Looting, collusion, and statues: ‘Dynamite Doug’ unpacks notorious art dealer Douglas Latchford’s story

News March 7, 2023
Listen to ‘Dynamite Doug’

Project Brazen presents “Dynamite Doug,” a documentary series about notorious art expert and dealer Douglas Latchford’s work in the 1960s. Latchford hailed from colonial India and was at the top of his game with Cambodian art for 50 years, responsible for bringing statues to Western museums and collectors while harboring a secret.

When Khemer Rouge took over Cambodia and killed two million people, Latchford saw an opportunity. Generals swiped statues from jungle temples and Latchford colluded with this genocidal regime to buy them. They worked to steal from the nation and profit from nearly all of Cambodia’s cultural heritage.

Complete with a group of conspirators, including a senior curator at the Metropolitan Museum in New York and Denver-based academic Emma Bunker, Latchford received help to pull off crimes in the art world. He was able to sell all statues from London to New York.

Latchford even went as far as using the academic’s credentials and scholarship in attempts to cover the looting. Cambodian looting reached new heights as Western collectors swarmed the country. Latchford made a small fortune and started fielding questions from the UN.

Latchford his cohort started to “mount a rearguard action to save themselves” by returning statues to the nation. Curator Martin Lerner also returned statues, yet continued gathering pieces for the MET.

A group of art sleuths were hot on their trail and started digging. When a British conservator found stone feet in a Cambodian jungle temple, he determined that the rest of the statue’s body was in an America museum and connected this directly to Latchford.

We learn more about the documents Bunker created to help conceal Latchford’s looting, what happens when a Cambodian statue is for sale at New York’s Sotheby’s, and Latchford was hit with a lawsuit that put his name in newspapers.

Bunker confessed to her actions and Latchford’s gig was up. But Cambodia is still fighting to bring their statues home. This isn’t like the Elgin Marbles, or other stolen art controversies because it’s not part of ancient history. The story is still unfolding as the MET steadfastly holds onto its collection and statues are still waiting to be brought home to Cambodia.

Stream “Dynamite Doug” from the beginning, with all episodes running less than 35 minutes each. Check out new, weekly episodes over the next few weeks wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts.

Listen to ‘Dynamite Doug’

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