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Virginia MFA’s Lewis Loans: More on Museums & the Indicted Egyptian Antiquities Collector

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Alex Nyerges, director, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

In my previous post about the indictment of collector Joseph Lewis II for alleged antiquities smuggling, I mentioned that this case “could reverberate through the U.S. museum and collecting communities.”

I have not yet heard form Emory University’s Michael C. Carlos Museum, Atlanta; the Boston Museum of Fine Arts says it will get back to me on this next week. Both reportedly had received objects by gift or loan from Lewis, although there is as yet no indication that any of these were smuggled goods.

Another museum, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (unmentioned in my previous post), did respond to my query about whether it has any objects given or on loan to it from Lewis, a Virginia resident (no relation to the RIchmond museum’s major benefactors, Frances Lewis and the late Sydney Lewis).

The VMFA has just sent me the following statement:

“The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts has eight objects on loan from the Joseph A. Lewis Collection, all of which were, to the best of our knowledge, purchased by the owner and lent to the VMFA in good faith,” said Alex Nyerges, director and CEO.

“These Egyptian antiquities are on view in the recently reinstalled Egyptian galleries. They were borrowed to further our educational mission of teaching museum visitors about the art, history, and culture of ancient Egypt, one of the most important civilizations of the ancient world.”

In my query I had also asked for any Lewis objects to be identified, with photos. And I had asked to be told what action, if any, the museum might take regarding those objects.

The museum’s spokesperson, Suzanne Hall, told me that the prepared statement “is all we have to share at this time.”

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