The Los Angeles Times reports on the simmering scandal involving American antiquities dealer, Subhash Kapoor, and the works of Indian antiquities that he seems to have smuggled out of the country and sold to many museums including the Met, LACMA, the Art Institute of Chicago and, in what has now become a significant case, the National Gallery of Australia.
Although the museum believes it has documents showing the ownership history of this dancing Shiva sculpture, Federal authorities say the documents are forgeries. Here’s how the LA Times pieced together the case:
In 2005, Indian investigators say, Kapoor traveled to Tamil Nadu, India, where he asked the alleged head of a ring of idol thieves for prized bronzes from the Chola kingdom, which ruled south India from the 9th to the 13th centuries. Over the next several months, thieves broke into a local temple and stole the Shiva and seven other idols, the investigators say.
The alleged smugglers sent digital pictures of the Shiva to Kapoor in October 2006, documents reviewed by The Times show. The idols were then mingled with replicas, certified as modern handicrafts and shipped to Kapoor’s New York company in the fall of 2006.
Kapoor went on to publish a photo of the Shiva in his catalog, calling it “the largest, most significant Chola Period sculpture of this subject to appear on the market in a generation.” The asking price was $5 million.
Radford, the Australian museum director, saw the statue in New York during a visit with Kapoor, records show. The bronze was shipped to the Australian museum for consideration in October 2007, records show, and the museum asked Kapoor for additional documents.
In February 2008, the records show, Kapoor or someone in his office created a Word document titled “Purchase Invoice, 18 October 2004.” The document was presented as evidence that Kapoor had purchased the Shiva from a Washington, D.C., collector four years earlier, according to the sources familiar with the investigations, who declined to be identified because the inquiries are ongoing.
Soon after, the National Gallery purchased the statue for $2 million U.S., records show, and put its image on the cover of a 2008 annual report. The museum did not respond to emailed requests for an interview with Radford.
Feds pursue Manhattan art dealer suspected of smuggling (Los Angeles Times)