04 January 2007

Repairing Injustice...Or...Turns Out That Was Worth A Fortune And I Want It Back...Part 1

For years now, Italy has been searching museums and private collections around the world for what they call "Looted work". Most notably, the J. Paul Getty museum in Los Angeles.

Italy has claimed 46 of the works in the Getty collection. The Getty has agreed to return 26 of the works. 25 from the list and one other they thought should have been on the list but wasn't.
Italy still wants more.

The work that has brought the negotiations to a halt is a sculpture that dates from 300-100B.C. and is on display at the Getty Villa in Malibu. The work, discovered in 1964 off the Adriatic coast near the Italian city of Fano, resurfaced in 1971 and was purchased by the Getty in 1977 for $3.95 million.

Italy is claiming now that the work was illegally exported. However, the work was found in international waters and the Getty obtained it only after an Italian court ruled that there was no evidence that it belonged to Italy.

I can understand that countries want to keep their cultural heritage. I can understand them wanting works back that were stolen and or smuggled out of their respective countries.

Where do you draw the line? Is there no Statute of Limitations for things like this? I will look it up, but I bet that there is.

Italy seems to be making the biggest fuss about it internationally. I have read many articles about it and none have really explained why.

I can see this getting out of control fast. If you have ever been to the Louvre in Paris, it doesn't take long to realize that almost everything they have was a prize of war. Napoleon alone took thousands of works in the name of France for that collection. Should they start giving them back?

What about all of the treasure that have come from Egypt's Valley of the Kings? How do you draw the line between archeology and grave robbing?

Jewish families are claiming works, taken by the Germans during WWII. Many of them are getting the works back, with little or no regard for those who own them now. It was a tragic, horrific event, but should someone 65 years removed be entitled to these works?

I'm torn on the subject. I can see both sides and honestly, I think no matter what happens, someone will feel that they where screwed. For many of the works it is clear that they were obtained under shady circumstances. Those should be returned no questions asked. For others it's not so clear. That's where things get interesting.

Personally I think a lot of it comes down to basic greed. In cases like these, the works are worth several tens of millions of dollars. What is really being done in the name of justice?

I can't wait to follow these stories as they progress. I have yet to hear an argument that would make me lean one way or the other.

What do you think?

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