Thursday, July 11, 2013

Italy Does Not Speak for Us

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.


Clio Ancient Art and Antiquities said...

Your thoughts are spot on!

Clio Ancient Art and Antiquities said...

Your thoughts on this matter are spot on!

Chris M. Maupin
Clio Ancient Art & Antiquities
Charlotte, NC, USA

Paul Barford said...

Since you seem to think there is one, can you point us to the prior agreement signed by Cleveland Museum and the Sicilian authorities authorising them to receive and hang on (without paying anything) to items sent, on the basis of their own agreement, to the Getty the other side of the country? Thanks.

Cultural Property Observer said...

During the China MOU hearings there was a discussion about how museums schedule traveling shows. There is a gentleman's agreement first that is only reduced to writing at the end. Here, there was apparently such an understanding among the Getty, Sicily and Cleveland, but then there was a change in leadership in Sicily and the new cultural bureaucrats are evidently not gentlemen (or ladies for that matter). In fact, it looks like they are just seeing this as a way to extort more money.

Paul Barford said...

I suggest then that US museums get more professional, and do not rely the nod-and-a-wink methods but actual contracts before they make any firm plans. I am sure you as a lawyer would endorse such an approach.

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