That $2-3m Khmer statue that Sotheby’s pulled from its Asia Week sales in March is set to be impounded by Federal agents today, according to the New York Times. Sotheby’s says it was unaware that the work—offered by a Belgian collector—was disputed:
But in a series of internal e-mail exchanges obtained by investigators and included in the federal complaint filed Wednesday in United States District Court in New York, at least one Sotheby’s officer is depicted as having been told in 2010 by a scholar in Cambodian art that Cambodian officials considered the statue a looted artifact.
Cambodia initially tried to negotiate a private deal with Sotheby’s in which a Hungarian collector of Khmer art would buy the antiquity for $1 million and present it to Cambodia as a good-will gesture. Those discussions languished before Cambodia, emboldened by its rediscovery of colonial-era anti-looting laws in its archives, turned to American officials for redress.
The Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement branch then built its case based on a series of Cambodian patrimony laws from the early 20th century.
Officials Are Set to Seize Antiquity (New York Times)