G20 Reenforces its Commitment to Cultural with Statement in Leaders’ Declaration

World Leaders Address Cultural Racketeering in 2022 Bali Declaration, Building on Progress Made During the 2021 Rome Summit

From November 15-16, heads of the world’s largest economies gathered for the 2022 G20 Summit in Bali, Indonesia. At the conclusion of the summit, the G20 leaders adopted the Bali Declaration, a culmination of the work undertaken by the Indonesian G20 Presidency over the course of the last year, which reaffirms the G20’s commitment to cultural heritage protection:

We reaffirm the role of culture as an enabler and driver for sustainable development with intrinsic value beyond its social and economic benefits. We are committed to develop policies that draw on cultural diversity as a resource for sustainable living and promote an inclusive and equitable ecosystem at all levels that values the contribution of those working in the culture, arts and heritage sectors. We will respect, protect and preserve the cultural heritage of our peoples, including local communities and indigenous peoples, as applicable. We support public incentives and sustainable investments from the private sector to strengthen the cultural economy. We will safeguard cultural heritage as well as fighting illicit trafficking of cultural property and promoting restitution to its rightful owner/countries of origin, in accordance with the relevant UNESCO Conventions and national laws.

This powerful statement aligns with last year’s Rome Declaration and the broader efforts of the Italian presidency, under which the G20 prioritized making culture part of the post-COVID recovery, as well as incorporating it into the institution’s broader work to secure economic integrity and transparent markets. This resulted in a Cultural Ministerial, held at the Colosseum in Rome during the summer of 2021, the culmination of a series of high-level events on the illicit trade that led up to the G20 Summit. The Indonesian presidency continued to build on this important groundwork, holding a G20 Cultural Ministers’ Meeting in Borobudur from September 12-13. 

The statement in this year’s leaders declaration also addresses the first recommendation from the AC’s Roadmap for the G20 to Combat the Illicit Trade in Cultural Objects. The report, co-authored with international experts, called for the G20 to Build Political Will through a statement annually in the final declaration. With two years of strong statements in the Leaders’ Declarations, the G20 has demonstrated the political will needed to combat looting and trafficking from the top down.

The AC commends the G20 for making this issue part of its agenda and continuing to make cultural heritage an international priority. With the announcement of the prominent theme of India’s G20 Presidency, “Soul of India,” and given India’s role as a cultural leader in South Asia and beyond, the AC looks forward to what the Indian government will do to continue this critical focus.

Read the Leader’s Declaration.

Read the AC’s Roadmap for the G20 to Combat the Illicit Trade in Cultural Objects.

2022 ASEAN Declaration Commits Southeast Asia to Combating the Illicit Trade in Cultural Heritage

Leaders’ Statement Follows Joint Initiative Between the Antiquities Coalition and Cambodia

Leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have released their 2022 Vision Statement as part of the organization’s 40th and 41st Summits, held from November 10-13 in the Kingdom of Cambodia, this year’s Chair. This declaration has included an unprecedented pledge by all ten Member States to combat the illicit trade in art and artifacts, a transnational crime that is threatening the region’s rich heritage, local communities, and national economies. Specifically, as part of a broader commitment to promoting global cooperation and peace, it urges ASEAN governments to:

ENHANCE the contribution of culture and the arts to promoting sustainable development through support for cultural and creative industries, as well as cultural property protection and preservation against cultural losses due to illicit trade and trafficking, climate change, and human-induced and natural disasters. 

This vision statement reinforces Cambodia’s Chairman’s Statement from the Summit, as well as recommendations developed during a high-level international conference held from September 5-8 in partnership with the Antiquities Coalition and ASEAN. In addition to the organization’s Member States, “The Prevention of the Illicit Trafficking of Cultural Properties: An ASEAN Perspective” also brought together international law enforcement, museum leaders, and private sector representatives in Cambodia to develop priorities for the region. Published on October 5, the event’s ambitious roadmap urges ASEAN to take concrete action against cultural racketeering, including the creation of a regional working group, a multi-year action plan, and an annual convening on the subject.

Cambodia and the United States, where the Antiquities Coalition is based, have worked effectively together for decades to preserve and protect cultural heritage. Over the last ten years, U.S. authorities have partnered with their Cambodian counterparts on a number of criminal investigations and prosecutions, resulting in tens of millions of dollars worth of repatriations to the kingdom. These include one of the world’s “Ten Most Wanted Antiquities,” a monumental sandstone sculpture of the elephant-headed god Ganesha, which was returned to Cambodia in August along with 29 other masterpieces. 

