My danced prayer to looted Cambodian antiquities was too much for the New York museum.
This week, we learned that two important Cambodian sandstone sculptures from the 10th century — one in the collection of the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, California, and the other seized from Sotheby’s New York in 2012 — will be returned to the Kingdom of Cambodia after being looted in the 1970s.
A figure of the Buddha hangs at the center of a small gallery filled with natural light. Only the head and shoulders have been given form, the torso a tangle of rattan strands falling away, red ink-dyed tips curving upwards, recoiling from the floor.
This ethereal sculpture, “Buddha 2” (2009), is the latest acquisition of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and part of a striking solo exhibition by artist Sopheap Pich.
Dark charcoal skyscrapers loom on a studio wall; below them bright, tiny sculptures bloom from soil beds. In another studio, women’s underwear in every shade and style hang from wires, while letters unfolded, scanned, and folded again reveal a glimpse of a lost father.
These are just some of the projects underway by a group of ten artists in residence as part of the citywide Season of Cambodia, a two-month festival of dance, music, film, visual art, theater, and symposia.
Yesterday, federal agents in New York moved to seize a thousand-year-old statue from Sotheby’s that a civil complaints is alleging was stolen from a Cambodian temple.