May 21, 2014

LA Times' Mike Boehm on the return of the "Temple Wrestler" from the Norton Simon Museum to Cambodia

Mike Boehm, an arts reporter for the Los Angeles Times, publishes today on the return of the "Temple Wrestler" from the Norton Simon Museum to Cambodia (see here for the museum's announcements earlier this month).

Boehm quoted the museum's legal status in avoiding a lawsuit:
The Norton Simon took a different approach, based on past cordial relations with Cambodia's cultural authorities. Without a suit having been filed, museum representatives went to Phnom Penh for discussions earlier this year. Despite what the museum characterized as "a good-faith difference of views" with Cambodia over whether the Norton Simon was legally obliged to send the statue back, its leaders concluded that there were special reasons to send it home. "While there are extremely strong legal arguments for why we could defeat a claim, and while the Cambodian law is ambiguous at best, in this circumstance it seems appropriate and in keeping with the positive relationship the Norton Simon has had with Cambodia over the years to gift the statue to them," said Luis Li, an attorney for the museum. "They have a very specific archaeological context they want to create, and I think the Norton Simon was moved by that."
And on other Cambodian art at the Norton Simon Museum, Boehm writes:
The Norton Simon Museum will still own 40 ancient Cambodian objects, including a gigantic standing figure of Buddha that serves as a greeter in its lobby, and a lion that crouches on guard near the entrance to the gallery where Bhima will soon no longer preside. It's uncertain whether a dozen other pieces are from Cambodia or from Thailand. "We have not been approached by Cambodian or U.S. officials about other works in the collection and have no indication of future requests," museum spokeswoman Leslie Denk said this week.


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