During the separate U.S.-ASEAN Summit, also held in Cambodia on November 12, Prime Minister Hun Sen thanked President Biden directly for this work and called the United States the world’s “number one” country for recovering and returning stolen art to Cambodia. The U.S. and ASEAN further cemented their strategic partnership with a joint statement that also showcases a shared commitment to cultural preservation, by agreeing to:

BUILD people-to-people connectivity within the region and beyond by […] promoting and protecting cultural heritage.

President Biden and Prime Minister Hun Sen at the ASEAN Summit. Credit: Samdech Hun Sen, Cambodian Prime Minister on Facebook.
President Biden and Prime Minister Hun Sen at the ASEAN Summit. Credit: Samdech Hun Sen, Cambodian Prime Minister on Facebook.

“The Antiquities Coalition commends the Royal Government of Cambodia, ASEAN, and all its other Member States for putting the fight against cultural racketeering so high on this year’s Summit agenda and committing to future action,” said Deborah Lehr, Chairman and Founder of the Antiquities Coalition. “We are excited to see how the Republic of Indonesia, the 2023 ASEAN Chair, picks up this mantle and further showcases the rich cultural heritage of Southeast Asia to the world.”

Read the ASEAN Leaders’ Vision Statement on “ASEAN A.C.T.: Addressing Challenges Together”

Read the ASEAN-U.S. Leaders’ Statement on the Establishment of the ASEAN-U.S. Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.

Read the Chairman’s Statement of the 40th and 41st ASEAN Summits

November 14 Marks International Day against Illicit Trafficking in Cultural Property

AC Commemorates UNESCO Observance with Top 5 Achievements in 2022

Every year, significant milestones are made in the fight against cultural racketeering. From international agreements to repatriations, the Antiquities Coalition celebrates these achievements and looks forward to taking part in future actions to fight the illicit trade of art and artifacts.

Today, the Antiquities Coalition is joining UNESCO and other experts to commemorate the International Day against Illicit Trafficking in Cultural Property. This observance reminds the world that theft, looting, and illicit trafficking of cultural property takes place in every country, robbing people of their culture, identity, and history — and, that we have to work together to combat this crime.

In honor of this annual observance, take a look at five moments from 2022 that impacted the fight to combat looting.

AC Joins International Leaders to Stand Against Looting

International cooperation is critical in the fight against cultural racketeering as it allows nations to come together and develop proactive policies to keep looted objects from passing through borders and onto the global art market.

🇰🇭As the 2022 ASEAN Chair, Cambodia is using its platform to unite the region in the fight against the looting and trafficking of cultural heritage—a transnational crime that is threatening Southeast Asia’s rich heritage, local communities, and national economies. With support from the Antiquities Coalition, Cambodia has released an ambitious roadmap for tackling the illicit trade in cultural property across ASEAN. Priorities include increased information sharing, strengthened cross-sectoral coordination, and a long-term strategy to address the root causes of the problem. These recommendations were developed during an emergency international conference, which was held from September 5-8 in Siem Reap. The Antiquities Coalition joined the Kingdom’s Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts in recruiting high-level experts to share global best practices during the event. 

🏛️On National Museum Day, the Antiquities Coalition joined the China-Europe-America Global Initiative in organizing “The Second Dialogue: Protection of Our Cultural Heritage,” speaking alongside 31 experts from 10 countries. The global dialogue featured international leaders in government, the arts, business, and more in discussions about how we can work together to better safeguard our history.

📃The Antiquities Coalition joined the first cultural ministerial of the EU-Southern partnership alongside European governments, intergovernmental, and non-governmental organizations in Italy to explore how Mediterranean leaders can prioritize the protection of cultural heritage. The Conference of the Ministers of Culture of the Mediterranean ended with the signing of the Naples Declaration, which seeks to protect cultural heritage from disasters and other crisis scenarios while highlighting how culture drives and enables sustainable development. The Antiquities Coalition was honored to be one of the few non-governmental delegations, and the only one from the United States, to sign the communique and speak at the broader event.

“Ten Most Wanted Antiquities Campaign” Celebrates Its First Success

A decade-long and ongoing investigation into Douglas Latchford’s network by Homeland Security Investigations and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York uncovered thirty looted Cambodian artifacts in the collection of Netscape founder James H. Clark.

