Photographs of “America’s most beautiful home” in the magazine Architectural Digest are suspected to have been altered to remove the appearance of looted ancient Khmer artifacts taken illegally from Cambodia.
The Washington Post reports that photos of a USD 42 million dollar home in San Francisco, California were photoshopped to remove the appearance of priceless Cambodian artifacts before the images appeared in the popular magazine Architectural Digest.
In the published photographs, the home’s courtyard contains empty pedestals, but in the original shots the pedestals held ancient Khmer statues.
The Cambodian government has said that the erased artifacts, which are pieces of statues depicting gods and demons, match statues that were taken from a sacred site in Cambodia several years ago.
The US Department of Homeland Security’s antiquities department is looking into the images and researching the artifacts to determine the validity of claims of theft.
The investigation into the statues erased from Architectural Digest is part of a wider investigation into the looting and sale of Southeast Asian art which includes the Pandora Papers, nearly 12 million documents gathered by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
The documents track the wide-scale looting and trafficking of culturally important objects from Southeast Asia. The British art dealer Douglas Latchford is believed to be behind a great deal of the smuggling of Khmer artifacts from Cambodia, while the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City is believed to house the greatest number of artifacts looted by Latchford.
The artifacts believed to have been photoshopped out of Architectural Digest likewise have ties to Latchford.
Laos, too, has had some of its cultural artifacts taken. In March of this year, ancient stone tools were returned from the United States and repatriated to Laos.