Tuesday 14 August 2012

Indian artifacts smuggling continues affecting major museums

There are two main crimes in the world of dealing antiquities: selling forgeries and selling artifacts with improper provenance, particularly items that may have been stolen from archaeological sites. To this last purpose, two weeks ago federal authorities broke open a Manhattan storage where they found $20 million  allegedly looted ancient bronze and statue. Such illicit treasure belongs to Subhash Kapoor, a famous Indian art dealer based in New York.

Dozens of high-profile museums and galleries have acquired works of art through gifts or purchased from Mr Kapoor, through his gallery called "Art of the past" including: the Metropolitan Museum of Art (which has 81 works from Kapoor) in New York, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (61), the Toledo Museum of Art  (44) and the National Gallery of Art in Australia (21), only to name few. However, other museums have acquired works from the Indian art dealer as: the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the Musee des Arts Asiatiques-Guimet in Paris and the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. 

Museums are cooperating with American authorities and many of them have instructed their curators to look at their collection to discover if they obtained Indian antiquities from Kapoor.

Meanwhile, Kapoor was arrested in Germany and extradited to India for face smuggling charges. One of his defences is that such works were actually given to the museum as forgeries, so that scholars could use them to identify fake items in their collections.

Many museums have been told that if Mr Kapoor is found guilty of smuggling, the only thing to do is to return such antiquities to India.

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