Saturday, December 14, 2013

Coming home, at last

An immaculately sculptured head of Jayavarman VII at the Guimet Museum
Bingo! Sotheby's have caved in and will return the 10th century Duryodhana statue, stolen from Prasat Chen in the Koh Ker complex in the 1970s, back to Cambodia. It took them two years to reach that decision, faced with just about everyone and their dog opposing them. Too bloody long in my book, but at least the statue will come back home. Now the pressure is on for other museums in Cleveland, Denver and Pasadena to do the same. They possess statues looted from Koh Ker - so face up and give them back. And then the Guimet Museum in Paris should be next on the list. They have hundreds if not thousands of artifacts from Cambodia - removed by French explorers in the late 19th century and taken to France for ... safe-keeping. People like Louis Delaporte systematically raped remote Cambodian temples of their removable treasures, which now adorn the galleries of the Guimet, and lie gathering dust in their basement archives. I'm not naive to think that the Guimet will ever give up their headline sculptures - like the Jayavarman VII head above - but they should return every last piece that is lying ignored in their vaults and seen by no-one. I would allow them to retain a small collection of artifacts, on loan, but the majority should come home to Cambodia. As if that will ever happen.

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2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Many items in every museum all around the world have been "looted" at some point. To try and point the finger at a few is ridiculous? What grounds are you using? If you are not going by the 1970 agreement then you must call out all museums with Cambodian holdings or any other holdings from other nations for that matter. Any museum with Indian holdings, Greek items, Roman, Pre-Columbian, etc. should be called out. Start making a very long list.

December 26, 2013 at 9:47 PM  
Blogger Andy Brouwer said...

Anon,
the Khmer items that are housed in many museums have been stolen and do not have any provenance. Those should be returned to Cambodia. Some Museums are already realising that its the right thing to do. And any other country that has suffered the theft of their cultural artifacts should claim them back too.
If the items were gifts from the Cambodian government then they can stay in the museum. Or if the two parties agree to a loan of the items. If they were not gifts, then they should be returned. It ain't rocket-science.
As a world community we must start taking responsibility for our actions today and in the past. If you steal something, give it back. You'll feel better afterwards :-)

December 30, 2013 at 9:14 AM  

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