Cambodia Seeks Return of Statue Cut from Koh Ker Temple

Posted on March 8, 2012


Cambodia is negotiating with Sotheby’s for the return of a 1,000-year-old statute reportedly smuggled out of Cambodia 40 years ago. The sandstone statue stands five feet high and depicts a mythical warrior with an intricate headdress, and is valued at $3 million. Archaeologists have matched the statue to its pedestal in a temple in Koh Ker, Cambodia, from where is was looted.

In the months before the scheduled March 24, 2011, auction, Sotheby’s alerted Cambodia of the sale. Sotheby’s received a letter from Cambodia via UNESCO on March 23, 2011, demanding a freeze on the auction and a return of the statue.

Jane Levine, senior vice president and worldwide compliance director for Sotheby’s, states “Cambodia did not allege that the statue constituted stolen property, did not identify any basis to contest the owner’s title to the property and did not allege that it would be unlawful for Sotheby’s to sell the statue or that Cambodia owned the statue.” The auction house described the seller of the statue as a European collector who purchased the statue in 1975 from a London dealer, before the 1993 Cambodian law banning the removal of cultural artifacts without government permission.

Cambodia is currently working to find someone willing to purchase the statue and donate it back to Cambodia.

Read the full article NYC auction house Sotheby’s attempting to negotiate return of ancient statue to Cambodia.

Thanks to Kristina Bauer for her assistance with this post.