ACT News

National Gallery of Australia announces independent review of Asian art

The new National Gallery of Australia Director, Gerard Vaughan has announced an overhaul of the NGA's scandal hit Asian art collection on Friday, saying it will conduct an independent review.

The gallery said that a November meeting of the National Gallery of Australia Council agreed on steps - including the appointment of an independent reviewer and boosted staff numbers -  to address ongoing issues over provenance in the 5,000 item collection.

The Dancing Shiva was allegedly looted from a temple and sold to the National Gallery with false papers.
The Dancing Shiva was allegedly looted from a temple and sold to the National Gallery with false papers. Photo: Jay Cronan

The scandal surrounded the NGA's purchase of an Indian artefact, the Dancing Shiva, and allegations it was looted from a temple and sold to the gallery with false papers.

The gallery will appoint an independent reviewer in the new year to report to the Council on the interpretation of both Australian and international cultural laws, "as well as chain of ownership and provenance".

Professor Vaughan said on Friday that "the NGA acknowledges that there are works in the collection whose provenance and legal status needs a renewed level of scrutiny".

"The situation is regrettable, however we are now addressing these issues in a proactive and open manner."

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The NGA will also step up on listing "the full number of imaged sculptures from South Asia which the Gallery is researching and seeking further information about" online.

Next year, the gallery said this will also include Southeast Asian art work.

The gallery also pledged to revise the NGA due diligence procedures to make sure they are aligned with new Australian Government guidelines for cultural collections.

Three more staff will also join the NGA Asian Art Provenance research team from late January.

The gallery statement said the gallery is currently seeking further information and documentation on 54 significant South Asian works after a preliminary internal assessment.

Detail on these works is now public on its website, according to the statement, and the gallery said that none of these were subject to claim.

The full review project does not have a set completion date, however, with the statement saying "detailed research of this kind will take several years to complete".