Getty - Behind the Doors of the Getty Trust
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Getty - Behind the Doors of the Getty Trust

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This presentation was designed & presented by VictorMoreno.com in May 2008 at Arizona State University Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law on art law dealing with museums and antiquities acquisitions.

This presentation was designed & presented by VictorMoreno.com in May 2008 at Arizona State University Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law on art law dealing with museums and antiquities acquisitions.

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  • 1.  
  • 2.
      • BACKGROUND
      • The Getty Trust
        • The J. Paul Getty Trust is an international cultural and philanthropic institution; it is the world’s wealthiest institution of the arts
          • As of June 2004, It has a charitable endowment in excess of $10 billion dollars.
          • Mission Statement
            • “ the Getty aims to further knowledge and nurture critical seeing through the growth and presentation of its collections and by advancing the understanding and preservation of the world's artistic heritage.”
        • Focus is on visual arts through several programs
          • Getty Conservation Institute
          • Getty Research Institute
          • Getty Foundation
          • J. Paul Getty Museum
  • 3.
      • BACKGROUND
      • The Getty Trust
        • The board of trustees is the governing body of The J. Paul Getty Trust. The members of the board of The Getty Trust oversee all 4 of these programs and are in charge of how the endowment is spent. Per their governance statement:
        • “ The trustees, as a board or through board committees, set policies relating to spending, management, governance, professional standards, investment, and grant making.”
          • They also oversee the internal and external auditors
          • They select the president and officers of the Trust and its programs
          • They review the performance and set the compensation of all the officers.
  • 4.
      • BACKGROUND
      • About J. Paul Getty (1892 - 1976)
        • "In my opinion, an individual without any love of the arts cannot be considered completely civilized." --J. Paul Getty, 1965.
      • At one time, was the richest man in America due to oil investments made in Saudi Arabia.
      • A fairly miserable person. Getty was notorious for being cheap, even installing a pay phone in his home & refusing to pay ransom for kidnapped son until he received his ear and then finally agreed to negotiated ransom only if son repaid him at 4% interest rate.
        • “ The poor shall inherit the earth – but not the mineral rights”
        • -- J. Paul Getty
        • His one passion was the collecting of antiquities
  • 5.
      • BACKGROUND
      • About J. Paul Getty (1892 - 1976)
      • Getty began collecting in earnest in 1938.
        • From his biography
          • “ While he took great pleasure in looking at art, as a collector, he remained a businessman concerned with market value, he began collecting during depression when prices were low.”
          • Getty felt superior quality paintings were overpriced because they were already in museums. Thus, he collected decorative arts and antiquities. 'Better bargains' he said.
      • His first museum was housed at his ranch on the outskirts of Malibu and opened it to public on weekends.
      • He opened a second new museum in Malibu in 1974.
  • 6.
      • BACKGROUND
      • About J. Paul Getty (1892 - 1976)
      • The J. Paul Getty Museum [now Getty Villa at Malibu] opened in 1974
        • Modeled after the Villa dei Papiri which was buried under ash by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in Pompeii, Italy in A.D. 79
      • The Getty Villa serves a varied audience through exhibitions, conservation, scholarship, research, and public programs. The Villa houses approximately 44,000 works of art from the Museum's extensive collection of Greek, Roman, and Etruscan antiquities, of which over 1,200 are on view.
        • Getty never saw it in person. He died in England in 1976.
        • The Getty Trust, ostensibly set up to manage his oil fortune and museum, now had a massive endowment; portion of which it had to spend to keep its charitable status
  • 7.
      • BACKGROUND
      • About J. Paul Getty (1892 - 1976)
      • The Trust bought several paintings; including Irises by Van Gogh in 1987 for $53.9 million USD, at the time, it was the most expensive painting in the world
      • They also built the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, which opened in 1997 and was modeled on an Italian hilltop town.
      • The J. Paul Getty Museum program of the Getty Trust runs both the Getty Villa and the Getty Center.
        • Its trustees are responsible for approving acquisitions, selecting its curator, overseeing the performance and payment of its officers
        • The actions of the museums staff are by definition those the board knows of and has signed off on as having approved if the board is doing its job.
  • 8.
      • BACKGROUND
      • What is a trustee’s duty / responsibility?
