Norton Winfred Simon (February 5, 1907 – June 2, 1993) was an American billionaire industrialist and philanthropist based in California. Norton, at that time, was one of the richest men in America. He was the founder of Val Vita Food Products, which later acquired Hunt's Foods. His significant art collection is housed in the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, California. After his death in 1993, Simon's wife, actress Jennifer Jones, remained an emeritus of the Museum until her death in 2009.
When a well-known dealer is arrested, what can a museum do in response – both to be diligent and to keep the institution’s best interests in mind? The guidelines of the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) and the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) urge transparency, with AAM specifically recommending that member museums ‘make available the known ownership history of archaeological material and ancient art in their collections.’ To be well-positioned to respond to inquiries from law enforcement or the press, a museum should identify any objects in its collection that were acquired from Wiener and make their provenance information publicly available.
The looting and illicit export of art treasures is not a new problem. It’s happened whenever there have been armed conflicts during which victorious troops plundered churches, temples and other buildings. Germany carried out massive looting in World War II. By the start of the 21st Century the trade in illicit antiquities had become so huge it was worth billions of dollars each year and was the biggest international crime outside drug and arms trafficking according to The New York Times. When a piece is stolen, the consequence for scholars is tragic, because essential information about the piece – where it was found, what else was with it – is lost forever.
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