Met Museum Hires Sotheby’s Staffer to Lead Provenance Research

After a nearly year-long and highly publicized search, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City has appointed its inaugural head of Provenance Research. Lucian Simmons, who has worked at Sotheby’s since 1995, will leave his position as the auction house’s vice chairman and worldwide restitution head to take over the new role at the museum this May, according to The Met’s announcement today, March 22. Responsible for examining the individual provenance histories of works in the museum collection of over 1.5 million objects, the new position was first announced last May following a string of high-profile law enforcement seizures of looted works and escalating public scrutiny over The Met’s collection practices.

With a salary ranging from $140,000 to $160,000, Simmons will oversee research efforts across the institution’s various curatorial departments, spearheading investigations into artworks that may have Nazi-era provenance or could be considered cultural property.

The Met also announced an expanded position for Senior Research Assistant Maya Muratov, who is currently involved in ongoing provenance work in the museum’s Department of Greek and Roman Art. Additionally, Qamar Adamjee, Jennifer Day, and Maxence Garde will fill the museum’s new provenance research roles in the Department of Asian Art, the American Wing (with a focus on Native American art), and the Department of Egyptian Art, respectively.

Effectively increasing its provenance research staff size from six to 11, the museum’s recent appointments follow a string of controversies that exposed gaps in its provenance research. In December 2022, the Manhattan District Attorney’s office recovered almost two dozen looted antiquities from the Manhattan home of Met trustee Shelby White. Several months later in March 2023, a report produced by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists found that 1,109 objects in The Met’s collection had ties to individuals accused or convicted of antiquities crimes. A ProPublica report published in April 2023 further revealed that 85% of the 139 Native American objects loaned or gifted to the museum had underdeveloped provenance information — raising alarms that the works may have been stolen or were fakes.

Within the past two years, The Met has engaged in a number of initiatives aimed at addressing its collection’s history of looted artwork and antiquities. In December 2023, the museum repatriated 16 looted artifacts to Cambodia and Thailand, and previously, the institution returned two sculptures to Nepal and transferred ownership of two sculptures to the Republic of Yemen. In early October, The Met also updated its Collections Management Policy, so that all loans of antiquities will be required to have a provenance dating back to 1970, as required for its acquisitions.

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