Posts Tagged ‘chasing aphrodite’

The next post in the ongoing explosive series is going to expand the operating area of this loot and also focus on the official apathy - ” Do we really value our cultural treasures?’ is the larger question.

The internet is a great tool and it threw up this vital clue for me. I had chanced on a website and a casual glance made me aware of the pain that the author expressed in his efforts. I only wish more such souls spring up and do not just stop at voicing their concerns but do something concrete to stop this rampant loot.

The 3rd alert caught my attention. I reproduce the entire contents here

“On 8 February and 1 March 2013 E-mails were sent out about four sculptures stolen from the centrally protected site of Kari Talai in Katni district of Madhya Pradesh.

These four are among the nine sculptures that were stolen from the Vishnu Varaha temple on 16/17 August 2006. Out of these nine, INTERPOL issued an alert about the torso of a Vishnu, resulting in its interception by the US Homeland Security Investigations; the others remain untraced and may have appeared in the art market.

In this present E-mail, two more sculptures are being reported, a Shalabhanjika and a female figure. The Shalabhanjika (No. KTI 99) is a young woman standing under a tree; and the female figure (No. KTI 258) alluringly removes a thorn from her foot or paints the sole of the foot, supported by a dwarfish woman. Both are universal motifs in Indian art since ancient period.

Kari Talai was an important centre under the Haihayas or Kalachuris of Tripuri or the Jabalpur area, where places of worship of Shaivism, Vaishnavism, Jainism and Buddhism were built. The temple of Vishnu’s Boar incarnation here is a large complex of the eleventh century, under the protection of the Archaeological Survey of India.


Photographs attached to this mail are supplied by the ASI’s Bhopal Circle.

First information Report was lodged at the Vijayraghavgarh police station, No. 157/06 of 17 August 2006.

From E-mails sent out earlier regarding Bilhari in the same area it is clear that vandals are striking in this region frequently.

Kari Talai is a centrally protected site. ASI has records of all these sculptures. One who perpetrated or sponsored this crime should know that he cannot fabricate a false provenance for the pieces whose pictures are now going into wide circulation.

If any museum, private collector or dealer has acquired these sculptures, they are exhorted to give up possession, inform INTERPOL, their local police, India’s diplomatic missions or the ASI. If anyone, within India or outside, has received these pieces even in ignorance of the clandestine nature of their removal, he knows now that they are stolen antiquities, and they may have been smuggled out in violation of the Indian laws and international conventions.
The addresses of the ASI are on their website www.asi.nic.in.

In the past, stolen and smuggled antiquities were traced with the support of conscientious individuals like you, or by the security agencies. If you co-operate, these remaining eight sculptures can also be traced, as was done in the case of the Vishnu torso, and be repatriated. One way in which you can support this effort is to save this mail, and others that you will receive, in a dedicated folder and forward them to your contacts. Some scholars are already doing this.

Thanking you, and hoping your support will continue,

K. Mankodi”

The image was vaguely familiar and to my surprise i found it in one of the Art of the Past Catalogs


There is no doubt that they are one and the same - and means the accused gallery dealt with plundered loot from an ASI site.


We understand that this sculpture is currently seized by US ICE and waiting for some steps from India side for restitution !!

We wonder what more does it take to make our authorities to act. For since the news of the arrest of the accused dealer the art world is closely following this case. Recently we have traced this sculpture from one of the Art of the Past advertisements being sold on auction in Cristies.


The auction site lists

“Pre-Lot Text


Acquired in New York, 1998 ”

We are going to increasingly see buyers offloading their spurious collections in this manner.

The call is for urgent action to widen the net and rope in more resources to trace all the suspect works.

We will see where some of the defamed gallery’s pieces are still adorning museums across the world in the coming posts.

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In our continuing pursuit to bring to light the extent of the rot - today we move away from Hindu dieties and metal - to stone and Buddha - not any Buddha but a Buddha from Nagapattinam 11th Century. This was a dynamic period in the Chola rule when the mighty Emperor Sri Raja Raja ruled much of South India. His extensive donations to the Soodamani Vihara in Nagapattinam is studied to this day and to spot one such piece in the September 2010 Catalogue of now arrested Subash Kapoor’s Art of Past is the subject of our post today.


What is interesting is there is this particular article in the Hindu with the image dated Nov 11th 2012, which seem to bear a remarkable likeness to the catalog sculpture.


The foot note makes it even more interesting: ” The Buddhist statue marked for theft by alleged Kapoor associate, Sanjivi Asokan, but not stolen owing to police action.”

and the report goes ” One Buddhist idol was said to have been marked for theft by Kapoor’s alleged head of operations in Tamil Nadu, the now-imprisoned Sanjivi Asokan. However, that idol was ultimately not stolen, quite likely due to timely action by authorities. “

The image in the publication is not very clear but there is a very important clue in the Buddha’s hand - his right thumb is broken.


A careful study of the catalog reveals the same breakage in it as well.


Now obviously something is amiss. The Catalog listing also boasts that the said sculpture was exhibited in the Asian Civilisations Museum, Singapore ” On the Nalanda Trial “ from 1st Nov 2007 to 23rd March 2008. It was a prestigious exhibition which was seen even by the Prime Minister of India Dr Manmohan Singh.


The Press release of the ACM for the event has this said sculpture with a detailed foot note as well


“…viewed stunning Buddhist art, including this 11th Century stone sculpture from South India, weighing over 700 kg.”

Now, what timely action are we talking off. The photo in the Hindu seems to be of the Buddha in situ in a site in India ( large temple wall abutting it??) -

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