Tim Tai, Staff Photographer

The Department of Homeland Security recently seized 13 artifacts from the Yale University Art Gallery, or YUAG, on suspicion they were smuggled by a disgraced art dealer.

The pieces, which were of Indian and South Asian origin, were allegedly stolen by art dealer Subhash Kapoor. Kapoor, who was convicted in 2012 for taking antiques from temples in South India as part of a $100 million international smuggling scheme, then sold these stolen artifacts to major art museums across the world, including the National Gallery of Australia and the Toledo Museum of Art. Thirteen of these smuggled artifacts ended up in the YUAG, which is recognized as the oldest university art gallery in the Western Hemisphere.

“Yale University, having been presented with information indicating that works of art in its collections were stolen from their countries of origin, delivered the works on March 30, 2022 to the New York District Attorney’s Office, which will coordinate the objects’ repatriation later this year,” a public statement released by YUAG read. “Yale was glad to work cooperatively with the DA’s Office in this important matter.”

Antiques confiscated by the Department of Homeland Security included a 10th-century sandstone statue of Kubera, the Hindu god of wealth, as well as a marble arch known as Parikara – valued by investigators at $550,000 and $85,000, respectively. 

According to the University, the New York District Attorney provided evidence that the confiscated artifacts constituted stolen property in February 2022; the evidence was collected through information not available in the public domain. By the time University officials were notified about the concerns regarding the artifacts, Yale had already conducted research into their origins. 

According to Homeland Security, the artifacts were identified as being “connected to either Subhash Kapoor or his overseas suppliers.” The 13 total artifacts have been valued at $1.29 million, with nine of these objects having been donated to the University by the Rubin-Ladd Foundation, which has been linked to Subhash Kapoor’s $143 million art smuggling ring. 

This is not the first time that Kapoor’s artifacts have been investigated for connections to looting. Back in 2008, Kapoor sold an 11th-century bronze Dancing Shiva statue worth $5.6 million to the National Gallery of Australia. The statue was later discovered to have allegedly been stolen from an Indian temple located in Tamil Nadu.

On March 30, the University voluntarily surrendered the artifacts when the New York District Attorney’s office served the objects with a search and seizure warrant.

“Yale is committed to provenance research and welcomes information regarding the ownership history of objects in its collection,” a statement by the University administration said, forwarded by YUAG communications coordinator Janet Sullivan.

The Yale University Art Gallery was established in 1832.

WILLIAM PORAYOUW
William Porayouw covers Woodbridge Hall and previously wrote about international affairs at Yale. Originally from Southern California, he is a sophomore in Davenport College majoring in political science and economics.