        • A board’s primary object is to keep the museum running
        • Trustees are generally held to three duties:
        • 1) Duty of Care:
          • They are liable for gross negligence and fraud, like directors of a business corporation Their purpose is defined by charter. The Getty’s Trust Indenture/charter outlines their duty as "the diffusion of artistic and general knowledge."
            • The California courts have interpreted and modified the Getty Trust Indenture to contribute broadly to the diffusion of artistic and general knowledge.
            • They should institute policies to further that mission and show good-faith efforts to do so.
  • 9.
      • BACKGROUND
      • What is a trustee’s duty / responsibility?
        • 2) Duty of Loyalty:
          • A board member has obligation to disclose in advance any possible conflict of interest (COI) with full details and to recuse themselves from discussion or voting on the issue if it comes up before board. If board has notice of COI, effects of conflict must be weighed before board and board should have procedures for dealing with this situation.
        • 3) Duty of Obedience:
          • The obligation to focus on the specific mission of the organization. What museum collects, how it collects, and public are set in charter. When establishing a collection management policy; the museum must stay within the boundaries of its charter.
            • (Source. Marie Malaro, A Legal Primer on Managing Museum Collections (2 Ed. 1998)
  • 10.
      • BACKGROUND
      • What statutes or guidelines can guide trustees/curators in shaping collection management policies:
      • In regards to acquisitions, we have:
        • UNESCO (1970)
          • Although U.S. is not party to UNESCO, UNESCO is influential and many museums follow the UNESCO enactment date of November 1970 as a date beyond which they will not deal with antiquities that do not have a provenance.
            • Antiquities without a provenance that have no recorded or verifiable history before this date are most likely looted from cultural heritage sites for illegal export or sale to private collectors or museums.
            • UNESCO (1970) was meant to curtail this trade in looted cultural property. Article 3 marks the trade as illicit.
  • 11.
      • BACKGROUND
      • What statutes or guidelines can guide trustees/curators in shaping collection management policies:
      • ICOM Code of Professional Ethics (Oct 2004)
        • The Int’l Council of Museums contains guidelines that aid museums in building a collection that does aid in the traffic against antiquities
        • 2.2 Provenance and Due Diligence
          • No object or specimen should be acquired by purchase, gift, loan, bequest, or exchange unless the acquiring museum is satisfied that a valid title is held. Evidence of lawful ownership in a country is not necessarily valid title.
        • 2.4 Objects and Specimens from Unauthorized or Unscientific Fieldwork
          • Museums should not acquire objects where there is reasonable cause to believe their recovery involved the unauthorized, unscientific, or intentional destruction or damage of monuments, archeological or geological sites, or species and natural habitats … [Also] acquisition should not occur if there has been a failure to disclose the finds to the owner or occupier of the land, or to the proper legal or governmental authorities
  • 12.
      • BACKGROUND
      • What statutes or guidelines can guide trustees/curators in shaping collection management policies:
      • ICOM Code of Professional Ethics (Oct 2004)
        • 6.2 Return of Cultural Property
          • Museums should be prepared to initiate dialogues for the return of cultural property to a country or people of origin. This should be undertaken in an impartial manner, based on scientific, professional and humanitarian legislation, in preference to action at a governmental or political level.
        • 6.3 Restitution of Cultural Property
          • When a country or people of origin seek the restitution of an object or specimen that can be demonstrated to have been exported or otherwise transferred in violation of the principles of int’l and nat’l conventions, and shown to be part of that country’s or people’s cultural or natural heritage, the museum concerned should, if legally free to do so, take prompt and responsible steps to co-operate in its return.
        • 7.2 International Legislation
          • Museum policy should acknowledge the following int’l legislation which is taken as a standard in interpreting the ICOM Code of Ethics : UNESCO (1970),
  • 13.
      • BACKGROUND
      • What statutes or guidelines can guide trustees/curators in shaping collection management policies:
      • 8.5 The Illicit Market [ ICOM Continued ]
        • Members of the museum profession should not support the illicit traffic or market in natural and cultural property, directly or indirectly.
