‘Adventurer scholar’ Douglas Latchford dies in Bangkok, aged 89

Douglas A. J. Latchford, who was once honored by the Cambodian government for donating Khmer Empire antiquities to the national museum and was charged last year with trafficking in looted relics, has died. Tang Chhin Sothy/Agence France-Presse via Getty Images

Douglas Latchford, a leading expert and dealer in Khmer and Indian antiquities, has died in Bangkok at the age of 89.

His family confirmed to The Art Newspaper today that Latchford, a well-known figure in the fields of South East Asian art and antiquities, died on 2 August. A private funeral has already taken place.

A self-described "adventurer scholar", Douglas Latchford was born in Bombay (now present day Mumbai) to British parents. He settled in Thailand in 1951, where he became successful in the pharmaceutical and property businesses, before running body-building competitions. He was himself a large man, who took pleasure in telling journalists visiting his house full of statues of Buddha and Siamese or Burmese gods, how he became interested in South-Eastern art while travelling dirt roads in Thailand and Cambodia to explore fabulous ruins and local antiquities markets.

Latchford built a reputation as a world expert in Khmer antiquities, co-writing three reference books with the American academic Emma Bunker. In the 1970s he became one of the most prominent suppliers of Cambodian art to museums and collectors in the US and Europe, notably through Spinks in London. Latchford has even been “described as a one-man supply-and-demand for Cambodian art for half-a-century,” according to Tess Davis, the director of the Antiquities Coalition. In 2010, Latchford told the Bangkok Post that “most of the pieces he has come across have been found and dug up by farmers in fields”. He liked to see himself as a rescuer of works of art which were long abandoned and might have been destroyed in Cambodias civil wars. His donations to the National Museum of Phnom Penh earned him a knighthood in 2008.

But scholars were concerned by the appearance in his books of several antiquities lacking a clear provenance. Latchford names appeared in the sale of several works of art from the Khmer capital Koh Ker which US museums like the Metropolitan and the Norton Collection have had to return to Cambodia since 2013. Sothebys was also forced to send back to Phnom Penh a statue from Koh Ker reclaimed Read More – Source