The United States make a gesture to India

Just once won’t hurt. On 11 June, the United States returned nearly 200 works and artefacts worth a total of around $100 million to India. A rare initiative that has been hailed by India’s prime minister Narendra Modi. Some of the ancient artefacts were created over 2000 years ago, including a statue of Saint Manikkavichavakar, a Hindu poet and mystic from the era when the Chola dynasty was in power (between 850 and 1250 A.D.), stolen from Sivan Temple in Chennai, and worth an estimated $1.5 million. Similarly, the United States have returned a thousand-year-old bronze sculpture representing the Hindu god Ganesh. These repatriated works were seized during “Operation Hidden Idol”, an initiative carried out by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agents since 2007. An investigation has revealed a vast system of fraudulent imports headed up by Subhash Kapoor, owner of the Art of the Past gallery. The uncovering of the illegal trafficking racket following HIS inquiries into the activities of this dealer, today jailed in India pending his court case, has also led to the arrest of five others. Subhash Kapoor is accused of looting antiquities from various countries to the value of $10 million. The Indian prime minister Narendra Modi has reminded that culture is a strong link in the bilateral relationships between countries, and made the following comment on the restoration of the stolen pieces: “Usually relationships between the countries of the world are very often covered by the present. It is present that plays a big role, but sometimes heritage becomes important in the relations of two countries. Sometimes what cannot be done by living persons is done by...

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The Upcoming India Art Fair in New Delhi

South Asia’s leading platform for modern and contemporary art, the India Art Fair, will take place between 28 and 31 January 2016 (with a VIP Preview by invitation on 28 January), at the NSIC Grounds, in Okhla, New Delhi. Founded in 2008, India Art Fair hopes to continue expanding its program to reflect South Asia’s diversity in the visual arts, and to provide a revolutionary platform throughout the region and the world. To do this, India Art Fair is making a number of enhancements to its organisation, including important changes to its partnerships, internal team and gallery programming. BMW has been announced as the Presenting Partner of India Art Fair 2016, in commendation for their 40 years of contribution to culture. Zain Masud has been selected as International Director, bringing with her experience within the art scenes of the Middle East, South Asia, Russia, China and Africa, along with her extensive networks within the Western art world. This year the fair will be split into 5 main sections: Galleries, will feature leading Indian and international galleries; Focus, will show solo presentations by participating galleries or institutions; Institutional, will showcase leading international and Indian museums and art foundations collaborations commissioned specially for the fair; Platform, will represent young emerging artists or collectives from throughout South Asia; and Projects, which will show artworks including large scale sculptures or site specific...

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Growing international appeal of Indian artworks boosts country’s art market

As Christie’s prepares to hold its third art auction in Mumbai on 11 December 2015, the Indian art economy appears to be taking “baby steps” towards breaking its own records. Last week, at the New Delhi preview of Christie’s India auction, works by Gaitonde, Tyeb Mehta and Syed Haider Raza were given pride of place; showing the growing demand for modern Indian art both within India and internationally. At Christie’s 2013 India sale, an untitled Gaitonde painting fetched $3.8 million. Equally, with the annual India Art Fair, the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, Christie’s annual sale and Sotheby’s decision to set up a regional office in Mumbai; this busy schedule shows how much the Indian art market has progressed. Christie’s boasts two decades of business in India and, with a section dedicated to Indian classical artworks this year, it seems that India is a priority. On 15 December, nearly 100 Indian antiquities will be put up for auction in Mumbai, including paintings from the ancestral collections of the Bikaner aristocracy and ancient sculptures, including a sandstone figure of Vishnu from Khajuraho. International head of Christie’s South Asian art department, Deepanjana Klein, says “There is so much potential in modern and contemporary (art). We are making such baby steps that it’s overwhelming.” However, Klein admits India is still a modest market and realise largely on governmental support to encourage private buyers, build and open museums for art events, and organise exhibitions elsewhere in...

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India and the UK Partner to Launch New Cross-Cultural Festival for 2017

A new festival celebrating the cultural ties between India and the UK will launch in 2017; marking the 70th anniversary of Indian Independence. The move, which is backed by Prime Minister David Cameron, follows a highly publicised state visit to the UK last week by the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The Nehru Centre in London and the British Council are among the organisers of the new initiative. A major exhibition at the CSMVS museum in Mumbai (Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya) including a number of key loans from the British Museum will be a centrepiece event of the 2017 festival. “[The exhibition] will tell the story of Indian history and civilisation in the wider context of simultaneous events in world history,” says a press statement from the UK Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). The CSMVS museum, formerly called Prince of Wales Museum of Western India, is the main museum in  Mumbai. It was founded in the early years of the 20th century by prominent citizens of Bombay, with the help of the government, to commemorate the visit of the then prince of Wales. Two cornerstone British texts drawn from the British Library will tour India as part of the programme: Shakespeare’s First Folio, the first collected edition of the Bard’s plays, and the 1225 edition of the Magna Carta. More than seven million pages from Asian-language books will also be digitised as part of the project. Meanwhile, an India-themed exhibition will open at the Manchester Museum ahead of its new India gallery launch, the date of which is...

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More antiquities returned as museums investigate items bought through art dealer Kapoor

More and more institutions are returning antiquities which has been bought through Manhattan antiquities dealer Subhash Kapoor who ran the now defunct gallery Art of the Past for over three decades. Kapoor is now awaiting trial in India on charges of smuggling looted artefacts worth more than $100m. Although he continues to deny everything, his gallery owner Aaron Freedman, 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. To name a few returned, more recently on 19 October 2015, the Asian Civilisations Museum in Singapore returned an 11th century bronze sculpture of the Hindu goddess Uma Parameshvari which was bought for $650,000 from the dealer in 2007. This sculpture has been identified as one of the 150 artefacts that Freedman identified as looted in the New York Supreme Court documents and then sold on to institutions. 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...

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