NEW DELHI: In 2013, a report by the Comptroller and Auditor General had noted that a few of the country’s museums had not acquired any art work or antiquities in many years, while artifacts in their custody were rotting for want of upkeep.Promising improvement in the management of museums across the country and the way antiquities are handled, the Ministry of Culture has framed an acquisition policy on art objects and antiquities.
The first ever comprehensive acquisition policy aims to equip museums under the ministry with the power to acquire more national and international art work and antiquities to increase holdings. The policy, if put into effect will curb the illegal smuggling of Indian art abroad. In one of the major recommendations of the draft policy, available in public domain since January 1, is the setting up of an Art Acquisition Committee (AAC) in each museum, which will be responsible for acquiring new art works either through purchase, donation, gifts or field excavations.
The policy suggested that AACs, with a three-year tenure should have a chairman -- a scholar whose integrity and scholarship is indisputable -- six well known experts and senior officials of the ministry and a museum director.The main work of the AAC would be to assess the authenticity of objects, negotiate price, check for duplicity and be on the lookout for genuine art dealers.
For any art work to be bought, the AAC would put out a list, and when the authenticity of the object concerned was ascertained, the same be displayed in the museum for a month and details of transaction be made public.
Officials claimed that the acquisition policy would help in curbing the smuggling of Indian artifacts, as some of the pieces can now be acquired by museums.Last year in September, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott had handed over two antique statues of Hindu deities to Modi. These idols - Nataraja belonging to the Chola dynasty of 11th-12th century and Ardhanariswara - were allegedly stolen from temples in Tamil Nadu before these were bought by art galleries in Australia. The country will return another stolen 2nd century Buddha sculpture to India soon.
Earlier, France had returned a 1,100-year-old Yogini sculpture, stolen from a temple in Uttar Pradesh, to India in 2013. This is now displayed at the National Museum in Delhi.
The setting up of the AAC can further help Indian museums to acquire these goods. The ACC will also liaise with investigating agencies whenever they seize stolen goods.
“The collection practices, being largely unplanned, and unregulated, lack coherence and focus. A large number of objects lie undocumented and unused. The absence of a comprehensive policy in museums can trigger trafficking of art as people cannot easily find good buyers,” the policy document said.