Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Getty v. Italy, the Early Years

In the late 1970s Walter Annenberg asked former Metropolitan Museum director Thomas Hoving to approach the Getty Trust about a joint venture funding excavations in Herculaneum. As Hoving tells it,

I met the Getty gang at the exclusive Oil Club in downtown Los Angeles. The Chairman of the Getty Trust, Harold Berg, a retired oilman, was a crusty, profane guy. He inhaled a Camel in one suck and drained his martini in two slurps as he listened to my pitch of the two wealthy foundations getting together and collaborating with the Italian government to dig the prize location.
Two minutes into my pitch, Berg grumbled. "Wanna know what I think of ‘Guineas?’ Not much."
"Excuse me?"
"Don't like 'em," Berg went on. "What they ought to do is sell us that bunch of ancient stuff they have in that old Naples Museum. Work with Guineas? Forget it."
I rose to my feet and left the room.
"Hey, where you goin'?" Berg asked, but I didn't bother to reply.
Walter choked with laughter when I told him what had happened.


—From Thomas Hoving's memoir, Artful Tom, being serialized on Artnet. (One statue from "that old Naples Museum" is now on loan to the Getty.)

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