Kapoor Files- Art of the Loot Part 19- The ACM Singapore Uma

Australia returned two Iconic artifacts to India over the weekend and it is really satisfying for us – we strongly believe that the Gods have chosen to return back to their abodes and this is only the start – many more WILL come back.

What were returned were already forfeit to India as of April 2014 ! There are dozens of stolen art with false provenance still left in Australia waiting for proof from our side

The Vridhachalam Ardhanari and the Sripuranthan Nataraja are only tip of the Ice berg and its time Museums realise this – in today’s connected world and global collaborative research, they cannot hide behind technicalities.

Lots of friends ask us how they can help us in our efforts to bring back our ancestral treasures.

Here is one such example. Soon after we published the details of the Vriddhachalam story , the press and media caught on – interview for Radio Australia – ABC , The Australian , The Hindu , Hindu 2 – published our story.

A special friend on Social Media, a American national deeply interested in Indian Art contacted us and volunteered to provide assistance. A courier pouch landed in end june 2013 containing paper cuttings of – Art of the Past advertisements in various Magazines and Journals collected over the last 10-12 years !! One particular advertisement stood out.

How could i forget her – i had been there when she was first exhibited as pride of show – in 2006. Infact i had a painting of her framed in my room !!

I checked the Idol wing website immediately. The 3rd one was possible match but the proportions were all wrong.

A little bit of checking made us realise that some rookie programmer had reduced the size of the bronze to fit the pdf file without ensuring it shrank in proportion. The correct view was this one.

The rest was academic

Further research and another helpful friend sent us the Art of the Past catalogue 2006 with the actual advertisement.

The Bronze was acquired in 2007 as per the Museum Label.

We got in touch with the Museum and authorities in India mid of July and as usual met with a stone wall.

Finally things got to head when Kapoor’s Gallery assistant pleaded guilty in US court in early December 2013.

“During the period from on or about January 2005 to November 2006, one Uma Parameshvari (known at the “$650,000 Uma for Singapore”), owned by the Central Government of India, was stolen from the Sivan Temple in India’s Ariyalur District. During the period January 2006 to on or about January 2007, defendant and other co-conspirators shipped the $650,000 Uma for Singapore, from India to the United States. On or about February 2007, defendant and other co-conspirators arranged for the sale and transport of the $650,000 Uma to the Asian Civilisations Museum in Singapore.”

The Uma has since been removed from display and in May we reported that the entire list of objects that the ACM purchased from the dealer.

The defense of Museums worldover when faced with this scenario seems to be following the same rule books – Ignore, stone wall, delay etc etc. To add insult to injury see this stance taken by an Art Consultant

” Art consultant ————– suggests that there may also be alternatives to repatriation, even if an artefact is found to have been illegally removed.

She says: “Sometimes, the lawful owners of the artefacts do not have the resources to build climate-controlled environments, to conserve and restore old artefacts, to present exhibitions that attract large visitorships, or to fund scholarship on these artifacts.

“In this context, I would say that it should be an option for the museum to discuss having the artefacts stay on in a loan arrangement and perhaps to present these works jointly in public exhibitions or publications.”
– See more at: http://www.straitstimes.com/the-big-story/case-you-missed-it/story/sniffing-out-booty-20140214#2″

I am sure India has enough and more resources to take good care of its Gods and in the first place our Gods do not need climate controlled environments – our ancestors built temples as their abodes and they have lived there happily for thousand years until the greed of the greenback led a few astray souls to housebreak and rob them.

Its time Singapore follows the Australia model and returns the Uma. It is also pertinent that the ACM should be open and disclose the provenance of this Somaskanda as well – as of now they maintain that it is not bought from Kapoor / Art of the Past – its was bought in 2000 and in not disclosing the provenance it is hiding the identify of one more dealer / smuggler.

Sivapuram Saga – the untold story – Part 3

Today the hand of a master forger provides us a vital clue – and we hope the Norton Simon Museum will try help to disclose or close this case.

As we have seen in the earlier parts – part 1 and part 2 of this series, how two of the looted Sivapuram bronzes landed in the Norton Simon Museum – one was returned after much debate and fanfare while the other still remains in the Museum. That still leaves 4 more to be traced, for the original Indian police case file lists “Thirugnanasambandar, Pillaiar and two Amman” as missing.

