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Getty staffer is named curator of antiquities

June 21, 2007|Mike Boehm | Times Staff Writer

Karol Wight, a 22-year veteran of the J. Paul Getty Museum, was named its antiquities curator Wednesday. She succeeds her beleaguered former boss, Marion True, whose job she has held on an acting basis since True's resignation under fire in October 2005.

In a prepared statement, Michael Brand, the museum's director, praised Wight's "steadfastness and calm authority" in presiding over a collection of ancient Greek, Roman and Etruscan art that has become caught up in the turbulence sweeping the art world over antiquities of questionable provenance. At issue is whether prized works at leading museums, including the Getty, were acquired after being illegally spirited out of their countries of origin.

True and a Paris-based antiquities dealer, Robert Hecht, are the defendants in a long-running prosecution in Rome, where they are charged with a criminal conspiracy to receive stolen goods and with illegally receiving artifacts.

In December, True also was charged by Greek authorities, who allege that she conspired to buy an illegally excavated ancient gold funerary wreath for the Getty's collection. The Getty has returned the wreath and other items to Greece; negotiations with Italy have been at an impasse over which disputed objects the Getty acquired legitimately and which have questionable histories and ought to be returned. True has denied any wrongdoing.

Getty spokesman John Giurini said that Wight had not played a direct role in talks with Italy but had been "very active as part of the team" gathering background information about disputed objects.

After earning an art degree at San Jose State in 1981, Wight arrived at the Getty in 1985 as a UCLA graduate student-intern and after seven months was promoted to the regular staff. She was made a curator in 1992, a year after she earned a doctorate in art history at UCLA, with a specialty in Roman glass. She is the coauthor of a new Getty-published art book, "Looking at Glass."

As antiquities curator, Wight will be in charge of programming and collections at the Getty Villa, which houses the museum's ancient art collection, and will oversee a staff of eight that includes five other curators.

Giurini said that museum director Brand waited to make a decision about the antiquities curator position until he had first filled the vacant job of associate director for collections, which oversees all curators. David Bomford, formerly of the National Gallery in London, took over that post in April.

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mike.boehm@latimes.com

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