Rijksmuseum laments Dutch failure to return stolen colonial art

Amsterdam gallery in talks with Sri Lanka and Indonesia about returning artefacts

One of the Netherlands’ most venerated institutions, the Rijksmuseum, has described the country’s failure to return artefacts stolen from former colonies as a “disgrace” as it opened talks with Sri Lanka and Indonesia.

The museum in Amsterdam is discussing the return of around 10 objects to their place of origin but there are thought to be about 1,000 stolen pieces in its collection.

The pioneering move comes amid a debate in museums and galleries across Europe about the provenance of its exhibits.

The Dutch National Museum of World Cultures (NMWC) published guidelines last month for countries who wish to make a claim on stolen art or an artefact of significant cultural significance.

“It’s a disgrace that the Netherlands is only now turning its attention to the return of the colonial heritage,” Taco Dibbets, the Rijksmuseum’s director, told the Dutch newspaper De Trouw. “We should have done it earlier and there is no excuse.”

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