The case files further reveal that “The trustees of the temple wanted to repair the idols and this work was entrusted to Ramasamy Sthapathy of Kumbakonam in the year June 1954. In the year 1956 Thilakar of Kuttalam and his brother Doss induced Ramasamy Sthapathy to part with the original Natarajar and 5 other idols and to substitute the same with fake idols. “

Sadly the 1963 book by P. R. Srinivasan doesn’t carry any of the photographs of the two Amman bronzes.

However, thanks to our research we now have the French Institute in Pondicherry archive when they visited the temple on 15th June 1956 and followed up with a visit on 16th Nov 1957. The fake Somaskanda which we featured part 2 of the expose, gave us a vital clue – the master forger had definitely tried his best to mirror the original.

So we did a quick study of the other bronzes from the Sivapuram study by the IFP and landed on this Tani amman. To remind our readers – by the time the IFP landed in Sivapuram the switch was already made and they photographed only the fakes !

A comparison of the online archive of the Norton Simon Museum led us to this exhibit

Parvati, c. 1000
India: Tamil Nadu, 975-1025
32-1/2 in. (82.6 cm)
The Norton Simon Foundation
© 2012 The Norton Simon Foundation

It is important to see the year of purchase – 1972, is the same year the Nataraja and the Somaskanda came to the Museum.

A side by side comparison reveals the handiwork of the faker – the overall resemblance is there for anyone to see.

The thief maybe in his overconfidence did not go into the minutest of details – if you know how a bronze is cast, you will understand why – its almost impossible to make a perfect copy – especially in the ornamentation and more so to get the actual weathering patterns.

We agree that this is not conclusive proof but given that the Nataraja and the Somaskanda have set a irrefutable pattern – it is now upto the Museum to come clear on this.

Sivapuram Somaskanda – the untold story – Part 2

70 years is a long time ago ! But if you consider the gravity of the offense – a theft that shook the art world and the longevity of the very artifact – a creation that has stood for a 1000 years, then nothing is late to be time bared. Part 1 of this expose detailed how the Sivapuram Somaskanda was looted and is currently in the Norton Simon Museum. Today we provide a startling expose – the very expert who was responsible for making the world aware of the crime – he who visited the Sivapuram temple and said in no uncertain terms that what was being worshipped was a fake – and whose revelations led to the protracted battle and the eventual return of the Sivapuram Nataraja, was aware of much more. Infact he knew about the Sivapuram Somaskanda !!

It is important to reemphasize that the reference in Douglas Barrett’s book of 1965 Early Cola Bronzes is what is considered to be the trigger point of this entire theft coming to light.

We present today an Article in Marg Vol 48. No.4 June 1997 – EARLY CHOLA BRONZES IN THE NORTON SIMON MUSEUM – Douglas Barrett.

It is interesting to read the General Editor’s Note: “ The late Douglas Barrett wrote this article for the late Norton Simon soon after his visit to the museum in Pasadena, California, in 1978. However, the article was never published. Marg is pleased to publish it now through the generosity of the Norton Simon Museum and Mrs. Mary Barrett. Mr. Barrett was an authority on Cola Bronzes and we feel that his comments on the selected masterpieces will be much appreciated by Indian Art historians. One of the Bronzes ( figure 9) is no longer in the collection and now belongs to a European Collector. Some faithful readers of Marg may recognize a few of the others as they were published in the fifties in the magazines. “

The detailed article is attached at the end of this post – however, what is pertinent to read is this paragraph in the article page 85 Marg exhibit “ Hence, the importance of the remarkable Somaskanda in the Museum ( figures 3 and 4). The Somaskanda, together with a standing Ganesa and the famous Nataraja , formed part of a hoard discovered at Sivapuram ( Tanjavur district). It was published in its uncleaned state by P. R. Srinivasan and with the Ganesa and Nataraja, dated to the middle of tenth century AD.”

We now have more on this case – the French Institute in Pondicherry visited the temple on 15th June 1956 and followed up with a visit on 16th Nov 1957. Sadly, what they did not realise was the fact that they had photographed the fakes. Till date these images have never been published and today we are doing so for the first time.

This is what Douglas Barret saw when he went to Sivapuram in 1965.

These were the bronzes faked by the stapathy in june 1954, which the expert in Douglas Barret immediately recognised since he had the book by Sri. P.R. Srinivasan with the original photographs of the Nataraja and Somaskanda

It looks like the Stapathy went to great extents to copy of the Nataraja ( the clues are the lack of weathering on the flames of the prabha, the missing petals of the lotus base on the last pedestal amongst a few), but for the Somaskanda he has thrown caution to the wind – is a very poor replica. Maybe he gambled that not many would have concentrated on the rest of the bronzes !!

