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Honolulu Art Museum Sues Collector for Donating Smuggled Art Worth $1.3 M.

A 13th-century Buddhist trinity, smuggled from Cambodia, that Joel Alexander Green donated to the Honolulu Academy of Arts. HONOLULU ACADEMY OF ARTS/VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

A 13th-century Buddhist trinity, smuggled from Cambodia, that Joel Alexander Greene donated to the Honolulu Academy of Arts.

HONOLULU ACADEMY OF ARTS/VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

On July 31, the Honolulu Art Museum sued the collector Joel Alexander Greene after he failed to establish provenance for five works he had donated to the Hawaiian museum’s collection, Courthouse News reports. The works, which all came from Southeast Asia, are valued at a total of $1.3 million.

The first object Greene donated, in 2003, to the Honolulu Academy of Arts, whose holdings are shown at the Honolulu Art Museum, was an 11th-century Cambodian sculpture. After the work was delivered to the museum on time and received in good condition, the museum struck up a deal the following year that Greene would receive an $80,000 annuity for the rest of his life. The museum made this deal because Greene had offered to loan 37 more objects under the condition that he could provide sufficient provenance information.

In August 2004, experts examined the works and found inconsistencies. Greene, who had shipped the works from his home in San Francisco, had also been unable to provide provenance and import and export documentation. The collection committee proceeded to veto the annuity deal made months prior. That same year, the de Young museum pulled out of a deal with Greene, this time in exchange for Philippine tribal art, for similar reasons.

More recently, this year, the Department of Homeland Security seized seven objects in the Honolulu Museum of Art’s collection because they had been notified that the works were smuggled into America. Six of the objects came from Subhash Kapoor, whom authorities believe looted over $100 million in art. After that, the museum’s director, Stephan Jost, returned the works that Greene donated eleven years earlier and found that no signed warranty was given to the museum either.

The Honolulu Art Museum’s case is currently awaiting trial.

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