      • American Ass’n of Museums, Code of Ethics for Museums (2000)
        • Museum ensures that … acquisition, disposal, and loan activities are conducted in a manner that respects the protection and preservation of natural and cultural resources and discourages illicit trade in such materials
      • Ass’n of Art Museum Directors, Professional Practices in Art Museums (2001)
        • 18. The director must ensure that best efforts are made to determine the provenance of a work of art considered for acquisition. The director must not knowingly acquire or allow to be recommended for acquisition any work of art that has been stolen, illegally imported into the jurisdiction in which the museum is located, or removed in contravention of treaties and international conventions to which the jurisdiction is signatory
  • 14.
      • BACKGROUND
      • What statutes or guidelines can guide trustees/curators in shaping collection management policies:
      • Ass’n of Art Museum Directors, Report of the Ass’n of Art Museum Directors Task Force on the Acquisitions of Archeological Materials and Ancient Art (June 10, 2004)
        • II. Guidelines
          • A. Inquiry and Research
          • While member museums have routinely undertaken thorough research as to authenticity, quality, condition, and relevance or benefit to the collection, it is increasingly important that they rigorously research the provenance of a work of art prior to acquisition. Such research should include, but is not necessarily limited to, determining
          • The ownership history of the work of art
          • The countries in which the work of art has been located and when:
          • The exhibition history of the work of art, if any
          • Whether any claims to ownership of the work of art have been made;
          • Whether the work of art appears in relevant databases of stolen works; and
          • The circumstances under which the work of art is being offered to the museum
  • 15.
      • THE GETTY TRUST
      • The Getty Trust has had substantial problems in abiding with all of these principles since it was established.
        • CURATORS
        • Jiri Frel
          • Once worked for the Met in New York. Jiri Frel was the first Antiquities curator of the Getty Museum appointed by Getty himself in 1973
          • Frel's determination to collect hundreds of ancient Greek and Roman vases, statues and pottery shards helped transform the Getty from a rich man's boutique into a considerable cultural force during the late 1970s and early 1980s.
            • Frel was a student of Getty’s philosophy of antiquities become “better bargains”
          • Frel was an eccentric; known as “the Dr. Strangelove of the antiquities game,“
          • Despite the increase in collection he engineered, Frel was no fan of the Getty.
            • Considered the Getty trustees “no more than a raft of intellectual cripples” who signed off on his acquisitions carte blanche
  • 16.
      • THE GETTY TRUST
      • The Getty Trust has had substantial problems in abiding with all of these principles since it was established.
        • CURATORS
        • Jiri Frel
          • Frel responsible for 2 major scandals in the Getty during tenure as curator:
          • 1) He was responsible for acquiring some of the museum's most problematic pieces among them the Getty kouros, a statue widely believed to be a fake.
            • Frel had forked over large sums for some embarrassing forgeries, the most problematic being the kouros, for which he paid $10 million dollars. Frel spent 14 million on forgeries
            • It was also discovered that the Kouros had false provenance which Frel had fabricated in order to legitimize its purchase by the Getty Trust
            • Frel claimed it had been in a “private Swiss collection” since the 30’s
  • 17.
      • THE GETTY TRUST
      • The Getty Trust has had substantial problems in abiding with all of these principles since it was established.
        • CURATORS
        • Jiri Frel
          • 2) Frel is also responsible in large part for the continuing legacy of issues of provenance at the Getty in his catering to collectors to donate pieces of their collection; he engineered a tax manipulation scheme aimed at them to broaden the Getty’s collection
          • From the L.A. Times
          • “ The most brazen scheme [by Frel] was the tax manipulation orchestrated with Bruce McNall, the former owner of the Los Angeles Kings hockey franchise who once had a gallery on Rodeo Drive. When a piece that Frel liked came into the gallery, McNall went looking for a "donor" among his wealthy clients or friends who needed tax deductions.
          • A donor paid McNall his cost plus 10%, the antiquity went to the Getty and Frel arranged a third-party appraisal for the donor setting the object's value as much as 10 times the original price. Many of the "gifts" were essentially paper transactions involving art the donors never saw .”
  • 18.
      • THE GETTY TRUST
      • The Getty Trust has had substantial problems in abiding with all of these principles since it was established.
        • CURATORS
        • Jiri Frel
        • By going through the gallery and the collector to get the piece, Frel insulated the museum and created a provenance for pieces that were more than likely loot. The appraisal created an engineered market value for the Getty’s pieces and ensured a healthy deduction for the client. The entire enterprise was unethical on multiple levels, yet the Getty Board Trustees, true to Frel’s point of view, signed off on the acquisitions.