In August, the U.S. government repatriated the cultural treasures to the Kingdom of Cambodia, including a monumental sandstone sculpture of Ganesha, the elephant-headed Hindu god. The Ganesha marks the first success of the “Ten Most Wanted Antiquities,” our 2020 awareness campaign to locate and recover some of the world’s most significant looted, stolen, and missing artifacts.

Clark explained why he voluntarily gave up the pieces after learning they were stolen, saying, “my doing this might inspire other people to do the same, but I’m not sure—it’s hard for people to give up something they paid for, but for me, why would you want to own something that was stolen?”

To honor Cambodia’s continued efforts to recover its stolen heritage, the Antiquities Coalition is introducing Uma, the consort of Shiva, as the newest item on the list. Uma was looted from Khmer-Rouge territory and then laundered onto the global art market by Latchford.

Seeking Accountability for Museums with Looted Objects

Some of the world’s most prestigious museums are entangled with bad actors in the global art market, and more members of the public are increasingly calling on museums to identify and return looted objects in their walls.

In June, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg seized 5 Egyptian treasures worth over $3 million from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York as part of a police probe that first made headlines in 2019. The probe exposed an international trafficking ring operating out of Egypt and war zones such as Libya, Syria, and Yemen.

“If our foremost museums, with entire departments of lawyers and scholars on staff, cannot ensure their collections are not the products of crime and conflict, then there is a clear and urgent need for stronger legal protections in the art market,” said Deborah Lehr, Founder and Chairman of the Antiquities Coalition. 

Museums have a unique opportunity and responsibility to set the legal and ethical standards for all who operate within the wider market. Once known as the gold standard for due diligence and transparency, these museums must take steps to regain public trust.

A New Heritage Platform to Combat Looting in Algeria

Collaboration between governments, law enforcement, cultural experts, libraries, conservators, businesspeople, and more is necessary to develop solutions to safeguard cultural heritage across the world.

The ongoing partnership between the Antiquities Coalition and the Algerian Ministry of Culture, sponsored by the U.S. Embassy in Algiers, is working to preserve and protect the region’s heritage with new tools and digitization solutions. In May, the partnership announced the launch of Turathi, a photographic guide to help identify Algeria’s stolen cultural heritage.

The photo guide and accompanying database are a work tool intended primarily for local customs officers, law enforcement, and international partners involved in the fight against the illicit trafficking of cultural property. However, the guide is available to everyone interested in protecting Algeria’s cultural heritage.

Major News Outlets Amplify the Global Issue of Cultural Racketeering

Following a flurry of headlines from the October 2021 Pandora Papers expose, major news outlets continued to feature the illicit antiquities trade in 2022. 

Deborah Lehr, Chair and Founder of the Antiquities Coalition, was quoted in a number of news articles throughout the year, placing the Antiquities Coalition at the forefront of organizations working to end the illicit antiquities trade. Lehr’s op-ed for Artnet details how the U.S. art market can ensure Russia does not evade sanctions to finance the Ukraine invasion. Smithsonian Magazine, The National News, and Euronews also featured Lehr’s experienced point of view when detailing various examples of this illegal market.

Tess Davis, Executive Director of the Antiquities Coalition, was quoted in the New York Times and Bloomberg Businessweek on the subject and even made a cameo alongside John Oliver. The Last Week Tonight segment detailed examples of museums and collectors participating in this illicit trade and why it continues to thrive today. 

Oliver shared examples of illicit antiquities at the British Museum before diving into provenance research. Davis provided insights on one incident where Sotheby’s auction house ignored warning signs of a looted Cambodian antiquity and put the statue on the front of one of their more prominent auction catalogs of the year. The segment has garnered millions of views on YouTube, helping to raise awareness of cultural racketeering and why we must combat looting.


The Antiquities Coalition thanks its partners, governments, law enforcement, the public, and more for their critical role in the fight against the illicit trade of antiquities. Learn more about the International Day against Illicit Trafficking in Cultural Property on UNESCO’s website.

Labels on Looted Art: The AC Interviews Marc Masurovsky on New York Law

On August 10, New York Governor Kathy Hochul signed a law requiring art museums across the state to prominently identify art stolen by Nazis in placards placed alongside the works. The law covers pieces that experienced theft, seizure, confiscation, forced sale, or other involuntary means during the Nazi era in Europe.

