San Francisco returns disputed religious artifacts to Thailand
The stone lintels had been kept at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco since the 1960s. But the city officially handed over the artifacts to Thai officials in a ceremony in Los Angeles on Tuesday.
Thai dancers perform at a ceremony in Los Angeles marking the return of the items. Credit: Ashley Landis / AP
The deputy director of the Museum of Asian Art, Robert Mintz, also welcomed the repatriation of the objects.
“In general, we are very happy to know that these items are returning to Thailand, where we have long believed they belong,” he said in a telephone interview. “So we support this and we are delighted that they have taken this final step.”
The lintels came from temple sites in northeastern Thailand. Credit: Kevin candland
Mintz added that Brundage donated one of the lintels and “facilitated the purchase” of the second. “At that time … it was assumed that the dealers had legitimately acquired them from dealers in Southeast Asia,” he said.
However, Mintz added that museum researchers were unable to find copies of the export documents that could prove that the Thai government authorized the export of the lintels.
“Because the dealers who sold these works to Mr. Brundage are no longer alive, we will never be able to determine whether these documents ever existed,” he said. “Certainly we can say that we don’t have them. So as a result, we … say that these objects really belong to the communities from which they came.”
Thai and US officials attended the ceremony on Tuesday. Credit: Ashley Landis / AP
Announcing the settlement in February, Tatum King of Homeland Security Investigations, who conducted the investigation, said in a statement that “the success of this investigation helps restore Thailand’s cultural heritage for the appreciation and study of this generation and future generations.
“The theft and trafficking of cultural objects is a tradition as old as the cultures they represent,” he added.
Mintz said the Asian Art Museum has stepped up efforts to determine whether its collection contains any illegally acquired artifacts.
He added that curatorial staff have started to “systematically investigate” his collection, “to ensure that we have as complete an understanding as possible of the provenance of each object – and to identify which objects have gaps in their collection. their provenance. “