Busted: Asia Week Raids Reveal Scope of Illicit Trade in Asian Art

Federal agents raided the Nancy Wiener Gallery on Thursday, the latest move in an aggressive crack down on the trade in ancient Asian art that has targeted several leading dealers and auction houses and shaken up New York’s Asia Week art show.

Federal agents were given a court order to seize the following objects from the Wiener Gallery:

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A 1st Century red sandstone Kushan Relief valued at $100,000

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An 8th Century limestone sculpture of Shiva and Parvati valued at $35,000

 

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A 10th Century bronze Buddha from Thailand or Cambodia valued at $850,000

Nancy WienerWiener is a second generation antiquities dealer who runs one of the country’s most prestigious Asian art galleries on Manhattan’s East 74th Street. Last year we revealed her role in the sale of a Kushan Buddha with a false ownership history to the National Gallery of Australia. Wiener agreed to refund the $1.08 million purchase price to the museum, which will soon return the sculpture to India.

Wiener is the latest target in a series of high profile Asia Week raids that were quietly orchestrated over the past year by special agent Brent Easter at Immigration and Customs Enforcement and prosecutor Matthew Bogdanos at the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.

The investigation, dubbed Operation Hiddon Idol, began with Subhash Kapoor, who is currently on trial in India. As we’ve covered in a series of posts since 2012, authorities seized 2,622 objects valued at more than $100 million from Kapoor’s business and storage facilities. Perhaps more importantly, federal agents secured the cooperation of former Kapoor associates and seized decades of his business records, both of which have revealed a network of antiquities looters and smugglers across Asia whose objects Kapoor sold to museums and collectors around the globe.

subhash kapoorIn the years since the Kapoor seizures, Easter and Bogdanos have been investigating the collectors and museums who bought from Kapoor and the suppliers who smuggled looted antiquities for him. Easter’s work on the case is highlighted in this short documentary by director Jason Kohn.

This week’s raids at Asia Week netted 8 antiquities valued at more than $4 million seized in five separate raids. Taken together, they offer dramatic evidence that Kapoor’s corrupt suppliers were selling looted objects to other top dealers in Asian art.

We’ll have more details on the Asia Week seizures in the days ahead.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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6 responses to “Busted: Asia Week Raids Reveal Scope of Illicit Trade in Asian Art

  1. Pingback: Busted: Asia Week Raids Reveals Scope of Illicit Trade in Asian Art – Arteatromexperu's Weblog

  2. There are other smaller auction places I feel are also peddling stolen Asian/Indian statues. I wonder if Aphrodite can set up a website where people can link many of the auctions with such antiquities and that it can request details of ownership and how it was acquired, etc. Then only we can start putting break on illicit trades.

  3. Pingback: Asia Week Arrest: Japanese Dealer Charged With Selling | CHASING APHRODITE

  4. Pingback: Another Gallery Is Raided ­in Antiquities Case | Daily Blue Planet

  5. Pingback: Christie’s Paris auction of sacred images and other antiquities from Asia, 14th December 2016 | conflict antiquities

  6. Pingback: BREAKING > Manhattan Dealer Nancy Wiener Arrested: Criminal Complaint Alleges Sweeping Conspiracy to Sell Stolen Asian Art Through Major Auction Houses | CHASING APHRODITE

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