One look at the bronzes side by side shows the fake

But he did try and mimic the overall styling and facial features. Which leads us to a more damning expose ….to come up shortly….

But some uncomfortable questions first – the out of court settlement between the Norton Simon Museum and the Indian Government was signed in 1976. The Nataraja stayed in the US for a period of 10 years before being returned to India. The case was closed in India stating “All accused arrested and convicted. There is no information about the remaining idols “. This monograph was surely with the Museum in 1978 during the tenure of the agreement !!

Links to the entire Marg article

Kapoor Files- Art of the Loot Part 16- the raid on a warehouse..

India’s watershed elections are done and there has been a sweep for what is considered to be the right wing Hindutva “faction”. While the Economy might be the first item on the new government’s list of things to do, on the art front and safeguarding of India’s National cultural treasures and their recovery needs to find an immediate spot. This again doesnt need to be a Hindu Agenda for the loot sans religious borders – from the Buddha in Nagapattinam, to the Jina of Rajasthan are equally as important as the Chola Nataraja.. While galleries are burdened with the fall out of the loot , the scant documentation adds to the inertia of the men who are ordained to be custodians of our Art.

Recently CBS News aired this clip with footage of the live raid of Kapoor’s storage facility in queens.

“A CBS News crew was with HIS agents in March when they followed an informant’s tip and searched a storage facility in the New York City borough of Queens. They found hundreds of items worth an estimated $8 million.

The items were allegedly stolen by Indian dealer Subhash Kapoor, a man international authorities say has been smuggling artifacts for decades. He is currently on trial after pleading not guilty to looting and smuggling charges.”

The screengrabs and the article url threw up an interesting sculpture.

It is a visual match of this theft from Sri Kirit Mankodi’s site

” The temple of Vishnu’s Boar incarnation at Kari Talai is a large complex of the eleventh century, under the protection of the Archaeological Survey of India.

Nine sculptures were stolen from this remote site during the night of 16/17 August 2006. They are a Vishnu Torso, a Divine Couple, Ganesha, Amorous Princely Couples and Apsaras………………The sculptures were stolen from a centrally protected site. ASI has records of all these sculptures……….”

The scale of this loot is truly mind blowing and unless concrete action is initiated by the Indian Government it would be left to such scant spotting to identify the loot – let alone bring them back ! However, we are happy that there are a few kindred souls like Sri Mankodi who continue to champion the yet not lost cause.

Kapoor Files- Art of the Loot Part 15- clue from a 1916 book reveals..

With the HR&CE and temple authorities continuing to be lax in their documentation, this expose shows again the importance of photo documenting our temple treasures.

Little did I realise that this innocuous looking book held within itself a vital clue.

South-indian images of gods and goddesses (1916)

available for free download here

page 109 in the book ( 129 in the pdf) has this photograph of a Somaskanda

The label simply states Somaskanda ( metal), sivankudal

This is a very unique somaskanda wherein the Siva and Uma have been cast seperately with indivudual pedestals. For those who know about bronze casting, the difficulty of such an attempt is evident – having to match the pedestals not only for height but also for the runner designs.

Thankfully this provides us some vital clues in identifying this bronze, which is currently in the Asian Civilisations Museum being purchased in the year 2000.

Let us compare the two

It is without doubt the same bronze. Further our enquiries have revealed that the temple has no other bronze currently – ie has lost all its treasures. The Book sadly has no other bronzes listed from this temple and from our checking no other book has any references to this temple. It is sadly an ASI protected site with no documentation.

Now, its up to the authorities to investigate this and establish the chain. But if this is confirmed it pushes the string of robberies to pre 2000 and many more temple bronzes and sculptures sold by the dealer into the ambit of “shady” dealings.

The Marble Jain sculpture and a lesson in optical due deligence by Museums

We have had some welcoming developments with regard to the Kapoor loot with respect to the main items in Australian Galleries – namely the Vriddhachalam Ardhanari which we discoveredcheck statement and the NGA Nataraja check statement- . Thanks to the ABC coverage we now have some very important and interesting documents related to the objects purchased from the same dealer held by the galleries.

We turn our attention to this Seated Jina Mount Abu region, Rajasthan, India

Seated Jina 1163 Sculpture, marble
55.8 h x 45.2 w x 23.1 d cm
Purchased 2003
Accession No: NGA 2003.478

It is clear that the main Jina sculpture is not a perfect match for the Arch.

