Christie’s auction house and the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena announced plans last month to return two ancient Khmer sculptures to Cambodia, adding momentum to the Cambodian government’s quest to reunite seven works that it claims were looted from a remote temple during the country’s civil war. The development has “broken the dam”, says Helen Jessup, an art historian and the founder of the group Friends of Khmer Culture.
Five sculptures have been returned over the past year. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York repatriated two “Kneeling Attendants” in May 2013. Last December, Sotheby’s and a Belgian collector returned a sandstone warrior after a two-year legal battle.
On 6 May, the Pasadena museum agreed to return the “Temple Wrestler” as a gift in exchange for periodic loans from Cambodia. The same day, Christie’s pledged to repatriate a Khmer sculpture that it sold for $146,500 in 2009 and bought back earlier this year.
All eyes are now on the Denver Art Museum and the Cleveland Museum of Art, where Cambodian officials believe the final two missing works are located.
Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Eyes on Denver and Cleveland'