Metropolitan Museum of Art Hires Its First Provenance Research Head - The World News

Metropolitan Museum of Art Hires Its First Provenance Research Head

New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art has named Sotheby’s executive Lucian Simmons to the newly created head of provenance research.

Simmons is currently vice chairman and worldwide head of the restitution department, as well as senior specialist for the Impressionist and modern art department at Sotheby’s. He begins his new role in May.

The Met has faced scrutiny over the provenance of its 1.5 million holdings. The creation of the position, followed six seizures conducted in 2022 alone, with the Manhattan DA’s office taking antiquities from Greece, Italy, and Egypt totaling $1.1 million. The office also seized a $25 million statue of a Roman emperor that had been illegally removed from a Turkish archaeological site.

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The scene in the room when Mark Rothko’s Orange, Red, Yellow (1961) sold for $86.9 million in 2012. Courtesy Christie’s

“He has a vast amount of experience understanding the level of research you need to apply and what timelines you need to set to get to a result,” Max Hollein, the museum’s director and chief executive, told the New York Times. “He probably had to deal with more issues at Sotheby’s than have many other institutions. You have to vet and scrutinize a huge number of objects. He’s someone who understands the theory but who also has a very practical attitude.”

Since 1997, Simmons has worked on restitution and provenance issues at Sotheby’s, where he started a dedicated team for these kinds of concerns. At the Met, he will lead a team of researchers whose work will be coordinated with the deputy director for collections and administration in conjunction with the office of the Met’s general counsel.

Simmons will work with curators at the Met to confirm provenance research on all objects in the collection or in the process of being acquired. They will check to see if the works are considered cultural property or if they have Nazi-era provenance.

Sotheby’s has received criticism for trying to sell objects with questionable provenance, particularly related to Nazi-looted works.

Maya Muratov, who has been working on provenance research in the Met’s Greek and Roman art department, will have an expanded role on Simmons’s team. The Met also created new provenance research positions in the Asian art department, the American Wing (with a focus on Native American art), and Egyptian art department, to be filled respectively by Qamar Adamjee, Jennifer Day, and Maxence Garde.

As part of the new provenance research team, these new roles increase the number of employees dedicated to provenance research from 6 to 11.

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