National Gallery of Australia Will Return Three Bronze Sculptures to Cambodia Sold by Dealer Douglas Latchford

The National Gallery of Australia will repatriate three bronze sculptures to Cambodia after a decade-long investigation into items connected to the late art and antiquities dealer Douglas A.J. Latchford.

The works of art being repatriated are Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara Padmapani, Bodhisattva Vajrapani, and Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara Padmapani. They date from the 9th and 10th centuries and are from the Cham Kingdom. The museum purchased them in 2011 for $1.5 million from Latchford, who died in 2020.

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In 2021, the sculptures were removed from the museum’s collection due to the likelihood they were illegally exported. A handover ceremony took place at the National Gallery on July 28. After consultations with Cambodian officials, the sculptures are scheduled to remain on display at the museum for up to three years, while the Cambodian government prepares a new home for them in the capital of Phnom Penh.

“This loan agreement signals a new era of collaborative decision-making for the National Gallery,” museum director Nick Mitzevich said in a press statement. “We are grateful for the opportunity and look forward to working with the Kingdom of Cambodia to return the works when they are ready.”

“This is an historic occasion and an important step towards rectifying past injustices, reinforcing the value of cultural properties, and acknowledging the importance of preserving and protecting cultural heritage,” Cambodian ambassador Dr. Chanborey Cheunboran said in a press statement. “The display and care of the sculptures at the National Gallery and their eventual repatriation highlight the power of international cooperation and more importantly signify a strong Cambodia-Australia cultural link, which is a cornerstone of our bilateral ties.”

Mitzevich said the decision to repatriate the sculptures to Cambodia was “the culmination of years of research and due diligence” through the support of the Cambodian government’s Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts; Bradley Gordon and the researchers at Edenbridge Asia; and Nawapan Kriangsak, daughter of Latchford, through her adviser Charles Webb, of the consultancy firm Hanuman Partners. “We are grateful for their support in identifying the place of origin of these culturally significant sculptures and are pleased we can now return them to their rightful home.”

The National Gallery of Australia’s return comes amid a slew of activity by Cambodian government officials that has led to dozens of artifacts being given back to the country.

In 2019, Latchford was indicted by officials in New York for selling objects with false provenances. While he denied wrongdoing at the time, the indictment was dropped after Latchford’s death in August 2020. In 2021, leaked documents from the Pandora Papers revealed that Latchford had used offshore trusts to keep information about the objects he was peddling out of public view.

In 2022, Netscape cofounder James H. Clark Earlier surrendered dozens of Cambodian artifacts he bought from Latchford for $35 million, and the US District Attorney’s Office sent back 30 artifacts that were allegedly stolen by Latchford. This past February, 77 gold relics linked to Cambodia royalty were returned to the country. And in June, Latchford’s estate has agreed to hand over $12 million and a Vietnamese bronze statue to settle a civil lawsuit brought by the US government.

Last year, Cambodia also urged UK officials to investigate the British Museum and the Victoria & Albert Museum for possibly holding stolen artifacts obtained by Latchford.


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