The director of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art (Met) has pledged to return more works of art to looted countries after the museum decided to join the campaign against international antiquities trafficking centered on the American metropolis.

“From the Met you will see and hear not only more results in our investigations (on the origin of the works), but above all more returns and collaborations with these countries,” said Max Hollein during his meeting with foreign journalists.

“We don’t want to have in our collections the smallest object that has reached us illegally,” said the Austrian art historian, head of one of the world’s largest museums since 2018.

“There are cases where we are not the right owners,” he admitted.

In recent years, the Met and other major museums have accepted the return of many pieces and works that had come from international art trafficking, following theft and looting during the 1970s-1990s in countries wracked by war and revolution.

The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office of the State of New York has been the protagonist since 2017 in the art return campaign.

Under the auspices of Attorney General Alvin Bragg, who took office in 2022, more than 1,000 items worth $190 million have been returned to 19 countries, including Cambodia, China, India, Pakistan, Egypt, Iraq, Greece, Turkey, Italy.

In May, Max Hollin announced the formation of a commission of researchers to look into the provenance of certain objects from the Metropolitan Museum’s astonishing collection of 1.5 million works, so that, if stolen or looted, they could be returned to their countries of origin.

“We are increasing our investment in researching our collections and restoring transparency about the provenance of our objects,” the Met director insisted.

Recently, a number of objects have been confiscated by New York authorities from the Metropolitan Museum or from private collectors in the metropolis of money and art.

Case in point, Shelby White, 85, an art collector, board member and Met donor: 89 works of questionable provenance with a total value of $69 million were found in the collections in 2021 and 2022, according to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.