|A 10thC kneeling figure from Koh Ker. Photo: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York |
I'm getting a bit dizzy with excitement that a task force has been set up to assemble evidence to identify Khmer artifacts that were stolen and now find themselves in museums and art houses around the world. The New York Times yesterday suggested that Cambodia will now be after the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York to return two kneeling figures that are believed to have been removed/stolen/pilfered from Prasat Chen in the Koh Ker group of temples in the early 1970s. The Met don't hide the fact that they don't have much evidence as to the provenance of the figures and as such must be on weak ground if the task force can prove they were stolen, which of course they were. Maybe the task force can go in under cover of darkness and steal the items back. Maybe not - two wrongs don't make a right my mum used to tell me. The kneeling attendants, about four feet tall and weighing more than 200 pounds
each, were put on display in 1994 when the Met opened its new Southeast
Asian galleries. The heads of the two statues had been donated in 1987
and 1989, and the two torsos were given together to the museum in 1992. Interestingly, three of the items - a head and both torsos - were donated to the museum by Douglas Latchford, a well-known supporter of the National Museum in Phnom Penh and who has already returned many cultural treasures to their rightful home. The Cambodian task force must have a list as long as my arm of artifacts that were stolen from Cambodia and should be returned. The Guimet Museum in Paris for example have thousands of items they should hand back. My simplistic view (my views are always simple) is that these items belong to Cambodia and should come home. If Cambodia then wants to 'lend' these museums a few token display items, then all well and good. First and foremost, they belong in Cambodia. The shit hit the fan in recent weeks when Sotheby's were exposed for trying to sell another Khmer statue that had been stolen from Prasat Chen. The courts have still to decide whether that item should be returned to Cambodia, which of course it should.
Labels: Koh Ker, Metropolitan Museum of Art