Yale Museum Surrenders Exhibit as Part of Art Looting Investigation

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A Yale University museum surrendered this 10th-century statue of Kubera, a god of wealth, to investigators who say it was looted from India.

Law enforcement officials have seized 13 exhibits from the Yale University Art Gallery, which they say were looted. Many of them, authorities say, are part of an ongoing investigation into Subhash Kapoor, a former Madison Avenue art dealer who is accused of being one of the world’s most active antiques smugglers.

Yale admitted the seizure, posting on the museum’s website that it delivered the items to the Manhattan District Attorney’s office, which is investigating in tandem with the US Homeland Security Service.

Subhash Kapoor, who once ran the respected Manhattan gallery known as Art of the Past, has been imprisoned in India since 2011 on charges of stealing, smuggling, and trading in more than 2,500 South Asian artifacts. He faces similar charges in New York City, where officials accused him of running a multinational chain that has traded more than $145 million in illegal items for more than 30 years. His extradition to the USA will be sought after the criminal case is solved.

Officials from the Homeland Security Investigation Division and the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office said they could not discuss all parameters of the investigation. But the Department of Homeland Security released a statement saying most of the Yale artifacts are linked to either Subhash Kapoor or his foreign suppliers.

The agency valued 13 properties at $1.29 million.

Matthew Bogdanos, head of the District Attorney’s Antiquities Division, released a statement saying the office determined that nine of the 13 antiquities at Yale were illegally sold by Kapoor. Nine artifacts were donated to Yale University by the Rubin-Ladd Foundation, which has donated the pieces to several museums and provides grants to cultural and educational organizations.

The Yale Museum was founded in 1832 and is recognized as the oldest collegiate art museum in America. It has about 300,000 exhibits. The institutions that have returned Subhash Kapoor the 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 works with investigators, said that while Yale received gifts before Kapoor’s arrest, the university should have done more to investigate their origins after the art world became aware of the extent.

Investigators said some of the items Yale received as gifts had origins that included the Subhash Kapoor gallery. Asked to elaborate on the scope of the research of the origin, Yale declined to comment. But the university has listed some of the items in a section of its website reporting works in the collection that has gaps in provenance.

The statement said that Yale University, having received information that works from its collections were stolen from their countries of origin, turned over the works to the New York District Attorney’s office on March 30, 2022, which will coordinate the repatriation of the objects later this year.

The statement said that Yale University, having received information that works from its collections were stolen from their countries of origin, turned over the works to the New York District Attorney’s office on March 30, 2022, which will coordinate the repatriation of the objects later this year.

The second item that was turned in was a marble arch from the 12th or 13th century, valued at $85,000. It was donated in 2007.

The fund listed about $6.8 million in assets in its most recent public tax return, which it filed last year. The Smithsonian Institution and the New York Public Library were listed as two of 23 organizations that received  $126,500 in grants.

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