The Metropolitan Museum of Art has returned two artifacts to Nepal amid a push by activists in the country to get back culture heritage that is believed to be stolen.
The two objects returned were a 13th-century carved wooden temple strut depicting a salabhinka, a spirit figure that often adorns temple walls, and a stone sculpture depicting the god Shiva in a carved niche that references Mount Kailash in the Himalayas. Both were given to Nepalese government officials this week, although plans to give back the temple strut had been announced in 2021.
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When the Met announced that it would return the temple strut, the museum alluded to gaps in the object’s provenance. The Met did not specify why it was returning the Shiva sculpture.
According to a statement published by the museum on Tuesday, the works were both gifted to the Met three decades ago. The temple strut entered the collection in 1991 and originated from a Buddhist temple in the central Nepali region of Kathmandu; the sculpture depicting Lord Shiva was given to the Met in 1995.
The return of the two objects came after an internal investigation. The pieces had been previously identified by restitution advocacy groups like Lost Arts of Nepal and Chasing Aphrodite. Both artifacts are now expected to be displayed by the National Museum of Nepal in Kathmandu, the Met said.
Often, in restitutions cases, museums emphasize alliances made with officials of foreign governments in order to carry them out. In a statement, the Met said the latest repatriation is another step in “honoring the long-standing relationship we have fostered with scholarly institutions and colleagues in Nepal, and signaling an ongoing dedication to continuing the ongoing and open dialogue between us.”
“The Consulate looks forward to working closely with the Museum to preserve and promote art and culture in the future,” said Bishnu Prasad Gautam, Nepal’s acting general consul, in a statement.
Institutions like the Rubin Museum of Art and the Dallas Museum of Art have also returned objects from Nepal in their collections to in the past year. Much of the push to bring looted artifacts back to the country is being led by cultural activists within Nepal.