Chasing Aphrodite

February 15, 2011 § Leave a comment

Chasing Aphrodite by Jason Felch and Ralph Frammolino

This is an excellent book. The tale within of the downfall of the Getty Museum in California that was seduced by the illicit antiquities trade is an eye-opening tale to lay-persons such as myself who naively believed all antiquities in museums were there by honorable and sanctioned means. The book is well-written and engaging.

My only complaint about the book is its ending. While former Getty curator Marion True was left to twist in the wind when the Italian government began prosecuting her for dealings with looted antiquities, with which she filled the Getty (after Jiri Friel’s own troubles for getting involved with stolen goods for the museum), the author ends the narration by shining a light on Marion True by claiming she took the brunt of damage that ought to have been shared out by all museums who were no less culpable in the illicit trade.

Though many museums may have gotten off without prosecution by countries that were looted to supply cultural artifacts for their exhibits, Marion True was still a player in the illegal trade and I believe she was due what she was given, as painful as it was for her and for the museum. Yes, other people should’ve been indicted, prosecuted, jailed even, but True was just as culpable as the rest, and certainly more hypocritical. She gave lip service to stricter collection policies and working within patrimony laws and yet flouted them herself to collect for the Getty.

What she did was illegal and immoral and it appears to me that the author imposes either his own feelings that True was hit too hard or that he’s offering a thank-you to the Getty Museum for cooperating in his research by giving a quick coat of whitewash to True at the end. Regardless, this is a worthwhile read.

You’ll want to request this book through InterLibrary Loans for sure!

Films on Demand has several film segments on the Getty if you want to see and learn more: Vision and Mission of the Getty Center, Building the Getty Center, The Getty Center’s Hilltop Location, Community Outreach and Arts Education at the Getty Center, The Getty Conservation Institute, and The Getty Center’s Art and Photography Collections.

Learn more about Aphrodite from Films on Demand with these clips: Aphrodite, Goddess of Love and Aphrodite, Wife of Hephaestus.

March 1, 2011 UPDATE: The author Ralph Frammolino responded to this review in the comments section. Please view it for yourself. He offers further information that resolves my own questions about the ending of the book and also alters my on view on the ending of the book. Upon consideration of his comments I feel that I was so outraged by Marion True’s hypocrisy and so stunned by it that when the authors concluded with a less-than equal passion to the book that I felt as if they were siding with her. I find it interesting to view True as a tragic figure but can see it once I’ve gotten distance from the material. This is a complement to the book in that this book will stir up passion in you! Don’t read and immediately review is my lesson here! Thank you, Mr. Frammolino for responding to the review!


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