        • When the Board discovered the scheme in 1984, they sent Frel off to Europe as a full-time paid researcher; a sort of informal censure perceived as a slap on the wrist.
          • Frel was succeeded as Antiquities curator of the Getty in 1986 by one of his hires, Dr. Marion True, who inherited the “mess” left by Frel in his bohemian free-spending tenure as curator.
  • 19.
      • THE GETTY TRUST
      • The Getty Trust has had substantial problems in abiding with all of these principles since it was established.
        • CURATORS
        • Marion True
        • True was initially viewed as a reformer during her tenure
        • Autocephalous Greek-Orthodox Church of Cyprus and The Republic of Cyprus v. Goldberg & Feldman Fine Arts, Inc., 917 F.2d 278 (7 th Cir. 1990)
          • “ the aptly named Dr. True” aided the Republic of Cyprus in recovering looted antique mosaics
        • Harvard-educated, perceived to be a classicist and a straight arrow who even learned to play the lute, along with knowing Latin, Greek and Italian. True was seen by most as incapable of being cut from the same cloth as Jiri Frel
        • During her tenure, she was seen as “soft” by many museum colleagues; putting into effect an acquisitions policy that the Getty would not deal with antiquities with no provenance before 1995, which to most U.S. museums was quite progressive in dealing with countries who now wanted to exert their claim on their national treasures.
  • 20.
      • THE GETTY TRUST
      • The Getty Trust has had substantial problems in abiding with all of these principles since it was established.
        • CURATORS
        • Marion True
        • True was initially viewed as a reformer during her tenure
        • Autocephalous Greek-Orthodox Church of Cyprus and The Republic of Cyprus v. Goldberg & Feldman Fine Arts, Inc., 917 F.2d 278 (7 th Cir. 1990)
          • “ the aptly named Dr. True” aided the Republic of Cyprus in recovering looted antique mosaics
        • Harvard-educated, perceived to be a classicist and a straight arrow who even learned to play the lute, along with knowing Latin, Greek and Italian. True was seen by most as incapable of being cut from the same cloth as Jiri Frel
        • During her tenure, she was seen as “soft” by many museum colleagues; putting into effect an acquisitions policy that the Getty would not deal with antiquities with no provenance before 1995, which to most U.S. museums was quite progressive in dealing with countries who now wanted to exert their claim on their national treasures.
  • 21.
      • THE GETTY TRUST
      • The Getty Trust has had substantial problems in abiding with all of these principles since it was established.
        • August 31, 1994
          • The Carabinieri, the Italian art police, has been wiretapping a man named Pasquale Camera who they suspected was involved in the illegal antiquities trade out of Italy after a theft in Melfi, Italy.
          • Camera fell asleep after a heavy lunch and crashed his car into guardrail, dying instantly.
          • In his car were found a number of pictures of archaeological objects, recently unearthed. The Carabinieri. This led them to another cog in the antiquities theft ring, a man named Danilo Zicchi.
          • The Carabinieri searched Zicchi’s apartment and there they discovered one of the most significant breaks in the unraveling one of the biggest antiquities theft rings in the world.
  • 22.
      • THE GETTY TRUST
      • The Getty Trust has had substantial problems in abiding with all of these principles since it was established.
        • The Organigram
        • Zicchi had an organizational diagram that delineated the entire string of the flow of antiquities starting with art dealer Robert Hecht
        • The tomborolli would unearth a piece from a necropolis
        • From there, the piece would move to one of 2 major middlemen; Gianfranco Becchina or Giacomo Medici and they would provide “triangulations”
        • Hecht was connected to the Met and the Getty, which connected him to True.
        • The organigram delineates a massive scale of art laundering, where from the ground to the museum, pieces were given false provenance in order to be acquired by the Getty and other museums.
  • 23.
      • THE GETTY TRUST
      • The Getty Trust has had substantial problems in abiding with all of these principles since it was established.
        • Giacomo Medici
        • This allowed the Italians in conjunction with the Swiss, raid the warehouse of Giacomo Medici in 1995.
