English News

  • youtube
  • facebook
  • twitter

Australia to return 14 stolen artworks to India valued at USD 3 million

The National Gallery of Australia has announced that they will return 14 works of art including Sambandar Murthi from the Chola era (Pic: Courtesy Twitter/@History_Mystery)

The National Gallery of Australia has announced that it will to return a collection of 14 artworks to India, including bronze and stone sculptures, a painted scroll and photographs which are collectively valued at USD 3 million.

The artwork acquired by NGA between 1989-2009  is associated with disgraced art dealer Subhash Kapoor, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.

They comprise six stone or bronze sculptures, most dating back to the 11th or 12th century, as well as a brass processional standard, or “alam”, from Hyderabad dated 1851. There is a painted invitation scroll, or vijnaptipatra, from Rajasthan dated around 1835, and six photographs.

The NGA director, Nick Mitzevich, confirmed the gallery had an in-principle agreement from the Indian government through the Indian high commission that they welcomed and would receive the works.

“The physical handover will be negotiated over the next couple of months, giving consideration to Covid and the ability to travel, as to whether it’s realistic to have it in India or Canberra,” he said.

“It’s unfortunate, and the institution is sorry for this development. We are doing all we can to avoid any future missteps of this kind,” Mitzevich told the Australian. “It’s a historic issue. The NGA was part of an international fraud campaign that affected more than a dozen of the world’s leading institutions.”

This is the fourth time the NGA has returned to India looted or illegally exported works purchased from Kapoor and his associates.

In early 2014 revelations emerged that Shiva as Lord of the Dance (Nataraja), one of the 21 works the gallery acquired from Art of the Past, had been looted from a temple in Tamil Nadu in southern India.

The 11th- or 12th-century Chola-period bronze, purchased in 2008 for $5.6m, was returned to India by then-prime minister Tony Abbott in September 2014, along with a sculpture Kapoor had sold to the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

Two years later, the NGA returned Goddess Pratyangira, a 12th-century stone sculpture from Tamil Nadu and Worshippers of the Buddha, a third century limestone sculpture from Andhra Pradesh.

And in 2019, the NGA repatriated a pair of 15th-century stone door guardians, or dvarapala, from Tamil Nadu, and a sixth- to eighth-century stone sculpture, the serpent king, or Nagaraja, from either Rajasthan or Madhya Pradesh.

Who is Kapoor?

Kapoor, a dual citizen of India and the US, established Art of the Past in 1974 and became an influential and respected figure in the global art market, selling and donating works to many prestigious institutions.

Clients included the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Los Angeles Singapore, the NGA and the Art Gallery of NSW.

He was extradited from Germany to India by Interpol in July 2012 and is in custody charged with stealing and illegally exporting antiquities. If convicted, he could be jailed for up to 14 years.