Emma C. Bunker

Portrait of Emma C.  Bunker

Emma Cadwalader Bunker (19 June 1930, Haverford, Pennsylvania - 21 Feb. 2021, Denver, Colorado, USA) was an American scholar, archeologist, professor and author specializing in Eurasia, China and Cambodia and Asian art, whose reputation was posthumously questioned for her association with art dealer Douglas Latchford, and her implication in looted Khmer artifacts illegal trading.

According to the laudatory obituary The Denver Post published after her death, "she taught Art History at the Colorado College and mentored many aspiring scholars and artists. She served on numerous boards and committees of art museums and cultural institutions including Denver Art Museum, Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, Freer and Sackler Gallery, Center for Khmer Studies and Institute for the Study of the Ancient World." One year later, however, that same newspaper ran a scathing report accusing her of using the Denver Art Museum -- where an entire gallery still beared her name -- as a "laundromat" for stolen Khmer sculptures. In a subsequent editorial, the newspaper's editorial board stated: "We are dismayed that Christoph Heinrich, the director of the Denver Art Museum, has not publicly responded to the scandal. We worry the institution is hoping the storm will blow over without having to address the fact that not only is the museum housing artwork that was likely smuggled into the U.S. by art dealer Douglas Latchford and then legitimized by The Scholar Emma C. Bunker, but the Denver Art Museum’s complicity also helped give these two people legitimacy in the eyes of other buyers."


The Bunker Gallery, Denver Art Museum

This is a rare instance of an internationally-recognized researcher being named as an active accomplice in art trafficking. Emma "Emmy" Bunker's husband, John Bunker, a wealthy businessman and the son of businessman and diplomat Ellsworth F. Bunker (1894-1984) -- appointed US Ambassador to South Vietnam by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1967–1973 and a staunch supporter of US incursions into Laos and Cambodia -- was also a donator to the Denver Museum and liked to give lectures on "business ethics". John Bunker worked for National Sugar Refining, a company founded by his grand-father and headed by his father.


Among her more than 50 published works, she co-authored with Latchford Adoration and Glory: The Golden Age of Khmer Art (Art Media Resources, 2004, ISBN-13: ‎978-1588860705), a book often quoted by art historians.