This action follows continued efforts by the state to return Nazi-looted work over the last several years and educate New Yorkers about the Holocaust and its impact.

We spoke with Marc Masurovsky, co-founder of the Holocaust Art Restitution Project (HARP), to discuss the importance of this legislation, how it will impact Holocaust survivors, and whether we can expect other governments to develop similar laws for all types of stolen heritage.

Last Week Tonight Tackles Cultural Racketeering with Cameo from the Antiquities Coalition

The global issue of cultural racketeering is becoming increasingly well known among the general public as stories of looted antiquities continue to make national headlines. Some of the world’s most prestigious museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Louvre Museum in Paris, have been caught up in a flurry of scandals for collecting and displaying stolen art within their walls.

Last Week Tonight host John Oliver tackled the issue during the show’s October 2 episode, detailing examples of museums and collectors participating in this illicit trade and why it continues to thrive today. He explores the history of the British Museum and emphasizes that most museums only display a tiny fraction of their full collections. In the case of the British Museum, they publicly display 80,000 of their 8 million objects, which accounts for just 1%.

Oliver also introduced provenance research and highlighted an example of Sotheby’s auction house ignoring warning signs of a looted Cambodian antiquity, featuring a cameo from Tess Davis, Executive Director of the Antiquities Coalition. 

Davis provided insights on the incident and Sotheby’s final decision to display the antiquity on the cover of one of its most popular publications: 

“Three years ago, Cambodia learned that Sotheby’s auction house in Manhattan was attempting to sell a thousand-year-old masterpiece for $3 million, the feet of which were still at the temple in Cambodia,” said Davis. “Sotheby’s was warned by the very expert they hired to appraise the statue that it was ‘definitely stolen.’ They knew the feet were still there. Despite what their expert told them, they decided to put the statue on the front of one of their more prominent auction catalogs of the year.“

Oliver notes that it is not uncommon to see statues without hands or feet, and while many may assume it comes from damage over time, it is often a sign that the statue is stolen. A 2017 op-ed, authored by the Antiquities Coalition, was also quoted to emphasize that cultural racketeering is not a white-collar, victimless crime. The illicit trade of art and antiquities has funded some of the world’s worst actors, from the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

The episode wrapped up with a skit featuring comedian Kumail Nanjiani, who takes viewers through the Payback Museum, the first museum in the world dedicated to providing recourse to nations plundered of their greatest treasures throughout history. The skit showcases the looting of Western masterpieces such as Stonehenge and the Liberty Bell to drive home the disconnect other countries experience when significant pieces of history are missing and curators have no desire to return them to their rightful owners. Make sure to follow the Payback Museum on Twitter.

The Antiquities Coalition thanks John Oliver and the team at Last Week Tonight for using their platform to raise awareness of cultural racketeering and why we must combat looting. Watch the full segment here.

 

ASEAN Advances Regional Initiative to Combat the Illicit Trade in Cultural Property

Following High Level Convening with the Antiquities Coalition, the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts of the Kingdom of Cambodia Announces Continued Action for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)

Siem Reap, October 5—The Kingdom of Cambodia, with support from the Antiquities Coalition, has released an ambitious roadmap for tackling the illicit trade in cultural property across the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Priorities include increased information sharing, strengthened cross-sectoral coordination, and a long-term strategy to address the root causes of the problem. These recommendations were developed during an emergency international conference, which was held from September 5-8 in Cambodia, this year’s ASEAN Chair. 

The Antiquities Coalition, a nongovernmental organization based in the United States, joined the Kingdom’s Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts in recruiting high-level experts to share global best practices during the event. “The Prevention of the Illicit Trafficking of Cultural Properties: An ASEAN Perspective” convened ASEAN Member States, key partner countries, law enforcement, museums, and private sector representatives in Siem Reap, gateway to the temples of Angkor. This four-day program included an international plenum open to the public and press, closed-door meetings of ASEAN Member States to strengthen collaboration at the working level, and expert panels and site visits to share lessons. 

“The theft and illicit trafficking of cultural property is an international criminal activity” and “major multilateral challenge that has to be addressed by all ASEAN countries,” said His Excellency Prak Sokhonn, Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, who opened last month’s conference. “My government is committed to putting a stop to the trafficking of our antiquities and we will work together with like-minded ASEAN governments, international organizations, and private sector partners to bring this to an end. We need to commit and to continue our fight to protect the soul of our cultural heritage and prevent the priceless antiquities from being further plundered, looted, and spirited away from the country.”

