The Met to Return 16 Statues to Cambodia and Thailand Over Trafficking Concerns - Kanebridge News
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The Met to Return 16 Statues to Cambodia and Thailand Over Trafficking Concerns

The Khmer-era sculptures are linked to an art dealer suspected of selling looted antiquities, authorities said

Wed, Dec 20, 2023 9:17amGrey Clock 2 min

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has agreed to return 14 sculptures to Cambodia and two to Thailand, removing from its collection all Khmer-era artworks associated with an art dealer accused of selling antiquities illegally.

The Met said Friday it will temporarily display a selection of the 16 sculptures while arrangements are made for their repatriation. The works were made between the ninth and 14th centuries in the Angkorian period, the museum said. The Khmer empire ruled much of what is now Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam from about 802 to 1431.

The sculptures are associated with art dealer Douglas Latchford, who was indicted in 2019 by the U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York, which said he orchestrated a multiyear scheme to sell looted Cambodian antiquities on the international art market. The indictment was dropped after Latchford’s death in 2020. Authorities later secured a $12 million civil forfeiture against his estate for stolen Southeast Asian antiquities they alleged Latchford had sold.

The Met said it cooperated with authorities in the U.S. and Cambodia following Latchford’s indictment and received information that made it clear the sculptures should be returned.

“The Met is pleased to enter into this agreement with the U.S. attorney’s office, and greatly values our open dialogue with Cambodia and Thailand,” said Max Hollein, the director and chief executive of the Met.

U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement Latchford was believed to have run “a vast antiquities trafficking network,” an allegation Latchford had denied. He urged cultural institutions and private collectors to remain vigilant about antiquity trafficking.

Many countries and cultures that were colonised have for decades asked institutions to return stolen artefacts. That effort has gained more traction in recent years, with many museums now openly acknowledging that some items in collections were gained through colonial exploitation and looting.

The Cambodian government in recent years has asked the Met and other museums to return artworks taken from their countries of origin under murky circumstances.

In 2013, the Met returned two 10th-century Cambodian stone statues, known as the “Kneeling Attendants,” which were also associated with Latchford. The statues were from the Koh Ker temple in the same province as the Angkor Wat temples. Officials said they believe they were stolen from the temple in the 1970s. The Met had acquired the statues from donors between 1987 and 1992, it said at the time.

One of the most high-profile repatriation efforts involves the Benin Bronzes, West African artefacts stolen more than a century ago from what is now Nigeria.

Roughly 3,000 to 5,000 artefacts were pillaged from the Kingdom of Benin by British soldiers in the late-19th century as the U.K. expanded its colonial empire in West Africa.

Many of the Benin Bronzes—a name used to cover a variety of artwork, including carved elephant tusks, brass plaques, and wooden heads—wound up in private collections and museums in Europe and the U.S. The Met returned three artefacts to Nigeria in 2021.


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Milestone birthdays and anniversaries, weddings, and graduations are momentous life occasions that some like to mark with large and elaborate celebrations.

And the deep-pocketed set are still in catch-up mode after a party-throwing standstill during the pandemic that went on for many months during the height of the lockdowns and social distancing. Bashes since then have become ever more extravagant and experiential—mere get-togethers, they’re not.

Hosts are also seeking any excuse to throw an event and having parties with the same “wow” factor for far less significant reasons, or for micro-occasions as they’re called, and even “just because,” according to luxury event planners who work with this elite set.

Colin Cowie, a planner based in New York and Miami who regularly orchestrates multimillion-dollar gatherings and was behind Jennifer Lopez’s and Ben Affleck’s wedding, calls it the “event revolution.”

“Large-scale events have become the norm,” Cowie says. “The wealthy, who are used to celebrating their life moments in a big way couldn’t do anything during the pandemic and are now going all out for anything they host.”

His company, Colin Cowie Lifestyle, plans 30% more events today than pre-Covid and has a lineup booked for the next two years. An example includes an upcoming million-dollar dinner party in the Hamptons simply to socialise with friends. It’s an affair with free-flowing Dom Perignon, centre-cut filet mignons, and unlimited caviar.

Colin Cowie Lifestyle plans 30% more events today than pre-Covid
Calen Rose

Other high-end planners also attribute the rise of over-the-top celebrations to a “live life to the fullest” attitude that’s become prevalent in the last few years. But they say that these parties aren’t necessarily about spending more than before—rather, they’re increasingly creative, thoughtful, and, with respect to weddings, longer.

Lynn Easton, a Charleston-based planner, says that her typical wedding used to span two days and entailed a rehearsal dinner plus the wedding itself. “Now, it’s a five-day bonanza with events like a groomsman lunch,” Easton says.

Easton also plans glitzy milestone birthdays such as one for a 60th where the host flew 60 friends and family to a private island. Dinners were multi-hour affairs in various locations around the isle with the showpiece being a five-course meal where the food was presented on dishes that were hand-carved in ice.

Another planner, Victoria Dubin, based in New York and Miami, says that, in a new precedent, the weddings she’s tapped to design kick off with striking welcome meals. She recently planned an al fresco rehearsal dinner at the Brooklyn pizzeria Roberta’s that recreated a Tuscan garden. Elements included potted herbs, lemon trees, vintage olive oil cans, ceramic plates, and table cards presented with palm leaves in limoncello cans.

Another planner, Victoria Dubin, recently planned an al fresco rehearsal dinner at the Brooklyn pizzeria Roberta’s that recreated a Tuscan garden.
Aletiza Photo

Pashmina shawls hung from chairs to keep guests warm, and freshly baked pizzas and Aperol spritzes were in ready supply throughout the evening.

Stacy Teckin, the groom’s mother, hosted the party with her husband, Ian, and says she sought to pull off a dinner that made an impression on their guests. “The wedding was delayed because of Covid, and now that we had the chance to celebrate, we wanted to go all out,” Teckin says. “I’m not sure we would have done that before.”

In another example, acclaimed planner Norma Cohen threw a wild safari-themed bar mitzvah for a client.

A four-day wedding in Paris where the ceremony was in a historic chateau and the host paid for guests to stay at Hotel Crillon
Norma Cohen Productions

The memorable occasion transpired at Spring Studios in downtown Manhattan and saw 400 guests be transported to the African plains: Details included mammoth replicas of wildlife such as giraffes and elephants, servers in safari themed attire, and entertainment dressed like giraffes. The event was one of several over-the-top parties Cohen’s arranged recently.

A four-day wedding in Paris where the ceremony was in a historic chateau and the host paid for guests to stay at Hotel Crillon, one of the city’s most luxurious properties, also ranks high in Cohen’s memory.

Then there’s a destination party in London that Cohen planned for a client who was turning 40. It as a six-day affair with dinners at swanky spots such as Cipriani, the Arts Club, and Cecconi’s at Soho House. The finale was Lancaster House, a mansion in St. James, where guests were entertained by cabaret dancers from the famed Ibiza club Lio Ibiza and feasted on prime rib and lamb chops and imbibed on Krug champagne.

“People today don’t want to host events,” Cohen says. “They want experiences that take you away to a different place and make you forget that the real world exists.”