Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Skulduggery abounds

The topic of ancient Khmer artifacts being sold at leading auction houses such as Sotheby's in New York has popped its head up again. Researcher Tess Davis has long been a voice in identifying such trading especially when the artifacts have little or no information about their origin, indicating that most of these items were looted from Cambodia or left the country illegally. Between 1988 and 2010, the New York branch of Sotheby's put 377 Khmer pieces up for auction, of which 71% lacked the necessary provenance, or ownership documents. Essentially they were condoning the sale of illegal or stolen Khmer art. During the 1990s, these sales were commonplace though they've now dropped off considerably as pressure from heritage preservation groups have highlighted the skulduggery taking place at these so-called world class auction houses. You can read more from Tess Davis on the subject here. The topic is currently in the news as Thailand have so far refused to hand back to Cambodia 36 Khmer artifacts that they apprehended from smugglers in 2000. Establishing provenance is the reason, though the Thai authorities have already handed back 7 of the objects, whilst Cambodia say they gave the Thais the necessary paperwork a long time ago.

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