Wednesday 5 June 2013

Pressure on NGA over 'looted' statue

The Australian newspaper has picked up the story of the large Nataraja figure in the National Gallery of Australia which it bought from the gallery of New York dealer Kapoor. This follows the publication of information about newly-leaked documents by the "Chasing Aphrodite" blog (Michael Boland, "Pressure on NGA over 'looted' statue", The Australian June 6, 2013):
Evidence has surfaced that appears to establish the National Gallery of Australia's prized 900-year-old Indian dancing Shiva was looted from an Indian temple before the Canberra gallery paid $US2 million for it. A US website dedicated to examining cases of artefact looting, Chasing Aphrodite, has obtained copies of documents provided to NGA director Ron Radford [...]  Chasing Aphrodite [...]  promises to reveal details establishing that numerous other items in the NGA's collection were also looted before being furnished with false collecting histories and bought by Mr Radford. The Australian has spoken with numerous heritage experts who harbour concerns about the NGA's rapid acquisition of Asian artefacts during Mr Radford's directorship. Mr Radford boasted in the gallery's 2008-09 annual report that "our significant collection of works from the Indian subcontinent . . . has grown to be one of the six finest outside India". 
Once again we see some misconceptions about the significance and wording of the 1970 UNESCO Convention (again strongly influenced by the specifically-US reading of it):
"Yet acquiring such items has been extremely difficult since 1970 when international laws were introduced forbidding the trade of significant heritage objects". 
There are no "international laws" and trading in such items is perfectly permissable as long as there is an export licence for those freshly exported from the country of origin which to one degree or another regulates export of such material, while those that are not freshly exported and not stolen from documented collections are perfectly legal and viable trade goods under the Convention and any national laws based upon and implementing it.

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