as the Getty Bronze, was not a matter for discussion since legal issues regarding this object are ongoing in Italy.” 

The nearly 1.5 m (five-foot) bronze is one of several star attractions at the Getty, one of the world’s top museums. 

The latest Italian offer came after a 5th century BC marble statue, the “Venus of Morgantina,” was returned earlier this month as part of an agreement made in 2007 with California museum. 

Italy claims the marble statue was stolen by looters at the end of the 1970s and handed over to an art trafficker who forged documents to prove legitimate ownership and smuggled it to Switzerland. 

Source: AFP [March 28, 2011]

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