When it began its tour at the J. Paul Getty Museum in April, “Sicily: Art and Invention Between Greece and Rome” was supposed to crown years of effort by some American museums to patch up relations with Italy over claims of looted antiquities.
Featuring dozens of antiquities from Sicilian collections, the exhibition at the Getty Villa in Malibu, Calif., was scheduled to go to the Cleveland Museum of Art this fall before a final showing in Palermo next winter.
But all has not gone smoothly.
Sicilian officials now say that two star attractions — a dramatic six-foot-tall statue of a charioteer and an immaculate gold libation bowl, or phiale — should 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.
New York Times