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Florida Museum Fires Curator After Greek Artifacts Scrutinized Over Provenance

The Museum of Fine Arts in Florida has dismissed its curator after its Greek artifacts were scrutinized over unsatisfactory provenance.

The artifacts belong to the show “From Chaos to Order” which showcased artifacts from the Geometric period of ancient Greek (900 BCE – 700 BCE approx.). The show was curated by Michael Bennett, who – in an earlier interview – said that the exhibition had “something new” to say about Greek art. After being first exhibited in its home museum in St. Peterburg, it traveled from Florida to South Carolina.

The second stop of the exhibition in South Carolina was supposed to be Denver, at the Denver Art Museum. However, staff at the Denver Art Museum soon raised questions about 57 artifacts in the exhibition, which they said lacked sufficient provenances. All of the works came from the collection of businessman-collector Sol Rabin. None of the artifacts were looted (so far as the staff could research), but many did indeed come from sellers linked with international art smuggling.

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Christoph Heinrich (Director, Denver Art Museum) said that he had written a letter to the MFA, highlighting the provenance issue. The letter said: “I am sure you are familiar with how the changing legal and ethical standards and perceptions of collecting and displaying antiquities are front and center for many world culture museums today, including ours.” This was in line with the Denver Art Museum’s recent tough stance on provenance and repatriation, including the return of 4 artifacts to Cambodia earlier this year.

It is unclear if the Florida museum responded to the letter; however, two months later, Michael Bennett was let go as the curator.