16 Major Pieces at Met Will Return to Rightful Owners

They're going back to Cambodia and Thailand
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 15, 2023 5:15 PM CST
16 Major Pieces at Met Will Return to Rightful Owners
This March 2007 photo shows a bronze sculpture titled "Standing Shiva" at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The sculpture is one of 16 pieces of artwork that the museum said it will return to Cambodia and Thailand.   (Metropolitan Museum of Art via AP)

New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art announced Friday that it will return 16 major artworks connected to a trafficker to Cambodia and Thailand. The Cambodian government maintains that the Met has dozens of items that have been taken since the 1970s and has pressured the museum to return them, the New York Times reports. The Met agreed to repatriate 14 major Khmer-era antiquities to Cambodia and two to Thailand. "We appreciate this first step in the right direction," said a statement by Cambodia's Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts. "We look forward to further returns and acknowledgments of the truth regarding our lost national treasures."

Investigators had tied the pieces to Douglas Latchford, an art dealer and Met donor who was indicted in 2019, accused of running a scheme to sell looted Cambodian antiquities on the international market. He died in 2020. The museum has cooperated with the investigation, and it repatriated two pieces traced to Latchford in 2013, per the AP. The Met expanded its South and Southeast Asian galleries beginning in the 1970s with the help of Latchford. Many of the pieces he donated to the museum were stolen, Cambodia said. (The Met also returned artworks to Italy and Egypt last year.)

One piece being repatriated to Cambodia depicts a seated Buddha. A looter claimed to have found it in a field before it ended up in Latchford's hands; he then sold it to the Met. "The act of return is an act of healing for our nation," Cambodia's minister of culture and fine arts said. Some of the pieces will remain on display at the Met while arrangements are being made for their return. (More antiquities stories.)

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