$5.6 Looted Shiva Spurs Australia to Review its Import and Export Laws for Cultural Artifacts

"Shiva as Lord of the Dance or Nataraja." Cica 11th century, Indian bronze statue.

Australia’s attorney general George Brandis has announced a review of the laws regulating the import and export of cultural artifacts, the Guardian reports.

Brandis argued that current laws, passed under the Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act, had not been updated since 1986. The review will be conducted by barrister Shane Simpson, who will present a report to Brandis by the end of September 2015.

The announcement comes less than a week after the National Gallery of Australia (NGA) launched an investigation into the provenance of 54 suspicious artifacts that are part of its Asia art collection.

The investigation, in turn, was spurred by the discovery within the NGA collection of a Hindu sculpture looted in India, which was repatriated last September. The $5.6 million bronze of a “dancing Shiva” was bought by the NGA in 2008 from an antiques dealer named Subhash Kapoor, who is currently on trial in India under charges of trafficking cultural artifacts.

Australia’s proposed review of the import and export laws pertaining to cultural artifacts echoes recent efforts in the US and Germany.

Last November, the US introduced a bill to create a new post, the cultural property protection czar, devoted to the protection of endangered cultural patrimony.

In October, Germany’s culture minister, Monika Grütters, proposed a new legislation that will require all cultural goods to have an official export license from their country of origin in order to cross the German border.

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