Three culturally significant sculptures will be returned to India during Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s visit in January next year.
5 December 2019

The objects were bought in good faith by the National Gallery of Australia, but after extensive research into their background and the receipt of new information from official sources, the Gallery has decided to voluntarily return them to India.

Both India and Australia are party to the UNESCO 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transport of Ownership of Cultural Property.

The sculptures to be returned are a pair of 15th Century, Door guardians (dvarapala), and a 6th to 8th century Serpent King (Nagaraja).

"Historic artefacts play a significant role in modern society by allowing communities to acknowledge and celebrate their shared history and culture,' Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts Paul Fletcher MP said.

"The National Gallery of Australia recognises this, and is strongly committed to the ethical collecting of cultural material and best practice collection management. I commend the Gallery for resolving these legacy issues."

The former New York dealer from whom these items were purchased is currently facing criminal charges in India for alleged illegal trade in cultural-heritage material, and additional charges have been laid in the United States of America.

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