Welcome to the latest column on Trends & Tolstoy! In a continued effort to bring the Tolstoy more into the blog, I’ll be putting up a monthly post about the book that’s accessorizing my outfits. This month it’s Chasing Aphrodite by Jason Felch and Ralph Frammolino.
Subtitled “The hunt for looted antiquities at the world’s richest museum,” the book follows the history of the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles. The museum was originally founded as a tax dedication scheme and rapidly became an institution based on tax fraud. Perhaps more importantly, the museum participated in purchasing looted antiquities in the the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s.
This caused a huge stir in the archaeological community because looted antiquities were not only taken away from their home countries but lost their historical background. The Getty was one of many museums disregarding our cultural patrimony in favor of acquiring big-ticket items for display.
Although it’s a non-fiction book it reads like fiction with a wealth of dramatic characters (a playboy curator, a hard-nosed Italian policeman, a narcissist CEO). I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the art world. I knew there were a lot of provenance issues in museums but it’s amazing to see how deep the problems run and how many millions of dollars are wrapped up in them.
What are you reading today?