Chasing Aphrodite

Chasing Aphrodite

The Hunt for Looted Antiquities at the World's Richest Museum

Book - 2011
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In recent years, several of America's leading art museums have voluntarily given up their finest pieces of classical art to the governments of Italy and Greece. The monetary value is estimated at over half a billion dollars. Why would they be moved to such unheard-of generosity?

The answer lies at the Getty, one of the world's richest and most troubled museums, and scandalous revelations that it had been buying looted antiquities for decades. Drawing on a trove of confidential museum records and frank interviews, Felch and Frammolino give us a fly-on-the-wall account of the inner workings of a world-class museum and tell the story of the Getty's dealings in the illegal antiquities trade. The outlandish characters and bad behavior could come straight fromthe pages of a thriller--the wealthy recluse founder, the cagey Italian art investigator, the playboy curator, the narcissist CEO--but their chilling effects on the rest of the art world have been all too real, as the authors show in novelistic detail.

Fast-paced and compelling, Chasing Aphrodite exposes the layer of dirt beneath the polished façade of the museum business.
Publisher: Boston : Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011
ISBN: 9780151015016
Branch Call Number: 930 FEL
Characteristics: viii, 375 p., [8] p. of plates :,ill., ports. ;,24 cm
Additional Contributors: Frammolino, Ralph


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Feb 25, 2019

Wow - reads like a thriller and packed full of information. Not only does the author expose the ugly history of looted antiquities, but he skillfully sets forth the historical conundrum. If some of the antiquities had not been preserved in American and European museums they might not have survived war and destruction. But shouldn't countries have a right to their patrimony? Even now, archeological and cultural items are being destroyed in Iraq and Syria. The brilliance of "Chasing Aphrodite" is that it puts the issues in historical context and doesn't settle for an easy answer. He tells the story through the characters and highlights moral failures of the characters. Bravo for telling the story, weaving a thrilling tale, and focusing on the broader issues. Thank you! I will never visit a museum again without thinking of this book.

Oct 01, 2018

This book was definitely an eye-opener! I had heard about the Getty Museum but have not visited it yet. I had no idea that looting and illegal export of antiquities from source countries was such a common practice among the most important museums in the States (and in the rest of the world). I sometimes wondered why some iconic works of arts where not in the country of origin, but I assumed they were loans or the museum had simply acquired them. The moral issue is important: if antiquities remain in the source countries, like Italy (where I was born) or Greece, then it becomes very difficult for people who live on other continents to see them, and that is not fair. On the other hand, American museum cannot simply accuse those countries of "nationalism" and buy looted pieces from notorious thieves. The solution seems to be long-term loans, to allow people all over the world to see masterpieces of Greek and Roman artists. The story revolves in good part around the Getty Museum curator Marion True, who in the end was investigated and paid for a rapacious policy adopted by several museums and not only the Getty. Anyway, the books reads like a detective story and is based on real documents (court papers, memos, recordings, testimonies). The style is elegant but simple and it is really a great read. I literally could not put the book down.

Jun 24, 2012

This book is very well done. It doesn't matter if you have no interest in art or antiquities, this is a lesson in how people who have access to big money sometimes spend it to the extent that it becomes the downfall of their reputation. It's like many big oil corporations in Calgary where money can buy anything and the devil take the rest.

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