National Gallery of Australia Council establishes independent review of Asian art collection

NGA_Asian ArtThe National Gallery of Australia has announced plans to address provenance issues in relation to its Asian art collection.

Following a meeting of the National Gallery of Australia Council in November the following actions are being taken:

  • Appointment of an independent reviewer to report to Council on the interpretation of relevant cultural laws (Australian and country of origin) in this area as well as chain of ownership and provenance.
  • Additional support of the NGA Asian Art Provenance research team increasing to three staff members from late January.
  • NGA website provenance project – listing the full number of imaged sculptures from South Asia which the Gallery is researching and seeking further information about. In the New Year research will extend to works from Southeast Asia.
  • Revision of the existing NGA due diligence procedures to ensure alignment with the new Australian Government guidelines for collecting cultural material.

The Asian art collection holds approximately 5,000 items. A preliminary internal assessment has identified 54 significant South Asian works which are now public on its website, for which further information and documentation is sought. None of these works is subject to claim.

Through the initiatives announced today, the NGA will pursue thorough and detailed research into the provenance of its Asian collection working with appropriate experts and authorities. The Gallery will also work with relevant donors. It is expected that the detailed research of this kind will take several years to complete.

“The NGA acknowledges that there are works in the collection whose provenance and legal status needs a renewed level of scrutiny,” said NGA Director, Gerard Vaughan. “The situation is regrettable, however we are now addressing these issues in a proactive and open manner.”

In the first phase of the provenance project, the website comprises 54 significant works from South Asia referred to above. These are now publicly available on the NGA website and accessible on the homepage. Additional information and works will be added to the website as the research team reviews documentation.

The appointment of the independent reviewer will be announced in the New Year. For more information, visit: www.nga.gov.au for details.

Image: Pala dynasty (8th?early 12th centuries) Buddha calling the Earth to witness 10th century West Bengal, India or Bangladesh, sculptures, stone. Technique: stone, work 49.5 h x 29.3 w x 12.6 d cm Presented by the High Commissioner for India, Government of India, 1969. Accession No: NGA 68.9

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