Monday, December 2, 2013

Ask Me Anything, Timothy Potts

Timothy Potts (Director Getty Museum)  answered a load of questions from the public online on Reddit (Ask Me Anything). The range of questions was interesting in itself, understandably in the time available (this must be very time-consuming), Dr Potts could only answer a selection of them, but two are worth highlighting here

Eistean asked
Where do you stand on the repatriation of artifacts such as the Elgin Marbles and others held in major institutions worldwide? [...]
TimothyPotts replied
Repatriation has become an extremely complex issue both from a legal and from an ethical perspective, and it continues to be the subject of great debate. The easy part is to say that museums must follow US law (or, for foreign museums, the laws of their respective countries). When it comes to the ethical issues, it is hard to generalize about "artifacts such as the Elgin marbles", since each case is different and must be judged on its own circumstances of discovery, export, ownership etc, as far as these are known or can be determined. One point I would make is that the legal movement of art between nations and cultures has been an important part of the interaction and evolution of culture and art throughout history. So it is important that we try to find legal ways that this cross-fertilization and appreciation of other cultures can continue. [...]

quesopantolones asks

In what ways has the acquisition process of the Getty been changed over the years? Are black market artifacts still prevalent within the museum world, even in the wake of The Morgantina Aphrodite and Marion True?
TimothyPotts replies:
In 2006 the Getty adopted the same principles on acquiring antiquities as other US (and most international) museums, which is that the object must have been outside its source country by 1970. We do not buy objects that cannot be traced back to that date, even though they can be legally bought and sold by dealers, auction houses and collectors. So this is a self-imposed restriction that the museum community has decided is appropriate. That said, there continues to be much debate on whether this restraint on the part of museums really does reduce the illicit excavation and trade in antiquities, or just diverts it to other parts of the world and thereby feeds the untraceable markets there, where most material is not published or accessible for research.

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