The Turkish government is currently seeking the return of 18 objects from the Ancient Near East Galleries of New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art (reported by Martin Bailey in the Art Newspaper earlier this month). Turkey is threatening to refuse to loan objects to the institution until questions about the contested objects were addressed.
Turkey claims all of them were illegally excavated and smuggled out of the country after the passage of a 1906 law that gave the state ownership of its cultural property. All the contested objects are from the Norbert Schimmel Collection, which the museum has described as “the finest private assemblage of its kind in America” and “one of the most important gifts of ancient and Classical art ever presented to this museum.” Between the 1950s and his death in 1990, Schimmel was a member of the Met’s board of trustees and acquisitions committee. In 1989, he donated 102 objects from his collection to the Met.Chasing Aphrodite lists the Norbert Schimmel Collection objects, mostly Hittite and Urartian. Most of the objects have no documented ownership history other than being in the Schimmel Collection by the mid 1960s or 1970s. As Felch and Fremolino note:
The Schimmel Collection was published in a 1974 volume entitled “Ancient Art:The Norbert Schimmel Collection.” The editor of the volume was Oscar White Muscarella, a former Met curator who has been an outspoken critic of the role museums have played in the illicit antiquities trade. We’ve asked Muscarella for his thoughts on the Turkish claim and will post his response when we have it.It is interesting to note that for some reason Turkey waited 38 years after the publication of the collecting before asking for the objects back. Turkey is also requesting surrender of an object from the British Museum and one from the Victoria and Albert Museum. According to Chasing Aphrodite, Turkey is also considering asking for the return of 11 other (?) unidentified objects at the Met, and apparently objects from several other US museums.
Chasing Aphrodite, 'Exclusive: Turkey Seeks The Return of 18 Objects From The Metropolitan Museum of Art', Chasing Aphrodite blog, March 20, 2012.
HOT DOC: TURKEY REQUESTS FROM THEMore Antiquities Woes for U.S. Museums Loom, As Turkey Demands 18 Artifacts From the Metropolitan Museum', ArtInfo, march 20th 2012.