The Washington Post
11 June, 2013
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Two 10th century Cambodian stone statues displayed for nearly two decades at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art were returned to their homeland Tuesday in a high-profile case of allegedly looted artifacts.
The voluntary return of the pair of “Kneeling Attendants” statues by one of America’s foremost cultural institutions is seen as setting a precedent for the restoration of artworks to their places of origin, from which they were often removed in hazy circumstances.
It comes as the Cambodian government is asking other museums to return similar objects. At the government’s request, U.S. authorities have begun legal action against Sotheby’s auction house to try to force the handover of a contested piece.
Cambodian officials and Buddhist monks were on hand for a welcome ceremony for the life-size sandstone statues at the capital’s international airport.
“The statues are very important to our country,” said Chan Tani, secretary of state for the Cabinet office. “We got back those ancient statues that left us, so we should be proud.”
The statues come from the Koh Ker temple in Siem Reap province, which is home to the famed Angkor Wat temples. Officials say they were stolen from the temple in the 1970s. The museum said the statues were given to the museum in pieces by different donors between 1987 and 1992.
“These pieces were an important part of our museum’s display of Khmer (Cambodian) and pre-Khmer art,” the head of the museum’s Asian art department, Maxwell K. Hearn, said after the Buddhist ceremony. “It was a great privilege to be able to show works of Khmer art in New York, but we are also very pleased to see these pieces rightfully returned to Cambodia.” Continue reading