Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Dodgy Dealers Faking Provenance Could be out of Pocket, Hugely

The Dancing Shiva was returned
to India in September 2014,
after it was found to have been
stolen from a temple in Tamil Nadu.
This will be a lesson for any antiquities dealer tempted to supply objects with a false provenance (Anne Barker, 'Dancing Shiva: National Gallery of Australia should get $11m compensation for stolen statue, court rules' ABC News 26th Sept 2016)  
The Supreme Court of New York has granted a motion in favour of a $11 million payment to the National Gallery of Australia (NGA), as compensation for its purchase of a stolen Indian antiquity from disgraced New York art dealer Subhash Kapoor that was later returned to India. The court has entered a 'default' judgement, meaning it was made without hearing evidence from Kapoor, who is in custody awaiting trial in India. 
The NGA in Canberra had bought the statue for $US5 million from Kapoor's New York gallery Art of the Past (AOP) in 2008.
It did so after Kapoor and an AOP gallery employee Aaron Freedman supplied the NGA with documents that purported to vouch for the statue's lawful and legitimate provenance. These included a document certifying that an Indian diplomat Abdulla Mehgoub had lawfully bought the Shiva in Delhi in 1970. Another document — a Letter of Provenance — asserted that his widow Raj Mehgoub later sold the statue to AOP in 2003. The letter purportedly certified that the statue had been out of India since 1971.
The statue had instead been stolen in 2006 from the Brihadeeswarar temple at Sripuranthan and smuggled to the US. The NGA claimed its money back from Kapoor and then sought compensation because "due to wrongful and criminal actions, NGA paid $US5 million for an artefact with a clouded title, and that the NGA had been damaged. " The NGA is considering whether to bring other cases against Kapoor because of other items they bought from him which are now having to be handed back. There are ten of them, and the price paid was in the millions also.
"The NGA is considering all legal options available," the NGA's assistant director Alison Wright told the ABC. [...] "We do believe we are the victims of fraud in relation to provenance supplied by the dealership [...]" Ms Wright said. She said the NGA is committed to investigate the provenance of all 5,000 works in its Asian collection.

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