U.S. authorities have seized Greek and Roman antiquities from Shelby White, a New York philanthropist who sits on the board of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The group of artifacts recovered as part of the seizure are estimated to be worth $20 million. The Art Newspaper first reported news of the seizure.
More than 20 works of art were recovered from White’s residence. According to a statement from White’s representative, Fraser Seitel, she is cooperating with the probe and has agreed to repatriate the items to their originating countries, Italy and Turkey. White could not be reached for comment.
The works include a monumental bronze statue of Roman emperor Lucius Verus that was originally found in Turkey.
She amassed the works in the collection alongside her husband, financier Leon Levy, who died in 2003. At their times of purchases, the couple believed the works were sourced legally, Seitel told ICIJ. In 2008, White forfeited ten objects to Italy after an investigation by New York authorities into her collection.
White is the founder of a nonprofit named for Levy that has distributed millions in funding, including to art organizations like the Brooklyn Museum and the National Museum of Asian Art in Washington, D.C. She has lent numerous antiquities to the Met.
In the 1990s, 200 items from her private collection were loaned to the museum for an exhibition titled “Glories of the Past: Ancient Art from the Shelby White and Leon Levy Collection.” A gallery of Greek and Roman art at the Met is named for the collectors, who gave $20 million to fund the room’s expansion in 1995.
White’s collection has long been the subject of dispute among scholars who have debated the origins of its many objects. In 2006, archaeologists decried a major donation to NYU from White and Levy’s foundation that established a center focused on classics studies.
The seizure is the most recent one of its kind in a broadening legal effort by U.S. and New York authorities, who are now seeking to repatriate antiquities with suspect origins to the governments of the countries from which they originated. Dealers Doulgas Latchford and Subhash Kapoor, as well as Michael Steinhardt, a past Met donor, have all been the subject of related investigations and seizures.