Wednesday, July 18, 2012

American Museums and Subhash Kapoor's Artifacts

Inside the Art of the Past gallery in New York.
Source: Google Local
The arrest and extradition of Subhash Kapoor has made headlines in India and garnered the attention of several cultural heritage observers.  He stands accused by Indian police of allegedly participating in an antiquities trafficking ring.  Artifacts from Kapoor are reportedly located in American museums' collections.

Kapoor is an American citizen and antiquities dealer who last year celebrated 35 years on Madison Avenue in New York City. Kapoor is the owner of the Art of the Past, Inc. gallery in Manhattan as well as Nimbus Import Export, a corporation formed on August 17, 2005 and bearing the same address as Art of the Past according to New York Department of State records.

Kapoor wrote in his March 2011 Art of the Past catalog, “There have been some obstacles and hardships during the past thirty-five years, but there have been many more rewards.” A hardship currently faced by Kapoor is his arrest in Germany on October 30, 2011, which resulted in his extradition to India on July 14, 2012.

Kapoor is presumed innocent. India follows the common law system where the burden is on the prosecution to show a crime has been committed beyond a reasonable doubt before a person is judged guilty.

The Art of the Past web site, now shut down, once described how its gallery’s artifacts could be found in the collections of major American cultural institutions. The “About Us” web page noted that “[t]he gallery has sold to some of the most celebrated public and private collections in the world. These include The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City; Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Washington D.C.; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, San Francisco (sic); The Art Institute, Chicago; and Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond; Honolulu Academy of Arts, Honolulu ....”  An internet search shows that the Birmingham Museum of Art in Alabama and the Norton Simon Museum in California list objects from Kapoor.

The Toledo Museum of Art, in its fiscal year 2007-2008 annual report, catalogs the accession of many Indian pieces from Kapoor in 2007.  A representative sample of the 44 objects gifted to the museum include:

• Indian, Gupta Period, Seated Mother, 5th century, terra cotta, terra cotta, Gift of Subhash Kapoor, 2007.107

• Indian (Chandraketugarh), Mithuna Plaque, 1st century B.C.–1st century A.D., terra cotta, Gift of Subhash Kapoor, 2007.109

• Indian (Chandraketugarh), Fertility Goddess Sitting with Star, 1st century B.C.–1st century A.D., terra cotta, Gift of Subhash Kapoor, 2007.116

• Indian (Uttar Pradesh), Gupta Period, Head, 5th century, terra cotta, Gift of Subhash Kapoor, 2007.147

• Indian (Western India), Female Head, Gupta period, 5th century, terra cotta, Gift of Subhash Kapoor, 2007.158

It is unknown if any museums are currently examining the provenances of their collections.