Former Getty antiquities curator Marion True speaks out about her five-year trial in Italy
The high-profile trial of Getty antiquities curator Marion True, charged by the Italian government with conspiring to traffic in looted art, ended last year on Oct. 13 after the statutes of limitations for her alleged crimes ran out. But the fear that this trial instilled in museums across the nation about acquiring antiquities persists, as do questions about True's history with her co-defendants, antiquities dealers Robert Hecht and Giacomo Medici.
This month, True published a statement in the Art Newspaper to rebut some of the "distorted and slanderous allegations" against her. In the process, she reminds readers of one of the great ironies or tragedies of the five-year, 43-session trial: Before the investigation, True's department at the Getty had a reputation for being one of the few museum teams on the better side of best practices in a fast-changing playing field, in which foreign governments often label works as looted after the fact of their sale or export instead of before.
In her words:
An employee of the Getty Museum for 23 years, I had been working for much of that time with Italian colleagues in the Ministry for Beni Culturali — Mario Serio (former director general), Adriano La Regina (former superintendent of the Imperial Fora), Pier Giovanni Guzzo (superintendent of Pompeii and Herculaneum) in particular — to find new ways of building collections at the Getty beyond market purchases... And from 1987, at the request of Getty president Harold Williams, I worked with legal counsel to formulate an acquisition policy for antiquities that called for direct notification of the ministries of Mediterranean countries when purchases were proposed, and requested any information or objections to acquisitions under consideration. The policy also demanded that the ministries have immediate notification of objects acquired and, most importantly, the return of any object that could be proven to be illicitly excavated or smuggled. At the time this policy was the most stringent among major US museums, and was strengthened in 1995 with the requirement that any object proposed for acquisition be published as something known to the scholarly world before 1995.
The Art Newspaper has Marion True's full statement online.
-- Jori Finkel
Photo: Marion True leaves a court in Rome in 2005. Credit: Alessandro Bianchi / Reuters