The Economic Times makes an interesting point about Indian tax laws and duties that prevent their cultural patrimony from returning easily. One wonders whether the Chinese have made it equally difficult.
The controversy over Mahatma memorabilia leads one to focus on the Indian artists too who are declared ‘National Treasures’ of the country.
These include names like Raja Ravi Verma, Rabindranath Tagore, Abanindranath Tagore, Gaganendranath Tagore, Amrita Sher-Gil, Nandalal Bose, Jamini Roy and Sailoz Mukherjee. Works of all these artists are ‘non-exportable’ items by law.
However, many paintings of these great artists, picked up by overseas collectors in different phases before the law came into existence, are in the repository of museums and individual collectors abroad. They also come up for sale quite regularly, especially at auctions in the US and the UK. A view has gained momentum for a while now that the government should extend sops to induce collectors within the country to source these works from abroad. [ . . . ] No policy has evolved to purchase these works when they surface at auctions. Proper incentives are also not available to individual domestic collectors to buy these paintings from overseas sales. In fact, they face hurdles of import duties when they bring back these pieces to India. In other countries, such collectors are encouraged and given financial relief,” an art specialist and collector told ET.[ . . . ]
“Indians could not appreciate the worth of these works then and one wonders to what extent this appreciation level has climbed now. One of the major collections of Kalighat ‘pat’ works, for instance, was lapped up long ago by British collector Archer. Another collection is lying in the Prague Museum,” he said.
Art works of National Treasures still available for auctions abroad (Economic Times)