Thursday, October 14, 2010

Former Getty Antiquities Curator Marion True Released in Rome

Former Getty Antiquities Curator Marion True Released in Rome

Courtesy Flickr
The J. Paul Getty Museum


Published: October 13, 2010
ROME— Marion True, the 61-year-old former J. Paul Getty Museum antiquities curator who has been held in Rome on trial since 2005 on charges related to artifact trafficking, was released yesterday when a Italian court ruled that the statute of limitations had expired. The three-member court brought to a close half a decade of ongoing hearings concerning whether or not True had knowingly acquired ancient objects of illegal provenance for the Los Angeles art institution.Even at this late juncture in the legal campaign against the curator, who served at the Getty from 1986 to 2005, no witnesses had yet had the opportunity to take the stand in the defense of True, the first American museum official to be criminally charged by a foreign government. True’s indictment in 2005 served as a shocking wake-up call to the American museum establishment, in which many curators long dealt with unsavory antiquities sellers for decades. In 2007, the Getty returned 40 ancient works to Italy, and other major institutions quietly followed suit, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts.
During her tenure as curator, meanwhile, True in fact returned several pieces of questionable derivation to Italy, and spearheaded a move to enforce more stringent standards for checking attribution. Yet her role in the major acquisition of the collection of Lawrence and Barbara Fleischman in 1996 came to be the source of much criticism by the prosecution in Rome. But, as the prosecution’s most recent charge pertained to a 2002 acquisition, the statute of limitations on the crimes True was accused of ran out in July.
True’s co-defendant, the 91-year-old Robert Hecht, who remains on trial for the same allegations, will have to await July 2011 for the statute of limitations on accusations against him to expire. Meanwhile, the notorious third co-conspirator Giacomo Medici — whose Swiss warehouse saw many looted artifacts pass through its doors — is still serving a 10-year prison sentence due to elapse in 2014. For now, however, in the words of the case’s chief judge, Gustavo Barbalinardo, "the True trial ends here."

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