"Art Unites Us:" Hanuman Return Ceremony and Memorandum of Understanding Signing in Cambodia (Photos)


Today, the Cleveland Museum of Art voluntarily returned a 10th-century Cambodian stone sculpture of Hanuman to the Kingdom of Cambodia (pictured at left), and entered into a Memorandum of Understanding concerning cultural cooperation with the National Museum of Cambodia—the first such agreement between the National Museum and an American museum. As contemplated in the Memorandum, the two museums will pursue cooperative activities, including sharing best practices, joint projects, studies and technical assistance. In addition, the National Museum will provide consultations and guidance to the Cleveland Museum of Art with respect to loans from Cambodia of works of art for exhibition in Cleveland. The two museums will be working together over the coming months to identify specific projects and loans.

The Minister of Culture and Fine Arts commented, “The Memorandum of Understanding between the National Museum and the Cleveland Museum of Art is our first with an American museum providing for reciprocal collaboration and technical assistance. We look forward to many years of working with our friends in Cleveland and to increasing knowledge outside Cambodia about the wonders of our culture.” Kong Vireak, Director of the National Museum, added “I look forward to working with our American colleagues to identify specific projects, many of which we have already discussed, that I know will be of benefit to our museum and to visitors to Cleveland.”

Dr. William M. Griswold, Director of the Cleveland Museum of Art, noted that “We are very happy to provide assistance to the National Museum and to be working with our Cambodian colleagues from whom we are learning more and more about the art and culture of Cambodia. We are very excited about the possibilities for increasing the American public’s awareness of and appreciation for Khmer art through loans to our museum.”

Here on our blog, we share an inside look at the Hanuman's return ceremony and the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding from earlier today in Cambodia.



Sonya Rhie Quintanilla, George P. Bickford Curator of Indian and Southeast Asian Art, and Director, William M. Griswold, before the return ceremony that began in Phnom Penh on Tuesday at 9:15 a.m. (10 p.m. Cleveland time).


Dr. Griswold and Deputy Prime Minister at the signing ceremony for the return of the Hanuman.

The signing ceremony was followed by a much larger event in the presence of Hanuman, who was placed on his former pedestal and installed on a dais surrounded by the Deputy Prime Minister, Dr. Griswold, many Cambodian officials and the ambassadors of numerous countries, including India and China.  A Cambodian dance troop performed, tossing flowers upon Hanuman and toward those seated on the dais. After the performance, the Deputy Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for Cambodia, and Dr. Griswold spoke.


Dr. Griswold speaking after signing the return documents.

 “Imbued as they are with immense cultural significance, great works of art are also great ambassadors," remarked Griswold at the ceremony. "By its very nature, art unites us. It promotes tolerance and understanding. That is a function of each of our personal relationships with works of art. But art also forges connections among people. I can think of no better example than the process that culminated in the return of the Hanuman.”

The Deputy Prime Minister, Sok An, awarded  Dr. Griswold the medal of the Royal Order of Grand Officer of Sahametrey, the highest decoration that Cambodia awards to foreign citizens. Here, he stands with the Hanuman who has been covered in garlands.


 At the end of the ceremony, garlands of flowers were placed on the Hanuman.


At a separate event following the return ceremony, the Memorandum of Understanding, a framework for cultural cooperation between the Cleveland Museum of Art and the National Museum of Cambodia, was signed at 4 p.m. Cambodia time (5 a.m. Cleveland time) with equal celebration. The Director of the National Museum of Cambodia, Kong Vireak (seated at left), and Dr. Griswold sign copies of the agreement concerning the return in both Khmer and English. 


Mr. Vireak and Dr. Griswold shake hands after signing the agreement.


Mr. Kong Vireak and Dr. Griswold formally exchange copies of the Memorandum of Understanding.


Dr. Griswold accepts a gift following the signed agreement exchange.

Following the signing, handshake, handoff, and gift exchange, the Director of National Museum of Cambodia, Dr. Griswold, Dr. Quintanilla, and members of the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts toast the agreement.  

"We look forward to continuing and enhancing the excellent relations we have with the government of Cambodia and with the National Museum,” Dr. Griswold has stated.


Leave your best wishes for Hanuman in the comments below!

> Read more about the museum's return of this 10th century Cambodian stone sculpture of Hanuman to the Kingdom of Cambodia and Memorandum of Understanding concerning cultural cooperation with the National Museum of Cambodia

Photos: The Cleveland Museum of Art



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