"Chasing Aphrodite" reveals the Getty's illicit treasure-buying

  • Cover of Chasing Aphrodite: The Hunt for Looted Antiquities at the World's Richest Museum

    Cover of Chasing Aphrodite: The Hunt for Looted Antiquities at the World's Richest Museum

  • Cult Statue of a Goddess (the "Aphrodite" aka "Morgantina Venus"), 425-400 B.C., Greek, recently was returned to Sicily by the J.  Paul Getty Museum

    Cult Statue of a Goddess (the "Aphrodite" aka "Morgantina Venus"), 425-400 B.C., Greek, recently was returned to Sicily by the J. Paul Getty Museum

In recent years, the Getty Museum has given back some of its finest pieces of classical art to the government of Italy. Major museums worldwide have followed suit, returning Egyptian, Italian and Greek antiquities to their native lands. The reason for this voluntary submission of an art trove estimated at over half a billion dollars? The missteps of a few and the blind-eye of many.

The growing movement for detailed museum "provenance research," resulting in some returns of objects, accelerated with the revelation in 2007 that the Getty, one of the world’s richest museums, had been buying looted antiquities for decades.

In a special investigation for the Los Angeles Times, Jason Felch and Ralph Frammolino unearthed the stories behind some famous objects in this world-class museum perched on a cliff in Malibu, Calif. In their new book, Chasing Aphrodite: The Hunt for Looted Antiquities at the World's Richest Museum, they give explicit details surrounding the Getty’s dealings in the illegal antiquities trade, and blow the cover off the outlandish characters involved.

Chasing Aphrodite: The Hunt for Looted Antiquities at the World's Richest Museum (384 pages, Houghton Mifflin).

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