US museum agrees to return two sculptures stolen from Nepal

Photo: Rubin Museum of Art

NL Today

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Kathmandu: An US-based museum has agreed to return two sculptures stolen from Nepal.

The Rubin Museum of Art said that it will return the sculptures to Nepal after researchers working for the museum concluded that smugglers had stolen the carved wooden artifacts from religious sites, The New York Times reported.

“We are deeply grateful,” Nepal’s acting consul general, Bishnu Prasad Gautam, said in a statement. “The proactive response and thoughtful collaboration from the Rubin have positively contributed to Nepal’s national efforts to recover the lost artifacts.”

The museum credited a nonprofit called the Nepal Heritage Recovery Campaign for playing a role in the repatriation by calling attention to questions about the history of the items, according to the report.

The Rubin Museum said in its statement that these two relics were the first items in its collection that were found to have been unlawfully obtained. The institution is currently five years into a full review of its artifacts, which involves filling gaps in knowledge about provenance records.

“We have an ongoing duty to carefully research the art and objects we collect and exhibit. The theft of archaeological objects continues to be a major concern in the art world,” Jorrit Britschgi, the museum’s executive director, said in the statement. “We believe it is our responsibility to address and resolve issues of cultural property, including helping to facilitate the return of the two objects in question.”

The report added that the one relic is the upper section of a 17th-century wooden torana (an ornamental gateway in Buddhist and Hindu architecture) from a temple complex in Patan called the Yampi Mahavihara. Another is a carving of a garland-bearing apsara (a female spirit of the clouds and waters) from the 14th century, which was originally part of an ornamental window decoration in the Itum Bahal monastery of Kathmandu.