Skip to content

Finding Marion True and/or the J. Paul Getty Museum

The Descent into Criminality and Chaos at the World's Wealthiest Museum, and the Trip Back


Thomas R. Kline

Marion True became curator of antiquities at the J. Paul Getty Museum, the planet’s wealthiest museum, in 1986, which was then on a campaign to buy its way to the top of the antiquities museum world. While she did not single-handedly drive the Getty Museum into the ground, for many years True orchestrated its acquisition process and ultimately personified the reckless buying of suspicious objects that became the signature of the Getty’s attempted leap to prominence. While she was quietly pursuing looted objects, True publicly articulated the respectable virtues of the consummate museum professional. Indicted in Italy for conspiracy to deal in looted objects, True outlasted the prosecutors whose lackadaisical pursuit of their case – with the court generally sitting no more than one day a month over five years – violated Italian legal standards and required dismissal of all charges. In this article, the author, who encountered Marion True in a major art restitution case before her fall from grace, tracks the story of True and the Getty Museum as told in Chasing Aphrodite; The Hunt for Looted Antiquities at the World’s Richest Museum (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011) by Jason Felch and Ralph Frammolino, sharing his own first-hand perspective. Like the book, this article covers True’s collapse from respected scholar to accused, the Getty’s search for resurrection through the return of dozens of looted objects to Italy and Greece, and its turn from a collecting policy based on ask-no-questions to one built upon established histories of ownership.


Export Citation