The Met continues to return objects from its collections

…and it’s a good thing. Read more here.

“Gilded Coffin of the Priest Nedjemankh,” Late Ptolemaic Period (150-50 BCE) cartonnage, gold, silver, resin, glass, wood (image courtesy the Metropolitan Museum of Art)

22 thoughts on “The Met continues to return objects from its collections

  1. Madeline Hite

    Until I began taking this class I never thought about how a significant portion of art in museums may be looted. I especially didn’t expect to read that art from Egypt (amongst other countries) was being stolen and successfully sold to the MET as recent as 2011. I think it’s shocking that facilities dedicated to educating the public arent thoroughly checking paperwork to avoid forgeries and in some cases refusing to return the art to its nation of origin even after discovering the corrupt conditions of how they acquired the object.

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  2. Maddie Almand

    I remember the issue of looting being addressed in Atlantis: The Lost Empire, an early 2000s Disney film when the villain tried rationalizing with the protagonist by saying “if you returned every stolen artifact from a museum you’d be left with an empty building.”, but given that I was a child I didn’t fully understand what they were talking about. However, now that I’ve taken this and several other classes that involve this topic I’ve realized just how devastating looting can be and am shocked to find that it’s still a major issue. I think that the MET has the right mindset in that they should return looted items to their proper homes, but also agree that they should have been more attentive in preventing it from happening in the first place.

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  3. Mary Wells

    This class has opened my eyes to just how important it is that objects stay in their right locations. I personally am truly glad that the Met it setting an example and giving objects back to their rightful locations/owners. Similar to anything else mistakes are made because we are human, so I understand that paperwork may not have been checked as thoroughly as it needed to be. The importance lies in the responsibility the Met shows by understanding that mistakes are made and doing what is morally right. This just goes to show the timeline of history and the reality of the fact that items were often looted. This gives amazing detail into how certain items or characteristics were moved from area to area. Overall I found this article to be very informative, at the beginning of this class I wouldn’t have even thought twice about the information share but now I almost feel as if I am emotionally invested!

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  4. Meredith Pons

    Prior to taking this class I visited many art museums and never once did I think that any of the pieces or art were stolen and taken from where they belong. It is crazy that these ancient and expensive pieces of art are being sold successfully to the MET as of recently. I can’t fathom how such important artifacts are acquired and so freely passed around.

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  5. Kym Laver

    Displaying looted artifacts is of course unacceptable. Not only is it disgraceful to possess something that was stolen from its rightful home but it is also reckless and irresponsible to support such organizations that commit such thefts. In addition, I believe it to be regrettable that any foreign artifacts that were not gifted to a museum out of generosity should permanently reside outside their country of origin. Doing so profits off another country’s culture while depriving them of their own artifacts significant to their culture and potentially minimizes their tourism industry. In the age of technology, museums can include impressively life-like digital copies of foreign artifacts so that the artifacts themselves may stay in their country of origin but can be admired abroad.

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  6. Jacie Waltner

    I had never realized the effect that it had on communities and the art world when works are removed from their original location. It takes away from the culture of that area and from the culture of that piece of work. It would be a much better experience to see architecture from where it was originally, if you have the ability to travel the world. It is definitely good to bring art back to their home place instead of moving them when they are being excavated. I am glad they have decided to move this art back and restore its culture and meaning in its home place.

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  7. Katie Ragone

    I never understood the importance of ancient art needing to stay in the country where it was built. I have always loved art but have never had the time or money to travel all over and check out every art museum, so being able to see artwork that was created in Egypt and Italy in the United States was really nice. In my Art History class, however, I have learned that it is extremely important to keep ancient artworks in their rightful countries. This will limit the amount of damage to the pieces and the country can show off something from their past that they are proud of. The mistake that the MET made was something I found a little frustrating. But after further reading the article and learning that they are returning certain artworks and trying to make things right, puts me more at ease of the whole situation.

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  8. Garrett Zendek

    It is sad that some pieces of art are not in its rightful place due to looting. It’s surprising that forged paperwork is still somehow getting through museums, but it is good that they are starting to crack down on the problem. The fact that someone is willing to spend millions of dollars on something without legal documents baffles me.

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  9. Kayla Cunningham

    As someone concerned with social justice, I was already attuned to the problem of stolen art in museums, but I didn’t know much about how it is dealt with. For that reason, this article was an especially interesting read–Learning how such a large institution deals with the discovery of stolen art+forged provenance documents was enlightening. I think the MET’s position is commendable–but the comments from Leila Amineddoleh raise serious questions about the sincerity of their position. I agree that it’s important that they set an example for other institutions, and I agree that a review of their acquisitions program is absolutely necessary. Though, Amineddoleh points out that there are already guidelines in place for navigating this problem. Forged provenance documents are apparently commonplace, and the ‘red flags were there’. This seems to speak to the power dynamics which underpin this issue. What happens to stolen pieces from countries who aren’t able to fight for provenance as effectively?

