Arts & Entertainment

Getty Museum's statue transfer ends Italy dispute

The love goddess Aphrodite is going home to Italy after the new year, stronger and more stable than she has been in 2,500 years.

The statue, being returned to Sicily as part of Italy's decade-old campaign to retrieve antiquities it says were illegally brought to California, will be the last of 40 artifacts the J. Paul Getty Museum agreed to turn over.

Sebastiano Missineo, the minister of culture from Sicily, visited the Getty Villa in Malibu on Monday and viewed the statue.

The statue will be on display at the Getty Villa for one more week, acting Getty director David Bomford said at a tea for Missineo Monday.

The Getty has built a seismic wave isolator for Aphrodite that will protect her in the earthquake-prone Sicilian region, he said.

For the trip, the statue will be dismantled and shipped with the isolator to Aidone, Sicily.

"We are organizing the opening day for the last days of March," Missineo said. "We are working on a project for a new site for this statue at the museum. That site will be ready in a few years. This is a very good occasion not just for Aidone, but Sicily too."

Missineo also viewed the marble Agrigento Youth, a statue loaned to the Getty in exchange for an earthquake base.

Both sides say the discord caused during Italy's antiquities hunt has spawned a new era of cooperation and reciprocation between the Getty and Sicily.

Several collaborative efforts, including object conservation, earthquake protection of collections, exhibitions, scholarly research and conferences, are planned.

The Getty has always denied knowingly buying illegally obtained objects, and the deal that former Getty Director Michael Brand signed with Italy in 2007 includes no admission of guilt.

Even the 6-year-old case against former Getty antiquities curator Marion True went away in October when a judge in Rome ruled the statute of limitations in her case had run out. She had been accused of knowingly acquiring looted art from Italy.

Only American art dealer Robert Hecht, 91, remains on trial. There is a nine year statute of limitations on his alleged crimes, but it expires next summer.

Dozens of Roman, Greek and Etruscan artifacts have been returned to Italy from museums and private collections as a result of the campaign.

Besides Aphrodite, one of the most prestigious targets in Italy's search was a 2,500-year-old vase by Greek artist Euphronius returned by the Metropolitan Museum in New York.

Italy's Culture Ministry also said 10 artifacts were returned in 2008 by New York philanthropist Shelby White from her private collection.

Associated Press videographer John Mone contributed to this report.

© 2010 The Associated Press.