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Sicilian officials threaten international exhibition – UPDATED AGAIN – Exhibition Cancelled then Not Cancelled!

June 23, 2013
The statue of a charioteer, shown in London, is now on display at the Getty Villa.

The statue of a charioteer, shown in London, is now on display at the Getty Villa.

UPDATE 2: It’s enough to make your head spin. The on-again-off-again exhibition is going forward according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer headline: “The show is back on: Sicily reverses its cancellation of antiquities exhibition at the Cleveland Museum of Art.” The exhibition will open Sunday, September 29, 2013:

In a happy conclusion to a roller coaster of a summer, the museum announced Thursday that Sicilian cultural authorities, includingMariarita Sgarlata, the island’s highest official for the arts, have rescinded the cancellation.

Sicilian authorities will allow the show to go on without attaching extra loan fees, as they had proposed in July, the museum said.

In exchange, the Cleveland museum has promised to send to Sicily an exhibition of masterpieces from its own collection, including “The Crucifixion of Saint Andrew” by Caravaggio.

The Cleveland Museum of Art has reached a "gentleman's agreement" to send its Caravaggio "Crucifixion of Saint Andrew" to Sicily in 2015 as part of the accord that will bring an exhibition of Sicilian antiquities to Cleveland this fall.

The Cleveland Museum of Art has reached a “gentleman’s agreement” to send its Caravaggio “Crucifixion of Saint Andrew” to Sicily in 2015 as part of the accord that will bring an exhibition of Sicilian antiquities to Cleveland this fall.

UPDATE 1: According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer: “Sicily has canceled a major traveling exhibition of ancient treasures scheduled to open Sept. 29 at the Cleveland Museum of Art. The cancellation comes several weeks after Sicilian cultural authorities complained publicly that the prolonged loan of important antiquities to the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, where the show is now on view, was hurting the island’s tourism economy.”

ORIGINAL POST: The future of the exhibition “Sicily: Art and Invention Between Greece and Rome” is uncertain, reports the New York Times. The traveling exhibition features, “dozens of antiquities from Sicilian collections,” including a statue of a charioteer (above) and a golden philae (below).   The exhibition, currently at the Getty in Los Angeles, is part of the Italian American cultural exchange programs put in place following the successful repatriation of antiquities looted from Italy. In exchange for returning the stolen works, the Getty and other institutions are benefitting from temporary loans of first tier antiquities such as the charioteer and the golden libation bowl.  This current exhibition has hit a speed bump because Sicilian officials say these two works:

[S]hould not travel to Cleveland because their absence is depriving Sicily of tourist dollars. And in a letter sent to the Getty and Cleveland museums this week, Sicily’s highest cultural official, Mariarita Sgarlata, noted that the region — which enjoys broad autonomy from Rome to shape its cultural policy — never signed a contract authorizing the exhibition in the first place.

In fact, the items were shipped from Italy months ago while the contract was being negotiated by Sicilian cultural officials who are no longer in office.

A gold libation bowl, or phiale, one of the main attractions in “Sicily: Art and Invention Between Greece and Rome.”

A gold libation bowl, or phiale, one of the main attractions in “Sicily: Art and Invention Between Greece and Rome.”

The dispute is particularly awkward because the exhibition was supposed to bring closure to years of bruising conflicts with Italy over antiquities said to be looted. (The gold phiale itself was seized from a New York collection in 1995 by United States federal agents as a stolen object and, following litigation, returned to Sicily in 2000.)

Let’s hope there’s a swift resolution to this farrago.

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