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Naijatreks | Boston Museum returns Eight Stolen Art works to Nigeria

Boston Museum returns Eight Stolen Art works to Nigeria

Post 26 of 232

Source: The Art Newspaper

Some of the works, acquired in good faith by donor in the 1990s, were accompanied by forged documentation

Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts has returned eight sculptures to Nigeria. They had been acquired by a donor who had bought them from American and European dealers in the 1990s. Earlier this month, the group was restituted to Nigeria’s National Commission for Museums and Monuments.

The sculptures were given or bequeathed by William Teel, a Massachusetts donor who died in December 2012. He left 300 African and Oceanic items, in addition to some given during his lifetime. Early last year the Boston museum took the initiative to begin a detailed provenance check on his collection.
Teel had bought the eight restituted pieces in good faith, five of which he acquired from the Davis Gallery in New Orleans. The two oldest are Nok terracottas, around 500BC to AD200, which came from the Davis Gallery and the Brussels dealer Marc Leo Felix. An Ife terracotta head dates from the 12th to 14th century. A Benin bronze ancestral altar figure, a fairly modern piece dating from 1914, was found to have been stolen from the royal palace in Benin City in 1976. An Oron ancestral figure, 18th or 19th century, was discovered to have gone missing from the Oron Museum, near Calabar, at some point from the 1970s. Four of the pieces were accompanied by forged Nigerian documentation.
Nigeria’s National Commission for Museums and Monuments has not yet announced where they will go on display. Thirty-three of Teel’s other African pieces, which the museum believes do not have provenance issues, are currently on display in the Boston museum.
In a separate acquisition two years ago, the museum received a donation of 34 West African artifacts from Robert Owen Lehman, nearly all of them Benin bronzes. At the time, the Nigerian commission demanded their return, although this claim does not appear to have been pursued.

Story and Photo Source: THE ART NEWSPAPER

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This article was written by Folarin Kolawole

Founder of Naijatreks, Nigerian-born Folarin Kolawole is a geologist, travel writer and researcher. When not at work, he travels the length and breadth of Nigeria, exploring, taking photos and writing about her numerous hidden tourist potentials.   'Naijatreks' is a product name registered under the Ntreks brand, which is also duly registered by Nigeria's Federal Corporate Affairs Commission. The contents on this blog are re-usable. However, it must be ensured that it is linked back to this blog, and correctly attributed to Naijatreks or the author. Please do not edit, rewrite or commercialize the original works on this blog without direct and written permission from the Founder (Folarin Kolawole). For inquiries and advert placement on the blog, kindly contact us at or

3 comments:' Erelu NikeJuly 10, 2014 at 4:47 pmReply

Wow! I just hope all these western countries can return all our stolen artifacts like this 1' Henry JJ.July 10, 2014 at 5:23 pmReply

Hmm..nice one. But how sure are we that these artifacts are original? i once heard that it is possible to clone artifacts such that they will look original and ancient. In fact, i learnt that most sculptures at Onikan Museum (for example) are recent replicas of the original works. The returned works should be taken through detailed chemical tests to prove their originality. We should not allow these thieves to deceive us.' Yisa AkinbolajiFebruary 16, 2015 at 4:29 pmReply

Great news, Folarin. Hopefully Henry J. J’s concern is not the case …