Monday, 14 January 2013

Princeton, What Matters

Italian investigations of the fate of items of Italian provenance reportedly handled by former New York dealer Edoardo Almagià, (Hugh Eakin "Italy Focuses on a Princeton Curator in an Antiquities Investigation", New York Times June 2, 2010) had implicated a number of US collections (Princeton, Boston, Dallas, Cleveland, Toledo, San Antonio, Tampa, Indiana University and the Met). Several of the people involved in the handling of these goods were potentially facing criminal charges. Pretty soon after the Italians began formal preparations for an investigation, Princeton returned a number of items apparently involved in the case, surely suggesting a lack of documentation that everything was above-board and licit with regards their initial acquisition:
In December 2011, the University voluntarily returned half a dozen antiquities — some composed of fragments — to Italy, although it declined to release any information about how or where it had acquired the items. “There was no investigation of the University, and no allegations were ever brought against it,” a Princeton spokesman said at the time. The University returned eight other works of art as part of a separate agreement with the Italian government in 2007, in exchange for which Princeton students were granted special access to archaeological sites in Italy.
Although Princeton was less than forthcoming about what they'd given back and why, David Gill was able to deduce this from Italian sources. As has been announced in a college magazine, the Italians have now given notice that there will not be a case against Princeton's curator (Mark F. Bernstein, 'Curator no longer part of probe', Princeton Alumni Weekly, January 16, 2013). It seems that this is what interests the magazine more than how it is that Princeton's collection had contained such items in the first place (and what else they may have).

An interesting sidelight on this case... The address of the dealer's former business premises is given in some of the discussions of surrounding issues. If you Google it, you see that it's in a little side street off Lexington Avenue which on Google Earth looks like one of the seedier parts of downtown Bombay.  No flashy New York gallery here, but apparently a little shop in one of the grubbier areas of the town, with nowhere to park the limo.
See: Gill, D. W. J. 2012. "Context matters: Princeton and recently surfaced antiquities." Journal of Art Crime 7: 59-66.

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