The Metropolitan Museum of Art has had to return 27 ancient artifacts worth over $13 million after New York investigators claimed that the items were looted.
According toThe New York Times, the objects were taken from Italy and Egypt. The museum acquired eight of those items from gallery owner Gianfranco Becchina, who was accused of illicit dealings by the Italian government in 2001. However, The Met collected those pieces before those allegations came to light.
“The norms of collecting have changed significantly in recent decades and The Met’s policies and procedures in this regard have been under constant review over the past 20 years,” the museum said in a statement. “Each of these objects has unique and complex circumstances, and with all, The Metropolitan Museum of Art has been fully supportive of the Manhattan district attorney’s office investigations.”
Six of the artifacts will be returned to Egypt and 21 to Italy, which are the countries of origin. The objects were seized over a period of six months, as officials are making a push to return relics to the countries from which they were stolen.
The six Egyptian relics are valued at $3.2 million, while the Italian items are worth $10 million. Experts believe that once accusations against Becchina were made public, The Met should have done its due diligence and looked over the provenance of antiquities acquired from Becchina’s Galerie Antike Kunst Palladion in Basel, Switzerland. Greece also previously convicted Becchina of accepting stolen antiquities, though the charges were thrown out due to statute of limitations.
“The museum is a leader in the field in comprehensively reviewing individual matters and it has returned many pieces based upon thorough review and research—oftentimes in partnership with law enforcement and outside experts,” The Met said.
According to the museum, it only found out more information about the Italian objects in its possession via district attorney investigators, who also told them that some of their Egyptian objects had false documentation.
“The investigations conducted by my office have clearly exposed these networks,” Manhattan district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg said, “and put into the public domain a wealth of information the art world can proactively use to return antiquities to where they rightfully belong.”