A gallery worker poses alongside an artwork titled 'Femme assise près d'une fenêtre (Marie-Thérèse)' by Pablo Picasso during a photocall at Christie’s auction house in London. (Representation | AFP)
A gallery worker poses alongside an artwork titled 'Femme assise près d'une fenêtre (Marie-Thérèse)' by Pablo Picasso during a photocall at Christie’s auction house in London. (Representation | AFP)

Australia to return 14 'stolen' artworks worth millions to India

The collection is composed largely of "religious and cultural artefacts" worth a total of about US$2.2 million, including some dating back to the 12th century.

SYDNEY: Australia will return 14 artworks to India, including at least six believed to have been stolen or illegally exported, the National Gallery announced Thursday, July 29, 2021.

The Canberra gallery identified the works -- which include sculptures, photographs and a scroll -- as either stolen, looted or of unknown origin.

The collection is composed largely of "religious and cultural artefacts" worth a total of about US$2.2 million, including some dating back to the 12th century.

Gallery director Nick Mitzevich told AFP the works were set to be returned to the Indian government within months.

"It's a relief that they can be returned to the Indian people, and it's a resolution for the National Gallery to close a very difficult chapter of our history," he said.

Thirteen of the works are connected to alleged trafficker Subhash Kapoor, a former Manhattan art dealer who was the subject of a massive US federal investigation known as Operation Hidden Idol.

Kapoor, who is awaiting trial, denies all charges.

The National Gallery of Australia has already returned several other works it acquired via Kapoor, including a US$5 million bronze statue of the Hindu god Shiva that had been stolen from a Tamil Nadu temple.

Mitzevich said it had introduced guidelines to assess any legal and ethical issues with works it holds, and was investigating three other sculptures from its Asia collection.

"It's very much a live issue with galleries around the world. And we want to make sure that we can resolve these issues in a timely manner," he said.

Many of the antiquities Kapoor dealt in dated back to the 11th and 12th centuries, when the Chola dynasty presided over a flourishing of Hindu art in Tamil Nadu.

Since his arrest in 2011, the United States has also returned hundreds of artefacts.

Coming home

  • Divine couple Lakshmi and Vishnu, 10th-11th century
  • Letter of invitation to Jain monks; picture scroll, 1835
  • Child-saint Sambandar, 12th century
  • Dancing child-saint Sambandar, 12th century (pic) 
  • Portrait of donor and priests before ShriNathji, Udaipur, unknown date
  • Guru Das Studio
  • A Gandhi memorial portrait, 1941
  • Processional standard, 1851
  • Portrait of a man, 1954
  • Goddess Durga slaying the buffalo demon, 12th-13th century
  • Arch for a Jain shrine, 11th-12th century
  • Seated Jina, 1163
  • Maharaja Kishen Pershad Yamin, 1903
  • Portrait of a woman, unknown date

(Inputs from AFP, ENS)

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