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The week in art news – US returns some 250 stolen antiquities to India

29 October 2021

Authorities in the United States have returned 248 antiquities, worth an estimated $15m in total, to India – the latest development in the long-running investigation into former New York art dealer Subhash Kapoor. Kapoor is currently in prison in India where he faces charges related to the trafficking of more than 2,500 South Asian antiquities; he also faces multiple charges in the United States pending extradition. Most of the objects handed over this week were seized from Kapoor’s storage units; they join more than 280 other artefacts returned to India and a dozen other nations during the course of this investigation.

An appeals court in Amsterdam has ruled that a collection of ancient Crimean artefacts, which were on loan to a Dutch museum during the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014, should be returned to Ukraine. The objects, known collectively as the ‘Scythian gold’, were borrowed from four Crimean museums for an exhibition at the Allard Pierson Museum in Amsterdam – where they have remained stored ever since. An Amsterdam district court first ruled for their return to Ukraine in 2016 but the Crimean museums appealed against this decision the following year. The museums may now file a fresh appeal in the Dutch supreme court.

Jesus College at the University of Cambridge became the first UK institution to return a Benin Bronze to Nigeria, with the restitution on Wednesday of a bronze cockerel sculpture that had been held by the college since 1905. Aberdeen University followed suit a day later, handing over a sculpture of the head of an Oba that was acquired by the university in 1957. The Nigerian federal government this week also submitted its first formal request to the British Museum for the restitution of the Benin Bronzes held at the London institution.

Museums, galleries, libraries and heritage assets in England have been allocated £850m in government funding over the next three years. This amounts to slightly less per year than the £320m that was allocated to museums and galleries in 2020. The autumn 2021 budget, which was presented by Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak this week, also includes extended tax relief for cultural venues including museums and galleries, which is intended to last until April 2023 before tapering down to the normal rate 12 months later.