Home Arts More than 1,000 items in Met collection linked to suspected traffickers and looters, investigation finds

More than 1,000 items in Met collection linked to suspected traffickers and looters, investigation finds

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The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York has more than 1,000 objects in its collection that have links to people allegedly involved in crimes related to the antiquities trade, according to a new report by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and Other Media, prompting in-depth scrutiny of America’s largest and most-visited museum.

At least 1,109 pieces in the Met’s collection were previously owned by people who have been charged or convicted of crimes including looting and trafficking, the nonprofit ICIJ and Finance Uncovered found in a review of the antiquities collection of the Met. Of these objects, less than half have records available that detail how they left their country of origin. And of the Met’s more than 250 antiquities with links to Nepal and Kashmir, two regions that have been particularly hard hit by looting, only three are listed with records explaining how the items left the regions they came from. , according to the ICIJ and Discovered finances.

According to the ICIJ, many objects in the Met collection also have clear links to people involved in the looting or trafficking of antiquities. The museum has nearly two dozen pieces that belonged to an American antiques dealer Robert E. Hecht. The Met began acquiring artefacts from Hecht in the 1950s and continued to do so even after Hecht was charged with smuggling by Italian prosecutors in 1959 and 1961. The case against Hecht was later dropped when the deadline statute of limitations expired and Hecht died. in 2012 after consistently denying any role in the illegal export of art.

The Met also has more than 800 objects that belonged to Jonathan P. Rosena business partner of Hecht who was indicted alongside Hecht in Italy in 1997. The Cleveland Museum of Art agreed to return the objects from its collections to Rosen in 2008 after learning they had been stolen, and in 2013, Cornell University agreed to come back around 10,000 ancient Iraqi tablets given by Rosen, according to The Los Angeles Times. Rosen’s attorney denied that the tablets were acquired illegally. 85 other pieces in the Met’s collection are linked to Subhash Kapoorwho was convicted last year in India of trafficking in antiquities worth more than $100 million.

“The Met sets the tone for museums around the world,” Tess Davis, executive director of anti-trafficking group Antiquities Coalition, told ICIJ. “If the Met lets all these things slip through the cracks, what hope do we have for the rest of the art market?”

The Met has been the subject of several high-profile foreclosures in recent years. Last year, at least 29 items from the Met’s collection were seized by authorities in the United States, including Egyptian bronzes, Greek busts and ancient plaques, helmets and statues from around the world, according to the ICIJ.

In 2019, the museum agreed to return a 2000 year old gold coffin from ancient Egypt who was honored after the reality TV star Kim Kardashian posed next to the artifact during the 2019 Met Gala. An investigation by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office confirmed that the coffin was looted and the Met purchased the piece after a dealer showed them a export license “badly falsified”, according to the ICIJ.

“The Met is committed to collecting art responsibly and makes every effort to ensure that all works entering the collection comply with the strict laws and policies in place at the time of acquisition,” Museum spokesman Kenneth Weine told ICIJ. “Furthermore, as collection laws and guidelines have changed over time, the Museum’s policies and procedures have also changed. The Met is also constantly researching the history of works in the collection – often in conjunction with colleagues from countries around the world – and has a long track record of acting on new information as it arises.

The Met did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The arts journal.

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