New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art currently possesses 77 Indian paintings and sculptures which can be traced back to antiquity trafficker Subhash Kapoor, according to a joint investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists,the Indian Express newspaper and U.K.-based journalism project Finance Uncovered.
Kapoor, an Indian-American art dealer, was sentenced to 10 years in jail in November by a court in Kumbakonam, India, which found him guilty of smuggling and illegally exporting 19 antiquities from the Sri Varadaraja Perumal temple in the Ariyalur district to his Manhattan gallery. Kapoor was first extradited to India after being detained by police in Germany in 2011.
The Manhattan District Attorney’s office alleged Kapoor looted thousands of objects from various countries and then sold them alongside forged documents. Between 2011 and 2022, the DA’s office recovered more than 2,500 items valued at $143 million linked to Kapoor’s trafficking ring. In 2019, the Met said it was investigating the provenance of works given to the museum over the years by Kapoor.
Many of the works have identical provenance
The history of ownership of the 77 works in the Met’s possession includes Kapoor and his art gallery Art of the Past, according to the Indian Express. Other works were previously acquired or donated from the late Doris Wiener and her daughter Nancy, who has been linked with Kapoor and pled guilty in 2021 to charges relating to art trafficking.
The list of works include 18 sculptures; such as Rattle in the Form of a Crouching Grotesque Yaksha (Male Nature Spirit), which was donated to the Met in the 1990s by Kapoor; and 59 paintings, including A Lady With Attendants, an ink and watercolor work he donated to the museum in 2008.
Of the paintings, 55 have identical provenance details which list Kapoor and his father Parshotam Ram as former owners, according to the report.
The Met “continually researches the history of works in the collection—often in collaboration with colleagues in countries around the world—and has a long track record of acting on new information as appropriate,” said the museum in a statement to the Indian Express.
The Met did not respond to immediate requests for comment.