The Met’s collection of art associated with Douglas Latchford, a dealer charged with smuggling looted artifacts from Southeast Asia, would be depleted if the sculptures were returned to their countries of origin, according to the museum.
The United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York charged Latchford with supplying looted antiquities to major auction houses, art dealers, and museums while falsifying documentation about where the art came from. According to the New York Times, Latchford died in 2020 at his home in Bangkok.
“The Met has been diligently working with Cambodia and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for years to resolve questions regarding these works of art, and new information that arose from this process made it clear that we should initiate the return of this group of sculptures,” said Max Hollein, director and chief executive officer of the Met.
According to the museum, the art being repatriated was created between the 9th and 14th centuries during the Angkorian period and reflects Hindu and Buddhist religious influences.
During the country’s long period of civil unrest, from the mid-1960s to the early 1990s, looters targeted important Cambodian archeological sites from the ancient Khmer empire. According to the indictment, artifacts entered the international art market through an organized looting network and smuggling process used by Latchford to obtain his art.
According to the museum statement, the repatriation of the artwork follows the Met’s pledge to review the works in its collection with an eye toward cultural property and the museum’s past collecting practices.
Authorities in the United States have spent more than a decade attempting to locate artifacts looted from Cambodia and have made previous returns from various sources.