Law enforcement officials seized 13 artifacts from the Yale University Art Gallery which they believe were looted. Authorities say many of them 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 antiquities dealers.
Yale acknowledged the seizure Thursday with a posting on the museum’s website saying it had delivered the items Wednesday to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, which is conducting the investigation in conjunction with US Homeland Security Investigations.
“Yale was pleased to work cooperatively with the DA’s office in this important case,” the university statement read.
Kapoor, who once ran a respected Manhattan gallery known as Art of the Past, has been incarcerated in India since 2011 for theft, smuggling and trafficking of more than 2,500 South Asian artifacts. He faces similar charges in New York, where officials have accused him of running a multinational network that for more than 30 years traded in illicit items worth more than $145 million. . His extradition to the United States will be sought after the criminal case is resolved in India.
Homeland Security Investigations officials and the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office said they could not discuss the full parameters of the investigation. But Homeland Security released a statement outlining most of the the Yale artifacts as being “connected to Subhash Kapoor or his overseas suppliers”.
The agency valued the 13 items 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 Yale’s 13 antiquities as having been illegally trafficked by Kapoor.
“With the help of our partners in India, we also identified two antiquities at Yale that had been stolen from temples,” he said.
Of the artifacts, nine had been donated to Yale by the Rubin-Ladd Foundation, which has donated works to several museums and makes grants to cultural and educational organizations.
The Yale Museum, founded in 1832 and recognized as the oldest university art museum in America, has nearly 300,000 objects in its collection, according to its website. Other museums that have returned Kapoor-related items 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 tracks stolen artifacts and has worked with investigators, said that although Yale received gifts before Kapoor’s arrest, the university should have done more. to investigate their provenance after the art world became aware of the extent of the looting of Indian 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 for so long without full provenance and when you know about Kapoor and the history of theft in India,” said Kumar, whose group is called India Pride Project.
Asked about the extent of its provenance research, Yale did not comment. But the university had listed some of the items on a section of its website that flags works in the collection whose provenance was incomplete.
Its statement on Thursday said: “Yale University, after receiving reports that artworks from its collections were stolen in their home country, delivered the artworks on March 30, 2022 to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. of the District of New York, which will coordinate the repatriation of 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 valued at $550,000. Yale acquired it in 2011 as a gift from the Rubin-Ladd Foundation.
A second item that was handed over was a marble arch, known as a Parikara, from the 12th or 13th century, and valued at $85,000. It was donated in 2007, also by the foundation.
Representatives of the foundation could not immediately be reached for comment. The foundation listed assets of nearly $6.8 million in its latest 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 report.
Twelve of the artifacts are from India and one from Burma, investigators said.