November 22, 2005

Met chief in Italy over disputed art

ROME (Reuters) - The director of New York's Metropolitan
Museum of Art met Italian officials in Rome on Tuesday over
several disputed art works in the Met's collection that Italy
says were looted, one official said on Tuesday.

The talks come just days after the former curator of
another respected art institution, the J. Paul Getty Museum in
Los Angeles, appeared before a Rome court to face charges of
acquiring stolen artifacts.

The Getty earlier this month returned three disputed art
works to Italy.

Italy has stepped up efforts to recover archaeological
treasures it says were stolen or illegally excavated and then
sold to renowned museums, spotlighting the murky side of the
global art business.

A spokeswoman at the Italian culture ministry declined to
comment on the content of Tuesday's talks with Met director
Philippe de Montebello, but said the meeting had been organized
at his request and he was expected to come up with a proposal.

The dispute with the Met involves about 30 objects,
including the Euphronios krater, a 2,500-year-old Greek vase
regarded as one of the museum's most prized antiquities.

Italian investigators say the vase was stolen from a tomb
outside Rome before being sold to the Met by Paris-based art
dealer Emanuel Robert Hecht, the co-defendant in the trial of
former Getty curator Marion True.

The New York Times said this week the Metropolitan had
proposed a deal to Italy on another set of disputed artifacts,
a set of 15 silver pieces from the third century B.C., offering
to acknowledge their Sicilian provenance as long as it could
keep half of them on loan for 25 years.

In exchange for cooperation from museums, Italy has pledged
to consider extending its art loans from the current maximum of
four years to eight or 12 years.