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The Met Collection Could Have 70+ Artifacts From Smuggler Subhash Kapoor

A joint investigation suggests that 77 items in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art might be linked to disgraced art dealer Subhash Kapoor.

The joint investigation was carried out by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (a global group of investigative journalists), Indian Express (an Indian media house), and Finance Uncovered (a UK-based nonprofit). In a report published on Wednesday, the investigators went through the entire catalog of objects in the collection of The Met and cross-checked their provenance. They found out that 77 works were marked as sold or donated by either Subhash Kapoor or his associates, which include antiquities expert Doris Weiner, and her daughter and art dealer Nancy Weiner.

‘Yakshi Holding a Crowned Child with a Visiting Parrot’, from India (1st century BCE)

The works include a terracotta tile from the 3rd-4th century BCE and a stone sculpture of the Hindu god Vishnu from the 6th century BCE. The works also include many paintings, like The Goddess Durga Killing the Buffalo Demon, Mahisha (Mahishasura Mardini) (1760), and an 18th-century painting of the Hindu deity Krishna defeating a demon. The Met has been a subject of investigation in the past; last year, the Manhattan DA office seized a 6th-century CE sculpture of a Hindu deity from the museum.

Subhash Kapoor is infamous as one of the biggest art smugglers in history, with his international ring smuggling antiquities from Asia – including Afghanistan, Nepal, Pakistan, Thailand, and India – into the West. In 2011 Kapoor was exposed for the first time and arrested in Germany. He was extradited to India in 2012 and, after a lengthy legal battle, was finally sentenced to ten years in prison in November 2022. He still faces 86 counts of charges in New York, which was his primary city of operation.

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Through his gallery Art of the Past and various personal collections, Subhash Kapoor flooded the market with South Asian antiquities at relatively cheap prices. Multiple investigations are ongoing to track all the smuggled works he sold. In October last year, more than 300 antiquities were repatriated to India by the Manhattan DA. It is estimated that some 2000 works yet remain to be tracked.