Gary Vikan’s Life in Living Color at the Walters Art Museum

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Gary Vikan is a vivacious character who enjoys regaling people with vivid yarns about art and life. He is the former director of the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland who stepped down in 2013. The Walters hosts a vast collection of art, artifacts, and antiquities. Last year, Mr. Vikan published his memoir “Sacred and Stolen: Confessions of a Museum Director.” It details the challenges of being an art museum director and recounts stories of art forgeries, art thefts, and art recoveries during his 30 years at the Walters Art Museum.

The book’s manuscript won a book-contract contest in 2015, beating out several other charming entrants and is evidence of Mr. Vikan’s considerable strengths as a raconteur. A piece in The Baltimore Sun on Mr. Vikan’s award presents Mr. Vikan as a unique soul. As promotion for the September 2016 release of his book, Mr. Vikan has been on the media circuit. Today’s stop was the Book Rap at the National Press Club where Mr. Vikan answered questions and signed books. Two interesting anecdotes from Mr. Vikan’s book that the National Press Club’s selected audience were eager to here about were his discovery that a collection of Egyptian antiquities were forgeries and his efforts to save a fresco from the Middle Ages resting at a church in Cyprus. You can read the National Press Club’s press release for the event here. Mr. Vikan’s “Sacred and Stolen: Confessions of a Museum Director” can be found on Amazon here.

SAFE staff members wrote a companion piece to Cambridge University professor Mary Beard’s blog posting on the damage that art forgeries and fakes can wreak on a museum. Professor Beard also discusses a museum in Brussels that houses a collection of fakes. You can check out both the companion piece and the blog posting here. SAFE contributor Beatrice Kelly has also written about museums discovered to have housed collections containing fakes. Ms. Kelly makes a good case for establishing museums specifically for pieces that turn out to be forgeries. You can read Ms. Kelly’s interesting piece here.

Photo: Pharaonic Bust/ Alexas_Fotos

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