The Metropolitan Artifacts Linked to Looting and Trafficking

The Metropolitan Accused of Holding More Than 1,000 Antiquities Linked to Looting and Traffickers, a New ICIJ Investigation Shows.

Mar 21, 2023By Angela Davic, News, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and Analysis
US Art and Culture
The Metropolitan Museum of Art


The Metropolitan could have a huge connection to art traffickers. The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists studied more than 1,000 artifacts placed in the museum. Journalists think the Metropolitan possesses many looted artifacts. Overall, this data is not new. For several months, the Met has been in the spotlight when it comes to stolen artifacts.


The Metropolitan Reputation Is Eroding

The Metropolitan
The Metropolitan Museum of Art


The museum is one of the largest and most famous museums in the world. But lately, the museum has been losing influence in terms of antiquities, and the validity of their provenance. Journalist organization ICIJ has been studying this issue for a long time. The largest number of artifacts comes from Cambodia.


This research is not at all naive. The question is whether New York’s art center really deserves to be one. Also, the question arises of the origin of all the works of art in the museum. Of the 1,109 stolen artifacts, 309 are on display in the museum. There is also an artifact from Nepal that was important to local residents.


The Metropolitan
The Met


Among the artifacts is a statue of Shreedhar Vishnu, the Hindu protector god. It comes from the village of Bungmati, Nepal. Pregnant women in pain came for help, so that they would be safe and the child healthy. Suddenly, the tradition stopped. In the early 1980s, thieves removed the 20-inch statue. “We kept hoping the statue would be restored, but it never was”, a man named Buddha Ratna Tuladhar. What happened to this statue?

Lost Statue Identified Through Anonymous FB Profile

greek roman gallery met museum
Greek and Roman Art Gallery View, via Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York


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The statue traveled halfway around the world. It could finally be traced a decade after its theft. A wealthy American patron gifted the statue to the renowned Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. It remained in the museum for 3 decades, until an anonymous Facebook account called the Lost Arts of Nepal identified it. Although the museum removed the statue from its collection, the damage to Nepal’s citizens has already been done.

The statue was an important part of the religious festival in Nepal. Once the artifacts are stolen, the festivals stop. “Each stolen statue erodes our culture. Our traditions fade and are eventually forgotten”, said Roshan Mishra, a volunteer with the Nepal Heritage Recovery Campaign. This is not the only example. The Metropolitan Museum has a connection with many shady personalities in the art world.


met museum steps
The Metropolitan Museum of Art Façade on 5th Avenue photographed by Spencer Platt, 2018, via the New Yorker


There are 77 or more artifacts connected to Subhash Kapoor. He got a 10 year prison sentence by an Indian court for antiquity trafficking. Also, Jonathan Rosen once possessed around 800 artifacts that are now in the museum’s collection. He is a part of the Italian antiquity trafficking case from 1997. This is not all, there are many more names. The information has come to light, and now it remains to be seen how the Metropolitan will react.

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By Angela DavicNews, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and AnalysisAngela is a journalism student at the Faculty of Political Science in Belgrade and received a scholarship for continued education in Prague. She completed her internship at the daily newspaper DANAS and worked as an executive editor at Talas.