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New Provisions Require More Provenance Information for Acquisitions of Ancient Art

October 26, 2006

LOS ANGELES—The J. Paul Getty Museum today announced a significantly strengthened art acquisition policy. The revised policy, adopted by the J. Paul Getty Trust Board of Trustees earlier this week, commits the Getty to “further developing its collection according to the highest ethical standards and in compliance with all applicable laws.”

Most notably, the revised policy adopts November 17, 1970, the date on which the UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export, and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property was signed, as the key date for determining whether an ancient work of art or archaeological material can be considered for acquisition. The Getty’s previous policy required objects to be from “established, well-documented collections” and published before 1995. The new policy brings the Getty’s acquisition practices into alignment with the stricter guidelines recently adopted by museums in the United Kingdom.

“Although our previous acquisitions policy established one of the highest standards in the museum world at the time, I felt it was time to revise and clarify our policy,” said Getty Museum Director Michael Brand. “The cultural property landscape is changing rapidly, and the Getty must respond to those changes.”

“The Board of Trustees, interim President and CEO, and I feel very strongly that this is the proper course for the institution to chart. The Getty must do whatever it can to deter the illicit trade in antiquities and seek common ground between art museums, the archaeologically rich source nations, and the archaeological community,” Brand continued.

For the acquisition of any ancient work of art or archaeological material, the revised policy requires:

  • Documentation or substantial evidence that an item was in the United States by November 17, 1970 and that there is no reason to suspect it was illegally exported from its country of origin OR
  • Documentation or substantial evidence that the item was out of its country of origin before November 17, 1970 and that it has been or will be legally imported into the United States, OR
  • Documentation or substantial evidence that the item was legally exported from its country of origin after November 17, 1970 and that it has been or will be legally imported into the United States.

“The Getty Museum’s new acquisition policy represents our ongoing efforts to ensure that every nation’s cultural heritage is respected and preserved, while at the same time offering the public the opportunity to have direct experiences with great works of art representing humanity’s shared cultural heritage,” said Brand.  “This is a responsibility and a mission that we are proud to undertake alongside our partners at the Getty Trust and our sister museums in the United States and throughout the world.”

The Getty Museum's new acquisition policy is posted in the “Policies” section on the J. Paul Getty Trust’s “Governance” page on the Getty website at

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Julie Jaskol or John Giurini
Getty Communications Department

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