via New York Times, 29 January 2021: In a new turn of events to the Douglas Latchford story, the daughter of Latchford is returning the collection of antiquities to Cambodia, where they will be housed in a museum. More stories linked below, along with the press release from the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts.
Douglas Latchford, a scholar of Khmer antiquities who was accused of trafficking in looted artifacts, bequeathed his world-class collection to his daughter. She has returned it to Cambodia.
Ms. Kriangsak said the collection, dazzling and unique and valued by some at more than $50 million, loomed as an enormous burden to curate and maintain. So in a gesture that Cambodian officials embrace as supremely generous, she decided to return all of her father’s Khmer objects to that country, where they can be studied by Khmer scholars and shown in a new museum to be built in Phnom Penh.
It is a stunning turn of events for Cambodians who saw so many of their country’s ancient artifacts disappear during the reign of Pol Pot and the surrounding years of civil war. Officials say the objects had been revered for generations and never perceived as sources of wealth or profit.
“Happiness is not enough to sum up my emotions,” said Cambodia’s minister of culture and fine arts, Phoeurng Sackona. “It’s a magical feeling to know they are coming back.”
The Cambodian government never accused him of illicit ownership and in fact showered him with honors each time he donated an item, as he did multiple times over the years. In 2008, for example, he was awarded the Grand Cross of the Royal Order of Monisaraphon, the equivalent of a knighthood, for “his unique contribution to scholarship and understanding of Khmer culture.”
Cambodian officials said the newly donated items would be carried at the museum as “The Latchford Collection.”
Mr. Latchford also made gifts to many American museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, which in 2012 returned two massive items, known as the “Kneeling Attendants,” to Cambodia after determining they had been looted. Mr. Latchford had donated parts of the statues, which had been broken, to the museum, though he was never accused of any wrongdoing.
But events like that helped to buttress concerns that Mr. Latchford’s collecting methods during the years of Cambodia’s civil war (approximately 1965 to 1979) were dubious. In 2019, federal prosecutors in New York charged him with trafficking in looted Cambodian relics and falsifying documents, and said he had “built a career out of the smuggling and illicit sale of priceless Cambodian antiquities, often straight from archaeological sites.”
- Late antique collector’s family to return ancient artefacts | Khmer Times, 1 Feb 2021
- Ancient statues to be returned to Kingdom | Phnom Penh Post, 1 Feb 2021
- U.S. family of late antiques collector returns over 100 ancient objects to Cambodia | Xinhua, 30 January 2021
- The Daughter of a Collector Charged With Trafficking Looted Antiquities Has Returned Her Father’s $50 Million Hoard to Cambodia | ArtNet News, 01 Feb 2021
- Restitution d’antiquités khmères pour une valeur de 50 millions de $ | Le Petit Journal, 02 Feb 2021
- Collection of Antiquities Dealer Accused of Looting Will Return to Cambodia | Smithsonian, 02 Feb 2021
- $50m worth of ancient Cambodian artefacts to be returned following death of controversial art dealer | The Telegraph, 03 Feb 2021