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Museum Director Reconfirms Decision to Return 26 Objects to Italy;
Repeats Offer to Continue Discussions toward a Comprehensive Collaborative Agreement

November 23, 2006

LOS ANGELES—Michael Brand, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum, issued the following statement today in response to a news conference held in Rome by Italy’s Minister of Culture Francesco Rutelli:

I want to repeat that we are deeply saddened that our talks with the Italian Ministry of Culture did not result in a mutually beneficial agreement regarding cultural cooperation and a joint agreement on the return of objects claimed by Italy from the Getty’s antiquities collection.  During our meeting with Ministry officials on November 17, we offered substantial compromises, including the immediate transfer of full title to the Cult Statue of a Goddess, if the Italian government would join the Getty in conducting further research.  We also were prepared to offer additional compromises, but unfortunately, our discussions ended when the Ministry issued an ultimatum that any agreement must include the return of the Statue of a Victorious Youth.

We remain open to resuming discussions with the Ministry at a moment’s notice.  I know the Minister is coming to the United States next week, and if he believes further discussions might allow us to find a way to reach a comprehensive collaborative agreement, I stand ready to meet with him.  In fact, my hope is that the Minister might visit the Getty Villa, the only museum in the United States dedicated to Roman, Etruscan and Greek art and culture, so he can see for himself the impact the magnificent works of art displayed there have on the American public.  It is for the people who value art and history that we must find a mutually satisfactory solution.

Because we were unable to reach a comprehensive collaborative agreement with the Ministry during our recent meeting in Rome, the Getty has decided that the proper action for us to take right now is to return to Italy the 26 objects included in the agreement signed jointly by Getty and Ministry officials on October 5.  As I indicated in my letter to Minister Rutelli, the Getty also will agree to the Ministry’s request for all relevant documents related to the 52 objects presently claimed.  However, it’s important to add that within the October 5 agreement, the Ministry itself withdrew its request for several objects that were among the 52 initially claimed by the Italian government. I also want to repeat that during the next year, the Getty will continue our own research into the origins of the Cult Statue, but if this research suggests the statue should be returned to Italy, the Getty is prepared to do so.

I find it truly unfortunate that Italy’s ultimatum regarding the bronze Statue of a Victorious Youth stands in the way of reaching a comprehensive agreement.  We recognize this is an emotional issue.  But we believe strongly that emotional claims cannot override the substantial evidence supporting the Getty’s ownership of the statue, including the fact that this Greek statue was found in international waters in 1964 and was obtained by the Getty Museum in 1977 only after Italian courts had declared that there was no evidence that the statue belonged to Italy.  I must stress that Ministry officials repeatedly have told us that Italy has no legal claim to the statue.

Any impact our inability to reach a mutually satisfactory agreement may have on the longstanding, positive and productive relationship the Getty and Italy have enjoyed over the years would be tragic.  Since the 1980s, the Getty Museum has loaned Italy over 80 objects, twice as many objects as Italy has loaned to the Getty; the Getty Foundation has made over 70 grants to individuals, art and educational institutions in Italy; and numerous scholarships, internships and research library grants through the Getty Research Institute have been made to Italian citizens.  In addition, the Getty Conservation Institute has partnered with some of Italy’s most important conservation institutes and centers, and has worked collaboratively with Italian conservation professionals on over 20 projects and programs for over 20 years.  Both sides will suffer if this extraordinary exchange of ideas and knowledge focused on studying and preserving Italy’s cultural heritage is halted.
Finally, as an indication of our desire to put the past behind us and move forward, in late October the Getty approved a strengthened art acquisition policy.  This new policy adopts the UNESCO agreement date of November 17, 1970, as the key date for determining whether ancient works of art or archaeological material can be considered for acquisition.  We believe this new policy will help to deter the illicit trade in antiquities, which is so important to Italy and to all who believe that every nation’s cultural heritage must be respected and preserved.

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Ron Hartwig/Julie Jaskol
Getty Communications Department

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