Report Shows Met Holds 1,000+ Antiquities Connected to Trafficking

A new investigation conducted by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) in collaboration with the UK-based nonprofit Finance Uncovered has revealed that New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art possesses more than one thousand objects linked to individuals “either indicted or convicted of antiquities crimes.” The organization’s report, published March 20, focused on the provenance of the Met’s antiquities collection, and on its continuing to acquire historic cultural artifacts despite the introduction in numerous countries of laws banning their export. “In the antiquities trade,” wrote the report’s authors, “the Met’s reputation has begun to erode.”

“The Met sets the tone for museums around the world,” Tess Davis, executive director of the Antiquities Coalition, which aims to halt the trafficking of cultural artifacts, told the ICIJ. “If the Met is letting all of these things fall through the cracks, what hope do we have for the rest of the art market?”

Investigators found 1,109 relics in the museum’s collection that are connected trafficking, nearly a third of which are currently on view. Less than half of the objects are accompanied by records detailing how they came to arrive in New York. Among these are antiquities from countries where the export of such items has long been strictly forbidden. Museum records confirm that some objects were transported to the US even after the guidelines were place. The investigation placed the museum’s collection of Nepali and Kashmiri antiquities under special scrutiny “because Nepal and Kashmir have experienced heavy looting that received relatively little international news coverage.” Of the more than 250 objects from these regions named in the museum’s catalog, only three were accompanied by records limning their provenance.

“The Met is committed to the responsible collecting of art and goes to great lengths to ensure that all works entering the collection meet the laws and strict policies in place at the time of acquisition,” said Met spokesperson Kenneth Weine. “Additionally, as laws and guidelines on collecting have changed over time, so have the Museum’s policies and procedures. The Met also continually researches the history of works in the collection—often in collaboration with colleagues in countries around the world—and has a long track record of acting on new information as appropriate.”


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