Even With the Khmer Rouge Gone, Cambodian Antiquities Are Still Looted

The Observer, 12 April 2017: “I went into it because I thought I might be able to afford to buy what I thought was a copy of a Cambodian statue in the window. Then the man named a price which was absolutely incredible. I said, ‘Do you mean that this piece is authentic?’ He said, ‘Yes.’ I said, ‘Then you are a thief.’”

An exiled prince tries to recover antiquities stolen from his home country of Cambodia.

Source: Even With the Khmer Rouge Gone, Cambodian Antiquities Are Still Looted | Observer

Felled sacred tree given new life as sculptures

A sacred rosewood tree that was controversially cut down last year in Siem Reap gets a new life as sacred sculptures.

Wood from a revered rosewood tree that Apsara Authority employees cut down in November has found new life as five sculptures depicting historical and folk spirits, appeasing villagers upset by the felling of their sacred tree.

Five employees for Apsara, which manages Angkor Archaeological Park in Siem Reap province, were arrested under orders from Prime Minister Hun Sen following a national outcry over the fate of the centuries-old tree from Siem Reap City’s Kokchak commune.

Source: Felled Angkor Rosewood Tree Reborn as Sacred Sculptures – The Cambodia Daily

Ancient pottery, Buddha head found buried in Chiang Rai

Workers repairing a small dam found anicent pottery and a large Buddha head in northern Thailand

CHIANG RAI – Ancient pottery and the large head of a Buddha statue have been found buried near a community weir in Muang district of this northern province.

Source: Ancient pottery, Buddha head found buried at weir | Bangkok Post: news

Brahma heads returned to Cambodia

In addition to the statue of Rama, two more sculptures – heads of Brahma – from Koh Ker were returned to Cambodia last month.

Returned Brahma head from Koh Ker. Source: Phnom Penh Post 20160331
Returned Brahma head from Koh Ker. Source: Phnom Penh Post 20160331

More looted antiquities welcomed home
Phnom Penh Post, 31 March 2016

For the second time in less than a week, the National Museum held a ceremony yesterday marking the homecoming of priceless Angkorian artifacts looted during the civil war.

Two 10th-century Brahma heads, looted from a temple at the Koh Ker archaeological site in Preah Vihear, were added to the museum’s collection of antiquities, alongside a 10th-century Rama statue returned by an American museum on Monday.

The heads, which had formerly belonged to an unnamed private collector in Paris, were discovered by Minister of Foreign Affairs Hor Namhong in 1994 while he was the Cambodian ambassador to France, according to the release.

Full story here.

Prof. Ashley Thompson Inaugural Lecture – Double Realities: The Complex Lives of Ancient Khmer Statuary

Readers in London may be interested in Ashley Thompson’s lecture in early May. Booking required.

Prof. Ashley Thompson Inaugural Lecture – Double Realities: The Complex Lives of Ancient Khmer Statuary
Date: 5 May 2016
Venue: Brunei Gallery
Time: 6.30 pm

The Angkorian empire produced one of the most remarkable sculptural traditions in human history. Starting from Hindu and, to a lesser extent, Buddhist models, Khmer artists invented bold new techniques and sophisticated aesthetic principles that underpinned their exploration of anthropomorphic statuary. And yet the representational presuppositions of Western aesthetics only cloud our understanding of this innovation: perhaps art, in this context, does not stand in a mimetic relationship to the world, but rather itself constitutes an ‘original’, an embodied and multivalent reality that calls for a different relationship with its ‘viewer’.

This lecture will begin with a reflection on the Khmer ‘portrait statue’, considered in the traditional art history of ancient Cambodia to have been a late and peculiar invention of the reign of the last of the great Angkorian kings. However I will challenge this view, and indeed take the double ontology of these sculptures – embodying at once gods and people – to in fact constitute the baseline reality of essentially all Angkorian and post-Angkorian statuary.

Nothing is as it seems: even Angkor itself, this exemplary outlier of the Sanskrit ‘cosmopolis’ that flowered in the late first and early second millennia CE, is construed both as a fiercely singular local dominion and a universal kingdom. Microcosm and macrocosm are each set off against and magnified in the other. Within this context, a number of otherwise incongruous phenomena can be understood as manifestations of an underlying bifid structure: from the fluid ambiguity in the gendering of certain anthropomorphic representations to the determination with which religious practitioners, then as now, experience their own lives as participating in a larger cosmic life variously conveyed by art.

More details and booking information here.

Koh Ker Rama statue returns to Cambodia

The last Koh Ker statue not in a private collection has finally been returned to Cambodia by the Denver Art Museum in a ceremony last month.

Koh Ker statue returns to Cambodia. Source: Cambodia Daily 20160329
Koh Ker statue returns to Cambodia. Source: Cambodia Daily 20160329

Pomp greets Rama statue’s return from US
Phnom Penh Post, 29 March 2016

Ancient Khmer Rama Statue Officially Received by Government
Cambodia Daily, 29 March 2016

US museum returns 10th century Khmer statue to Cambodia
AP, via Washington Post, 28 March 2016

US museum returns ancient Hindu god statue to Cambodia
BBC News, 28 March 2016

US Museum Returns Stolen Rama Statue
Cambodia Daily, 29 February 2016

Cambodian warrior comes home: Denver Art Museum returns Khmer statue
The Art Newspaper, 26 February 2016

Recently returned after 30 years in a US museum, a priceless Angkorian statue looted from war-torn Cambodia in the early 1970s was feted at the Council of Ministers yesterday.

The 1.6-metre-tall 10th-century Torso of Rama statue was returned by the Denver Art Museum after archaeologists from the Apsara Authority were able to prove that the artefact was looted from the Prasat Chen temple in Preah Vihear province, National Museum director Kong Vireak said yesterday.

The statue’s return, which actually took place in late February, was officially marked in a handover ceremony at the Council of Ministers yesterday morning.

Using forensic techniques, the archaeologists demonstrated that the statue, which is missing its head, arms and feet, was originally connected with a plinth found at the Koh Ker archaeological site, which was heavily looted during the civil war.

The Denver Art Museum had reportedly purchased the footless statue in 1986 from the Doris Weiner Gallery in New York.

Full story here.

Vietnamese man sets up virtual 3D sculpture museum

Now that 3D scanning is well and truly a thing, A Vietnamese man has set up a virtual museum showcasing sculptural treasures from Vietnam – check out the museum here.

Vietnamese 3D museum. Source: 3Ders.org, 20151030
Vietnamese 3D museum. Source: 3Ders.org, 20151030

VR3D launches Vietnam’s first virtual museum with 3D scans of ancient relics
3Ders.org, 30 October 2015

One of the greatest old-world-meets-new applications of 3D scanning and 3D printing technology is the potential for cultural and historical preservation. The ability to document and preserve precious artifacts in their current state, including distinctive marks, surface textures and coloration all in the finest of detail, means that even with the passing of time, natural disasters, or damage, future generations can appreciate and learn from the past. When he was just 17 years old, Quang Tri Nguyen recognized the importance of preserving Vietnamese culture—one of the oldest in Southeast Asia—and went so far as to drop out of school to dedicate his life to 3D scanning, documenting, and publishing digital 3D models of ancient Vietnamese sculptures on his website, VR3D.

Full story here.

Cambodia returns artefact fragment to Cleveland museum

Here’s a twist: Cambodia has returned an artefact fragment to the Cleveland Museum, after a series of tests including 3D scans showed that the fragment, part of a 6th century sculpture of Krishna, more closely matched the one in the museum’s collection, rather than the one in National Museum of Cambodia in Phnom Penh.

Scans of the 6th century Krishna statue. Source: Cleveland.com, 20151030
Scans of the 6th century Krishna statue. Source: Cleveland.com, 20151030

Cambodia returns sculptural fragment after 3-D scans show it fits Cleveland Museum of Art’s Krishna
Cleveland.com, 30 October 2015

Cambodia returned a 432-pound sculptural fragment to the Cleveland Museum of Art after new evidence including 3-D scans showed that the broken piece belongs to the museum’s monumental sixth-century stone carving of Krishna.

The museum actually owned the fragment in question between the mid-1970s and 2005, but failed in earlier attempts to match it to its Krishna.

The museum sent the fragment to Cambodia, thinking that might match another Krishna in the National Museum of Cambodia in Phnom Penh.

But the Cleveland museum now says that new scientific information shows the fragment matches its Krishna and not a sculpture in Phnom Penh, as Cambodian authorities believed over the past decade.

Full story here.

Asian Civilisations Museum to return statue to India

After a formal request by the government of India, the Asian Civilisations Museum will return a bronze statue of Uma Parameshvari, which was identified as stolen in the recent high-profile antiquities looting case of Subhash Kapoor.

Statue of Uma Parameshvari to be returned by the Asian Civilisations Museum. Source: Straits Times 20151020
Statue of Uma Parameshvari to be returned by the Asian Civilisations Museum. Source: Straits Times 20151020

Asian Civilisations Museum to return ‘stolen’ 11th-century artefact to India
The Straits Times, 20 October 2015

Asian Civilisations Museum to return sculpture identified as stolen from India
Channel NewsAsia, 19 October 2015

The Asian Civilisations Museum (ACM) said yesterday it would return a sculpture identified as stolen, upon the request of the Indian government.

‘Stolen’ artefact puts murky issues in spotlight
The Straits Times, 23 October 2015

The 11th-century bronze sculpture depicting Hindu goddess Uma Parameshvari is among hundreds of stolen cultural artefacts amounting to over $148 million in an ongoing international art smuggling case. They are believed to have been looted and sold to museums by disgraced New York art dealer Subhash Kapoor, 65, who is awaiting trial in India on charges of theft and smuggling.

In a press statement, the ACM said it had bought the sculpture from Kapoor’s now-defunct gallery Art of the Past for US$650,000 (S$900,000) in 2007.

Full story here and here.

Statues discovered near Banteay Srey

Two small statues dating to the 10th century were discovered in Banteay Srey last week during the excavation of a water channel.

Source: Phnom Penh Post 20151013
Source: Phnom Penh Post 20151013

Angkor worksite reveals 2 statues
Phnom Penh Post, 06 October 2015

Authorities at the Angkor Temple Complex in Siem Reap province yesterday announced the discovery of two statues dating from the 10th century, uncovered during the digging of a water channel.

In a statement released on its website, the Apsara Authority, which runs and manages the Unesco World Heritage site, said the two statues will be sent to archaeologists for research purposes.

“We found them while digging a small canal around the Banteay Srey temple,” said Apsara Authority spokesperson Chao Sun Kerya.

The canal is intended to hold rainwater runoff currently gathering in the temple.

Full story here.