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  10. Sarah Khalil

    I have never thought about the concept of stolen art until i read this article, and how devastating it can be. This issue can be a wake-up call for many ancient artifact museums, even the MET will take something out this experience as well. I think each artifact should not be removed from where it was originally found, as it can lose its originality, and to prevent the possible damages that can occur in the process of moving it to a different location. I hope in the near future, artifact museums will make a change and stop removing artifacts from their original location, because all artifacts deserve to be where it was originally found.

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  11. Ireland Licklider

    Before reading this article, I never had thought about how some art pieces I would view in a museum were stolen from their original countries. I believe the artworks would have a lot more meaning if they were in the original location they were found. I am glad that some artworks from the MET are being brought back to their rightful home.

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  12. Zachary Kennedy

    I’ve seen a lot of conversation lately pertaining to the objects on display at many national museums and galleries. Though this particular piece was sold to the met under false pretenses, many of the “legally” acquired artifacts have been contested as well. Repatriation of foreign artifacts to African and east Asian nations can help to restore the culture that was more or less stolen by European Imperialists.

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  13. Samantha

    This class helped open my eyes to the value that comes with every single piece of art. Each piece holds a lot of value, whether from wealth or just emotionally. It is crazy to think that these wonderful works of art is being passed around like they mean nothing. The art work deserves to be in its original location that it was found, that at least seems like the fair thing to do.

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  14. Caroline Pagano

    Before taking this class I had visited many art museums but never realized the importance of the background of each piece. I also never realized that these pieces were stolen from there original origins. When going to a museum you expect that each piece is true to its display but in many cases, this information has been forged or wrongfully stolen. The Met is extremely well known and it is crazy to think that ancient artifacts are being successfully sold to such a high standard art museum. Overall, I do not think many people realize how important art and its history truly is but this article causes attention to the importance of art and how it can be easily looted.

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  15. Jack Moore

    “Our museum must be a leader among our peers in the respect for cultural property and in the rigor and transparency of the policy and practices that we follow,” Max Hollein, the Met museum’s director, said in a written statement. “We will learn from this event — specifically I will be leading a review of our acquisitions program — to understand what more can be done to prevent such events in the future.” Hollein is personally the staple embodiment of how Museum’s should go about artifacts in terms of their origins and what is culturally ethical. For a country to seize something so dignifying to another’s history and borderline backbone to their culture, it is undeniably distasteful. I hope other Museums follow Hollein and the Met galla’s, standards. Return what is not yours.

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  16. Logan Welch

    Although this is art that is being moved further away from us, it is definitely not a bad thing. We may not be able to appreciate in in our country in person, but at least it will be were it rightfully belongs and appreciated by the people there. It is quite an honorable thing of the MET to do considering they most likely aren’t getting money for returning these items. It’s wonderful to see that art can bring us together and allow us to do things out of the kindness of our hearts rather than for money.

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  17. Clare Driscoll

    I think it is noble that the MET Museum has realized its fault in this situation. Unfortunately in the art world things such as looting and forging of papers do happen which causes priceless pieces of art to be misplaced and to fall into the wrong hands. And while it was the prize piece of the collection at the MET, true followers of art and people who really appreciate it will understand that it is only right for the art to be in the right country and the right hands.

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  18. Edward Donnellan

    I never realized that looting was a major problem in the art world until taking this class. Now that my eyes have been open, I am very troubled by this major problem. I am glad the Metropolitan Museum is returning the artifact. While it was a difficult choice it was the right choice.

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  19. Ada Laurer

    Before this class, I would visit museums and view art while also enjoying it. I never considered that the art was taken from somewhere else and placed where it does not belong. I have now become aware of this and how unfair it is to the people that put so much effort into creating this art and artifacts, only for them to be looted and sold to some large museum with no regard to the people that actually have the right to keep and display the art. The MET is taking steps in the right direction to return these items to their rightful owners.

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  20. Keelin Murphy

    Prior to this class, I have visited many museums all while enjoying the art pieces there. I have thought much about how these art pieces were not always in their original homes. It’s quite disappointing to learn that so many of these beautiful art pieces were passed around so freely or stolen from where they originated from. I feel that if these pieces were still in the place they originated they would have more meaning or value because they are in the place they were truly created. It’s nice to see the MET taking steps to get these items back to where they are truly from.

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  21. Fiona Nalepa

    This is a topic that I really love to talk about with other people. Popular museums in the western world, like the British Museum, should really begin to give back pieces of art that were taken from their home nations. An example that I like to bring up is the Parthenon marbles which are currently in the British museum. The current big museum in Athens is more than equipped to care for the marbles so there is no good reason that the British are still keeping them. This topic needs to be better addressed so Greece can get apart of their heritage back.

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  22. Josie Jerge

    Like a lot of other people have said, before this class, I never really thought about how museums acquired these artifacts and the implications it might have. I did find it interesting that the Met was “fooled by forged documentation given to the museum by a Parisian art dealer named Christophe Kunicki.” You would think there would be a lot of research put into a 3.5 million dollar deal and they wouldn’t be so easily fooled. That seems a little suspect to me especially considering they have had to return other items in the past as well.

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