Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York had  returning 15 antique sculptures to the Government of India after having learned that these were “illegally removed” from India. All the sculptures were sold at one point by Subhash Kapoor who was arrested in Germany in 2012 and handed over to the Idol Wing CID of Tamil Nadu Police, a dealer serving a term in Central Prison, Tiruchi. Last November, he was convicted and handed out a 10 year-imprisonment for the offences of burglary and illegal export of 19 antique idols estimated at ₹94 crore from a temple in Ariyalur to the “Art of the Past Gallery”, New York. Metropolitan Museum of Art had relased the statement in press “The Met has been diligently working with Cambodia and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for years to resolve questions regarding these works of art, and new information that arose from this process made it clear that we should initiate the return of this group of sculptures,” said Max Hollein, the Museum’s Director and Chief Executive Officer. “The Met is pleased to enter into this agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and greatly values our open dialogue with Cambodia and Thailand. We are committed to pursuing partnerships and collaborations with our colleagues there that will advance the world’s understanding and appreciation of Khmer art, and we look forward to embarking on this new chapter together.”

Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York

The stolen artefeacts belongs to Angkorian period and reflect the Hindu and Buddhist religious systems prevailing at between the 9th and 14th centuries. . A number of the sculptures—including the bronze masterpiece The Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara Seated in Royal Ease (late 10th–early 11th century), and the monumental stone Head of Buddha (7th century). Fourteen will be returned to Cambodia and two will travel to Thailand, though the Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York, where among the returning artifacts are an ornamental bronze ship figurehead from the late 12th century; a stone statue of gods Shiva and Skanda in the style of Koh Ker; and a 10th-century statue of the half-male, half-female deity Ardhanarishvara.

What happened to India’s ‘illegally removed’ sculptures?

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, is returning 15 antique sculptures to the Government of India.

Ashutosh Raj

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