A row is escalating between Italy’s culture ministry and America’s richest art institution, the Getty Museum. It centres on 46 artworks Italy says ended up in the Getty illegally. The Culture Ministry says it has provided the Getty with documented proof the works were acquired illegally, and while the Getty says it is willing to hand back 26, the others will stay in Los Angeles and Malibu.
On Wednesday it refused to return the famous “Getty bronze”, a 2500 year-old Greek statue of a boy. Italian culture minister Francesco Rutelli: “We showed, in a dossier with complete proof, that these works were stolen and exported illegally, and bought by the Getty. After many months of patient negotiations we have arrived at this point; works stolen in Italy must be returned to Italy”. A break in relations with the Getty might end joint scientific work, scholarships, and loans of artwork, which benefits the Italians as the Getty currently loans them twice as many works for exhibitions.