Home Arts The Metropolitan Museum forms a provenance research team as part of the scrutiny of its collection

The Metropolitan Museum forms a provenance research team as part of the scrutiny of its collection

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The Metropolitan Art Museum’s collection of more than 1.5 million objects has come under intense scrutiny lately, as law enforcement officialsacademics and media repeatedly point to the presence of looted artefacts in the institution’s inventory. In response, the Met plans to hire its own in-house provenance research team, according to The New York Timesadding new weight to claims that it will deal with and investigate these kinds of allegations at the institutional level.

Calls for the Met to repatriate objects with provenance issues have increased over the past decade. Last year, Cambodian officials called on the federal government to help ensure the return of heritage assets, and Manhattan District Attorney’s Office seized antiquities from Turkey, Egypt and Italy in the museum and returned them to their country of origin.

In a letter distributed to staff and quoted by the Time, Max Hollein, director of the museum, wrote: “As the preeminent voice of the global artistic community, it behooves the Met to engage more intensively and proactively in examining certain areas of our collection. He continued, “The emergence of new and additional information, as well as the changing climate on cultural property, demands that we dedicate additional resources to this work.”

Once staffed, the Met’s four-person provenance research team will consult with a group of what Hollein called “cultural property leaders, advocates and opinion makers” and a committee of 18 curators and curators to examine the ramifications of its collection policies.

Hollein’s letter cites the period from 1970 to 1990, when the museum’s collection grew rapidly, as a primary area of ​​focus for the new initiative. He estimated that “the examination will include several hundred or more objects” from this era. In 1970, many countries and museums adopted Unesco’s policies to combat the illegal trade in antiquities, although adherence and application have been uneven.

“The attitude was don’t acquire something that you know is stolen – that’s a very low standard,” said Maxwell Anderson, former director of the Dallas Museum of Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art. Time. “The attitude today is don’t acquire something unless you know it wasn’t stolen. That’s a 180 degree difference.”

In 2015, the Met was criticized for possessing items from Subhash Kapoor, a Manhattan trafficker accused of being one of the most prolific traffickers of stolen goods in the world. The museum only examined the objects in 2019 and returned some of them just this year. As of September 2022, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office Antiquities Trafficking Unit grasped $13 million in Met artifacts; in March, investigators also deleted a $25 million statue of Roman Emperor Septimius Severus. And on May 9, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office announcement the return of two 7th-century stone funerary sculptures valued at nearly $3.5 million to China; the objects had been on loan to the Met since 1998.

Hollein, in his letter, emphasized the museum’s non-combative approach to restitution claims and seizures by authorities. “We are in constant dialogue and sometimes we are faced with evidence that we have not seen before, which makes us move,” he wrote. “There is a partnership. I don’t see our efforts as opposed to the district attorney or that we need to step up because they have stepped up.”

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