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AC’s Tess Davis Featured in The Guardian: South-East Asian Countries Demand Denver Museum Return Looted Artifacts

August 24, 2023

Following investigative reporting from the Denver Post, eyes are turning to the Denver Art Museum (DAM), which has been accused of possessing stolen objects from Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand.

High-level government representatives from these countries have formally asked the DAM to return eight pieces that were illegally stolen from temples and historic sites. However, representatives say that the museum never responded to their letters. Additionally, the museum still possesses hundreds of pieces acquired from the late Emma Bunker, an art dealer who was named in criminal and civil cases for her role in smuggling artifacts. 

Tess Davis, Executive Director of the Antiquities Coalition, called out the museum in a recent article from The Guardian for not verifying the ethical acquisition of their pieces and celebrating Bunker as recently as 2021:

“Why is [Denver Art Museum], a public institution with all the responsibilities and benefits that go along with that, not ensuring the integrity of its own collections? The accusations here don’t involve mistakes made in the colonial era, or, frankly, even the 20th century. These were actions that were taken in 2016, 2018, 2021.” 

Museums in the US are facing increasing scrutiny for collecting looted items, and the Antiquities Coalition looks forward to continued efforts from institutions to ensure that their collections are not just legal, but also ethical. 

Take a look at the full article from The Guardian here.