Four NGA sculptures from Asian collection listed as stolen
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Four NGA sculptures from Asian collection listed as stolen

Four sculptures in the National Gallery of Australia's Asian antiquities collection have been listed as stolen by Indian authorities.

The Indian High Commission advised the NGA that the pieces were subject to investigations by the Idol Wing of the Tamil Nadu Police.

The sacred bull Nandi, vehicle of Shiva 11-12th century, is one of the four pieces reported as stolen, part of the National Gallery of Australia's collection.

The sacred bull Nandi, vehicle of Shiva 11-12th century, is one of the four pieces reported as stolen, part of the National Gallery of Australia's collection.

Two of the pieces were purchased from Art of the Past - a New York art gallery owned by dealer Subhash Kapoor, who is accused of smuggling more than $100 million of looted or stolen art from India. Mr Kapoor is currently in prison in India.

The NGA was embroiled in the scandal in after it was revealed that one of its showcase pieces, the $5.6 million Dancing Shiva, was purchased from Mr Kapoor.

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The scandal resulted in an independent review into the Asian art collection. Former High Court Justice Susan Crennan found 22 objects from the gallery's Asian collection had "insufficient or questionable" documentation.

The works have previously been identified by the NGA as having suspect or insufficiently documented provenance and are included in its Asian Art Provenance Research Project.

The pieces are a Pair of door guardians from the 15th century [dvarapala]; The dancing child-saint Sambandar from the 12th century; The sacred bull Nandi, vehicle of Shiva, from the 11-12th century; and Trident with auspicious Kali [bhadrakali] from the 11th century.

The bull and the trident piece were purchased from the Carlton Rochell gallery in New York, which specialises in southeast Asian art, in 2009 and 2006.

An NGA spokesperson said on Monday that the gallery continues to discuss identification and provenance issues with the Indian High Commission regarding the sculptures.

"We remain committed to following our new protocols on dealing with provenance issues in relation to the collection of Asian antiquities," the spokesperson said.

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In 2015 the NGA returned the Seated Buddha, an ancient Indian sculpture which was purchased in 2007 for more than $1.2 million. It was returned to the Nancy Wiener Gallery, in New York, and then "voluntarily returned" to India. The gallery secured a full refund.

In December 2016 Nancy Wiener was arrested for her part for her part in a conspiracy spanning decades involving stolen art, fake documents and millions of dollars.

Karen Hardy is a reporter at The Canberra Times.

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