New scandal at the Met: they assure that more than a thousand pieces come from looting or trafficking

“With this gift, the Met moves forward with the new design of the presentation of modern and contemporary art in the Museum, creating 80,000 square feet (about 7,400 square meters) of galleries and public spaces,” the institution explains in a statement. File photo. EFE/Justin Lane

More than a thousand objects from the catalog of the Metropolitan Art Museum (MET) in New York, such as statues, friezes and precious objects that go from India to Italy or Egypt, come from acquisition practices of suspicious origin such as looting and traffickingaccording to research by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

The investigation found 1,109 piecesof which less than half have records describing how they left their country of origin, which previously belonged to people charged or convicted of crimes against antiquities or their galleries, and 309 of which are currently on display, the newspaper reported today. Guardian.

A concrete example: in more than 250 ancient objects from Nepal and Kashmir, only three have origin records explaining how they came out of their regions of origin.

The result of the investigation should not be surprising, since throughout its history the MET has received numerous complaints of appropriation of objects and in some cases it has voluntarily returned some items, while in others it has been the courts that seized the objects, such as acts of reparation for violence and patrimonial looting.

Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

One of the most resonant and recent cases is the complaint from the Bungamati community in Nepal, who one day had a statue of Shreedhar Vishnu, the Hindu protector god, stolen from a sanctuary. A decade later the piece appeared on display at the MET, until a Facebook account called Lost Arts of Nepal he finally identified her and executed the complaint.

In this point, tess davisexecutive director of the Antiquities Coalition, an organization that seeks to prevent and raise awareness about the looting of antiquities, warned that with these practices “the Met sets the tone for museums around the world” and if “the Met is letting all these things go unnoticed, what hope do we have for the rest of the art market?

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For her part and in response to the results of the investigation, a spokesperson for the museum assured that “it is committed to responsible art collecting and does everything possible to guarantee that all the works that enter the collection comply with the laws and policies strict regulations in force at the time of acquisition,” said Kenneth Weine.

And he clarified that “in addition, as the laws and guidelines on collecting have changed over time, so have the policies and procedures of the museum. The Met also continually researches the history of works in the collection, often in collaboration with colleagues in countries around the world, and has a long history of acting on new information as appropriate.”

Nedjemankh’s golden coffin at a conference when his return to Egypt was announced

Another episode that became international occurred in 2018 when the businesswoman and influencer kim kardashian posted a photo next to a gold Egyptian coffin inside a private gallery at the Met Gala. What Kardashian did not imagine, that she posed next to the sarcophagus because her dress matched the piece, is that her photo would become a key piece to solve a criminal mystery about a work of more than 2000 years.

It turned out that the Met had purchased the piece from a dealer who had provided the museum with a poorly forged export license. An investigation by the Manhattan district attorney’s office determined that the coffin had indeed been looted from Egypt. In early 2019, the museum agreed to return it.

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But that was not the only recent return: last year 27 pieces from ancient Rome, Greece and Egypt that had been looted and were part of the MET collection were repatriated and 30 artifacts linked to Douglas Latchfordan antiques dealer who was accused of leading an illegal object trafficking ring.

In September 2021, authorities seized more than 100 pieces from one of the museum’s billionaire donors, Michael Steinhardt. The action was part of a deferred prosecution agreement reached between Steinhardt and the district attorney’s office and involved some pieces that had been on display at the New York museum.

Source: Telam

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