New York Times has an interesting profile of Douglas Latchford, the collector of Khmer art at the center of the Sotheby's Koh Ker statue dispute.
These gifts presumably involve the collector-philanthropist moving stuff off the Thai dodgy antiquities market back to Cambodia. How many dodgy antiquity dealers and smugglers went to jail because of Mr Latchford's intervention?For decades Douglas A. J. Latchford, an 81-year-old British art collector, has built a reputation as one of the world’s great experts in Khmer antiquities, one whose generous return of treasures to Cambodia garnered him knighthood there in 2008. But last month Mr. Latchford, who lives here in an apartment brimming with Asian artifacts, was depicted less chivalrously in a civil complaint filed by the United States attorney’s office in Manhattan. [...] For Mr. Latchford,[...] the case has brought unwelcome attention to a long career in the tangled world of antiquities collecting, where the tenets of private property, cultural preservation and national patrimony often clash. “If the French and other Western collectors had not preserved this art, what would be the understanding of Khmer culture today?” he asked in an interview. Mr. Latchford, well known here [ie Bangkok - PMB] as a bodybuilding impresario who runs national competitions, has spent more than 55 years amassing one of the world’s finest collections of Cambodian antiquities, many of which once decorated his second home in London. He has donated many others to institutions, including the National Museum in Phnom Penh and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Experts cite his three books on Khmer treasures, written with the scholar Emma C. Bunker, as crucial reference works. “His gifts are very important because these artifacts teach the Cambodian people about their history,” said Hab Touch, the Cambodian government director-general of the Department General of Cultural Affairs. “We hope his generosity will set a good example for others.”
The NYT text is less of a profile of the man himself than a reworking of the story of his involvement with the Sotheby's Koh Ker statue, not mentioning the Norton Simon one, the two 'attendants' in the NY Metropolitan Museum or the Skanda figure in his collection from Koh Ker. There is clearly an interesting story here untold.
Tom Mashberg, 'Claims of Looting Shadow Expert in Khmer Art', New York Times December 12, 2012
Photo: Douglas A. J. Latchford in 2009 (NYT).