NEW YORK—Marion True, Ph.D., curator of antiquities at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, who is being prosecuted in Italy for allegedly conspiring to purchase illegally excavated antiquities, has resigned (see ANL, 8/30/05). The museum reportedly has agreed to return three of the contested objects to Italy.
According to a museum statement, True, 56, voluntarily retired after museum officials confronted her about the circumstances surrounding a $400,000 loan she had used to purchase a vacation home in Greece ten years ago. “The Getty has determined through its own investigation that Marion True failed to report certain aspects of her Greek house purchase transaction in violation of Getty policy,” the statement says.
True obtained the loan in 1995 through the assistance of two London dealers, Robin Symes and the late Christo Michailidis, who were among the Getty’s biggest suppliers of Greek, Roman and Etruscan antiquities, according to an article in the Los Angeles Times.
Michailidis and Symes introduced True to Athens lawyer Dimitri Peppas, who arranged for the loan through an entity called the Sea Star Corporation, the Times article reports. Harry Stang, True’s attorney in Los Angeles, declined to comment.
The museum declined to elaborate on the policy True had allegedly violated, nor would it comment on internal Getty records cited by the Times that are said to show that museum officials have known about the loan for several years. Interpol in Greece reportedly is investigating the loan.
True is scheduled to stand trial next month in Rome on charges of conspiring to receive 42 antiquities that Italian officials claim were illegally excavated. She was indicted in May, along with dealers Robert E. Hecht Jr. and Giacomo Medici. Medici was convicted last year and sentenced to ten years in prison, but remains free while he appeals.
Reuters reported that the Getty has agreed to return to Italy three of the 42 objects involved in the case. According to the news service, Italy’s culture minister Rocco Buttiglione told the Corriere della Sera newspaper that “the works are returning without an admission of guilt on the part of the Getty, but also without us withdrawing our accusations.”
The objects the Getty has reportedly agreed to return to Italy are a large bowl signed by Asteas, a bronze Etruscan candelabrum and an ancient Greek inscription. The Reuters article states that Buttiglione still seeks the return of the remaining disputed objects. A Getty spokesperson declined to answer questions from ARTnewsletter about the reported agreement.
True has denied the criminal charges against her in Italy, and earlier this year the Getty expressed its belief that she would be exonerated. In its statement announcing her leave-taking, the Getty said that True was retiring to focus on her defense.
According to a wide-ranging investigation last month by the Times, Getty lawyers have determined that half of the most important pieces in the museum’s antiquities collection were acquired from dealers who are now under investigation for selling looted works. The Times article, which drew upon hundreds of pages of Getty records dating back 20 years, accused the Getty of failing to address the questionable provenance of many of the objects it was buying and, in some cases, purchasing works despite indications that they had been looted.
In a written response to the Times that was made available to ARTnewsletter, the Getty maintains that it “never knowingly” acquired illegally excavated or exported objects. The museum further states that it “cannot respond to many of the Times’s assertions because they rely on privileged and confidential information stolen from the Getty’s files, and responding would jeopardize Dr. True’s right to a fair trial in the current proceeding.”
Meanwhile the Getty Trust, which oversees the museum, is also under investigation by the California attorney general’s office, which is looking into its financial practices as well as the expenditures of the trust’s chief executive,
Barry Munitz (see ANL,7/5/05).