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USA. More than 1,000 Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibits may be criminal – ICIJ

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At least 1,109 exhibits from New York’s prestigious Metropolitan Museum of Art belonged to individuals accused or convicted of antiquities crimes, according to a report by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

The report of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) was published on March 20. Journalists, after studying the catalogs of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET), found at least 1,109 objects previously owned by people accused or convicted of looting or illegal antiquities trafficking. 309 of these objects are currently on display. In addition, less than half of the more than 1,000 exhibits have descriptions of how they left their country of origin, although many of these countries have had very restrictive antiquities export laws for decades.

The report indicated, among other things, that in the case of about 250 antiquities from Kashmir and Nepal – which in the past suffered particularly as a result of looting – only 3 exhibits have appropriate, detailed documentation. “MET is committed to collecting art responsibly and makes every effort to ensure that all works entering the collection meet the requirements of the law and (other – ed.) strict rules in force at the time of their acquisition,” commented ICIJ spokesman Kenneth Weine.

SEE ALSO: New York returns $19 million worth of looted antiques to Italy

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Illegal antiques trade

The report describes some of the people associated with the illegal antiquities trade. The New York Museum’s collection includes approximately 30 items obtained from Robert E. Hecht, who was described as “an antiquities dealer who battled the authorities for decades and was eventually prosecuted on antiquities smuggling charges in Italy“.

His methods of obtaining and selling exhibits were described by his former partner, Bruce McNall. “I don’t think Bob (Hecht) usually reveals where he gets things from,” he told ICIJ reporters. – Did I know that the items come from illegal sources? No, but I suspected it. But we never really went into that, McNall added. He also mentioned that he had once sold an antique Greek vase that Hecht had obtained to the MET. As he noted, the then curator of the facility, Dietrich von Bothmer, “did not ask him for any details about its origin or where it was found.”

New York’s Metropolitan Museum of ArtShutterstock

The MET collection also includes more than 800 objects acquired from another Hecht collaborator, Jonathan P. Rosen. The exhibits he provided were part of the collections of the Cleveland Museum of Art and Cornell University in the past, but after these institutions learned about potential irregularities related to their acquisition, both decided to return them.

Another 85 of the 1,109 items described by the ICIJ in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art are said to be related to Subhash Kapoor, who was convicted last year in India to 10 years in prison for offenses related to the illicit trade in works of art worth a total of $100 million.

Confiscations at the museum

As the ICIJ points out, the MET collection has been the subject of several high-profile confiscations over the past few years. In 2022, US authorities confiscated at least 29 items previously belonging to her.

In turn, in 2019, after a celebrity Kim Kardashian posed in one of the photos taken at the annual MET Gala next to a 2,000-year-old golden coffin from an ancient Egyptit was established that the museum purchased the work from a dealer who was allegedly presenting a “weakly counterfeited” export license for the exhibit.

SEE ALSO: Exhibits worth over PLN 360 million destroyed. The museum denies covering up the incidents

Main photo source: Shutterstock

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