Good book alert: Chasing Aphrodite

5 03 2012

Who knew the antiquities market was so dirty? Or that art museums had such an appetite for stolen goods?

I recently finished Chasing Aphrodite: The Hunt for Looted Antiquities at the World’s Richest Museums by Jason Felch and Ralph Frammolino. This book expands upon a series of Pulitzer Prize nominated exposés Felch and Frammolino wrote for the Los Angeles Times in 2006. The Getty Museum and its Board, Director, and antiquities curators were the focus of the original articles, and the central focus of the book as well. However, the Met and many other museums are not spared scrutiny in this eye-opening book.

While this book is not comprehensive of looted antiquities worldwide, its focus on the struggles with Italian and Greek antiquities looting is in-depth and extraordinary. Appropriately, the authors pin the blame for the looted antiquities trade (that flourished into the 1990’s) among all parties involved: art museum curators that failed to properly research objects provenance, art museum boards that pretended they weren’t approving the purchase of stolen objects, antiquities dealers for brings the objects to market, collectors for knowingly buying stolen objects, the looters themselves, and the Italian and Greek governments for failed efforts to guard antiquities. The authors also chronicle the changes made by US museums and the Italian government that has all but shutdown the illegal antiquities market.

Despite being a non-fiction book, the authors make it read like a novel.By the end of it, you’ll have felt a myriad of emotions for the embattled antiquities curator at the center of the Getty’s woes; she had the world on a platter, and lost it all because of hubris and carelessness.

If you’re interested in current looting issues, be sure to read this February 28,2012 New York Times article. Sotheby’s Auction House pulled a 1000 year old Cambodian warrior from its spring 2011 auction after it became clear that the object had a fake provenance and was in fact, looted.

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One response

6 03 2012
jessicabrunecky

And if you want to know more, a great place to start is the website and blog for Chasing Aphrodite: http://chasingaphrodite.com/

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