An ancient bronze statue of Nataraja, bought by the National Gallery of Australia from Indian-American artefact dealer Subhash Kapoor, who is in custody in Tamil Nadu for his alleged role in statue thefts, has come under scrutiny.

63-year-old Kapoor had sold the statue, which is now being suspected to be one of the works alleged to have been stolen, to the National Gallery of Australia (NGA) in 2008. The 128.5 cm-high bronze statue is said to be dated from the 11th to 12th centuries.

Commenting on the statue, NGA Director Ron Radford said, “The gallery had done all the required provenance checks before acquiring the piece from Kapoor, owner of the Art of the Past gallery on Madison Avenue.”

“As with all leading art institutions around the globe, the gallery is committed to strict due diligence when acquiring works of art, particularly with regard to determining provenance,” Mr. Radford said in a statement recently.

NGA officials had also met officials from the Indian High Commission this month. However, they were not able to get any official comment from the police in India.

Comprehensive re-examination

“The gallery has commenced plans to undertake a comprehensive re-examination by a panel of internal and external art experts of the supplied documentation, as well as the provenance of work acquired from Kapoor, as many international galleries are also doing,” the statement said.

Kapoor was arrested in Germany last October for smuggling antique statues, allegedly stolen from temples in Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

The NGA is one of at least 18 major international art institutions, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the Smithsonian’s Freer and Sackler Galleries in Washington DC, and the Art Institute of Chicago that have acquired works of art through gifts or purchased them from Kapoor.

The NGA statement said that it purchased the statue from Kapoor, following a thorough due diligence process regarding the quality, provenance, and time of its departure from India.

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