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Controversial art dealer's daughter will return over 100 antiquities to Cambodia – CNN

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Written by Oscar Holland, CNN

When art dealer Douglas Latchford was charged with wire fraud, smuggling and conspiracy, US prosecutors not only alleged that he had trafficked stolen Cambodian antiquities — he had “built a career” on it.

The indictment, brought before a New York court in 2019, claimed the British collector was part of an organized looting network that faked records for items it had taken or illicitly excavated from archaeological sites like Angkor Wat. Considered one of the world’s foremost authorities on art from the Khmer Empire, which ruled between the 9th and 15th centuries, Latchford had served as “a conduit” for stolen treasures since the 1970s, according to court documents.

He died in Thailand in 2020, aged 88, before answering the charges. But now the late dealer’s daughter, Nawapan Kriangsak, has promised to return all of the Cambodian artifacts, that she inherited from her father. Consisting of at least 100 statues and carvings, the collection is considered of such cultural significance that the country’s national museum in Phnom Penh is being expanded to accommodate it.

Cambodia’s Minister of Culture and Fine Arts, Phoeurng Sackona, told CNN that news of the items’ return had produced a “magical feeling.”

“Our culture and our statues are not just wood and clay, they possess spirits, and they have senses,” she said in a video interview, via a translator. “The pieces themselves want to come back to their country.”

A bronze statue of a male deity dating back to the late 11th century. Credit: Matthew Hollow/Royal Government of Cambodia

Of the items pledged, 25 have already been returned, according to Bradley J. Gordon, a legal advisor to the Cambodian government who helped negotiate the deal. The rest will be sent in batches, he said, with a further five due to arrive in the coming weeks. While the government has announced that over 100 objects are being returned, Gordon said over the phone that the final number will be “much higher” when smaller items are included in the evolving inventory.

Among those being sent next is a sandstone depiction of the deity Prajnaparamita and a bronze carving of a legendary Garuda bird. Also included is a prized 10th-century depiction of the Hindu god Shiva and his first-born son Skanda, a statue the Cambodian government believes to be from the remote Koh Ker temple complex. The item had previously featured on the cover of a book co-authored by Latchford, one of three respected publications on Khmer art produced by the controversial dealer during his lifetime.

Sackona said that her department would continue to investigate how the items came to leave the country. She would not, however, comment on the charges brought against Latchford. Nor would 49-year-old Kriangsak, who in a statement to CNN said that, upon her father’s death last August, she “inherited a collection but also a conversation.”

“Over the last few years I became increasingly convinced that the best way to deal with this legacy would be to give all his Khmer art, irrespective of origin, to the people of Cambodia,” she said. “Many of the returned statues and other objects have impeccable provenance. However, I decided not to discriminate between those for which I know about the provenance and those that I don’t. It’s all going home.”

Cambodia's government believes that this 10th-century statue, depicting the Hindu god Shiva and his first-born son Skanda, came from the remote Koh Ker temple complex.

Cambodia’s government believes that this 10th-century statue, depicting the Hindu god Shiva and his first-born son Skanda, came from the remote Koh Ker temple complex. Credit: Matthew Hollow/Royal Government of Cambodia

Widespread looting

The murky market for Khmer antiques results from the social and political upheaval that ravaged Cambodia in the latter half of the 20th century. With invasions and civil conflict falling either side of a 1970s genocide carried out by former prime minister Pol Pot’s barbarous Khmer Rouge, protecting cultural heritage was rarely priority in the country.

Looters took full advantage of the instability. Statues and architectural elements were taken directly from temples and archaeological sites, often crossing the border to Thailand before finding their way onto the international art market.

The total number of items taken from Cambodia will likely never be known, and a “red list” published by the International Council of Museums warns of a huge range of objects at risk of being illicitly traded — from elaborate friezes to small beads, adornments and utensils. In a 2014 study from the British Journal of Criminology, a broker of illegal artifacts told researchers that his group alone had trafficked 92 statues between mid-1997 and mid-1998, as the Khmer Rouge movement collapsed. Another study found that, of the 377 Khmer pieces put up for sale by Sotheby’s auction house between 1988 and 2010, more than 70% had no published ownership history.

Sotheby’s did not respond to CNN’s request for comment.

Latchford, who held both British and Thai citizenship, always denied allegations of wrongdoing. In 2010, he reportedly told the Bangkok Post newspaper that “most of the pieces I have come across have been found or dug up by farmers in fields.” His daughter meanwhile told CNN: “My father bought his Khmer artifacts from auction houses, collectors and dealers of every kind, all over the world.”
This bronze carving of a legendary Garuda bird would have adorned a ship.

