Florida Museum Fires Curator After Issues With Object Provenance

Florida Museum in St. Petersburg Fired a Curator After Raising Issues Over the Provenance of the Greek Artifacts in an Exhibition.

Sep 23, 2023By Angela Davic, News, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and Analysis
Florida Museum
Museum of Fine Arts. Via Mario Andres.


Florida Museum in St. Petersburg let go of one of its curators for problems connected to the origin of artifacts shown in the exhibition. The show, titled “From Chaos to Order” had a lot of Greek artifacts. Also, the exhibition did not occur at only one place but traveled across several countries in the U.S. For example, it went from Florida to South Carolina, with a second stop scheduled for the Denver Art Museum.


Florida Museum to Fix Problems Before Completing the Tour

Florida Museum


Greek remnants from the Geometric era (roughly 900–700 BCE), set up by previous St. Petersburg curator Michael Bennett, were on display. Bennett told the New York Times, which broke the story first, that the museum “felt it had something new to say about Greek art”. However, the Denver Art Museum ultimately decided not to host the exhibition. The staff raised concerns.


They were worried because 57 objects, according to them, lacked adequate provenance. Every single thing was lent by entrepreneur and connoisseur Sol Rabin. Even though there are not any official reports on looting, some have a connection to merchants with data of their alleged involvement in heritage trafficking activities.


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Three young surrealist women holding in their arms the skins of an orchestra by Salvador Dalí,1936, via The Dali Museum, St. Petersburg, Florida


The Denver Art Museum sent up four items to Cambodia previously this year. This happened after the Cambodian government made an apparent demand for their return. Christoph Heinrich, the director of the institution, encouraged the MFA to fix the authenticity problems with their exhibit before completing the excursion.

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Not Good Reasons for Firing?

digital era dream tapestry
Dream Tapestry Experience, 2022, via The Dalí Museum, Florida


“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. This also includes ours”, Christoph Heinrich wrote in a letter to officials at the Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg.


He warned that holding the event could worsen the institution’s standing. He also noted that it has “experienced recent negative press for a small number of our legacy collections and associations with red flag dealers”. Bennett ended up on leave at the MFA shortly after the notification came through. He was also let go one month later. His termination remains an enigma. The institution chose not to comment when contacted.


dream tapestry
Dream Tapestry Experience 2022, via The Dalí Museum, Saint Petersburg, Florida


When asked why he was let go, Bennett told the Times that he did not receive an adequate response. Only that his leave was necessary due to “the issue of reaccreditation to a museum association, without further elaboration”.

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By Angela DavicNews, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and AnalysisAngela is a journalism student at the Faculty of Political Science in Belgrade and received a scholarship for continued education in Prague. She completed her internship at the daily newspaper DANAS and worked as an executive editor at Talas.