Press release

The Metropolitan Museum of Art Returns Sculpture to Nepal

(New York, August 15, 2022)—The Consulate General of Nepal in New York and The Metropolitan Museum of Art announced today that The Met has initiated the return of a 13th century wooden Temple Strut with a Salabhinka to the Government of Nepal. An agreement to this effect has  been signed by Bishnu Prasad Gautam, Acting Consul General of Nepal, and Daniel H. Weiss, President and CEO, on behalf of the Government of Nepal and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, respectively.

The sculpture was delivered to Nepal by The Met, where it was received today by the Director General of the Department of Archaeology on behalf of the Government of Nepal. The Museum also delivered a tenth century stone sculpture, Shiva in Himalayan Abode with Ascetics, which The Met transferred to Nepal in September 2021 at a signing ceremony hosted at the Museum with Bishnu Prasad Gautam, Acting Consul General of Nepal and Consul Mr. Ganesh Prasad Adhikari, from the Consulate General. 

The works are expected to be displayed at the National Museum of Nepal, Kathmandu. 

Both sculptures were given to The Met as gifts. Recent research undertaken by the Museum determined that the objects should be returned to Nepal. In both instances, the Museum contacted the Government of Nepal to offer the return of the sculptures, and arranged for the objects to be transported to Nepal. 

Commented The Metropolitan Museum of Art: “The Museum is committed to the responsible acquisition of archaeological art, and applies rigorous provenance standards both to new acquisitions and the study to works long in its collection in an ongoing effort to learn as much as possible about ownership history. In returning these sculptures to Nepal, the Museum honoring the long-standing relationship we have fostered with scholarly institutions and colleagues in Nepal, and signaling an ongoing dedication to continuing the ongoing and open dialogue between us.”

Speaking on the occasion, Acting Consul General Bishnu Prasad Gautam said, “We are deeply grateful to The Metropolitan Museum of Art, its President and Chief Executive Officer, the Board of Trustees, and the Museum’s scholars and officials for their initiative and active cooperation in returning this lost artifact back to Nepal. We offer thanks to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation; and the Department of Archaeology of Nepal for their guidance and coordination in this process, and to the many supporters and interested parties for their love of Nepali art.”

The Acting Consul General continued, “We appreciate the Museum's ongoing dedication and commitment to working for the preservation and promotion of world cultural heritage. The warm cooperation we have received from the Museum has deeply contributed to Nepal's national efforts to recover and reinstate its lost artifacts, including the Museum’s initiative to return two Nepali artifacts—Shiva in Himalayan Abode with Ascetics sculpture and the Temple Strut with a Salabhinka. The Consulate looks forward to working closely with the Museum to preserve and promote art and culture in the future, as these collaborative efforts truly contribute to preservation of the cultural heritage, and further strengthen the long-standing ties between the peoples of Nepal and the United States of America.”

About the Objects 
The stone sculpture depicting Lord Shiva, a revered Hindu deity, with his two ascetic disciples in a mountain abode at Mount Kailash in the Himalayas, was given to The Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1995. The sculpture, which is approximately 13 inches high, remained in the collection until recent Museum research—based on that of renowned Nepali scholar Lain Singh Bangdel and his book, Inventory of Stone Sculptures of Kathmandu Valley—determined that the object belonged to the Kankeswari Temple (Kanga-Ajima) in Kathmandu, Nepal. 

Measuring just over 51 inches high, Temple Strut with a Salabhinka was a gift to the Museum in 1991. Based on its own research, and photographs of the strut that were published in The Antiquity of Nepalese Wood Carving in 2010, the Museum came to learn that the object originated from Itum Baha, a Buddhist monastery in Kathmandu. It was likely once joined to a sculpture of a yaksa, which is said to remain located at the temple site. 


August 15, 2022

Contacts: Ann Bailis, Ken Weine

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