This bronze carving of a legendary Garuda bird would have adorned a ship. Credit: Matthew Hollow/Royal Government of Cambodia

Despite question marks around his activities, the Khmer items he acquired and sold found their way into leading museums and private collections, passing through major auction houses in the process. But with Cambodia now enjoying a long period of relative stability, and tourism responsible for more than 20% of the country’s GDP, the government has stepped up efforts to repatriate items taken from the ancient temples visitors now flock to. The drive coincides with growing calls for Western museums — especially those of former colonial powers — to give back treasures taken illicitly or by force.
In 2013, New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art returned two 10th-century stone statues, donated by Latchford in the late 1980s and early 1990s, in light of “new documentary research.” But the museum’s vast collection still contains at least six items once held by Latchford, according to its online records. The institution has not yet responded to CNN’s request for comment.

Elsewhere, the Cleveland Museum of Art has three items — of both Cambodian and Thai origin — once owned by Latchford, though none were directly acquired from him. A spokesperson said the museum has a “strong, collaborative” relationship with Cambodia, and is set to borrow a number of Khmer artifacts from the country for an exhibition this autumn. The Denver Museum of Art, which holds six of Latchford’s objects, meanwhile said that it has recently opened discussions with Cambodian authorities. “The museum proactively contacted cultural officials in Cambodia regarding these pieces about a year ago,” a museum spokesperson said via email, “and our dialogue with Cambodia remains ongoing about their provenance.”

Cambodia's late deputy Prime Minister Sok An shakes hands with Douglas Latchford during a function at the National Museum of Cambodia in Phnom Penh. Latchford repatriated a number of Khmer antiquities during the event.

Cambodia’s late deputy Prime Minister Sok An shakes hands with Douglas Latchford during a function at the National Museum of Cambodia in Phnom Penh. Latchford repatriated a number of Khmer antiquities during the event. Credit: Tang Chhin Sothy/AFP/Getty Images

Despite growing suspicions about Latchford’s activities in the Western art world, he continued to enjoy more favorable standing in Cambodia. Having previously donated items to the national museum in Phnom Penh, he was awarded the Royal Order of Monisaraphon, the country’s equivalent of a knighthood, in 2008.

His daughter, Kriangsak, said that in addition to returning artifacts, she is also sharing her father’s records with Cambodian authorities. Investigating the collection’s provenance is now, she added, “the job of the archaeologists and researchers at the Ministry of Culture.”

Divided opinions

None of the parties involved in negotiations would put an estimate on the collection’s monetary value, reported by the New York Times to be more than $50 million. “I’ve seen the estimated values, and people can evaluate the statues and determine the price,” said Sackona, the culture minister. “But to me, and other Cambodians, we cannot put a price on … the blood and sweat of our ancestors and the values of our gods.”

The politician said she hoped that the agreement will “send a message” to those still in possession of Cambodia’s cultural heritage. She described Kriangsak as a “role model” for other collectors and museums.

Not everyone familiar with the case is so sanguine about the late collector’s family, however. While welcoming the objects’ restitution, the CEO of the Association for Research into Crimes Against Art (ARCA), Lynda Albertson, suggested that Kriangsak is motivated by protecting her family’s reputation, saying in a phone interview: “If she was looking to right the wrongs of her father, she would have clearly stated: ‘I am doing this because (how he acquired the items) was wrong.”

A sandstone depiction of the deity Prajnaparamita is among the next items to arrive in Cambodia.

A sandstone depiction of the deity Prajnaparamita is among the next items to arrive in Cambodia. Credit: Matthew Hollow/Royal Government of Cambodia

Albertson also said that other areas of Latchford’s collection — artifacts from India, in particular — should also be investigated, though Kriangsak declined to comment on the matter.

Latchford’s daughter did, however, claim that her father had indicated a willingness to return his Khmer items prior to his death. The dealer was alive when talks began three years ago, though, having been diagnosed with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, his involvement was limited by his ailing health. By the time of the 2019 charges “his mind had gone,” Kriangsak added, saying that her father “was never aware of the indictment and never understood that there were specific charges, and he certainly couldn’t answer them or defend himself.

“Nobody could be expected to be consistent in the face of those health issues, and the future of his collection was a vexed issue,” she added, claiming that: “Many times my father told me and others that he would like major statues to return to Cambodia.”

Latchford’s true motivations and the nature of his acquisitions may never come to light. Nonetheless, ARCA’s Albertson suggested that the decision to return the treasures might yet lead to further restitution, with items handled by the late dealer still in collections around the world.

“As long as Latchford’s name comes up in the provenance (or) history of objects, it will make them toxic in terms of resale,” she added. “So, this might create a sense of ‘let’s give it back or let’s create some good press,’ or some feelings of goodwill between different collectors. But that remains to be seen.”

Pictured top: A 10th century statue of the deity Ardhanarishvara

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How home-office video calls are helping to boost art sales – CBC.ca

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Videoconferencing has become so common during the pandemic that “Zoom” is being used as a verb. We zoom friends and colleagues, and they peer inside our bedrooms, basements and condos, perusing our bookshelves and decor.

