Friday, May 30, 2008

Unprecedented collaboration

Two of Banteay Chhmar's Avalokiteshvara stolen in 1998 were subsequently recovered and returned for safekeeping to the National Museum in Phnom Penh in 2000, where they are displayed today. Whilst they were held temporarily in Bangkok, a friend of mine, Lisa Cox, took these photos. These priceless artifacts were rescued from the clutches of the thieves, destined most likely for antique dealers in Bangkok and from there to anywhere in the world, in an unprecedented act of co-operation between the Thai authorities and their Cambodian counterparts. We only hear the negative furore over Preah Vihear these days, but this example of collaboration in returning these artifacts to their rightful owners, should not be forgotten.
This Avalokiteshvara has one head and six arms, and to the left is a smaller kneeling figure with eight arms. Lots of smaller worshipping figures are also present
Although hard to see, this Avalokiteshvara has ten arms and one head and is surrounded by kneeling worshippers in anjali


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Brouwer,

Are you sure about the adjective "unprecedented"?
I can distinctly remember quite a few examples of this sort of cooperation in the past 30 years, regardless of the strain that's characterized Thai-Cambodian relations over time, with what regards the illicit traffick of Khmer artworks through Thailand.
Kosatibodi Lek, Chian Khong
Chian Rai Tourism Authority

May 30, 2008 8:25 AM  
Blogger Andy Brouwer said...

Thanks for your comments. I'm sure other instances of co-operation have been logged between the two countries over illegally-traded artifacts but the return of the Banteay Chhmar carvings were made public across the globe. Even I saw the headlines sitting in my house in England. To me at that time, and since, the lack of this type of collaboration meant that I wanted to specifically highlight what I saw as an 'unprecedented' act of co-operation, and a timely reminder that relations between the two countries haven't always been as fractious as they are over Preah Vihear.
I would welcome a note of all the examples of such co-operation, which I can add as a footnote.
If other countries and Museums around the world were to follow Thailand's example then the art collections of the Cambodian government would more accurately reflect the incredible diversity and beauty of Cambodia's past.

May 30, 2008 8:39 AM  

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