Getty Museum Strikes Deal to Surrender Antiquities The Getty Museum will return 40 artifacts that the Italian government says were looted. The deal allows the Getty — the wealthiest U.S. arts institution, with an endowment of over $5 billion — to keep one key sculpture, a limestone-and-marble Aphrodite, until 2010.
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Getty Museum Strikes Deal to Surrender Antiquities

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Getty Museum Strikes Deal to Surrender Antiquities

Getty Museum Strikes Deal to Surrender Antiquities

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

The Getty Museum in Los Angeles is making one of the largest givebacks of looted art in history. The museum has reached an agreement reached with the Italian government to return 40 disputed objects currently in its collection.

As NPR's Laura Sydell reports, most of them will go back to Italy in the next several months.

LAURA SYDELL: The Getty will return some of its most priced objects, including a 5th century B.C. statue of the goddess Aphrodite. The museum will get to keep the precious Aphrodite until 2010, longer than the other 39 items. The Italian government has been on an international campaign to get back items it considers crucial to its cultural heritage. Negotiations between the museum and the Italian government have been deadlocked for years. The Italians threatened never to loan anything to the Getty again. With this agreement, museum director Michael Brand says there will be an ongoing exchange.

Mr. MICHAEL BRAND (Director, Getty Museum): We will now have a continuing rotation of objects coming from Italy. Some will be very well known, extraordinary objects. Some will be recently excavated objects. Some of the objects that might be in storage somewhere, that we can help conserve and study.

SYDELL: A few years ago, Italy uncovered strong documentation that many items in the Getty's collection were looted from the nation's archeological sites. The Italians even put former Getty curator Marion True on trial. The Getty follows the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in reaching agreements with the Italian government to return looted antiquities.

Patty Gerstenblith, a law professor at DePaul University and an expert in stolen antiquities says these are important steps in righting an old wrong. Gerstenblith lauds the Getty because it has adopted a much stricter policy on future acquisitions than almost any other museum in the country.

Professor PATTY GERSTENBLITH (Law, DePaul University): What museums are going to do in the future to discourage the market and to discourage looting of archaeological sites is the most important things that museums can and should be doing at this point.

SYDELL: There is still at least one item of dispute between the Getty and the Italian government, the Statue of the Victorious Athlete, a Greek bronze that was found in international waters in the early 1960s. The statue was brought into Italy and taken out of the country illegally. For now, the two parties have agreed to disagree about that item. Despite the ongoing dispute, the return of these 40 objects is a major victory for the Italians who are in the midst of their worldwide campaign to recover their cultural heritage.

Laura Sydell, NPR News.

BLOCK: You can see a photo of the bronze and the sculpture of Aphrodite that's been in dispute at npr.org.

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