Yemen Is Getting Back Two Sculptures From the Met

Yemen Is Getting Back the Third Millennium BCE Historic Stone Sculptures From the Met, But the Artifacts Will Remain on Loan.

Sep 22, 2023By Angela Davic, News, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and Analysis
US Art and Culture
The Metropolitan Museum of Art.


Yemen is getting back two marble statues from The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Even though Yemen is taking control of the ownership, the artifacts will still remain on loan at the Met. Everything started when the museum established its research team of four people, whose goal was to determine the provenance of some pieces. Especially ones who lack ownership data.


Artifacts at the Met Until Yemen Wants Them Back

Marcel Breuer interior, yemen
Marcel Breuer interior at the Met. Via archive


The statues in question are the rectangle-shaped marble block and the upright woman. The institution announced the ownership changes when its experts conducted an origin study to determine where they came from. In 1999, the museum obtained a sandstone-standing female statue donning an anklet and a pendant, according to a press statement. But, the other piece the museum received as a gift.


This also occurred in the same year. Researchers from the Met determined that the objects originated in 1984 close to the Yemeni city of Ma’rib. The Republic of Yemen had authority over them. “Due to the current situation in Yemen, it is not the appropriate time to return these artifacts back to our homeland”, Mohammed Al-Hadhrami, the ambassador of the Republic of Yemen to the United States, said in a press statement.


stone statue, yemen
The sandstone statue was purchased by the museum in 1998. COURTESY OF THE METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART


The two stone antiquities are being looked after and displayed by the museum within a guardian arrangement until Yemen demands their return. This agreement is comparable to the one Yemen inked previously this year with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art.

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A Historic Partnership

hero archetypes greek theater masks
Terracotta theatrical masks, 1st century BCE. Source: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York


This functioned as a model, and so did the agreement for four anciently engraved memorial monuments with the Victoria & Albert in London. On Friday, an occasion for signing the custody commitment will occur with the participation of the Met’s director and CEO Max Hollein, Ambassador Mohammed Al-Hadhrami, and U.S. Special Envoy Tim Lenderking. Hollein said the partnership between the museum and the Republic of Yemen was “historic”.


“These compelling objects offer an important opportunity to present Yemeni culture—in dialogue with our collection of 5,000 years of art history—to The Met’s audiences. We are grateful to have established such a collegial and sincere commitment to spotlighting these important works and look forward to working with the large Yemeni-American community in New York City to host a celebration of our new collaboration later this fall”, he said.


boccioni unique forms sculpture bronze
Unique Forms of Continuity in Space by Umberto Boccioni, 1913, via The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York


Additionally, the action comes after a long time of increasing inspection of the museum’s holdings and numerous arrests by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office, which led to returning to nations like Nepal, Greece, Italy, Egypt, and Nigeria. Other incidents include allegations made by Native American groups that a Mayan throne was illegally transported for display, as well as a probe that revealed more than a thousand objects were connected to antiquities smuggling.

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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.