Friday, 3 May 2013

Metropolitan Museum Agrees to Return Knocked-off Statues to Cambodia

The Metropolitan Museum of Art confirmed on Friday that it has agreed to return to Cambodia the two 10th-century Khmer "Kneeling Attendant" statues that currently flank a doorway in its Southeast Asian galleries. The statues had entered the Met's collection in stages more than 20 years ago, but Cambodian officials maintained they had been looted from a jungle temple in the 1970s. The museum examined this claim and informed Cambodian officials of their decision to repatriate them in a letter last month, following what the Museum refers to as "new documentary research" which corroborated Cambodian claims that the works had been improperly removed from their site at the Koh Ker temple complex. It was probably the crowbar marks at the bottom ("Koh Ker - Look at the Knees")  and the way in which it had been fragmented that they noticed...
Thomas P. Campbell, the director of the Met, said [...] “This is a case in which additional information regarding the ‘Kneeling Attendants’ has led the museum to consider facts that were not known at the time of the acquisition and to take the action we are announcing today”.
What "facts" has the Museum obtained now that it should not have obtained at the time of acquisition? Maybe they'd like to release that information so we can see what is "new" about it?
The “Kneeling Attendants” came to the Met in a series of gifts that began in 1987 when the British art house Spink & Son and the international art collector Douglas A. Lachford donated one of the two heads. A second head was donated by Raymond G. and Milla Louise Handley in 1989. The two torsos were gifts of Mr. Latchford in 1992. The matching heads and bodies were reattached by museum conservators in 1993 and placed on display the following year.
It is suggested that these two statues "surfaced" on the market:
about the time federal prosecutors say another statue, of a mythic warrior figure, was also removed from Koh Ker. That statue was pulled from auction at Sotheby’s last year after Cambodia asked for its return. The United States moved to block the sale, and the case is pending in federal court in Manhattan. Sotheby’s has said that it applied all appropriate standards of provenance research before it agreed to auction the statue for $3 million on behalf of its Belgian owner. The auction house said it expected to prevail in court when the case goes to trial this year.
No timetable has been set for the return of the "Kneeling attendants", but that it hoped to send them as soon as “appropriate arrangements for transit can be mutually established.”. Let us hope then that more of the associated Koh Ker knocked-off temple bits will also soon be going back, including that "Belgian" one.

 Tom Mashberg and Ralph Blumenthal, 'The Met to Return Statues to Cambodia', New York Times May 3, 2013


Unknown said...

Apparently the statues arrived in Cambodia yesterday


Paul Barford said...

Thanks, I know. There is a video too, showing the way they were packed, will blog it later, bit busy today.

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