As the 2022 ASEAN Chair, Cambodia is using its platform to unite the region in the fight against the looting and trafficking of cultural heritage—a transnational crime that is threatening Southeast Asia’s rich heritage, local communities, and national economies. In addition to the September conference and today’s roadmap, this includes other concrete steps in the lead up to the ASEAN Summit this November in Phnom Penh. 

“As Southeast Asia’s lead political and economic forum, ASEAN is in a unique position to make a difference,” said Deborah Lehr, Chairman and Founder of the Antiquities Coalition. “We are thus grateful to the Kingdom of Cambodia and its Chairmanship, the ASEAN Secretariat, and all Member States for demonstrating the political will to combat looting and trafficking from the top down. The creation of a regional working group, a multi-year action plan, and an annual convening on this subject will do much to channel ASEAN’s efforts in the months and years ahead.”

Tess Davis, Executive Director of the Antiquities Coalition, who opened the conference alongside H.E. Minister of Culture Phoerung Sackona and H.E. Deputy Prime Minister Prak Sokhonn, stressed the need for countries outside of Southeast Asia to support this effort—especially those who provide the market demand for looted antiquities.

“As a non-governmental organization headquartered in Washington, DC, we are grateful to see the United States working so closely together with Cambodia, as well as so many other countries here today,” Davis said at this month’s event. “These partnerships demonstrate what great accomplishments can be achieved when governments, law enforcement, and leaders in the arts and culture join forces.”

This convening is a significant milestone for ASEAN. Its ten governments are home to 55 World Heritage Sites, as well as four regional legal instruments for the protection of cultural property. It also has a demonstrated track record of tackling similar transnational problems, for example, through the ASEAN Working Group on Illicit Trafficking in Wildlife and Timber. However, despite this important foundation, the region’s art and antiquities remain under threat from criminals, as demonstrated by a slew of recent law enforcement seizures, prosecutions, and repatriations of artifacts looted from the region. The Antiquities Coalition strongly endorses today’s recommendations and looks forward to how Cambodia and other ASEAN states will combat looting.

Read the roadmap here.

For press inquiries or more information, please contact:

press@theantiquitiescoalition.org 

202.798.5245 (T)

 

AC’s Tess Davis Quoted in ICIJ’s Met Investigation

New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, the largest museum in the United States, is no stranger to controversy. In the last decade, the museum has been at the center of numerous government seizures and repatriations, and forced to return millions of dollars worth of looted and stolen antiquities.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), along with reporting partner Finance Uncovered, reviewed records from the Manhattan District Attorney’s office that detail nine warrants to seize ancient works from the Met since 2017. ICIJ reports six of those warrants are from the past year alone, and cover more than 30 ancient relics, while two others haven’t been previously reported.

Tess Davis, Executive Director of the Antiquities Coalition, was quoted as part of the investigation in response to the Met’s ongoing scandals:

“The numbers are rapidly adding up… In what other context could you make headlines so often for holding stolen property and not face any consequences?”

The Antiquities Coalition urges the Met to take strong, concrete, and immediate action to return the stolen items within its walls and set the standard for museums across the globe.

Read the full article here.

Finance Uncovered Features ASEAN Conference Organized by Cambodia with the Antiquities Coalition

Cambodia’s Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, in cooperation with the Antiquities Coalition, held an international conference on September 5-8th in Siem Reap on The Prevention of the Illicit Trafficking of Cultural Properties – An ASEAN Perspective. 

The conference featured government officials and experts in cultural policy, law enforcement, museums, and the art market from around the world and provided an opportunity for greater collaboration and understanding between ASEAN member states.

All 10 ASEAN States were represented at the conference, which was also attended by participants from eight other countries including China, India, and the US. 

Finance Uncovered, whose mission is to “to improve the quantity and quality of investigative stories that are rooted in illicit finance or exploitation by training and supporting journalists and activists around the world” and who has previously covered the illicit trade in antiquities, was represented at the conference by Malia Politzer. Prior to her work at Finance Uncovered, Politzer covered antiquities trafficking for ICIJ

Politzer covered the conference in the context of Cambodia’s recent work to bring their looted statues home in her new article “The Smuggling of Ancient Antiquities: Governments and art world urged to collaborate to end illicit trade.”

Read the article hereRead other coverage of the conference here.

