Second artefact of questionable origin surfaces at Asian Civilisations Museum

Legal action being taken by the Manhattan District Attorney against a New York gallery for selling stolen art, has raised the flag on another artefact purchased from it by Singapore's Asian Civilisations Museum (above). -- FILE PHOTO: NHB
Legal action being taken by the Manhattan District Attorney against a New York gallery for selling stolen art, has raised the flag on another artefact purchased from it by Singapore's Asian Civilisations Museum (above). -- FILE PHOTO: NHB

Legal action being taken by the Manhattan District Attorney against a New York gallery for selling stolen art, has raised the flag on another artefact purchased from it by Singapore's Asian Civilisations Museum.

The Virgin Mary and Christ altar, acquired by the museum from Art of the Past gallery in 2009 for US$135,000, allegedly had documents on its origins forged by the gallery's disgraced dealer Subhash Kapoor.

It was earlier reported that another artefact, a bronze sculpture of the Hindu goddess Uma Parameshvari, bought in 2007 for US$650,000, may have been stolen from India.

The museum had over a 14-year period, from 1997 to 2010, purchased 30 objects from the now-defunct gallery, but it says in a press statement that it has received no information that the other 28 artefacts are of questionable origin.

It adds that "all possible checks" were done on the origin of the two artefacts at the point of purchase and they were believed to have been "legally and ethically acquired".

The museum says it will "take all necessary steps, in accordance with international laws and practice, to return any stolen or looted objects among the artefacts purchased from Art of the Past".

The National Heritage Board, which runs the museum, is also considering legal action and is consulting its lawyers on the possibility of recovering the cost of purchasing the artefacts.

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