        • They found a horde of pieces, worth millions of dollars, pictures, records, false provenances, used Sotheby’s labels
        • Medici’s records and photos showed the whole chain, including pictures of items unearthed and on display in the Getty, along with catalog photos.
        • They found correspondence tying him to dealing looted antiquities directly with the Getty through Marion True and Robert Hecht
        • According to court documents, the Getty bought the griffins from the New York diamond magnate Maurice Tempelsman in 1985 in a deal totaling $6,486,004. The sale was handled through the London dealer Robin Symes, the documents indicate. Symes got them from Medici
  • 24.
      • THE GETTY TRUST
      • The Getty Trust has had substantial problems in abiding with all of these principles since it was established.
        • Marion True
        • “ Dear Mr. Giacomo, I am sorry to inform you that we cannot purchase the 20 plates at the moment on loan to the museum. I have spoken to the director … tried to convince the director of the uniqueness of the collection but he remained of the opinion not to purchase them” – June 10, 1987
        • This letter was written less than a year after she became curator of the Getty and had already tried to place items she knew were looted and had false provenance with the Director of the Getty.
  • 25.
      • THE GETTY TRUST
      • The Getty Trust has had substantial problems in abiding with all of these principles since it was established.
        • Marion True
        • “ I am terribly sorry about the plates … the decision was certainly not mine. This is the first time that John has actually refused something that I have proposed. I should have mentioned the Berlin Painter fragments in my letter; naturally we will return them with the plates as they were part of the Agreement …” – June 26, 1987
        • The “Agreement” was one where True would buy some of Medici’s ill-gotten goods, in exchange for being given fragments of other pieces; The Getty was the first museum to start practice of buying fragments to assemble wholes. This in turn created a whole new market for tomborolli where they would destroy antiquities and sell them piece by piece.
  • 26.
      • THE GETTY TRUST
      • The Getty Trust has had substantial problems in abiding with all of these principles since it was established.
        • Marion True
        • The Getty Trust knew of the false provenance of their goods. In a letter dated January 1992 she and Getty Director John Walsh plan on going to Italy:
          • “ During one of these visits I hope that we will be able to get together and have some further discussion about future acquisitions”
            • This further corroborates that the organigram depicts a chain of dealers and collectors meant to insulate the Museum; a far more sophisticated version of what Jiri Frel had done in the early 1980’s working hand in hand with tomb robbers and organized crime.
  • 27.
      • THE GETTY TRUST
      • The Getty Trust has had substantial problems in abiding with all of these principles since it was established.
        • Marion True & Trustees
        • True’s “revolutionary” policy hailed by antiquities authority Malcolm Bell III as the most conservative of any major U.S. museum was a also a fraud.
        • The policy held that the Getty wouldn’t deal with any collection of antiquities not published before 1995.
        • In 1994, right before enact date, True helped the Fleishmanns, a renowned collecting couple, publish their collection, which shielded it from the Getty’s new policy.
        • Consequently, Fleischmanns had sold 30 remarkable antiquities to the Getty for $US20 million and given the balance of their collection of about 270 works valued at $US40 million.
          • Mr. Fleischmann had reportedly needed major tax breaks and his advice to build a collection came from Robert Hecht
        • In 1998, Barbara Fleischmann became a trustee of the Getty.
  • 28.
      • THE GETTY TRUST
      • The Getty Trust has had substantial problems in abiding with all of these principles since it was established.
        • Marion True & Trustees
        • In 1995, True wanted to buy a vacation home in Greece. Alas, she couldn’t get a loan being an American in Greece.
        • She got a loan from Robin Symes and Christos Michalides, 2 of the other major antiquities crime ring kingpins who had sold the Getty the Morgantina Venus, with false provenance for 18 to 20 million dollars when True was antiquities curator
        • “ Michailides was sympathetic to her plight and introduced her to the lawyer of a Greek shipping firm in Athens who swiftly arranged the loan from the Sea Star corporation. Whether the money came from the shipping line or from Michailides and Symes is anyone's bet. To accept such a hefty loan through a pair of dealers with whom you and your museum have done prodigious business showed a want of tact.”
  • 29.
      • THE GETTY TRUST
      • The Getty Trust has had substantial problems in abiding with all of these principles since it was established.
