Italy’s supreme court has ruled that the Getty museum in Los Angeles must return a 2,000-year-old Greek bronze statue, known both as the "Victorious Youth" and the "Getty Bronze," that it bought for almost $4m in 1977. (Read more: The Guardian)
In response, the museum released this statement from Lisa Lapin, Vice President of Communications, J. Paul Getty Trust:
We will continue to defend our legal right to the statue. The law and facts in this case do not warrant restitution to the Italian government of a statue that has been on public display in Los Angeles for nearly a half century. The statue is of ancient Greek origin, was found in international waters in 1964, and was purchased by the Getty Museum in 1977, years after Italy’s highest court, the Court of Cassation, concluded in 1968 there was no evidence that the statue belonged to Italy. The court has not offered any written explanation of the grounds for its decision, which is inconsistent with its holding 50 years ago that there was no evidence of Italian ownership.
Moreover, the statue is not and has never been part of Italy’s cultural heritage. Accidental discovery by Italian citizens does not make the statue an Italian object. Found outside the territory of any modern state, and immersed in the sea for two millennia, the Bronze has only a fleeting and incidental connection with Italy.
We believe any forfeiture order is contrary to American and international law. Our priority is to continue our productive and long-standing collaborations with our many Italian colleagues and the Cultural Ministry. It is unfortunate that this issue has been a distraction from that important work.
Over more than four decades, the Getty has worked closely with Italian colleagues in conserving, protecting, researching and celebrating Italy’s extraordinary cultural heritage. The Getty Foundation has supported 137 grant projects on Italian art totaling more than $20 million, awarded more than $500,000 in fellowships to Italian scholars, and hosted more than 130 Italian scholars, fellows, and interns supported by grants totaling over $1.3 million.
Since 1984, the Getty Museum has lent more than 130 paintings, sculptures, drawings, photographs, and other works of art to over 50 different institutions in Italy. Similarly, the Getty Research Institute (GRI) has, since 1991, lent 70 prints, drawings, manuscripts, and rare books to exhibitions in Italy.
The Getty has presented more than two dozen exhibitions in collaboration with institutions in Italy, a number of them arising from cultural agreements between the Getty and the Italian Ministry of Heritage, Culture and Tourism, the Sicilian Ministry of Culture and Sicilian Identity, the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli, the Musei Capitolini, Rome, and the Museum of Aidone. As part of these collaborations, the Getty undertook the conservation of five highly significant works of ancient art and a collection of 37 votive offerings, all belonging to Italian museums.
Other collaborative efforts have included decades-long research and conservation projects funded and coordinated by the Getty, including the Panel Paintings Initiative, Mosaikon, Herculaneum fresco restoration, Keeping it Modern, and many others.
We very much value our strong and fruitful relationship with the Italian Ministry of Culture and our museum colleagues in Italy. A more detailed account of the Getty’s funding and other support for Italian cultural heritage is available here: http://news.getty.edu/gettybronze2018.htm.