UNITED STATES, December 12, 2013 (New York Times): An ancient statue of a Hindu warrior, pulled from auction two years ago because of assertions that it had been looted from a temple deep in the jungles of Cambodia, will be returned to that country under an agreement signed on Thursday by Sotheby's, its client and federal officials.
The accord ends a long bare-knuckled court battle over the Khmer treasure, a 10th-century statue valued at more than $2 million. The Belgian woman who had consigned it for sale in 2011 will receive no compensation for the statue from Cambodia, and Sotheby's has expressed a willingness to pick up the cost of shipping the 500-pound sandstone antiquity to that country within the next 90 days.
At the same time, lawyers from the United States Attorney's Office in Manhattan who had been pursuing the statue on Cambodia's behalf agreed to withdraw allegations that the auction house and the consignor knew of the statue's disputed provenance before importing it for sale.
The case has placed a renewed focus on Cambodian sculptures from the Koh Ker region, a once-thriving Khmer metropolis, in American museum collections. Earlier this year the Metropolitan Museum of Art returned two statues that had been prominently displayed in its Southeast Asia gallery after federal investigators showed the museum evidence that the statues, known as the Kneeling Attendants, had probably been illicitly removed from the same temple setting as the statue in the Sotheby's dispute, known as the Duryodhana.