The Metropolitan Museum of Art recently signed a memoradum of understanding (MOU) with Thailand formalizing collaborative efforts to study and display Thai art.

A signing ceremony took place on April 25 at the museum in New York with Phnombootra Chandrajoti, director-general of Thailand’s Fine Arts Department, and Max Hollein, the Metropolitan Museum’s director and CEO.

Thailand’s consul general in New York, Somjai Taphaopong, and the Ministry of Culture’s executive director of its national museums office, Nitaya Kanokmongkol, also attended the signing ceremony.

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“This agreement reaffirms our commitment to furthering the world’s understanding and appreciation of Thai art and culture,” Hollein said in a press statement. “We value our open and ongoing dialogue with the Kingdom of Thailand, and look forward to future collaborations.”  

Somjai Taphaopong, Consul General of Thailand in New York, said: “The collaboration between The Met and the Fine Arts Department of Thailand reflects the close ties between Thailand and the U.S., particularly at the level of people-to-people and institute-to-institute contacts, which help strengthen the bilateral relations between the two countries and the benefit of mankind.” 

Two Thai sculptures from the 11th century, Kneeling Female Figure and Standing Shiva, were also on display at the signing ceremony. They are both being returned to Thailand after the institution announced their repatriation last December.

The sculptures were associated with the art dealer Douglas Latchford. The returns were the result of an agreement between the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York and the Met.

Chandrajoti called the return of the Met’s two items a “significant milestone” in the country’s ongoing efforts to return cultural treasures.

The news was first reported by Artforum.