Met Museum Accused of Holding More Than 1,000 Antiquities Linked to Traffickers

The Met possesses more than 1,000 works which were likely looted from countries across the globe, according to a new ICIJ investigation.

Entrance of the Met museum
New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. John Nacion/NurPhoto via Getty Images

More than 1,000 works in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s catalogue are linked to convicted or indicted art traffickers, according to a new report from the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).

The museum’s practices surrounding looted and trafficked antiquities have been under a spotlight in recent months. Earlier this week, it was reported that the Met owns at least 77 antiquities linked to Subhash Kapoor, who was convicted of antiquity trafficking in November and given a 10-year prison sentence by an Indian court. And in August, Cambodian authorities revealed the Met possessed¬† more than a dozen looted works from the late art dealer Douglas Latchford, who was indicted for art trafficking in 2019.

Of the 1,109 works in the museum’s collection with looting ties, only 309 are on display, according to the ICIJ report, while less than half have any records explaining how the antiquities first left their original countries.¬†And more than 150 additional works possessed by the Met were at one point owned by people or galleries from whom antiquities were previously seized by prosecutors, according to ICIJ.

Gaps in provenance

More than 20 pieces possessed by the Met come from Robert Hecht, an antiquities dealer who was charged with smuggling by Italian authorities in both 1959 and 1961. Meanwhile, 800 of the pieces were once owned by Jonathan Rosen, Hecht’s business partner who co-owned Manhattan art gallery Atlantis Antiquities and was charged alongside Hecht in a 1997 Italian antiquity trafficking case, according to the report. A representative for Rosen told ICIJ he was in poor health and unable to comment on the report.

Hundreds of other antiquities in the Met’s collection come from Nepal or Kashmir, with only three out of 250 works accompanied by records on how they left their country of origin. The late antiquity dealer Samuel Eilenberg was cited as the provenance for 15 percent of the Nepalese pieces and 31 percent of the Kashmiri pieces, according to ICIJ, which added that Eilenberg was never accused of antiquity crimes but often worked alongside Rosen.

The Met did not respond to requests for comment. Met Museum Accused of Holding More Than 1,000 Antiquities Linked to Traffickers