Minneapolis Institute on Art Statement on Doryphoros

MINNEAPOLIS—(April 26, 2024) — In 1986, the Minneapolis Institute of Art (Mia) purchased the sculpture known as Doryphoros (the Spear Bearer) from the art dealer Elie Borowski. Believed to date between 120-50 BCE, the work is a copy of an original bronze statue by the Greek sculptor Polykleitos—one of many such copies that have been excavated in locations throughout what was the Roman empire, including (most recently) in Spain in 2012. Other such copies are part of museum collections in London, Berlin, Vienna, Santa Barbara, and Copenhagen, in addition to a number of copies that are in Italy.

In 1984, while the work was on display in a German museum, Italy initiated a legal proceeding to claim the work. In 1986, only after that proceeding was concluded, Italy’s claim was denied by the German government, and the work was exported from Germany and imported into the United States, did Mia agree to purchase the sculpture. Since that time, the work has been publicly displayed and extensively published. While Mia takes issue with recent press reports regarding the Doryphoros, Mia believes that the media is not an appropriate forum to address unproven allegations.

Mia acts responsibly and proactively with respect to claims related to its collection. In those instances where proof has been forthcoming, Mia has responded positively and transferred works to claimants, including in 2011 with the transfer of a volute krater to Italy. Where proof has not been provided, as well as where Mia has evidence reasonably demonstrating that a claim is not supported, Mia has declined to transfer the work.

Recent reports that the Italian Ministry of Culture has announced an embargo on loans of works from Italian collections to Mia are true—and unfortunate. This embargo is contrary to decades of exchanges between museums—exchanges that have taken place even during times of strained or broken diplomatic relations. Mia has a long and successful history of exchange and scholarship with Italian museums, benefitting all concerned, especially audiences in the United States and Italy. At this time, notwithstanding the Ministry’s action, Mia is honoring its outgoing loan commitments to ensure its Italian colleagues do not suffer because of the Ministry’s embargo decision