The National Gallery of Australia – NGA – is talking to the Indian High Commission, after a New York-based art dealer was arrested for allegedly trafficking antiquities. The gallery says that it believes it’s one of 18 major international art institutions that have acquired works of art through Subhash Kapoor.
In 2008, the gallery says it purchased the statue, known as ‘Shiva as Nataraja, Lord of the Dance’ from Mr Kapoor. Other institutions which may have been affected include the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Smithsonian’s Freer and Sackler Galleries in Washington DC and the Art Institute of Chicago.
Kapoor has been in the art business for almost 4 decades, he opened his Madison Avenue gallery in 1976, two years after arriving in the United States. Mr Kapoor was believed to be following family tradition. His father, Parshottam Ram Kapoor, had been an art collector. On his father’s death in 2007, Subhash Kapoor gifted 108 Indian drawings he inherited, to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Columbia University.
The NGA says it followed a thorough due diligence process regarding the quality, provenance and time of its departure from India. In a statement the gallery says it is yet to be determined if this work is one that has been stolen. The gallery says it has not been contacted by Indian Police or any other authority about the matter. The NGA has begun its own investigation into the acquisition and the paperwork.
The allegations against Mr Kapoor are the latest in long history of theft of Indian art and artifacts. With its ancient civilization, India’s monuments and archeological sites have been robbed for hundreds of years. The line that divides theft and art collecting, including museums, is indeed fine.