The director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (Met) promised Thursday to return more works of art to countries victims of looting, the museum having decided to participate in the fight against international trafficking in antiquities including the megalopolis is a hub.
“You will see and hear from the Met not only more results of our research (on the provenance of the works) but above all more restitutions and collaborations with these countries,” declared Max Hollein during a meeting in his museum with foreign journalists. “We do not want to have in our collections the slightest object that came to us illegally,” committed this Austrian art historian, at the head since 2018 of one of the largest museums in the world. “There are cases where we are not the right owners,” admitted Mr. Hollein.
In recent years, the Met and other prestigious museums have agreed to return numerous pieces and works resulting from international art trafficking, particularly after thefts and looting between 1970 and 1990 in countries troubled by wars or revolutions. The New York State Prosecutor's Office for the borough of Manhattan has been leading a vigorous campaign to return works of art since 2017. Under the aegis of prosecutor Alvin Bragg, in office since 2022, more than 1,000 pieces of A value of 190 million dollars was returned to 19 countries, including Cambodia, China, India, Pakistan, Egypt, Iraq, Greece, Turkey and Italy.
In May, Max Hollein announced the creation of a commission of researchers to “examine” the “provenance” of certain pieces from the extraordinary collection of his museum (1.5 million works) in order, in the event of theft and pillage, to “return” them to the countries of origin. “We are increasing our investment in research into our collections and in terms of transparency on the origins of our objects,” the Met boss insisted on Thursday.
Recently, several pieces were seized by New York authorities from the Met or from private collectors in this capital of finance and the arts. For example, Shelby White, 85, billionaire administrator and benefactor of the Met, from whom 89 works of art of suspicious origin and with a total value of $69 million were seized in 2021 and 2022, according to the prosecutor's office. Manhattan.