Fine Art PR Publicity Announcements News and Information
Fine Art PR Publicity Announcements News and Information

Smithsonian National Museum of Asian Art Announces Partnership With Republic of Yemen

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art announced it has entered a partnership with the Republic of Yemen Government to provide safe storage and care for 77 objects that the United States government is repatriating to the Republic of Yemen. Sixty-four of the objects were forfeited to the United States as a result of investigative efforts initiated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Investigations and a criminal case by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York. The other 13 items were intercepted by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Department of Justice being illegally transported into the United States.

The Yemeni embassy and U.S. Department of State first approached the National Museum of Asian Art in January 2023 to propose a partnership that would ensure the objects remained safe during Yemen’s ongoing unrest. The museum is charged with the storage and care of the 77 objects and is permitted to document and exhibit the collection to foster a greater understanding of ancient Yemeni art. The Republic of Yemen Government and the Smithsonian have entered into a two-year custodial agreement with the option to renew at the request of the Republic of Yemen Government. The embassy will advise on access to, research on and conservation of the objects.

The 77 objects include a bronze bowl, 11 folios from early Qur’ans and 65 funerary stelae dated to the second half of the first millennium B.C. from northwest Yemen. The stone faces are carved in relief and characterized by wide-open eyes. Some show traces of pigment, while others bear the inscription of the name of the deceased. This important collection contributes to knowledge of ancient south Arabian onomastics (study of names) and funerary practices, and a selection of the repatriated objects may join the exhibition “Ancient Yemen: Incense, Art, and Trade,” on view at the National Museum of Asian Art. The museum plans to engage with the Yemeni community and listen to their perspectives to inform how these objects are interpreted in the exhibition. The object labels will also call attention to the current situation in Yemen and the story of their journey to the National Museum of Asian Art.

The National Museum of Asian Art’s stewardship of these objects is the latest example of its long track record in the field of cultural heritage preservation, including a current international research project supported by the Carnegie Corporation. The museum is home to a world-class Department of Conservation and Scientific Research and is a leader in international conservation training and collaboration. It is now applying its expertise to new projects that are driving capacity building and cultural exchange in all areas of museum operations.

As the Smithsonian implements its shared stewardship and ethical returns policy, this partnership with Yemen will serve as an exemplary model of how U.S. museums can work with other countries to steward cultural objects and share them with broad audiences.

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art is committed to preserving, exhibiting, researching and interpreting art in ways that deepen our collective understanding of Asia and the world. Home to more than 45,000 objects, the museum stewards one of North America’s largest and most comprehensive collections of Asian art, with works dating from antiquity to the present from China, Japan, Korea, South Asia, Southeast Asia and the Islamic world. Its rich holdings bring the arts of Asia into direct dialogue with an important collection of 19th- and early 20th-century American works, providing an essential platform for creative collaboration and cultural exchange between the United States, Asia and the Middle East.

Beginning with a 1906 gift that paved the way for the museum’s opening in 1923, the National Museum of Asian Art is a leading resource for visitors, students and scholars in the United States and internationally. Its galleries, laboratories, archives and library are located on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., and are part of the world’s largest museum complex, which typically reports more than 27 million visits each year. The museum is free and open to the public 364 days a year (closed Dec. 25), making its exhibitions, programs, learning opportunities and digital initiatives accessible to global audiences.

National Museum of Asian Art