The Metropolitan Museum of Art will return a group of 15 antiquities to India, the New York institution announced on Thursday.
The group of terracotta and stone sculptures leaving the Met’s collection depict ancient Indian deities and date from the 1st century BCE to the 11th century CE. Each object passed through the hands of former art dealer Subhash Kapoor, who was charged with illegally exporting religious artifacts by New York authorities in 2019.
US authorities began their probe into Kapoor in 2011. The septuagenarian dealer, whose business dealings ranged between various locations from the US to Germany, was sentenced on antiquities trafficking charges related to $140 million worth of illicitly sourced property in November 2022. The charges were brought by a court in Kumbakonam, India.
In 2015, the museum began working with officials from the United States Department of Homeland Security and the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office’s antiquities trafficking unit to investigate objects held in the museum’s holdings with ties to the dealer.
In a statement, the museum said it “values highly its long-standing relationships with the government of India, and is pleased to resolve this matter.”
It is the latest mass return of items linked to Kapoor since the charges were brought against him. In August 2022, the Yale University Art Gallery returned 12 artifacts linked to Kapoor’s affiliates in India and Burma. The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office repatriated more than 200 antiquities with origins in India that were seized from Kapoor’s personal collection in 2021.
The Met’s antiquities collection has been the subject of ongoing scrutiny by officials in the US. Artifacts with ties to religious sites have been a particular area of focus for repatriation advocates as of late.
Calls for the Met to address provenance gaps for ancient artifacts are still circulating. A report published earlier this month by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and the UK-based nonprofit Finance Uncovered found that more than 1,000 relics in the Met’s collection can be linked to art trafficking.