“If you buy from a dealer, the dealer would warrant the work was clear of any encumbrance,” he said. This dealer, though, is in custody in India, he said. The National Gallery of Australia filed a suit in December against Kapoor in New York state.
The museum has not been asked to turn over the Ganesha, which closely resembles a figure listed as stolen in an Indian police report. The item is one of 18 metal idols missing from a village in Tamil Nadu. The museum’s web site says the Indian police department sent the museum copies of the report along with photos of the looted goods in July.
Carolyn Putney has been chief curator and Asian art curator at the museum since 2001. The museum insists it did adequate research before buying the disputed piece. “At the time of consideration, the museum received a provenance affidavit, and the curator personally spoke to the listed previous owner,” the statement says. “The object was also run through the Art Loss Registry with no issues detected.” In its almost 114-year history, the museum has returned two unwittingly ill-gained objects.