Many of us worry about what’s there, what it says about us, and want a change.

“People are finally looking at what’s behind them as they stare at their screen,” said Andrea Rinaldo, co-owner of the Butter Art Gallery in Collingwood, Ont. “And they don’t like what they see.”

That has prompted something of a renaissance for the gallery, and the local artists it represents, in what has become the best year for sales in its existence.

“What we’ve introduced is the idea of Zoom Art,” Rinaldo said.

“Something that might also offer the people that they’re on the call with [some] eye candy,” added her business partner Suzanne Steeves. “Something to look at besides the books.”

Art sales are booming at this Collingwood, Ont., gallery co-owned by Andrea Rinaldo, right, and Suzanne Steeves, with customers wanting ‘something other than books’ for the background of their Zoom calls. (David Common/CBC)

Sales have skyrocketed at the gallery as customers have sought to spice up their backgrounds. From smaller pieces for $45, to larger works of fine art selling for well into five digits, the gallery aims to be accessible to all buyers — even those who just want to browse options on social media.

Exponential growth in videoconferencing

The use of videoconferencing ballooned during the early months of the pandemic, with Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, Go To Meeting and a series of other services showing enormous growth in both the number of users and amount of use.

Zoom ended 2019 with 10 million daily meeting participants, for example. When the pandemic was declared in March, that rose to 200 million. By April, daily users surged to 300 million, and have kept growing.

Simultaneously, people began to focus on the backgrounds of their calls. Social media feeds posted some of the best (and the worst), and people passed judgment on RoomRater on Twitter and other forums.

“Instead of the power suit, it’s now the power art,” said Steeves at the gallery.

Andrea Rinaldo said the gallery-going experience has changed for some. ‘If they don’t see something on the wall here to stand in front of, we just lift one up … and they stand in front of that piece so they can make that comparison and see which piece behind them makes them look the best.’ (David Common/CBC)

Working from home has fundamentally altered the gallery experience for some. People used to come to look at the art — now they come to stand with their backs to it.

For those who come into the gallery, “if they don’t see something on the wall here to stand in front of, we just lift one up … and they stand in front of that piece,” Rinaldo said. “So they can make that comparison and see which piece behind them makes them look the best.”

And during lockdowns, they’re offered Zoom or Facetime tours of the options available.

There are also some additional considerations when choosing art for a wall featured in Zoom calls, said Rinaldo.

“Is it too distracting for the people who are viewing you? Are they going to be paying attention to what you’re saying or are they going to be focusing on the art?”

As director of sales and group services for the nearby Blue Mountain Resort, Helen Stukator wanted something bold to help boost online pitches and client interactions.

“I’m very used to being face-to-face with my clients, entertaining them, wining and dining and having those opportunities to really build a relationship. And if it’s just a boring wall or a white wall behind me, it doesn’t have the same effect.”

Stukator went with a painting from Ontario artist Grace Afonso, and said she is delighted by the response.

“People really like it. You can’t not see it,” she said. “It’s a conversation starter and it’s personal.”

Helen Stukator, seen on a video call with her new background painting by Grace Afonso. (David Common/CBC)

Expanding audience

Artists are also surprised by the extra attention.

“It’s fun and exciting for me,” said the Hamilton-based Afonso, stunned by the sudden exposure of her art to far more people. “It’s bringing a little cheer to everybody else and it’s bringing cheer to me to paint it.

“Hopefully they’re getting a little peace and happiness by looking at it, because Zoom calls can be quite stressful,” she said.

The artist knows a lot about stress herself, working as a full-time charge nurse at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children. She works on crisis and psychosis cases in the hospital’s eating disorder unit, which has seen a substantial increase in patients during the pandemic.

So back in her art studio on days off, it’s an “opportunity to recenter yourself … go back to that place where you’re peaceful and joyful and calm.”

Grace Afonso said her income from painting has at least tripled since last March, with many customers buying larger and more expensive pieces for the background of their video calls. (Ousama Farag/CBC)

The artist is also excited that her art is being seen by more than just visitors to someone’s home. They’re now being shown to a much wider audience through the video calls of those who have purchased her works.

It’s not what she expected from the pandemic.

“I thought with COVID, everything for art would kind of die down and it would just be quiet time for us artists in the studio just to paint,” she said, “I didn’t expect everybody to be so interested in what we’re doing right now.”

Afonso has painted about 75 works over the pandemic year — similar to an ordinary year — but this year all have sold quickly. The greatest difference is size. In COVID times, there has been demand for larger pieces, which equates for the artist to a higher selling price. She said her income from painting has at least tripled since last March.

