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AC’s Tess Davis Featured in New ICIJ Met Investigation

March 22, 2023

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (the Met) is home to “1.5 million works of art spanning 5,000 years of culture around the globe.” The museum’s notable collection makes it uniquely responsible to lead the Western response to the illicit trade of art and antiquities, yet the Met’s reputation continues to erode.

A recent investigation from the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), Finance Uncovered, and other media partners uncovered new concerns about the provenance of the Met’s collection. Their findings revealed that at least 1,109 pieces in the museum’s catalog have close ties to individuals indicted or convicted of antiquities crimes, and 309 of these suspect artifacts remain on display.

One antiquities dealer identified in the report is Robert E. Hecht. The Met began acquiring objects from Hecht in the 1950s before Hecht was charged with antiquities smuggling in Italy in 1959 and 1961. Despite his involvement with looted and stolen objects, the Met continued buying from him. This is unfortunately not the only incident of this kind.

Tess Davis, Executive Director of the Antiquities Coalition, was quoted in response to the growing controversy surrounding the Met’s catalog:

“The Met sets the tone for museums around the world … If the Met is letting all of these things fall through the cracks, what hope do we have for the rest of the art market?”

The Antiquities Coalition continues to call for “strong, concrete, and immediate action” from the Met, including other specific recommendations that the museum could take to regain public trust. Read the full investigation here.