OHIO, U.S., May 16, 2013 (Cleveland.com): The Cleveland Museum of Art, like other major American art museums, is facing a rising tide of inquiries from countries rich in archaeological heritage over works in its permanent collection that may have been looted. Cambodia is the latest country to come forward with such claims.
The New York Times on Wednesday reported that Cambodian officials say a statue of the kneeling Hindu monkey God Hanuman, a much-beloved work in the Cleveland collection since 1982, was looted from Prasat Chen, a 1,000-year-old temple at the Koh Ker archaeological site about 15 miles south of the border of Thailand.
The article cited unnamed experts who said thieves hauled sculptures from Prasat Chen via oxcart over jungle trails across the border during a 20-year civil war that started in 1970.
The article also stated that Cambodian authorities said they plan to contact the Cleveland museum and the Denver Art Museum concerning works said to be from Prasat Chen. The Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, Calif., is already cooperating with federal authorities on inquiries related to Prasat Chen, the article said.
In a written statement sent to The Plain Dealer late Wednesday, museum Director David Franklin said: "The museum can confirm that it has not been approached with any information of the type mentioned in the article. Beyond this, it is the museum's policy not to discuss publicly the substance of these types of inquiries about objects in the museum's collection unless and until there is a definitive resolution."
The Times article said that Cambodian officials have been encouraged in their quest to recover looted art by the recent decision of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York to return two stolen statues.