National Gallery’s Nataraja idol caught up in international scandal

johnboy 5 August 2012

The Hindu is running hard on our National Gallery’s 11th century Chola period Nataraja bronze idol which they say was bought from Subhash Kapoor in 2008.

In reply to queries, the Gallery in a release said it purchased the idol from Kapoor “following a thorough due diligence process.”

It contacted the Indian High Commission in Canberra “earlier this week to ensure a fully co-operative approach.” It had not been contacted by Indian authorities. Significantly, an image of the sculpture was removed from the National Gallery website on August 3, subsequent to the queries.

The Gallery did not reply to queries on the provenance details from its acquisition records.

On the Gallery’s media release page there is a red headed stepchild of a release (no headline or mention of what it’s abou, no letterhead) dated Friday:

The Gallery purchased its Shiva as Nataraja, Lord of the Dance from Mr Kapoor in 2008 following a thorough due diligence process regarding the quality, provenance and time of its departure from India.

‘It is yet to be determined if this work is one of the stolen works as has been speculated about in certain media outlets. The Gallery has not received any advice from Indian authorities to this effect at this time,’ said Ron Radford.

The Gallery adheres to the principles of the UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import and Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. The Australian Government is a signatory to this Convention.

The Gallery has commenced plans to undertake a comprehensive re-examination by a panel of internal and external art experts of the supplied documentation as well as the provenance of work acquired from Mr Kapoor, as many international Galleries are also doing.

The Gallery is liaising closely with the Indian High Commission in Canberra to ensure that the internationally accepted protocols for dealing with such issues are followed.

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