Posts Tagged ‘Museum’

Way back in July 2012 came this piece in the NY Times

“Federal authorities are asking American museums to scrutinize their collections for items that they have obtained from a veteran Manhattan art dealer now accused of possessing antiquities stolen from India and other countries. “

Much water has flowed under the bridge since - what this scrutinize means is subject to interpretation but major galleries and museums have since received the PROOF they sought that they were indeed displaying looted objects. But has enough been done? Until they have their backs to the wall none of them are coming up on their own and disclosing their dealings with the now defunct gallery. If these dealings were not shady shouldn’t they own up and come out in the open with their dealings with the accused dealer - give a list of objects they purchased from the gallery and place on record their respective provenances ( for all that is worth). Why wait for indictments and trails before owning up? Maybe there is still hope that they might get away ?? maybe they have confidence in the lax nature of Indian Authorities and their scant followup ?

Let us start with the Toledo Museum. We have already shown how they have the Ganesha - from the looted temple with authentic proof. Yet we know nothing of how they came into possession of this bronze nor is there any talk of restitution.

We have since found one more exhibit of theirs coming from Art of Past - a Pala Period Varaha


The object number seems to indicate it was purchased in 2001 (Object Number: 2001.14)

Will the museum come forward and provide details of the provenance for this piece ( we are hoping it was not purchased from a diplomat who was stationed in delhi and bought it from a art shop in 1969 !!)

Another object which matches to the Art of the past Catalog is this Lingothbhava ( shiva) in the Birmingham Museum of Art purchased in the year 2008.


The comparison is pretty straight forward


Museums are in essence Institutions of higher learning and we expect them to understand and respect cultural heritage. Their role is to open the minds of the public to the past and inspire younger minds in the pursuit of art history and in that very cause is enshrined a certain noble intention. We hope museums will set an example and live up to the expected higher moral and ethical standards - innocent purchase of looted objects is a mistake - but after knowing that they are tainted, trying to hide casts aspersions on the intent.

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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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