Manhattan investigators have seized $69 million worth of stolen artifacts from the collection of Shelby White, a prominent New York philanthropist and Metropolitan Museum of Art trustee. Over the past two years, 89 artifacts were confiscated by the Manhattan District Attorney's Office after being deemed looted. The majority of the items were taken from White's apartment, while 17 antiquities were removed from the Met as she had loaned them to the museum. White has cooperated with authorities, who have not indicated that she her late husband knew the pieces were stolen prior to purchase.
One of the most valuable historical art pieces reportedly looted before being purchased by White is worth a whopping $15 million alone.
The piece, a bronze statuette of the emperor Lucius Verus, dates back to the late second to early third century CE and was stolen from Turkey, according to a search warrant.
White's public image and close ties to the Met have been subject to scrutiny following the mass seizure of art pieces and artifacts stolen from 10 different countries like Yemen, Turkey and Italy.
White and Levy have donated $20 million to the famed institution and in 2007, the Met opened the Leon Levy and Shelby White Court, a large gallery featuring Greek and Roman art.
White serves as an emeritus trustee to the Met and sits on its acquisitions, buildings and finance committees.
Weeks ago, she was appointed to a 12-member task force that will advise on the museum's collecting practices in an effort to create stricter guidelines, the Times reported.
"The Met has been very public in acknowledging that new information brought to light by law enforcement and others has precipitated our decision to devote additional resources to provenance research," Ken Weine, a Met spokesman, said in a statement to the publication.
Met director Max Hollein has stood by White, stating that she "had an enormous impact at this museum" as a "profoundly generous supporter," according to the Times.
But outside experts have been more critical.
"There is no way that someone at her level of the market and her depth of collecting and her prominence at the Met — there is no way someone at that level did not know they should be asking for things like export licenses," Elizabeth Marlowe, director of the museum studies program at Colgate University, told the newspaper.
Shelby White and her late husband have amassed a collection of over 700 antiquities from around the world. However, authorities have determined that some of these items were looted, leading to their repeated relinquishment. Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg recently returned three 2,000-year-old antiquities valued $725,000 to Yemen. White's lawyer stated that she acquired the items in good faith through public auctions and reputable dealers.