June 17, 2024

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The Metropolitan Museum of Art Returns Sculptures to Nepal

(New York, October 3, 2023)—The Consulate General of Nepal in New York and The Metropolitan Museum of Art announced today that The Met has initiated the return of two works of art—13th-century wooden temple strut and an 11th-century stone image of Vishnu flanked by Lakshmi and Garuda—to the Government of Nepal. An agreement to this effect has been signed by Bishnu Prasad Gautam, Acting Consul General of Nepal, and Max Hollein, Director and Chief Executive Officer, on behalf of the Government of Nepal and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, respectively.

The stone sculpture was a gift to The Met in 1995; the Museum purchased the temple strut in 1988. Upon receiving new information from colleagues in Nepal, The Met and Nepal determined that the works should be returned. The Museum is arranging for the objects to be transported to Nepal.

“The Met is honored to collaborate with the Government of Nepal on the return of these two objects,” said Max Hollein, The Met’s Marina Kellen French Director and CEO. “We value the long-standing relationship we have fostered with scholarly institutions and colleagues in Nepal, and we are committed to continuing the ongoing and open dialogue between us.”

Speaking on the occasion, Acting Consul General Bishnu Prasad Gautam said, “We are deeply grateful to The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Director and CEO Max Hollein, the Board of Trustees, the Counsel’s Office, Florence and Herbert Irving Curator of South and Southeast Asian Art John Guy, and the Museum’s scholars and officials for their initiative, facilitation, and active cooperation in returning these lost artifacts to Nepal. We offer thanks to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation; and the Department of Archaeology of Nepal for their guidance and coordination in this process, and to the many supporters and interested parties for their love of Nepali art.”

The Acting Consul General continued, “We appreciate the Museum’s ongoing dedication and commitment to working for the preservation and promotion of world cultural heritage. The warm cooperation we have received from the Museum has deeply contributed to Nepal’s national efforts to recover and reinstate its lost artifacts, including the Museum’s initiative to return two Nepali artifacts—the sculpture Vishnu flanked by Lakshmi and Garuda and the 13th-century wooden temple strutThe Consulate looks forward to working closely with the Museum to preserve and promote art and culture in the future, as these collaborative efforts truly contribute to the preservation of cultural heritage and further strengthen the long-standing ties between the peoples of Nepal and the United States of America.”

The Met has partnered with Nepal on prior repatriations: in 2018 the Museum initiated the return of two stone sculptures—a 10th-century Standing Buddha and a 12th-century stele of Uma, Mahesvara (Shiva and Parvati). In 2021 the Museum transferred a 10th-century stone sculpture, Shiva in Himalayan Abode with Ascetics; and in 2022 The Met returned a 13th-century wooden strut, Temple Strut with a Salabhinka.

The Met recently announced a suite of initiatives related to cultural property and the Museum’s collecting practices, which include undertaking a focused review of works in the collection; hiring provenance researchers to join the many researchers and curators already doing this work at the Museum; further engaging staff and trustees; and using The Met’s platform to support and contribute to public discourse on this topic. More information is available on The Met website.

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