Ten Angkorian golden artefacts were handed over to the Cambodian Embassy in London by the Jonathan Tucker Antonia Tozer Asian Art gallery. The gallery had listed the items for sale, after a private collector offered them for sale through the gallery.
Questions about how the artifacts came into the possession of the private owner, as the owner’s identity remain unanswered.
Jonathan Tucker, co-owner of the gallery, said he wasn’t aware of the return of these items: “I offered these pieces on behalf of a collector who had owned them for many years. I subsequently returned them to the collector’s representative. I was not involved in their return to Cambodia but am pleased to hear that the matter has now been satisfactorily resolved,” he wrote in an e-mail.
When the gallery publicized the sale of the artefacts, art experts in Europe alerted Culture Minister Phoeung Sakona. Consequently, the Cambodian ministry sent experts to examine the items.
After verifying their provenance, the ministry asked the gallery to withdraw them from the list of artefacts on sale. Then the ministry started negotiations with the gallery. “The seller had their own lawyer” Mrs. Sakona said, “but they were also happy when we showed them evidence that these antiques belong to Khmer arts with Khmer artistic styles.”
Some of the items returned on Friday are depicted on the cover and in the pages of the book Khmer Gold: Gifts for the Gods, published in 2008 and co-authored by Bangkok-based art collector Douglas Latchford and Emma C. Bunker, a U.S.-based expert on Khmer antiquities.