AC and ManchesterCF Partner on Financial Crimes Training Course

Online Course Details How Art and Antiquities are intertwined with Financial Crimes

For too long, bad actors have used art and antiquities to fund their crimes and damage the legitimate art market. To assist global experts in deepening their knowledge of the role cultural heritage plays in financial crimes, the Antiquities Coalition has partnered with ManchesterCF to offer a new online course on the subject. 

Based in Toronto, ManchesterCF develops financial intelligence training programs with a global perspective. They provide online financial intelligence training programs to financial institutions, public-sector agencies and multinational corporations. Their expertise is derived from solid experience in international banking, financial intelligence and compliance.

ManchesterCF has a proven track record of working with financial intelligence and business professionals in both the public and private sectors to successfully implement courses that not only meet but exceed regulatory expectations. They have partnered with the Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, AML Intelligence, and United for Wildlife, among others. The AC is proud to join these ranks to offer the FIU (Financial Intelligence Unit) Connect training program on Art & Antiquities. 

The FIU Connect (Art & Antiquities) training program provides insights on:

  • How terrorists commercialize looted antiquities
  • Different cultural heritage laws in the Middle East
  • A risk-based approach to help art market operators to assess and understand their exposure to money laundering

The course is part of ManchesterCF’s online training solution for international banks and national financial intelligence units. Individuals can create a unique login and password to access various courses and deepen their knowledge of anti-money laundering compliance.

This partnership with ManchesterCF reinforces the Antiquities Coalition’s priorities to raise awareness and develop solutions to combat looting. Read more about the course here.

AC and Yazda Partnership Showcases Cultural Heritage Practices of Religious and Ethnic Minority Community in Iraq

Yazda Videos Document Intangible Cultural Heritage Practices and New Heritage Project

The Yazidi community of northern Iraq has taken another significant step in response to the genocidal attacks by the so-called Islamic State in 2014. With the assistance of the Antiquities Coalition, a US-based NGO, and funded by a grant from the United State Agency for International Development, a new program of heritage documentation is releasing its first videos of Yazidi efforts to directly counter attacks on their culture.  

A group of videomakers at Yazda, a Yazidi social and cultural services organization, has received training and guidance in the documentation of intangible cultural heritage from the AC, and is recording and archiving the music, stories, religious practices, and family life of the community. Their first video is a look at this program of intangible heritage documentation, which permanently documents these cultural practices.

The second video documents another program from the Yazda/AC/USAID team. “Ray of the Sun” is a project that brings together young Yazidis and community cultural leaders to teach the history, stories, and culture of the community to the younger generation. Classes take place in displaced person camps and community facilities across northern Iraq and are designed to ensure that the Yazidi have heard the stories and understand the cultural practices of their community.

These efforts record and preserve the cultural practices that define the Yazidi community – the community that ISIS sought to end. 

According to Ismail Issa, the program manager at Yazda, “This program is critically important for the Yazidi people. ISIS attacked us to eradicate us and our culture. With our partners at the Antiquities Coalition and USAID, we are making sure that our culture is understood by our children – who can ensure that it will live on.”

“Our Yazda colleagues have learned the video production and intangible cultural heritage video documentation techniques remarkably quickly and well,” says Antiquities Coalition Co-founder Peter Herdrich, the project director. “We are proud to be working in service to them and to these critical heritage preservation goals.”

Yazda will make scores of videos available to the local community, to the extensive Yazidi diaspora, and to interested people around the world via their YouTube channel early next year in their effort to ensure their culture will never disappear. 

Learn more about the project here.

Watch both videos below.

News Outlets Feature ASEAN Conference Organized by Cambodia with the Antiquities Coalition

Following decades of civil war and unrest in the last century, Cambodia’s wealth of cultural heritage was looted and stolen by bad actors and laundered onto the global art market. 

Today, as Chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Cambodia is working to retrieve its stolen history, while assisting other ASEAN member states in strengthening their own fight against cultural racketeering.

Cambodia’s Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, in cooperation with the Antiquities Coalition, held an international conference on September 5-8th in Siem Reap to achieve this goal. The conference featured government officials and experts in cultural policy, law enforcement, museums, and the art market from around the world and provided an opportunity for greater collaboration and understanding between ASEAN member states.

Tess Davis, Executive Director of the Antiquities Coalition, spoke alongside H.E. Phoeurng Sackona, Cambodia’s Minister of Culture and Fine Arts, and other leaders during the four-day event. In her remarks, Davis noted that Cambodia had recently celebrated some of the largest recoveries of stolen art since World War II.

