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In their bid to fight illicit trafficking in cultural property, the Canberra-based National Gallery of Australia (NGA) has decided to return 14 artefacts to India which they had acquired between 1989 and 2000 from disgraced art dealer Subhash Kapoor.
Kapoor (arrested in 2011 and currently lodged in an Indian jail) and his New York based gallery Art of the Past has been at the centre of an antiquities smuggling ring, according to reports.
The artefacts being returned by Australia include stone and bronze sculptures, a painted scroll, photographs, etc.
The media quoted NGA director Nick Mitzevich as saying that 13 of the works from Kapoor and another one acquired from art dealer William Wolff would be returned to their home country of India.
Three other sculptures sourced by the museum from Art of the Past have also been removed from the NGA’s collection. These three objects will also be repatriated after further research has identified their place of origin, said Mitzevich.
A statement from the NGA said, “The decision to return the works is the culmination of years of research, due diligence and an evolving framework for decision-making that includes both legal principles and ethical considerations.”
According to media reports, in 2014, the NGA had returned to India a bronze sculpture of Nataraj which they had sourced from Kapoor. Later, it returned another five artworks purchased from Kapoor, including several stone sculptures and other artefacts.
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