Archaeology Magazine Archive

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Getty Gets Fleischman Collection Volume 49 Number 5, September/October 1996
by Ricardo J. Elia

The Getty Museum is acquiring the $80 million classical antiquities collection of Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman of New York. The bulk of the collection is being donated by the Fleischmans; the remainder will be purchased by the museum. The collection of more than 300 objects will be integrated into the museum's holdings when the Getty Villa in Malibu, California, reopens in the year 2000 as a combined center for the museum, the Getty Conservation Institute, and the Getty Research Institute for the History of Art and the Humanities.

The acquisition created a stir in the art world, coming in the wake of a recent change in the Getty Museum's acquisitions policy for classical antiquities. Last November, officials announced that the museum would only acquire antiquities with "a well-documented provenance." According to Marion True, the museum's curator of antiquities, objects would not be purchased unless they were shown to be in established, published collections before the adoption of the new policy.

The term "well-documented provenance" refers to an object's ownership history and should not be confused with archaeological "provenience," the find-spot of an object. The Getty's new policy, in fact, does not require proof that an object has been removed from its country of origin through legal means; it simply requires that an established record of possession be documented before November 1995. While the policy should prevent the acquisition of antiquities looted or smuggled after November 1995, it allows the museum to acquire pieces that were illegally removed before that date.

The Fleischman Collection was exhibited at the Getty Museum and the Cleveland Museum of Art in 1994 and 1995, and the museums published a catalog to accompany the exhibition. The bulk of the collection is of unknown origin: out of 295 catalog entries, 92 percent have no archaeological provenience, and the remaining eight percent were formerly in other collections. In effect, the museums' 1994 publication of the Fleischman Collection created the "well-established provenance" that made it possible for the Getty Museum to acquire the previously undocumented collection without violating its own new policy. According to Marion True, acquiring the collection is fully in accordance with the new policy. She says that the museum was offered additional pieces that the Fleischmans had acquired since the exhibition and did not accept them because they could not do so under the policy.

* Home page of the J. Paul Getty Trust
* Home page of the Cleveland Museum of Art
© 1996 by the Archaeological Institute of America