Meanwhile, a banner year was not what the founding partner of Butter Art Gallery expected when the pandemic first hit.

“We were very worried,” Steeves said. “We were having discussions about how long do we stay closed and not make money. But surprisingly, we did make money.”

Butter Gallery co-owner Suzanne Steeves worried how badly the business would be hit by the pandemic, but 2020 would turn out to be its best year yet. (David Common/CBC)

The gallery’s contemporary art collection has also caught the attention of a growing internet-based community, who peruse the ever-changing collection online.

“We had a conversation with a couple,” Rinaldo said. “They [told us they] got their glasses of wine, put up their big screen together, and flipped through our repertoire of art. And that’s what they did for the whole evening.”

The couple called up the next day and arranged to pick up two pieces curbside.

The success has trickled to artists across Ontario and Quebec, with surging demand creating a constantly revolving selection of available pieces at the gallery.

“I just think it’s really important to support local arts,” Stukator said, with her new painting prominently hung on the wall opposite her laptop. “It keeps the community going. It shows appreciation and it makes our community beautiful.”

WATCH | The National’s feature on video calls driving sales of art:

A small art gallery in Collingwood, Ont., has seen a boom in sales during the pandemic and it’s at least in part from people buying ‘Zoom art’ to make video calls a little brighter. 4:22


Watch full episodes of The National on CBC Gem, the CBC’s streaming service.

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Victoria art centre offers free therapeutic art sessions – Goldstream News Gazette – Goldstream News Gazette

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The Bateman Foundation hopes to harness the healing power of creativity with a series of free therapeutic art sessions.

Materials are provided for the free drop-in sessions, and an on-site art therapist will be available for assistance or mental wellness insight.

“It’s learning about art and nature and using those as tools for wellness,” says Lauren Ball, spokesperson for the Bateman Foundation. “We (wanted) to help people to feel a bit more powerful in their daily lives.”

In the summer of 2020 the foundation launched the Wellness Project, adapting its annual Nature Sketch program for the pandemic and providing it free of charge to small groups in the community.

The new drop-in therapeutic art sessions are an extension of that program, says Bell, and a direct response to the effects of the ongoing pandemic.

READ ALSO: Nature Sketch program returns in Victoria with COVID-19 safety protocols

“Knowing that anxiety and depression are on the rise on this mass scale because of social isolation, we wanted to help in some way,” she said.

“It’s not about being a really great artist, it’s not necessarily about the final result of what you create, it’s about tapping into the creative potential and creative energy that exists within all of us, and using that to find some sense of joy, some sense of peace.”

Art therapist Kaitlin McManus will be on site to help participants who want to discover meaning in their artwork while they are creating.

All ages and experience level are welcome. Four people can participate simultaneously for 30 minutes each, unless there is no one waiting to join, in which case artists can stay longer.

Sessions run twice a week at the Bateman Gallery at 300-470 Belleville St. on Tuesday evenings from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. and on Thursdays from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Appointments are not necessary.

READ ALSO: Renowned photographer’s work captured at the Bateman Gallery


Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email: nina.grossman@blackpress.ca. Follow us on Instagram.
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

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Victoria art centre offers free therapeutic art sessions – Saanich News – Saanich News

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The Bateman Foundation hopes to harness the healing power of creativity with a series of free therapeutic art sessions.

Materials are provided for the free drop-in sessions, and an on-site art therapist will be available for assistance or mental wellness insight.

“It’s learning about art and nature and using those as tools for wellness,” says Lauren Ball, spokesperson for the Bateman Foundation. “We (wanted) to help people to feel a bit more powerful in their daily lives.”

In the summer of 2020 the foundation launched the Wellness Project, adapting its annual Nature Sketch program for the pandemic and providing it free of charge to small groups in the community.

The new drop-in therapeutic art sessions are an extension of that program, says Bell, and a direct response to the effects of the ongoing pandemic.

READ ALSO: Nature Sketch program returns in Victoria with COVID-19 safety protocols

“Knowing that anxiety and depression are on the rise on this mass scale because of social isolation, we wanted to help in some way,” she said.

“It’s not about being a really great artist, it’s not necessarily about the final result of what you create, it’s about tapping into the creative potential and creative energy that exists within all of us, and using that to find some sense of joy, some sense of peace.”

Art therapist Kaitlin McManus will be on site to help participants who want to discover meaning in their artwork while they are creating.

All ages and experience level are welcome. Four people can participate simultaneously for 30 minutes each, unless there is no one waiting to join, in which case artists can stay longer.

Sessions run twice a week at the Bateman Gallery at 300-470 Belleville St. on Tuesday evenings from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. and on Thursdays from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Appointments are not necessary.

READ ALSO: Renowned photographer’s work captured at the Bateman Gallery


Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email: nina.grossman@blackpress.ca. Follow us on Instagram.
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

ArtVictoria

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