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Looted art, artifacts seized by Manhattan DA were recovered from home of The Met trustee

Shelby White, a trustee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, has been revealed as the former owner of looted artifacts recently returned to Turkey, including a life-size bronze statue of the Roman Emperor Lucius Verus. Photo courtesy of U.S. Consulate General Istanbul/Facebook
Shelby White, a trustee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, has been revealed as the former owner of looted artifacts recently returned to Turkey, including a life-size bronze statue of the Roman Emperor Lucius Verus. Photo courtesy of U.S. Consulate General Istanbul/Facebook

Dec. 2 (UPI) -- Nearly two dozen looted objects that were seized by the office of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg in recent months were recovered from the home of a trustee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, reports said.

Warrants provided by the Manhattan DA to The Art Newspaper and Hyperallergic on Friday showed that 23 of the antiquities were seized by authorities from the home of Shelby White during a lengthy investigation into the provenance of the art and historical objects.

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Investigators obtained the search warrants in June 2021 and in April 2022 that Homeland Security agents had "reasonable cause" to believe they were stolen, according to The Art Newspaper.

Some of those pieces have already been repatriated to Turkey and Italy, including a third-century statue worth $15 million, Hyperallergic reported.

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The collection of White and her late husband Leon Levy was previously scrutinized in a study published in the American Journal of Archaeology in 2000 after more than 200 objects were displayed in an exhibition at The Met.

That study found that 93% of the works in that exhibit had no known provenance, which is the term used in the art world to describe the tracking of such artifacts as they change hands over time.

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White previously repatriated parts of her collection in 2008 when she returned 10 objects to Italy and another two to Greece after public backlash.

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Officials in the United States, as well as researchers in the art world, have been increasing their efforts to repatriate stolen artifacts in recent years.

Last month, a highly anticipated database of the Benin Bronzes, a massive trove of art and cultural artifacts looted from the Kingdom of Benin by the British empire in 1897, was launched and could help shape the future of art restitution.

That project, Digital Benin, began in 2020 and has culminated with a catalog of 5,246 historic Benin objects currently held in 131 institutions across 20 countries.

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The news came as it was revealed that Leon Black, a trustee and former board chair of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, has been accused of raping a woman at Jeffrey Epstein's mansion in New York City.

The lawsuit was filed by the woman, Cheri Pierson, in the New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan on Monday and she has demanded a jury trial.

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