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Return of NGA's Dancing Shiva appears uncontested

The National Gallery of Australia won't contest the return of a controversial statue to the Indian government.

Towards the end of March the Indian government formally requested the return of a 900-year-old Dancing Shiva statue from the gallery and a stone sculpture of the god Ardhanarishvara from the Art Gallery of NSW. Tarun Kumar, a first secretary for India's High Commission, said he expected a decision to be made regarding the return within a month.

That deadline has now passed and it has been reported that the National Gallery (NGA) will not contest the Indian government's request for the return; nor will the AGNSW.

Both artefacts were bought from disgraced antiquities dealer Subhash Kapoor, currently on trial in India for looting and wanted in the United States for allegedly masterminding a large-scale antiquities smuggling operation.

The artefacts are in the care of the federal government under the Moveable Cultural Heritage Act, a law which allowed the galleries 30 days to challenge India's claims. With those claims uncontested, the decision on the future of both statues rests with the Commonwealth.

The NGA paid $US5 million for the Dancing Shiva statue in February 2008. The statue was one of 22 items it bought from Mr Kapoor's Art of the Past gallery for a total of $11 million between 2002 and 2011.