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Douglas Latchford estate forfeits $12m to settle looted antiquities case

23 June 2023

US officials announced on Thursday (22 June) that Julia Copleston, the daughter of Douglas A.J. Latchford, has agreed to forfeit $12m from the dealer’s estate in part-settlement of a civil case concerning the sale of stolen Cambodian artefacts. In 2019, Latchford was indicted by federal prosecutors in New York who accused him of trafficking looted artefacts and falsifying documents, but the indictment was dismissed after Latchford’s death the following year. In recent years, Toek Tik, who previously led a criminal ring that had pillaged Khmer temples for two decades, came forward to identify areas of Cambodia where he had helped to loot various antiquities and stated that some of the most illustrious relics were put on the market by Latchford. Copleston has also agreed to turn over a seventh-century bronze statue from Vietnam thought to have been bought by Latchford with illegally obtained funds.

On Tuesday (20 June), the Austrian culture minister announced that the government intends to propose legislation by March 2024 regarding the restitution of museum objects acquired in a colonial context. Jonathan Fine, scientific director of the Weltmuseum in Vienna and head of a government-appointed advisory committee, has called for an ‘intellectually and culturally diverse’ board to evaluate claims. The government would base its rulings on the committee’s findings, with returns dealt with on a ‘state-to-state’ basis. There is currently no estimate for the number of items in Austrian national museums that could be eligible for restitution, but Fine says he believes that ‘very many’ of the 200,000 objects in the Weltmuseum’s collection were taken in a colonial context.

An exhibition at the Barbican Centre in London is being taken down after a row about censorship. On 21 June, the Resolve Collective posted a statement on Instagram announcing their decision, which came after what it describes as ‘an act of anti-Palestinian censorship’ (referring to a cancelled talk about Palestinian radio) and ‘a number of hostile encounters’ experienced by the collective’s friends and family and by other artists. The exhibition, which was due to run until 16 July, will reopen on 26 June, but ‘the contents will be taken down and we’ll gradually start distributing the material and emptying the space,’ a spokesperson for the collective told Apollo. Meanwhile, the British Museum has been accused of using a translator’s work without permission. Across a series of tweets, the writer, poet and translator Yilin Wang shared images of the ‘China’s Hidden Century’ exhibition alongside her translations of poems by the Chinese writer Qiu Jin, which Wang said were included without her permission and without credit or payment. The translations have since been removed from the display.

Elena Filipovic has been appointed director of the Kunstmuseum Basel, taking over from Josef Helfenstein who was appointed in 2016. Filipovic is currently the director and chief curator at the Kunsthalle Basel, where she has organised more than 60 exhibitions since 2014, and in 2022 curated the Croatian pavilion at the 59th Venice Art Biennale. She will start in June. The Detroit Institute of Arts has named Yuriko Jackall, formerly of the Wallace Collection in London, as the museum’s new head of European art and curator of European paintings; she will take up her post in the autumn. Joshua Chuang, who previously held curatorial and leadership positions at the New York Public Library, the Center for Creative Photography and Yale University Art Gallery, is joining Gagosian Gallery in the newly created role of director of photography.