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Winter 2023

Back and Forth and Back Again: New Decision in a Longstanding Dispute Over a Buddhist Statue

The South Korean Daejeon High Court held in a decision this week that a South Korean temple did not have a claim to ownership of a Buddhist statue, a seated Bodhisattva. This statue was allegedly created by the South Korean temple, which is the plaintiff in the case, in the 14th century, when it was soon after looted by Japanese pirates and taken to a Japanese temple. There, it was held until 2012 when it was stolen by South Korean thieves, intending to sell it. The statue, along with others, was seized by the Korean government and the thieves were prosecuted, but the Daejeon district court held in favor of retaining the statue for the Korean temple, Buseoksa, over returning it to the Japanese temple in 2017. Six years later, the Daejeon High Court heard the appeal this week and overturned the original injunction against returning the stolen statue. It held that the Japanese temple, Kannonji Temple, had acquired the statue through “acquisitive prescription” by possessing the statue “openly and peacefully” for at least 20 years. The Daejeon High Court also argued that there was a significant lack of records which would not allow the present day Buseoksa Temple to show that it was the same Buseoksa Temple as originally created the statue in the 14th century. The Buseoksa Temple has stated that it will be appealing this decision. Although South Korean court records are not available to the public, articles regarding this recent decision written from the Japanese and South Korean perspectives can be found HERE and HERE, respectively.

DNR DAO or Crypto for Constitution, please

Back in 2021, a consortium of crypto investors known as ConstitutionDAO, pulled together more than $40 million worth of ether in a week to try to buy a rare, first-edition copy of the U.S. Constitution at a Sotheby’s auction — and lost. Despite the substantial amount of money raised, the group failed to buy the document. Auction house Sotheby’s sold an early copy of the Constitution for $41 million. With fees and buyer’s premium included, the final price was $43.2 million. The group tweeted a statement indicating they didn’t win the auction. “While this wasn’t the outcome we hoped for, we still made history tonight with ConstitutionDAO. This is the largest crowdfund for a physical object that we are aware of — crypto or fiat. We are so incredibly grateful to have done this together with you all and are still in shock that we even got this far.” The group said those who contributed funds “will be able to get a refund of your pro rata amount (effectively minus gas fees) through Juicebox.” More about the story of ConstitutionalDAO or doubt.

Looted antiquities returned to Turkey and Italy were seized from New York home of Met trustee Shelby White

For The Art Newspaper, Claire Voon reports about ongoing investigation into Shelby White’s collection. More info HERE.