Australia to return stolen artefacts to India

NGA will repatriate six sculptures, six photographs, a painted scroll and a processional standard.

The National Gallery of Australia (NGA) has decided to return 13 artworks it purchased from dealer Subhash Kapoor.

It is reported that the NGA spent $10.7 million on 22 works from Mr Kapoor’s “Art of the Past” gallery over several years.

Image source: Arch for a Jain shrine and Seated Jina from the Mount Abu region in Rajasthan, India from the 11th-12th century – National Gallery of Australia.

This includes 11th century Chola bronze sculpture, Shiva Nataraja, which the NGA purchased for more than $5 million in 2008.

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The NGA has decided that many of these items were likely looted or stolen in India.

Image source: NGA director Nick Mitzevich – NGA

NGA director Nick Mitzevich told ABC that the gallery believed six of the artworks were likely stolen or illegally removed from India.

“We have strengthened our processes and have zero tolerance now for any inconsistencies in the provenance of a work of art.”

Image source: Subhash Kapoor – Wikipedia.

Subhash Kapoor is awaiting trial in India after being accused of running a global smuggling ring for looted or stolen artefacts.

NGA will repatriate six sculptures, six photographs, a painted scroll and a processional standard.

Image source: ‘Manorath’ portrait of donor and priests before Shri Nathji, purchased in 2009 / National Gallery of Australia

Thirteen of those items were purchased from Mr Kapoor while another was acquired from a separate dealer.

Image source: Untitled portrait from Udaipur in Rajasthan, India. Purchased in 2009 – National Gallery of Australia.

NGA director Nick Mitzevich added:

“This is another step towards us building an ethical approach to managing our collections.”

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Image source: PM Tony Abbott and PM Narendra Modi – Wikipedia.

This is the fourth time the NGA has handed the Indian government antiquities it bought from Subhash Kapoor.

In 2014, Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott handed the Dancing Shiva to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a visit to New Delhi.

The NGA’s announcement has been welcomed by India’s government.

Image source: Manpreet Vohra, India’s High Commissioner to Australia – Twitter.

Manpreet Vohra, India’s High Commissioner to Australia, praised the decision:

“These are outstanding pieces. Their return will be extremely well received by the government and people of India.”

After the 2021 repatriation of artefacts, NGA will only hold three of the 22 works it has purchased from Subhash Kapoor.