The Rubin Museum will return Nepalese relics that would have been stolen.

The Rubin Art Museum on Monday said it would return two sculptures to Nepal after researchers working for the museum concluded that smu...


The Rubin Art Museum on Monday said it would return two sculptures to Nepal after researchers working for the museum concluded that smugglers stole the wooden carved artifacts from religious sites.

“We are deeply grateful,” Nepal Acting Consul General Bishnu Prasad Gautam said in a statement. “Rubin’s proactive response and thoughtful collaboration have positively contributed to Nepal’s national efforts to recover the lost artifacts.”

The museum has credited a nonprofit organization called the Nepalese heritage recovery campaign for playing a role in the repatriation by drawing attention to questions about the history of the objects. In September, a Twitter account affiliated with the relaunch campaign had job fear that the wooden relics were stolen

The recovery campaign was instrumental in the return of at least seven relics last year from cultural institutions, including the Metropolitan Art Museum and the Dallas Museum of Art.

The Rubin Museum said in its statement that these two relics were the first items in its collection to have been obtained illegally. For the past five years, the institution has been carrying out a comprehensive review of its artifacts, which involves filling the knowledge gaps on provenance documents.

“We have a permanent duty to carefully research the art and objects that we collect and exhibit. The theft of archaeological objects continues to be a major concern in the art world, ”Jorrit Britschgi, executive director of the museum, said in the statement. “We believe it is our responsibility to address and resolve cultural property issues, including helping to facilitate the return of the two objects in question.”

A relic is the top part of a 17th-century wooden torana (an ornamental gateway in Buddhist and Hindu architecture) from a temple complex in Patan called the Yampi Mahavihara. Another is a 14th century sculpture of an apsara wearing a garland (a female spirit of clouds and waters), which was originally part of an ornamental window decoration in the Itum Bahal monastery in Kathmandu.

Researchers working for the museum discovered that the garland disappeared from the monastery in 1999, four years before it was purchased by the Shelley and Donald Rubin Cultural Trust, which represents the founders of the Rubin Museum. Sandrine Milet, spokesperson for the museum, said the two artifacts were purchased at private sales, but declined to name the merchants, saying they wished to remain anonymous.

The Nepalese Department of Archeology will determine whether the objects are returned to their original sites or to a national museum. In December, government officials returned a sculpture of the Hindu goddess Lakshmi-Narayan on the pedestal of her temple in Patan after the Dallas Museum of Art returned it. During celebration procession, participants reached out to touch the artifact, which is believed to be a living god, bringing their fingers to their foreheads to impart a blessing.

Roshan Mishra, director of the Taragaon Museum in Kathmandu, hopes that a similar ceremony will welcome the items returning from the Rubin Museum. He helped the Nepal Heritage Recovery Campaign to publicize efforts to get the wooden relics back.

“I am so happy,” Mishra said in an interview. “If museums like the Rubin actively repatriate their artifacts, I think it will be easier for other museums to follow their example.”



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Newsrust - US Top News: The Rubin Museum will return Nepalese relics that would have been stolen.
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