Monday, 24 February 2014

Ohio Museum Reveals Many Kapoor Purchases

Chasing Aphrodite has been enquiring at a museum in Toledo (the Ohio one) over some objects in their collection since June and in particular about a Chola-era bronze Ganesh bought in 2006 which is uncannily reminiscent of one on a database of stolen artefacts from India ('Trouble in Toledo: Documents Show Museum Bought Stolen Ganesh from Kapoor' Chasing Aphrodite blog February 24, 2014). The museum refused to answer the enquiry, saying they only respond to requests about objects in the TMA collections "made by official authorities such as museums, law enforcement agencies, foreign governments and those making legal claims to ownership". Members of the public have no right to know the ownership history of objects in the museum’s collection, even when serious concerns have been raised. It now turns out that Toledo Museum bought 64 objects from Kapoor between 2001 and 2010. Chasing Aphrodite have obtained documents which they allege show that the Ganesh figure
was stolen from an Indian temple shortly the museum bought it in 2006 for $245,000 with the thinnest of fake ownership histories. 
Toledo now insists it conducted proper due diligence during the run-up to the purchase, theyy received a "provenance affidavit and the curator personally spoke to the listed previous owner" and the object showed up negative on the Art Loss Register. The “previous owner” Toledo contacted, turns out to have been none other than Kapoor’s long-term girlfriend and business partner Selina Mohamed. In December last year, Mohamed was criminally charged by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office with participating in a decades-long conspiracy to launder stolen antiquities by creating false ownership histories.
 Among the provenances she is charged with fabricating is that of the Toledo Ganesh, records show. In the letter – dated Jan 2, 2006 on Art of the Past letterhead – Mohamed claimed to have inherited the sculpture from her mother, Rajpati Singh Mohamad, who was said to have purchased it on a trip to India in 1971 – the year before India passed its Antiquities and Art Treasures Act. Mohamed claimed to have had possession of the sculpture in New York since that date. Such convenient out-of-source-country-just-before-ownership-law-passed dates are often used is false ownership histories, and should be a red flag to curators. In the end, the Toledo Museum’s “absolutely meticulous” due diligence process relied on a single sheet of paper that turns out to have been fabricated.
 "Chasing Aphrodite" promise more on Toledo’s other troubling Kapoor acquisitions soon.

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