The Denver Art Museum (DAM) has found itself at the centre of a far-reaching international art looting scandal.
On 10 March, representatives for the museum issued a statement announcing their decision to remove the name “Bunker” from the Arts of Asia gallery after returning donations worth $185,000 from the late scholar, museum trustee and volunteer Emma C. Bunker. The move that comes in the wake of mounting revelations regarding falsified provenance and antiquities trafficking. The “Bunker” signage had been contractually decreed in 2018 to stay on the DAM’s walls until 2071.
A yearlong investigationby the Denver Post has revealed that Bunker, who died at age 90 in 2021, aided and abetted her friend and collaborator Douglas Latchford, a notorious British antiquities dealer and smuggler, by fudging the provenance of looted Cambodian artefacts and using her six-decade relationship with the DAM to legitimise his dealings. Bunker helped broker the sale of 14 Latchford antiquities to the DAM, as well as donating over 200 pieces to the museum herself—40 of those objects are technically considered “antiquities”; the museum’s aforementioned official statement maintains that the DAM is “cooperating with US authorities” while conducting “research into the ownership histories of these objects”.