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Yale Museum donates items as part of investigation into art looting

Police officers have seized 13 artifacts from the Yale University Art Gallery which they say were looted. Many of them, authorities said, are part of an ongoing investigation into Subhash Kapoor, a former Madison Avenue art dealer accused of being one of the world’s most prolific antique smugglers.

Yale confirmed the seizure Thursday with a post on the museum’s website, saying it had delivered the items Wednesday to the Manhattan Attorney’s Office, which is conducting the investigation with US Homeland Security Investigations.

“Yale was pleased to work cooperatively with the DA Office on this important matter,” the university statement said.

Kapoor, who once ran a respected Manhattan gallery called Art of the Past, has been jailed in India since 2011 for stealing, smuggling and trafficking in more than 2,500 South Asian artifacts. He faces similar charges in New York, where officials have accused him of running a multinational ring that traded more than $145 million in illegal assets over more than 30 years. His extradition to the United States will be requested after the criminal case in India is closed.

Officials with the Homeland Security Investigations and the Manhattan Attorney’s Office said they could not discuss the full parameters of the investigation. But Homeland Security released a statement that described most of it the Yale artifacts as “connected either to Subhash Kapoor or his foreign suppliers”.

The agency valued the 13 properties at $1.29 million.

Matthew Bogdanos, head of the District Attorney’s Antiquities Trafficking Unit, released a statement saying the office had identified nine of the 13 antiquities at Yale as trafficked illegally by Kapoor.

“With the support of our partners in India, we also identified two antiquities at Yale that had been stolen from temples,” he said.

Of the artifacts, nine were donated to Yale by the Rubin-Ladd Foundation, which has donated works to several museums and provides grants to cultural and educational organizations.

The Yale Museum, founded in 1832 and recognized as America’s oldest collegiate art museum, has nearly 300,000 objects in its collection, according to its website. Other museums that have returned items with ties to Kapoor include the National Gallery of Australia, the Toledo Museum of Art and the Honolulu Museum of Art.

Vijay Kumar, the founder of an India-based organization that has tracked stolen artifacts and worked with investigators, said although Yale received gifts before Kapoor’s arrest, the university should have done more to investigate their provenance after the art world had turned aware of the extent of the looting of Native American artifacts. Investigators said several of the items Yale received as gifts had a provenance that included Kapoor’s gallery.

“How can you buy or keep Indian art without full provenance for so long when you know about Kapoor and the history of the theft from India,” said Kumar, whose group is called the India Pride Project.

When asked about the scope of the provenance research, Yale did not comment. But the university had listed some of the objects on a section of its website reporting on works in the collection that had gaps in provenance.

Its statement on Thursday said: “Yale University, presented with information indicating that artworks in its collections were stolen from their countries of origin, delivered the works on March 30, 2022 to the New York City Attorney’s office who are coordinating this will be repatriating the objects later this year.”

Among the items seized by investigators was a 10th-century sandstone statue of Kubera, a god of wealth, which investigators estimated at $550,000. Yale acquired it in 2011 as a gift from the Rubin-Ladd Foundation.

A second item that was returned was a 12th or 13th century marble arch known as a parikara valued at $85,000. It was also donated by the Foundation in 2007.

Foundation officials could not immediately be reached for comment. The foundation listed assets of nearly $6.8 million in its last publicly available tax return, which it filed last year. The Smithsonian and the New York Public Library were listed as two of 23 organizations that received a total of $126,500 in grants, according to the statement.

Twelve of the artifacts are originally from India and one from Burma, investigators said.

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/04/01/arts/design/yale-art-looting-investigation.html Yale Museum donates items as part of investigation into art looting

Isaiah Colbert

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