Turkey asks Getty Museum to return antiquities

Visitors walk in the gardens at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, in this Oct. 9, 2005, file photo. (Photo: AP)

April 01, 2012, Sunday/ 10:49:00

The government of Turkey has asked the J. Paul Getty Museum and several other American museums to return artifacts that it believes were looted.

The Turkish government has contacted the Getty, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, the Cleveland Museum of Art and Harvard University's Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection to present evidence that objects in their collections may have been illegally excavated from the country's archaeological sites, the Los Angeles Times reported Saturday. It has threatened to halt all loans of art to those institutions until they respond to the claims.

Turkey believes the antiquities were stolen and smuggled out of the country after the passage of a 1906 law that gave the state ownership of antiquities in the ground. It is the latest country after Italy and Greece to take an aggressive stance in reclaiming stolen antiquities.

"Turkey is not trying to start a fight," Murat Süslü, Turkey's director general for cultural heritage and museums, said. "We are trying to develop ... cooperation and we hope these museums will also understand our point of view."

None of the museums facing requests from Turkey would name the contested objects.

The Times, citing a list provided by Turkish officials, said the country is asking for 10 objects from the Getty that were acquired from dealers, auction houses or collectors for more than $1 million. They include four marble muses on display at the Getty Villa's Basilica gallery.

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