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Tuesday night: 'Chasing Aphrodite' to Book Soup

Chasingaphrodite L.A. Times reporter Jason Felch, co-author of the book "Chasing Aphrodite: The Hunt for Looted Antiquities at the World's Richest Museum," will read from the book and sign copies at Book Soup at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

Felch covered the story of the Getty's looted antiquities for The Times with co-author Ralph Fammolino; their reporting was a finalist for the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting. Our blog Culture Monster explains:

The title of the volume comes from the Getty's prized statue of the Greek goddess Aphrodite, which was bought in 1988 for $18 million. The statue was recently shipped to Sicily as part of the museum's 2007 agreement with the Italian government, under which 40 disputed works of art were returned.

Italy and the Getty also agreed at the time to a broad cultural collaboration that would include loans of significant art works, joint exhibitions and other endeavors.

One of the main focuses of the book is former Getty curator Marion True, who was tried in Italy for conspiring to traffic in looted art. Last year, charges against her were dropped after a judge in Italy ruled that the statute of limitations had expired.

In our review of "Chasing Aphrodite," Wendy Smith wrote, "What on earth were they thinking?" She continued:

The answer lies in the context the authors provide about the slow but irreversible shift in attitudes about antiquities collecting that rendered once-acceptable behavior morally indefensible and criminally liable. What makes the story so fascinating is that in the late 1980s and '90s the Getty was seen as a leader in the quest to create a more responsible antiquities acquisition policy. "We as an institution would not want to be buying art against the wishes of the country of origin," declared the museum's antiquities curator, Marion True, in 1989. "We also as a matter of policy contact the countries … and make inquiries if we think that is appropriate."

That caveat about "appropriate," however, left a loophole big enough to drive a truckload of looted art through.

Read the rest of the review here, and here is more information about Felch's booksigning at Book Soup tonight.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

 
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