by Robyn Coffey
Italian prosecutors continue to present evidence against former Getty curator Marion True, who was charged last year with knowingly trafficking in illegally obtained antiquities. The trial began in November 2005 against True and her codefendant, New-York based art dealer Robert Hecht, both of whom have maintained their innocence. Italian authorities had been investigating the history of acquisitions of artifacts by various American museums for more than ten years.
Already convicted in a related case in December 2004 was antiquities dealer Giacomo Medici. Swiss police discovered Polaroid photographs of previously sold looted objects in a warehouse Medici rented in Geneva, including many of the 42 the Getty is suspected of possessing. He was sentenced to a fine of ten million euros and ten years in prison. True and Hecht face similar punishment if convicted.
After the charges, the Getty returned several objects to the Italian government, a move that is hoped to inspire other major museums linked to the controversy, including the Met, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the Minneapolis Institute of Art, and the Princeton University Art Museum.
The trial has sent a shock wave through professional antiquities circles. “Throughout museum history, the way that objects and artworks have entered collections has ranged along a continuum from legitimate acquisition to pillage,” said chair of the Arts Administration Department at SAIC, Rachel Weiss. “What seem to countries of origin to be clear cases of looting are often represented by the acquiring museums as legitimate transactions.” In fact, Hecht’s lawyer, Alessandro Vannucci, denied his client’s complicity,