Leading Museums, Museum Leaders

Flood of Restitutions

Angela Merkel returns 10th century statue of the goddess Durga. Purchased at auction 15 years ago by Stuttgart’s Linden Museum, it was subsequently found to have been stolen from India. Photo: Bundesregierung/Kugler.

Gabriella Angeleti, Flood of restitutions deepens as museums investigate objects bought through Subhash Kapoor, The Art Newspaper, 21 October 2015

More and more institutions are returning antiquities with unclear provenances to India.

What began as a trickle has now become a flood as more institutions around the world return works of art that were bought from Manhattan antiquities dealer Subhash Kapoor, who ran the now defunct gallery Art of the Past for over three decades. Kapoor is awaiting trial in India on charges of smuggling looted artefacts worth more than $100m. He denies any wrongdoing. His gallery manager Aaron Freedman, however, pleaded guilty in 2013 in New York Supreme Court to possession of stolen property and is working with federal authorities, who have confiscated more than 2,000 objects from storerooms that belonged to Kapoor and his associates. Internal investigations at a number of museums have prompted a wave of restitutions in recent months. We will continue to update the list below:

  •  On 19 October, the Asian Civilizations Museum in Singapore announced that it will return an 11th-century bronze sculpture of the Hindu goddess Uma Parameshvari, which was bought for $650,000 in 2007. The sculpture is one of the 150 artefacts that former manager, Aaron Freedman, identified as looted in New York Supreme Court documents.
  • On 5 October, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel personally returned a 10th-century statue of the Hindu goddess Durga that had been on display in the Linden Museum in Stuttgart and was sold for $250,000. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi says that the Durga idol, which had been missing from a Kashmir temple for two decades, “is a symbol of victory over evil”.

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