The National Gallery of Australia (NGA) has removed display of artefacts bought from disgraced U.S.-based Indian art dealer Subhash Kapoor, who has been accused of running an international smuggling racket.
The collection of 13 stone, ivory, marble, brass and bronze deities, the jewels of the Asian art gallery, estimated to be worth $11 million have been removed from the Canberra-based gallery, The Australian reported on Wednesday.
The report quoted NGA director Gerard Vaughan as saying that their continued display of the artefacts was bringing Australia into disrepute.
“They came from Kapoor, he is in prison in India and there is going to be a court case and there are journalists all over the world writing about it,” he said.
The report mentioned that German Chancellor Angela Merkel will also return a stolen Durga idol that a German museum had purchased from Kapoor who was running his art dealing business from the US.
Ms. Merkel is expected to hand over the idol to Prime Minister Narendra Modi during her visit to New Delhi in October.
A year ago, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott also returned a Dancing Shiva from the NGA and a stone ‘Ardhanarishvara’ from the Art Gallery of New South Wales to India on his visit.
Some in legal no-man’s land
Some pieces are in the process of being returned to India but others, such as the NGA’s ‘Door Guardians’ and a dancing ’Sambandar’, are stuck in a legal no-man’s land, the report said.
It said paperwork establishing a chain of ownership for them has also been shown to be bogus, but until the Indian government can locate a temple, among hundreds of thousands of temples that the idols were stolen from, it is powerless to make a claim on them.
Kapoor was extradited to India in 2011 to stand trial on charges of organising a $100-million smuggling ring. For decades, he ran the New York gallery ‘Art of the Past.’