A second Australian art gallery has removed from display a centuries-old statue following allegations the artefact was stolen from an ancient site in India and sold by a tainted Indian art dealer.
The decision by the Art Gallery of New South Wales (NSW) follows a similar move by Canberra-based National Gallery of Australia that on Monday, pulled from display the bronze $5.6-million statue, purchased in 2008 from New York art and antiquities dealer Subhash Kapoor.
The stone Ardhanrishvara idol was sold to the NSW Art Gallery at a price of over $300,000 from Kapoors in 2004.
Both the statues — allegedly stolen and sold by Kapoor, who is on trial in Chennai for running antiquities smuggling — were removed from display following written requests from Indian government to return them back.
“The request for the return of the Ardhanariswara Idol is now a matter for the Australian Government through the Ministry for the Arts in the Attorney-General’s Department,” the Art Gallery of NSW said in a statement.
The gallery said the item has been removed and that it will continue to cooperate fully with the Australian government and relevant authorities towards a resolution.
Reacting to the issue, Chairman AusHeritage and CEO India Vision Institute Vinod Daniel said the two galleries should return the statues to India calling it “the appropriate thing to do.”
“The appropriate thing for these galleries to do is to repatriate these cultural objects back to India, especially for objects such as the ‘Dancing Shiva’ which would have been used for worship in Tamil Nadu,” he said.
Daniel said the Australian Museum in 2000 had sent 33 three objects back to the Government Museum in Chennai.
Attorney-General’s Department is currently processing the Indian government’s request of returning the allegedly stolen artefacts.