CHASING APHRODITE : THE HUNT FOR LOOTED ANTIQUITIES AT THE WORLD'S RICHEST MUSEUM
by Jason Felch and Ralph Frammolino
Museums have dirty little secrets and American ones are the worst offenders. For years, they spent millions of dollars buying classical art that was stolen from ancient tombs in Greece and Italy. Curators dealt with deceptive middlemen, smugglers and corrupt art dealers. The objects had fake histories of ownership (known as provenance) and would be displayed with a short commentary of where the piece originated, how old it was, and where it was bought from. Everything was a lie. The CEOs, the directors, the board members, all knew that the antiquities were looted and yet they approved the purchases. All they cared about was buying the next big masterpiece.
The J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles took center stage with their acquisitions. Over forty years, they spent an enormous fortune to get a bronze athlete, a funerary wreath and many others. The seven-and-a-half-foot statue of Aphrodite would cause the Getty's demise and create a huge scandal.
Felch and Frammolino are investigative reporters and they did a heck of a job exposing what goes on behind the scenes that the public never gets to see. What they found, through their intensive research, is astonishing. Over and over again, antiquities were bought, illegally, and international laws were violated through greed, arrogance, hypocrisy and deception.
Chasing Aphrodite is a terrific read. It's quite a tale and will make you think twice the next time you walk into a museum.