Gettys history of looted antiquities goes way back – LA Observed
In their forthcoming book “Chasing Aphrodite: The Hunt for Looted Antiquities at the World’s Richest Museum,” Jason Felch and Ralph Frammolino will detail the story of the looted Aphrodite statue that the Getty returned to Sicily in March. A piece adapted from the book in this weekend’s L.A. Times Magazine goes further back to tell the story of some pretty ballsy scams they write were perpetrated by Jiri Frel, the museum’s antiquities curator in the 1970s and ’80s. The scam involved inflated valuations of art acquired by the Getty, forged appraisals and tax fraud.
In late April 1984, Williams, Walsh and Bevan called Frel into Williams’ office and put him on paid leave pending further investigation. Not long after, Frel went home, packed a bag and caught a flight for Europe—leaving behind his position at the Getty and his wife, Faya, and two sons.He continued to receive his regular salary for the next two years. Museum staff was told Frel was on sabbatical in Paris, and that was the last most of them ever heard of him. The true story of Frel’s ignominious departure was kept very quiet. Bevan’s final suggestion was that all of the documents “relating to Frel’s corruption” be gathered and removed from the building so they couldn’t be subpoenaed. With that, the cover-up appeared complete.
Felch is a Times investigative reporter. Frammolino used to be and now is a media consultant in Bangladesh. The book is due out May 24.