Denver Art Museum Returns Looted 10th-Century Cambodian Statue

The statue had been in Denver's collection since 1986.

A Cambodian woman places a garland around a 10th-century sandstone sculpture of the Hindu god Rama after it was returned from the Denver Art Museum in the US during a ceremony at the Council of Ministers in Phnom Penh on March 28, 2016. The 62-inch-tall torso, which was stolen in the 1970s from the Koh Ker temple site near the famed Angkor Wat complex, was handed over by the museum, which had possession since 1986. Photo: Tang Chhin Sothy/AFP/Getty Images.
A Cambodian woman places a garland around a 10th-century sandstone sculpture of the Hindu god Rama after it was returned from the Denver Art Museum in the US during a ceremony at the Council of Ministers in Phnom Penh on March 28, 2016. The 62-inch-tall torso, which was stolen in the 1970s from the Koh Ker temple site near the famed Angkor Wat complex, was handed over by the museum, which had possession since 1986.
Photo: Tang Chhin Sothy/AFP/Getty Images.

A massive sandstone sculpture of the Hindu god Rama has been returned to Cambodia by the Denver Art Museum (DAM), reports the Denver Post. It will be returned to its original home at the Prasat Chen temple at the Koh Ker complex.

The 10th-century statue, which is missing its head, arms, and feet, was shipped back last month, and its return was celebrated with a ceremony in the capital, Phnom Penh, on March 28.

In a statement, Chan Thani, Cambodia’s secretary of state, thanked the museum for voluntarily returning the statue, saying “the return also highlights the serious looting in the past that had occurred in our country and the government’s efforts to repatriate those artifacts that left the country illegally, which are parts of our soul as a nation.”

A 10th-century sandstone sculpture of the Hindu god Rama after it was returned from the Denver Art Museum in the US during a ceremony at the Council of Ministers in Phnom Penh on March 28, 2016. <br>Photo: Tang Chhin Sothy/AFP/Getty Images.

A 10th-century sandstone sculpture of the Hindu god Rama after it was returned from the Denver Art Museum in the US during a ceremony at the Council of Ministers in Phnom Penh on March 28, 2016.
Photo: Tang Chhin Sothy/AFP/Getty Images.

“We never expected that any of the stolen statues would be returned, so we are grateful that another one has come back to Cambodia,” Kong Virak, director of the National Museum of Cambodia in Phnom Penh, told Cambodia Daily.

The Denver Art Museum acquired the piece in 1986 from New York’s Doris Wiener Gallery, reportedly unaware that it was one of many artworks looted during the Cambodian civil war.

The Rama statue the Denver Art Museum has returned to Cambodia. <br>Photo: courtesy the Denver Art Museum.

The Rama statue the Denver Art Museum has returned to Cambodia.
Photo: courtesy the Denver Art Museum.

“We were recently provided with verifiable evidence that was not available to us at the time of acquisition, and immediately began taking all appropriate steps … for [the statue’s] return home,” said DAM director Christoph Heinrich in a joint statement released with the Cambodian government in February.

In 2015, also citing new evidence, the Cleveland Museum of Art returned Hanuman, a 10th-century statue, also from Koh Ker. The institution had previously maintained there was no physical evidence indicating the statue had been looted. Cambodian sculptures have also been repatriated in recent years by New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, Sotheby’s, Christie’s, and the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, California.


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