Friday, January 20, 2012

Italian Justice on Trial: Bob Hecht Vindicated?

Well, that is one way this sorry tale can be spun:

After all the headlines, Bob Hecht, the alleged middleman at the center of an international conspiracy to launder looted art, has been freed because the statute of limitations has run under Italian law.

Paolo Ferri, Hecht's prosecutor, points the fingers at the "system." but presumably Ferri was responsible for moving the case forward, and with a little less show boating, perhaps that might have actually happened within the allotted time.

In any event, without a conviction in such a high profile case, perhaps Hecht can feel vindicated, at least to some extent.

The Italian show trial did convince US Museums to repatriate significant pieces to Italy. I wonder though, whether any have any nagging doubts about that now, at least with respect to some pieces. Also, the trial likely helped convince the AAMD and others to adopt a 1970 provenance rule. The foolishness of that decision is only now being felt, but nagging doubts about that one will grow too as fewer and fewer items become available for accession under these rules.


kyri said...

hi peter,
i remember once reading an interview by barbara fleisman[a prominent collector along with her husband]about robert hecht.
"my husband was ill in hospital
[he died a few weeks later] and was visited by hecht",she thought that was a civilized gesture,"until hecht took from his pocket a small bronze to see whether lawrence wanted to buy it".
this just about sums up the character of the man,trying to make a buck,even from someone on their death bed.
i didnt necessarily agree with the prosecution of hecht or marion true but i think the italians wanted to send a message out and they did.
as for your last comments as to the regrets of certain museums,hecht was selling them looted antiquities,of that there is no doubt,he even admitted as much in his own memoirs.
i see US museums having ethical acquisition policies,as being a good thing and not a cause for regret.

Cultural Property Observer said...

Of course, everyone has a bit of bad and good in them but some (including the late curators of the Smithsonian coin collection) have reported that he would "give you the shirt of his back."

As to aquisition policies, due dilligence is not a bad thing, but a 1970 provenance rule is a stupid one.



Ed Snible said...

Robert Hecht dead at 92