The Denver Art Museum has returned five Asian artworks connected to Doris and Nancy Wiener, former New York City gallery owners accused of trafficking illicit antiquities. The museum proactively contacted federal authorities in January with a list of pieces linked to the Wieners. The sculptures, gifted to the museum between 1980 and 2008, include three bronze Cambodian pieces from the 12th and 13th centuries, a 14th-century bronze seated Buddha from Burma, and a 600-year-old bronze, silver, and turquoise depiction of Padmasambhava from Tibet.
The museum deaccessioned the artifacts in July and returned them to U.S. officials for eventual repatriation. Doris Wiener, who passed away in 2011, was known for selecting stolen antiquities during her trips to South Asia. She was a generous benefactor to prestigious art museums, including the Norton Simon Museum of Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Nancy Wiener, who worked closely with another disgraced collector named Douglas Latchford, was arrested in 2016 for buying and selling millions of dollars worth of looted relics from the Middle East and Asia. In her guilty plea, Wiener admitted to buying plundered antiquities and fabricating provenance documents.
The Denver Art Museum has faced scrutiny over its past collection habits and its association with individuals involved in the trafficking of stolen artifacts. The museum has previously returned artworks from the Wieners, including a 10th-century sandstone sculpture to Cambodia in 2016.
The museum has been actively working with law enforcement to locate other stolen objects. In recent years, it has severed ties with individuals like Latchford and Subhash Kapoor, another disgraced former New York gallery owner. Government officials from Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam have sought the return of their cultural heritage from the Denver Art Museum.