The conference was covered by numerous sources, including:

The Antiquities Coalition looks forward to sharing takeaways from this event and continuing to work with ASEAN member states to combat looting.

Antiquities Coalition Enlists the Public to Help Cambodia Find Another Missing Masterpiece

Organization Updates the “Ten Most Wanted Antiquities” List Following the Awareness Campaign’s First Successful Recovery

Siem Reap, September 5, 2022 — The Antiquities Coalition is excited to announce a new addition to its “Ten Most Wanted” list, an illustrated guide to cultural treasures from around the world that have been looted or stolen and are still missing. The update follows the awareness campaign’s first success, the recovery and return of a monumental 10th Century sculpture of the elephant-headed god Ganesha. U.S. authorities repatriated the piece to Cambodia on August 8 in New York City.

To honor Cambodia’s continued efforts to recover its stolen heritage, the Antiquities Coalition is introducing Uma, the consort of Shiva, as the newest item on the list. Uma was looted from Khmer-Rouge territory and then laundered onto the global art market by the notorious trafficker Douglas Latchford. The now disgraced “adventurer scholar,” who also trafficked the Ganesha, made headlines in last year’s Pandora Papers for smuggling blood antiquities from Cambodian war zones and then hiding his millions of dollars in profits through the misuse of tax havens, trusts, and offshore accounts. 

Bradley J. Gordon, an American attorney for the Cambodian Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, is leading a team of experts tasked with bringing Khmer antiquities home. Gordon describes how Uma was looted and why it should be returned to the Kingdom:

“Two years ago, the head of a looting gang, Lion, recounted to our team in Cambodia about removing two females from the Prasat Thom complex at Koh Ker in 1997. Jungle Cat, the head of a smaller gang, removed a male from the same location.”

Last year, a team of Cambodian archeologists discovered the pedestal of three statues on site, which they believe belong to the two females and one male. They also discovered a foot which archeologists believe matches one of the females—a statue now on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New YorkThe current location of Uma, the twin of the female statue at the Met, is unknown.

“The other female we are now searching the world for appears in Latchford’s book ‘Adoration and Glory’ according to testimony from Lion. The Cambodians are waiting for all three statues to return home” said Gordon.

Following the successful efforts by Cambodia to locate and return its cultural treasures, including the Ganesha, there is hope that artifacts like Uma will also be returned.

“We’re ecstatic that the Ganesha, one of the Ten Most Wanted Antiquities, is returning to its rightful home, but numerous artifacts remain missing,” said Deborah Lehr, Chair and Founder of the Antiquities Coalition. “Our updated campaign introduces a new Cambodian masterpiece and encourages the public to help us return this heritage. We look forward to continuing to raise awareness of cultural racketeering and collaborating with governments, advocates, and responsible leaders in the art market to combat looting.”

The release of the updated list coincides with an international conference in Siem Reap, hosted by the Royal Government of Cambodia and the Antiquities Coalition, gathering government officials and top experts from around the world to develop concrete solutions to safeguard the region’s past for future generations. The event also serves as an International Plenum and meeting of culture ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to foster greater collaboration and understanding among member states.

The new “Ten Most Wanted Antiquities” now features the following artifacts from Cambodia, China, Egypt, Ethiopia, Guatemala, India, Iraq, the United States, and Yemen. The list, chosen in cooperation with top specialists, is accompanied by posters of each object to provide snapshots of the pieces’ significance, their theft, and their last known whereabouts. 

While this list highlights ten missing pieces of heritage, much of the world’s shared history remains in danger. While Cambodia is recovering blood antiquities, conflicts around the world, such as that in Ukraine, ensure that these crimes are still taking place. Periods of unrest heighten the risk that bad actors will exploit vulnerabilities in the art market to fund this illicit trade.

Any information leading to the possible recovery of these items should be submitted to law enforcement using the tip lines below:

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About the Antiquities Coalition 

The Antiquities Coalition unites a diverse group of experts in the fight against cultural racketeering: the illicit trade in antiquities by organized criminals and terrorist organizations. This plunder for profit funds crime and conflict around the world—erasing our past and threatening our future. The Coalition’s innovative and practical solutions tackle crimes against heritage head on, empowering communities and countries in crisis. Learn more at theantiquitiescoalition.org.

Media Contact

press@theantiquitiescoalition.org 

202.798.5245 (T)