Melbourne: Australia`s top gallery on Friday said it will launch legal action against disgraced Indian-origin art dealer Subhash Kapoor after it was confirmed that its prized 900-year-old dancing Shiva was stolen from India.
The National Gallery of Australia confirmed that it had approached the Indian High Commission "to discuss avenues for restitution" in relation to the artifact.
The USD 5 million bronze statue, which was on display at the entry to the gallery`s Indian Gallery till last night, was the first item cited in the New York Supreme Court yesterday where the long-time shop manager for Kapoor pleaded guilty to six counts of trading in stolen property worth USD 35 million.
The gallery`s bronze Shiva Nataraja was the first item cited in the court documents, which revealed it was "owned by the Central Government of India" after being stolen from Sivan Temple in Ariyalur District of Tamil Nadu.
The theft took place between January and November 2006, after which the statue was shipped to New York. The metre-high figure of Shiva surrounded by a ring of fire was then shipped to Australia in October 2007.
It is not yet known whether the statue was looted to order or whether the gallery bought it after it had been acquired by US-based Kapoor.
Kapoor is being held in India where he is accused of being the mastermind of a USD 100 million antiquities looting enterprise.
Gallery director Ron Radford for the first time spoke briefly about having been duped by Kapoor, whom he met personally at least once. "We`re talking to the high commission of India, we`ve been talking to them all the way through," he said.
He confirmed the Shiva would remain on display until it was returned to India.
The Shiva Nataraja is one of 14 items bought by the NGA for USD 11 million from Kapoor. The other antiquities are from Timor, Afghanistan or Pakistan and India.