Asian Civilisations Museum returns 11th century sculpture to India

KP Mohandas, Assistant Superintending Archaeologist, Archaeological Survey of India with Alan Chong, Director of Asian Civilisations Museum witnessing the return of the 11th century bronze sculpture. — Picture by ACM via TODAY
KP Mohandas, Assistant Superintending Archaeologist, Archaeological Survey of India with Alan Chong, Director of Asian Civilisations Museum witnessing the return of the 11th century bronze sculpture. — Picture by ACM via TODAY

SINGAPORE, Nov 7 — An 11th-century bronze sculpture believed to have been illegally removed from India was returned to Indian authorities yesterday by the Asian Civilisations Museum (ACM).

The ACM, which bought the sculpture from a defunct New York gallery accused of an extensive antiquities-smuggling operation, had indicated last month that it would return the sculpture. The sculpture from the Chola dynasty, a religious icon depicting the Hindu goddess Uma, was returned at the Heritage Conservation Centre.

The statue is now on its way back to its rightful place in India, the High Commission of India said, adding that it appreciates the return of the statue.

“In the spirit of friendship and cooperation between the two countries that marks our bilateral relations, India and Singapore will continue to engage in promoting cooperation in the field of Art, Culture and Heritage, including exchanges between museums for exhibitions, sharing of knowledge and best practices, etc,” it said.

Director of the ACM Alan Chong said: “The museum has always striven to acquire objects ethically and legally. Like many museums around the world, we were the unfortunate victims of fraud.” The ACM bought the sculpture from Art of the Past in 2007 for US$650,000 (RM2.8 million).

Chong said that the ACM will continue to collaborate with Indian museums and cultural institutions.

“ACM has had close relationships with Indian museums and cultural institutions, ranging from a Peranakan exhibition presented at the National Museum Delhi this year to long-term loans from ASI, and we look forward to future collaborations,” he said.

Last month, ACM had communicated to the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and the High Commission of India to Singapore its plan to return the bronze sculpture. Details of the decision made public on October 19. — TODAY