        • Marion True & Trustees
        • A year later, True realized her conflict of interest and claimed to repay it via a $400,000 loan from the Nat’l Bank of Greece.
        • The loan actually came from Barbara Fleishmann
          • This is an epic conflict of interest violation on multiple levels. Is this a kickback? Quid pro quo. It is all unseemly.
          • This is what got True fired from the Getty as antiquities director
        • And eventually, Italy filed civil and criminal charges based on the ties between herself and Giacomo Medici.
        • True claims “the museum hung her out to dry .. They knew all along.”
        • Italy dropped the civil charges against True; the victory was in showing that they would go after the museums. But True despite the verdict will likely escape jailtime by going to another country and Hecht at 88, will not learn anything from jailtime.
        • The charges were meant to be punitive and preventative
  • 30.
      • THE GETTY TRUST
      • The Getty Trust has had substantial problems in abiding with all of these principles since it was established.
        • Marion True & Trustees
        • The Getty must return the Morgantina Venus by 2010; in exchange they will still be able to receive pieces from Italy for display in exhibitions; similar to the Met in New York with the return of the Euphronian Krater.
        • The Getty did know and did violate, the ICOM, AAMD guidelines and the spirit of what a museum should be.
        • According to the newsletter of the Archaeological Institute of America, Deborah Gribbon, when director of the Getty, rejected an Italian offer in June 2003 giving loans of antiquities in exchange "for a pledge to stop doing business with the suspect dealers".
  • 31.
      • THE GETTY TRUST
      • The Getty Trust has had substantial problems in abiding with all of these principles since it was established.
        • Marion True & Trustees
        • When Gribbon left the Getty, then Getty Trust CEO Barry Munitz agreed to a $3 million severance payment.
          • That’s 7 times what Gribbon made as director; she wasn’t blackballed and could find work elsewhere.
        • This action forced the CA Atty-General to take a closer look at the Getty. Tax-exempt non-profits like the Getty are under scrutiny and Munitz had already charged the Trust with over $250,000 in personal expenses, when he resigned as well and reimbursed the Trust for the expenses.
  • 32.
      • THE GETTY TRUST
      • The Dealers and The Trade
        • The market in illicitly traded antiquities is estimated to be anywhere between $2 billion to $6 billion per year. The prices are so high that only the wealthiest individuals or institutions can play.
        • The question is why play?
          • The Getty has received offers of exchange to stop the trade. Its new October 2006 antiquities policy now recognizes the UNESCO 1970 date as when it will now look to provenance
          • An item without provenance is entirely worthless; its value is engineered and its importance without any context is unquantifiable. It makes it impossible to justify its costs and the willingness of dealers and tomborolli to engineer wish list pieces, and seeing themselves as “saviors of lost art” is transparent. A whitewash to elevate themselves to role above being body snatchers and tomb robbers.
  • 33.
      • THE GETTY TRUST
      • The Dealers and The Trade
        • The idea of the universal museum, that being the Louvre or the British Museum, is pushed by those museums who were founded as depositories for loot gained through conquest. It is a form of continuing imperialism through the context that only the West can properly showcase and appreciate the wonders of the ancient world.
        • “ This argument to justify the retention of a large number of disputed artworks from around the world, while ignoring the notion that there are other museological paradigms as well as that of the universal museum. The universal museum should not be somehow sacred above all other modes of operation. The world has moved on in many ways since the age of enlightenment, but many of the world’s museums seem reluctant to move with changing times. Why shouldn’t they instead be the first to lead the way, to create a new era of co-operation between museums, of a networked knowledge & co-existence in much the same way as the internet has transformed the ways in which academic institutions can now work together” - The Guardian
  • 34.
      • THE GETTY TRUST
      • The Dealers and The Trade
      • This road is now open to the Getty, to free itself from the ideology once referred to by Edward Said as ‘Orientalism’ which posits the West as a superior culture to the East, an ideology that is helpful to a society whose accomplishments are garnered through military conquest. They co-opt the society’s treasures and usurp the role of cultural caretaker.
      • The Getty Trust can now find its way to further knowledge and nurture critical seeing through the growth and presentation of its collections and by advancing the understanding and preservation of the world's artistic heritage.”
      • For more:
      • http://www.victormoreno.com/law/getty
  • 35.