‘Dancing Shiva’ statue in South Australia art gallery stolen from India

September 13, 2018

THE Art Gallery of South Australia has confirmed a Dancing Shiva bronze sculpture worth nearly $500,000 was stolen from a temple in India in the 1970s, but hasn’t received a request to return it.

The 100kg statue was a gift from one of the Art Gallery’s main benefactors, Diana Ramsay — who died last year, aged 91 — in 2001 to mark the 20th anniversary of its fundraising Foundation, which provided the balance of the $435,747 purchase price.

Art Gallery acting co-director Lisa Slade said the discovery that the sculpture — which has not been on display since 2014 — was stolen came about as a result of its own investigations.

“We haven’t received any formal repatriation requests yet. Obviously when we do, and in whatever form they come, then we will act upon those immediately,’’ Ms Slade said.
“It has been at our behest that this has come about.’’

The gallery’s Asian art senior curator James Bennett made two visits to India, first in 2016 and again last year, in communication with officials and cultural leaders in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

“In 2016 he uncovered a photograph which was very similar to the work which we have in our collection but then it wasn’t conclusive,’’ Ms Slade said.
“Last year, when he went back, he further investigated.’’
At the time of its acquisition, the Art Gallery said the work — also known as Shiva, Lord of the Dance — was “the most beautiful and important Indian sculpture to be given to an Australian gallery”.

SA arts benefactor, the late Diana Ramsay, with the Indian bronze sculpture Dancing Shiva at the Art Gallery in 2001.
The piece was bought through London art dealers Oliver Forge and Brendan Lynch, acting on behalf of an unnamed Greek collector who claimed to have bought it in the 1970s.

The Art Gallery’s then director, Ron Radford, described it in 2001 as “the only complete early Indian Dancing Shiva in an Australian public collection” and “one of the finest sculptures in the Gallery from any culture’’.

Investigations into the provenance of works only began after alleged antiquities trafficker and former New York dealer Subhash Kapoor — whose case has not yet been heard — was detained in India in 2011.

Three statues bought from Mr Kapoor for more than $6 million by the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra, where Mr Radford was also director from 2004-14, have already been repatriated to India, along with one bought by the Art Gallery of NSW.

A $1 million Buddha the NGA bought from another charged dealer, Manhattan-based Nancy Wiener, has also been sent back to India.

Ms Slade said museums and galleries the world over were reassessing centuries of acquisitions, “whether it be about Aboriginal remains or Elgin marbles (from the Parthenon in Greece).’’

“UNESCO has put certain understandable requirements in place and we are all starting to look more closely, in the postcolonial world if you like, at our collections.’’

In 2014, the Art Gallery listed 50 works with incomplete provenance — gaps in their ownership history — on its website, of which 24 were Asian antiquities and 26 European works.

Among these were 19 Indian works including the Shiva bronze and an architectural relief of Surasundaris, also donated by Mrs Ramsay, as well as three stone figures donated by former Art Gallery chairman and QC Michael Abbott.

Ms Slade said no further information had yet been found about any of the other works in question.

Source : CNN

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