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Australia’s National Art Gallery to Repatriate 14 Artifacts to India

Australia’s National Art Gallery to Repatriate 14 Artifacts to India

| On 02, Aug 2021

The Lakshmi-Vishnu, Durga Mahisasuramardini, and the Dancing child-saint Sambandar, which originates from the Chola dynasty, are just a few of the fourteen artifacts which Australia will return to India. The art pieces were brought between 1989 and 2010, thirteen of which are from an Indian dealer in jail. 

The Senior Lecturer at the Center for Art History and Art Theory at the Australian National University, Dr Chaitanya Sambrani, emphasised the relevance of the sculptures that came from different locations in India and were created across eight or nine centuries. The artifacts include a brass processional standard, six bronze or stone sculptures, six portraits, and a painted scroll, which Dr Sambrani referred to as a precious creation. 

The stone sculptures from Rajasthan and Gujarat and the Chola bronzes came from highly regarded styles or periods that Indians considered part of the classical art history in India. Dr Sambrani highlighted that the art pieces reflect the Hindu, Jain, and Muslim traditions, while a smaller number are of secular nature. 

The dynamic transformation, modernity, and the start of new economic and technological modes in the 19th and 20th centuries reflect from the portraits, some of which are hand-painted pieces set to return to India. 

Another piece set to return to India is the ‘alam’ from Hyderabad, metalwork that is very sacred and holds emotional significance in Muharram processions. Dr Sambrani revealed that the artwork also symbolises the pluralism of traditions in India that links Indian aesthetics and art with the Middle-Eastern and West Asian domains. 

The National Art Gallery of Australia revealed that the decision to return the artworks includes ethical considerations and legal principles, which followed two independent reviews done by High Court Justice, Susan Crennan. 

India could not be happier with the return of these outstanding art pieces. Moreover, the return of these artworks adds to India’s art collections of century-old and equally significant pieces that reflect its rich culture and traditions. 

High Commissioner to Australia, Manpreet Vohra, is grateful for the act of goodwill from Australia. The director of the gallery, Nick Mitzevich, said that the move reflects its commitment to the ethical management of collections. Mitzevich also emphasised that the decision resulted from close collaboration between Australia and India and thanked the Indian government for their support. 

And now, they too are pleased to return to what Mitzevich describes as culturally significant objects. 

There are still three more sculptures sourced from the jailed Indian art dealer and are set to be returned once they identify the source of origin. Australia previously returned artifacts in 2014, 2016, and 2019 and no longer holds any art pieces acquired by the jailed dealer.

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