News

    US Government, Sotheby's Battle Over Ancient Khmer Warrior Statue

    Carolyn Weaver

    A federal judge in New York says that a 10th century Cambodian statue will remain in the custody of Sotheby's auction house while a dispute over its ownership plays out in court.  U.S. District Judge George Daniels says that because all parties agree that the statue is safely housed in a Sotheby's warehouse, it should not be subjected to the risk of being moved unnecessarily.

    U.S. prosecutors and the Cambodian government say the 1,000-year-old sandstone statue, depicting a warrior in the Hindu saga The Mahabharata, was looted from the temple of Prasat Chen in the 1960s or 1970s and should be repatriated.  The feet of the statue remain at the temple at Koh Ker, which was briefly the capital of ancient Cambodia.

    In a civil complaint, federal prosecutors said that Sotheby's knew the statue had been stolen when it offered it for auction last year on behalf of a Belgian client who had bought it in 1975, the first time it was sold publicly.  The U.S. filing reads like a magazine story, quoting at length from email exchanged between a Cambodian art expert and Sotheby's.

    "According to the forfeiture complaint, Sotheby's was told by the very expert they hired to authenticate and appraise the piece, that it was, quote, 'definitely stolen,'" said Tess Davis, an antiquities lawyer who is advising the Cambodian government.  "And the same scholar actually urged them to consider donating it back to the national Museum of Phnom Penh to, quote, 'save everyone some embarrassment.'"

    In a later email, however, the scholar wrote Sotheby's that it did not appear that Cambodia was requesting the return of all looted artifacts owned by foreign individuals and museums, saying "[I] think that legally and ethically you can happily sell the piece."  Sotheby's subsequently featured the statue on its catalog cover.  It was expected to sell for up to $3 million.

    Peter Neiman, an attorney representing Sotheby's, said the statue was purchased legally by the Belgian collector.  "We vigorously dispute the government's allegations," he said after the hearing.  "Sotheby's acted in good faith and compliance with the law at all times here, and we expect the evidence is going to show that this is not stolen property, that it belonged to the consignor, and Sotheby's acted perfectly appropriately in consigning it for sale."

    In a statement, Sotheby's added that the statue might have been missing from its site for as long as 1,000 years.  It said that "condemning a public sale process inevitably drives those owners of antiquities toward private transactions, an outcome deeply disadvantageous to any and all who claim to be on the side of sensitive and careful handling of this material."

    Davis, however, said that much of Cambodia's ancient art was looted during the upheaval surrounding Cambodia's civil war, and sold to foreign collectors and museums.  "I doubt that anyone who has been working in the field of cultural heritage preservation is very surprised by this court proceeding," she said.

    The statue, known as the Duryodhana, stood facing another warrior figure, the Bhima, whose feet also remain at the Koh Ker temple site.  Davis said challenges to the ownership of that figure, now in the collection of the Norton-Simon Museum in California, might also be raised.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora