Officers in Cambodia consider that New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Artwork possesses no fewer than 33 artifacts looted by a single smuggler.
Toek Tik, who died final yr, instructed authorities that he personally stole the 33 works out of Cambodia throughout a 20-year run as a smuggler.
He instructed officers that a lot of these works handed by way of the fingers of the late Douglas Latchford, a once-respected Southeast Asian antiquities vendor who has since been recognized as a large-scale smuggler accountable for inserting looted artwork from the area in Western museums.
The story was first reported by the New York Occasions.
The depths of Latchford’s smuggling operation are solely now coming to gentle, thanks largely to investigations into the Pandora Papers, a large leak of offshore monetary transactions by the Washington Put up and the Worldwide Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).
Latchford, who styled himself a scholar of Southeast Asian antiquities, printed quite a few books on the topic and solid sturdy relationships with main curators within the area, together with Martin Lerner, who spearheaded the Met’s Southeast Asian amassing efforts throughout his 31-year tenure on the museum.
Following his departure from the Met, Lerner labored as a marketing consultant for the vendor.
Authorities first grew to become suspicious of Latchford’s dealings in 2012, when a pair of looted statues he acquired got here up on the market at Sotheby’s New York. The U.S. authorities charged Latchford with trafficking in looted antiquities in November 2019. (He died the next August, at age 88, and his daughter restituted his assortment.)
“Figuring out what I do know now, I ought to in all probability not have labored so carefully with Mr. Latchford,” Lerner instructed the Occasions.
The Met acquired a minimum of 13 artifacts from Latchford, both by donation or buy, beginning in 1983. However in October, Cambodia launched an investigation into the origins of 45 works on the museum.
Toek Tik claimed to recollect eradicating these antiquities from websites throughout the Cambodian jungle. The reformed looter, who had been unwell with pancreatic most cancers, died in November of the coronavirus, age 62.
In some situations, Toek Tik’s accounts are supported by interviews with others who participated within the smuggling ring, on-the-ground proof at historic websites, and Latchford’s papers. In different circumstances, the main points are blurrier: Toek Tik remembered a number of comparable artifacts that each one resemble a given piece on the Met, for example.
“The Met is carefully following these current developments, and we’re in lively dialogue with Cambodia,” a museum spokesperson instructed Artnet Information. “We’ve got shared our provenance with Cambodia’s consultant; and we have now requested that Cambodia share any new, related info it has not too long ago obtained.”
The Denver Artwork Museum agreed to restitute 4 Latchford-linked Cambodian antiquities final October, primarily based partially on Toek Tik’s proof. Netscape creator James H. Clark equally turned over 35 Southeast Asian antiquities he purchased from the vendor to the U.S. Division of Homeland Safety in January.
Cambodia hopes the U.S. Justice Division will help in its mission to reclaim additional objects from the Met assortment. The museum repatriated a pair of looted Koh Ker temple complicated “Kneeling Attendants” to Cambodia in 2013 that had been partially gifted by Latchford.
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