Since Bennett’s firing in Florida, two fellow antiquities curators have spoken out on his behalf. Michael Padgett, former curator of ancient art at the Princeton University Art Museum, wrote to the board of trustees in St. Petersburg, praising Bennett.
And Carlos Picon, the former head curator of Greek and Roman art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, said in an interview that Bennett should not have been fired, but should have been told what the issue was “and given a chance to explain and fix it.”
Neither the Rollins Museum of Art, in Orlando, Fla., or the Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston, S.C., where the exhibition toured, raised issues about the loaned items.
Patty Gerstenblith, an expert on cultural heritage issues and a professor at DePaul UniversityCollege of Law, said that the questions about the artifacts went beyond red flags. “What’s higher than red?” she asked.
She said these signs of caution are not necessarily evidence of illegality; just that the organizers should have done more due diligence.
Rabin, who is currently chair of the Ancient Art Committee at the Harvard Art Museums, said his collection of Greek art, which runs to some 700 pieces, was built up over several decades, with the advice of Bennett and David Mitten, an emeritus professor of classical art and archaeology at Harvard, who died last year. He said that two of the objects in the show had also been on loan recently to other major museums.