Tuesday 11 February 2014

National Gallery of Australia Wants its Five Million Dollars Back

The National Gallery of Australia has filed a $5 million lawsuit against a Manhattan antiquities dealer over the sale of a statue which now seems to have been stolen from a Sivan Temple in Tamil Nadu. The suit alleges that the gallery "fraudulently induced NGA to acquire the Shiva by making misrepresentations and false assurances concerning the history of the Shiva.” Evidence that the statue was stolen means that the museum “now has, at best, clouded title" and the statue has "diminished or no financial and other value” [that "other value" remark is interesting]  ("Chasing Aphrodite" blog: 'Unprecedented: Australia’s National Gallery Sues Kapoor Over $5 Million Stolen Shiva', February 11, 2014):
The NGA lawsuit, to our knowledge, is unprecedented. American museums and private collectors have returned hundreds of looted objects to Italy, Greece, Turkey, India, Cambodia and other countries in recent years. In nearly all those cases, dealers had provided standard warranties guaranteeing good title to the objects. And yet not one museum or collector had filed a similar lawsuit…that we know of. Why not? For one thing, it will likely be difficult to collector from Kapoor, who is facing criminal trial in India and an arrest warrant in the United States. Perhaps more importantly, such a lawsuit could expose claimants to extensive discovery about their due diligence and possible counter-claims from dealers that the buyers knew full well the objects being purchased had been looted. Awkward.
Anyway, this is an interesting development and perhaps creates a useful precedent.

Vignette: Apparently, this is three million dollars. What a lot of good that money could do in India instead of going in some fat-cat US dealer's pocket. 

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