The DA’s Manhattan office recently seized antiquities from the Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met) for repatriation.
While the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office has carried out several raids on the Met this year, this was the largest yet (although the exact number has not been disclosed). Artifacts recovered include the head of a marble statue of the Greek goddess Athena, dating from 200 BCE. Two other Greek statues, of the Castor and Pollux brothers, were also seized. Another warrant to recover a 6th century sculpture of a Hindu deity from India has been obtained.
The Met has a standard policy on repatriation which has been in place for many years. According to her, countries that want objects to be repatriated must make a formal request, as well as prove beyond any doubt that the objects were indeed stolen from them. However, in recent years, repatriation has become a hot topic in the arts community. A consensus has formed that museums should come forward and repatriate objects from their collection that do not have a proper provenance.
The New York Bureau of Antiquities, which carried out the raid, was established in 2017 to combat trafficking in antiques. One of the main objectives of the unit has been to recover cultural objects from other countries that do not have a proper provenance and bring them home. The unit has raided the Met several times before, as early as 2017 shortly after its formation when they recovered a 2300 year old vase.
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This year alone they have carried out six raids on the museum. The most recent in July brought in antiques worth $11 million. However, his actions have not been without criticism. Some have accused the unit of confiscating insignificant works of art to inflate their numbers and make a publicity stunt.