Copenhagen: Tomb Raiders

Posted on July 11, 2006


by sabine behrmann

The art museum Ny Carlsberg Glyptoteket close to Tivoli Gardens is one of the internationally acclaimed attractions of Copenhagen. Especially its collection of Etruscan artefacts is known as “one of the most extensive outside of Italy”.

So when after three years of thorough renovations for about 13 million € the museum opened its doors again for the general public on June 28, the excitement was tangible. Finally the Etruscan collection had got the space it deserved, and the critics were enraptured. “Sublime”, they called it, “the cream of Mediterranean culture”.

In their enthusiasm they never mentioned that the centre piece of this part of the exhibition, an Etruscan carriage, actually is stolen goods.

Photo credit: Bitful

The museum bought it in 1970 from a Swiss dealer, Robert Hecht, just before UNESCO’s convention about trade with cultural property entered into force. And everybody knew that you did not ask questions when dealing with Hecht.

He got his supplies from Giacomo Medici, who has now been sentenced to ten years in gaol for selling Italian cultural property to museums all over the world.

At Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek they have adopted the attitude of finder’s keep.

In a globalised world, one of the officials says, there’s not point in adopting a nationalistic attitude towards these artefacts. And, anyway, the Italians could be more efficient in their fight against grave looters, corruption – and all the Italians who partake in this business.

Giving back the carriage is not an option we are to understand.

Now Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek’s management is negotiating with the Ministry of Culture and several other institutions about an increase in the funds for the museum.

Maybe we’ll see an increase of Greek artefacts from the shores of the Black Sea over the next decade or so. It’s a thriving market in a globalised world.