We now know thanks to the ” Due diligence report” which have now accessed, that it was indeed bought as two different pieces for USD 125,000 in December 2003.

The provenance provided:
” bought in Delhi by Sudanese diplomat Abdulla Mehgoub, between 1968 and 1971
with subhash Kapoor of Art of the Past, New York, from 2002 or before”

This was supported by

” Signed letter of provenance from Raj Mehgoub stating that the jina sculpture and arch were purchased in India between 1968 and 1971 by her husband Abdulla Mehgoub, dated 25th Match 2003.
– Expert opinion on the sculpture’s quality and authenticity written by Dr Vidya Dehejia
– Copy of a published article about the sculpture in Arts of Asia, vol 33, no. 6. 2003″

The Provenance is indeed very thin and flies out of the window – based on current information as explained in Chasing Aphrodite

Further the said ” Article” seems to be an Art of Past Advertisement .

Further the same report continues :

“New provenance information found

A comparable jina was found in the sales catalogue for Christie’s sale number 9481 (18 October 2002), South Kensington, London. Close examination suggests that the NGA Jina is the same object sold at the Christie’s sale. The Christie’s catalogue description corresponds to the NGA Jina in terms of size and Materials and its image matches the NGA sculpture exactly.

The details surrounding this, such as the consignor and purchaser, are ye to be confirmed. This information suggests the the provenance letter supplies by Art of the Past was fraudulent, but supports the possibility that the sculpture was legitimately acquired.(sic) It is also possible that the sculpture was purchased at the Christie’s sale by Raj Mehgoub, but this seems unlikely given other information about kapoor.”

Now it gets interesting. This is the Jina sold via Christie and is available through a simple ” google ” check. So you do not need to necessarily subscribe or buy any catalog to view this.

What is more interesting is that the JIna was listed at a base price of $ 1543 – $2315 and sold well above it but even then at a modest $ 6,889.

This was on 12th October 2002 and in our checks there is no comparable Jain marble sold or auctioned during that time. So we are puzzled how even with the addition of the Arch the price of the Jina appreciated from $6889 to $125000 and why the ” Due Diligence report” does not reveal this important little detail? Further being an accountant since the two are distinct pieces and are recorded as separate acquisitions wouldn’t the accounting show the individual amounts instead of lumped under one? If the price NGA paid was fair then was the Christies listing low due to lack of proper provenance? So did Kapoor’s fabricated fake provenance add the $$$$$$$$ ?

Further, from the tone of the report it is clear that despite mounting evidence the NGA plans to hold on to the artifact and hence we are requesting support from volunteers in Rajasthan to help share and forward this photograph and push local vernacular press to publish this photo and seek any information of the possible loot.

The arch is also important as a simple check on main Jain sites in the Jaisalmer and Satrunjaya temples reveal very very similar styled marble arches and many have been recently repaired / replaced. Why were they repaired, do we have any records of loot / robbery etc.

Unless we can find proof we have to continue to appeal to the Australian Government in good faith and mounting circumstantial evidence otherwise.

Kapoor Files- Art of the Loot Part 14- Mystery of the color changing Nataraja

The Art world is all excited about the outcome of the trail. But there are some interesting questions that keep coming up. We look at one such ” uncomfortable question” today.

We have seen earlier the details of Sripuranthan Nataraja and Sivagami.

It is pertinent here to point out that the actual theft happened at the Sripuranthan temple – the bronzes from Suthamalli temple were brought to Sripuranthan for safe keeping !!

Thanks to the works of Chasing Aphrodite we now know that the robbers took pictures of the Nataraja immediately after the theft when it was in a ” safe” house in Tamil Nadu before it was shipped out.

We also have updated photos of the Nataraja currently on display at the NGA

Even to a lay man the question will come up – how did the Nataraja change color. The greenish color is due to oxidation – and in bronzes it is called Patina. It is something that supposedly gives bronzes the antique look and is said to be a aesthetically pleasing and hence preferable condition. The Patina also prevents further corrosion of the bronze if properly formed aka done. Now naturally formed Patina takes years to happen and usually found in bronzes which have been buried underground and will never be seen in Temple bronzes which have been subjected to continuous worship with daily ablutions. Now, some ” experts” may argue that these temples were in ruined condition and might not have taken care of their bronzes.

