Australian PM Tony Abbott Returns National Gallery's $6 Million Stolen Shiva Sculpture To India

This Shiva statue, bought by the National Gallery of Australia, is believed to have been stolen from India.

Tony Abbott will give Indian prime minister Narendra Modi a 900-year-old bronze statue of the god Shiva, looted from a temple in Tamil Nadu, when they meet in Delhi today.

Shiva Nataraja (dancing Shiva) was bought by the National Gallery of Australia in 2008 for $5.6 million, but earlier this year, its provenance came under a cloud because it was bought from New York art dealer Subhash Kapoor, who is currently facing trial in India over the theft of multiple artefacts. Kapoor’s former gallery manager was found guilty of trafficking stolen art by a US court.

The scandal of artworks stolen from India temples also embroiled the Art Gallery of NSW, which paid $300,000 for a stone idol, Ardhanariswara, in 2004. It was also stolen and is being returned.

The Australian reports that the Prime Minister wanted to take the sculptures in his plane as he headed to India, but they were too heavy.

India’s Government sought the return of the dancing shiva statue back in March after it was removed from the country in contravention of international laws protecting cultural heritage. It sparked an investigation into the provenance of the statue.

The NGA has maintained it made appropriate checks about its provenance. The purchase was made during the tenure of Ron Radford, who steps down as NGA director at the end of this month.

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