Sicily has pulled the plug on the Cleveland Museum of Art's planned exhibition of ancient Sicilian artifacts. The move leaves Cleveland scrambling to fill exhibition space and effectively sticks the Getty (where the exhibit was last) with all the costs. More evidence, if any was needed, that all the claims of collaboration made in exchange for the museum community's support for the State Department's MOU with Italy are really quite hollow.
It's also interesting to note that Sicily-- which enjoys autonomy in cultural matters-- purportedly wants the statute that was to be the star of the show to return because it is "losing tourist dollars." But the statue hails from the Island of Mozia, a magical, but out-of -the-way place where few tourists visit.
The so-called "Charioteer of Motya" was itself likely looted in antiquity. Some scholars believe that Carthaginian forces forcibly removed it from the Sicilian Greek city of Selinunte as a trophy. Sicilian Greeks under the banner of Syracuse subsequently destroyed Motya, which was a major Carthaginian stronghold. The ruins then faded into obscurity, until an English heir to a Marsala wine fortune took an interest in the site. Through his generosity and that of his family, archaeological digs were started and a museum established.
Motya, Selinunte, Syracuse and the rest of Sicily are well worth a visit, but now because of this short-sighted decision thousands of Americans won't have a chance to see for themselves why that is so.