This is where another crucial piece of evidence turns up. His consort.

These photos are from Art of Past 2008 Catalog – the same year the NGA acquired the Nataraja. So its clear that the Nataraja would have been the same bronze color without patina.

So how did the Nataraja change color – attain Patina – yes, Patina can be artificially added thanks to today’s technology. There are chemical and physical means to impart which color you want and you practically order it when you want to commission a new bronze – green, black or Gold !!

The next question is – is there a difference in the chemical composition of a natural patina compared to one that is artificially applied. The answer is Yes and under a microscope its easy to spot the difference. In this case being a multi million dollar purchase must have been one of the first tests done by the gallery atleast to ensure they are buying a 1000 year old artifact and not a recently cast bronze.

Now the quality of this execution is important as a amateur working on such a ” priceless” piece might cause irreparable damage – in the past ( by that we mean in the case of the Pathur and the Sivapuram Nataraja ) the bronzes are sent to a country where there are expert conservators to do this job – UK !!

Now to read more into this, take a look at the case papers. Subhash Chandra Kapoor vs Inspector Of Police on 3 April, 2012

The said idols were presented before the Sea Customs Authority, Chennai so as to export it to xxxxxxxx Gallery and was cleared by customs on 6.3.2008 and were exported by ship to Hong Kong. They were further redirected to one xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Company at U.K. by direction from the petitioner. “

The same company is named in this newspaper report

Maybe the Nataraja changed color in UK??

The other question is why was the Patina applied only for the Nataraja and not to his consort? Was it customized?

Kapoor Files- Art of the Loot Part 13- the plight of the abandoned Toledo Ganesha

If ever there is a term for heights of negligence – this would be it !! No further proof is required for the utter disregard for our great Nation’s cultural treasures by the so called Custodians. We had broken the news of the Sripuranthan stolen Ganesha currently in the Toledo Museum previously.

Earlier today we also brought out the other dubious exhibit – Pala dynasty Varaha

But now we have a statement from the Museum

Subhash Kapoor Acquisitions Under Review

Subhash Kapoor, a second generation antiquities dealer and owner of Art of the Past Gallery on Madison Avenue in New York City, was arrested in Germany on Oct. 30, 2011 and extradited to India on July 14, 2012 to face charges of illegal exportation, criminal conspiracy and forgery. Art of the Past was in business for 35 years, selling Asian antiquities to a large roster of Museum clients, including the Toledo Museum of Art.

The Toledo Museum of Art, like many museums across the country, acquired objects from Mr. Kapoor in the period from 2001-2010. The most significant of the eight acquired by the Toledo Museum of Art from Mr. Kapoor is a Ganesha figure. After the 2006 Ganesha purchase, Mr. Kapoor gifted 56 small terracotta idols to the Museum. The purchased items have been on public display. The gifted items have never been on public display.

On July 18, 2013 the Museum received a copy of an Indian police report that includes photographs of 18 metal idols stolen from Sripuranthan Village in Tamil Nadu. One of the images of a Ganesha figure closely resembles the Ganesha purchased by the Museum in 2006 from Art of the Past. At the time of purchase consideration, the Museum received a provenance affidavit and the curator personally spoke to the listed previous owner. The object was also run through the Art Loss Registry with no issues detected.

On July 24, 2013 TMA Director Brian Kennedy sent a letter to the Consulate General of India in New York, Mr. Sugandh Rajaram, requesting his assistance in researching the Ganesha’s provenance with Indian officials. To date, the Museum has received no response. On February 17, 2014 a letter was sent to Dr. S. Jaishanka, Ambassador of India to the United States, soliciting his assistance. The Museum has not been contacted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement or any other U.S. or foreign government agency in regards to this object and others the Museum purchased from Art of the Past or gifted by Mr. Kapoor.”

The statement also gives the copies of the letters sent by the Museum to the Consulate General of India New York on July 24 !!! which they did not receive any RESPONSE

They followed up with a letter to the Ambassador of India, Washington DC on Feb 14th

It is beyond doubt that we are talking of the same bronze

The Photos in original resolution ( captured by the IFP Pondicherry team in 1994) have been with the Indian Police since 2009 !! How long does it take for the wheels of our official Machinery to move? Or have they decided to abandon the Ganesha as they did with the Sivapuram Somaskanda.

Kapoor Files- Art of the Loot Part 12- will museums come clean with provenances

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.

Kapoor Files- Art of the Loot Part 11- why no action yet

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.