- Associated Press - Monday, March 28, 2011

LOS ANGELES (AP) - An Italian lawmaker offered a cultural exchange proposal Monday that sounded a little like an ultimatum, saying officials at the J. Paul Getty Museum should behave ethically and return knowingly looted art.

Gov. Gian Mario Spacca of the Marche region on the Adriatic Sea made the comment three days after officials at the Southern California museum told him they could not talk about the disputed “Victorious Youth” statue because the case was still in Italian court.

“We have not come to declare war on the Getty,” Spacco said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press before his news conference with reporters.

However, he said the museum should do what is right or risk losing the statue forever.

“We are here to try to resolve the dispute in a way that will benefit this great museum, the people of Italy and, most important, art lovers around the world,” Spacca said through an interpreter.

Former Getty Director Michael Brand signed a deal with Italy in 2007 to return 40 pieces of art that were found to be looted or stolen. The agreement included no admission of guilt.

When the deal was negotiated with the Italian Ministry of Culture, “Victorious Youth,” known at the California museum as the Getty Bronze, was taken off the list of items under discussion because it was part of a court case already under way.

The museum has always contended it bought the bronze statue in good faith in 1977 for $4 million.

The last of the 40 pieces covered under the 2007 agreement was the prized Aphrodite, which was shipped earlier this year after the Getty built a seismic wave isolator to protect her in her new home in earthquake-prone Aidone, Sicily.

The Getty paid $18 million for the 5th century B.C. love goddess statue in 1988.

Spacco and five other officials from the Marche region toured the Getty Villa and met Friday with three museum representatives, including spokesman Ron Hartwig.

Hartwig said Spacca was told museum officials couldn’t discuss a possible agreement with him about the disputed statue because the ownership issue was tied up in Italian courts.

“We want to establish collaboration with the museum regardless of the decision,” Spacco said Monday, calling it a “moment of dialogue, not of separation.”

Putting “Victorious Youth” on display in the Marche region would likely do for tourism there what Aphrodite is expected to do for Sicily.

The Getty has never negotiated with individual regions in Italy, but handled everything on a national level through the culture ministry, Hartwig said. The museum has long denied knowingly buying illegally obtained objects.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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