Gallery Owner Arrested For Trafficking Stolen Antiquities

A New York art dealer has been arrested and charged with possessing and selling stolen artifacts from nations all through Asia.

Nancy Wiener is accused of making use of her gallery in New York City, referred to as Nancy Wiener Gallery, to “acquire, smuggle, launder and sell millions of dollars’ worth of antiquities stolen from Afghanistan, Cambodia, China, India, Pakistan, and Thailand,” according to a complaint filed in Manhattan Criminal Court.

According to the gallery’s site, it has sold art to private collectors and museums, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Los Angeles County Museum, Art Institute of Chicago and National Gallery of Australia.

A Baphuon Shiva statue from Cambodia, dated to the 11th century, that was allegedly purchased by Nancy Wiener in 2008 and which investigators believe was obtained by looting. Case State of New York v. Nancy Wiener/Screenshot by NPR hide caption

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Case State of New York v. Nancy Wiener/Screenshot by NPR

Jason Felch, an investigative reporter who writes about the trafficking of stolen art, described Wiener’s organization as “one of the country’s most prestigious Asian art galleries on Manhattan’s Upper East Side,” on his weblog Chasing Aphrodite.

The 12-web page complaint, which is signed by Particular Agent Brenton Easter of the Department of Homeland Security, reads less like a court filing than an art heist thriller.

It tells of an elaborate scheme, carried out with co-conspirators about the world, to purchase stolen artifacts and then cover up their origin to make hundreds of thousands of dollars promoting them.

Take, for instance, the story of an Indian sandstone sculpture from around the second century, referred to as “Seated Buddha #1.”

In 1999, Wiener allegedly sold the sculpture to Singapore’s Asian Civilisations Museum. When, years later, the museum asked for documents about the sculpture’s origin, Wiener gave them 3 answers: 1st, she mentioned it had belonged to “an unnamed European collector for at least 35 to 40 years,” then she said her own father had acquired it in India, and lastly she gave the name of a man she mentioned purchased it when “he was posted in Vietnam in between 1964 and 1966.”

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The name she gave was Ian Donaldson, a fact that later became relevant to investigators.

None of the 3 claims about the statue’s origin appeared to be correct. Investigators searching a storage locker rented by another art dealer discovered an “unlabeled laptop disc.” On it had been three images of Seated Buddha #1. In a single of them, the statue appeared “nevertheless wet as it lay on a dirty floor.”

The date stamp on the picture seems to be Nov. eight, 1992.

In 1999, Wiener allegedly sold this sculpture, listed as “Seated Buddha #1,” to Singapore’s Asian Civilisations Museum. Case State of New York State v. Nancy Wiener/Screenshot by NPR hide caption

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Case State of New York State v. Nancy Wiener/Screenshot by NPR

Meanwhile, Wiener acquired a second Buddha statue. She sold that 1, referred to as “Seated Buddha #2,” to the National Gallery of Australia in 2007 for far more than $ 1 million, saying that it had originally been purchased in Hong Kong by a man who “had been posted there between 1964 and 1966.”

The man’s name was also Ian Donaldson.

India’s patrimony laws, which spells out the appropriate of the country to retain its artifacts, took impact in 1972, according to the complaint.

A looted red sandstone relief from India, dated among the 1st and second century, that was bought by Nancy Wiener’s mother, Doris, in 2002 and consigned to Christie’s soon after Doris’ death. Case State of New York v. Nancy Wiener/Screenshot by NPR hide caption

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Case State of New York v. Nancy Wiener/Screenshot by NPR

The complaint also describes strategies Wiener appeared to have utilized to create the false air of legitimacy about possibly stolen artifacts she and her household owned.

For example, the state alleges Wiener attempted to consign a collection of 380 artifacts owned by her mother, Doris Wiener, to the auction residence Sotheby’s but did not have adequate documentation about their origin. So she consigned the collection to Christie’s New York instead.

According to the complaint, Doris Wiener had previously consigned some of the artifacts and re-purchased them at auction — so-named straw purchases meant to launder their buy history by adding apparent owners.

Christie’s did not ask for substantial documentation about exactly where the Wieners acquired the art and sold the whole lot in 2012 for $ 12.7 million.

The New York Occasions reported some of the artifacts Wiener is accused of possessing “were stated to have been smuggled into the United States by Subhash Kapoor, a well-recognized Manhattan art dealer who is now on trial in India.”

The paper also quote Wiener’s lawyer, Georges Lederman, as saying, “We are examining the charges and will respond at the appropriate time.”

Arts &amp Life : NPR