Watchdog Group links the Rubin-Ladd Foundation, a prolific benefactor of the museum, to jailed antiques dealer Subhash Kapoor


Triggered by the revelation of links between an American foundation for arts and culture and a convicted art thief, a group of volunteer researchers identified dozens of donations from the foundation to American museums that could call into question the provenance of the objects.

The exhibit, reviewed by Artnet News, revolves around a series of documents released by the National Gallery of Australia on August 5, associated with 14 works of art that it believes would return to India. The works, including ancient sandstone sculptures and 19th-century ceremonial objects, were sold to the museum by now-imprisoned art trafficker Subhash Kapoor, who is accused of running an art smuggling ring of $ 143 million. Kapoor was arrested in 2011 and is awaiting trial in India for conspiracy to commit theft. US prosecutors want to extradite him; Last month, a British antique restorer named Neil Perry Smith was indicted for restoring looted loot associated with Kapoor.

The name of the Rubin-Ladd Foundation first appeared in provenance documents provided by the NGA for a number of works it had acquired from Kapoor. One, for a tenth century Indian sculpture, describes the chain of ownership as “with the Rubin-Ladd Foundation and on loan to the San Antonio Museum of Art, 2003 or earlier”.

After combing through the foundation’s tax returns, a group of volunteer researchers from the India Pride Project, dedicated to helping restore the country’s cultural heritage, found evidence that the foundation purchased several works by Kapoor that have then loaned or sold to American institutions. The India Pride Project indicates that at least 10 museums received works from the foundation between 2004 and 2013.

The revelations come at a time when supporters of restitution in a wide range of circumstances – from works of art sold under duress during the Nazi era to items stolen from African countries during the colonial period – are increasingly attracting l ‘Warning. Last year, US authorities returned a group of antiques valued at an estimated $ 1.2 million that had passed through the Kapoor Gallery and seized during Asia Week in 2015 and 2016.

A selection of items returned to India following an investigation by Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch during a ceremony with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2016, imported by Subhash Kapoor. Courtesy of ICE.

Who is behind the Rubin-Ladd Foundation?

According to information available through the public records and accessible online, the foundation is managed by Robert S. Walzer of Redding, Connecticut, a retired attorney with the Connecticut law firm of Robinson & Cole, where he was chairman of the department. of health law. The foundation, a New York-based charity focused on education and culture, has no website or email address, and calls to a phone number listed by Foundation Directory Online have gone unheard of. reply. (Walzer also did not respond to a detailed message sent via LinkedIn about the project’s findings.)

India Pride Project discovered that the foundation had made several purchases in Kapoor which it then donated to museums.

In 2013 tax returns, for example, the group found that in 2012, the foundation donated works of art worth $ 428,500 to three anonymous U.S. institutions. Documentation includes provenance details showing that several of the objects in the Rubin-Ladd Foundation’s inventory were from Art of the Past, Kapoor’s now-defunct gallery on Madison Avenue. The India Pride Project says they will examine the objects and connect them to specific museums in the coming weeks.

The 10 institutions named in Rubin-Ladd’s tax returns are: the Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena; the Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University in Atlanta; Yale University in New Haven; the San Antonio Art Museum; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Ackland Art Museum at Chapel Hill University, North Carolina; the Harvard Art Museums in Cambridge, Massachusetts; the Lowe Art Museum at the University of Miami; Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania; and the Worcester Art Museum. It is possible that some of these works never passed through Kapoor’s gallery.

Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut.

Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, is among the institutions that have reportedly received donations of works from the Rubin-Ladd Foundation.

Artnet News contacted the 10 museums; six did not respond to our request for comment.

A representative from the Worcester Museum confirmed that he had ties to the Rubin-Ladd Foundation, stating in an email to Artnet News that he received a gift of six objects from the foundation in 2007. The representative also said that it had no work in the collection donated or acquired by Subhash Kapoor, and that it follows the 2013 Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) guidelines for the acquisition of archaeological material and ancient art. In March 2006, an exhibit at the museum included ancient jades on loan from the collection of Robert Waltzer, director of the foundation, and his wife, Ann, in an exhibit titled Harvests in the mountains: Chinese jades and other precious stones.

The San Antonio Art Museum confirmed that it also owned several items acquired through the Rubin-Ladd Foundation but declined to elaborate.

Harvard Art Museums declined to say whether she had been a recipient of the Rubin-Ladd gifts, despite being named in the foundation’s tax returns.

A spokesperson for the University of Miami’s Lowe Art Museum said it does not release the results of a full provenance search to the public until they have been fully resolved. Adding that the institution is an American Alliance of Museums accredited institution and a member of AAMD, the spokesperson said, “In accordance with established best practices, the Lowe responds promptly to all inquiries about the properties. cultural and repatriation requests from the United States government, federally recognized Native American tribes and nations, and foreign governments to address and correct any verifiable collection anomalies.

Additionally, the India Pride Project discovered that a Kubera idol placed at Yale University had traveled via Kapoor via the Rubin-Ladd Foundation. Artnet News has contacted Yale regarding the provenance of the object, but has so far received no response.

While no charges have been brought against the Rubin-Ladd Foundation or any of the named museums, nonprofit foundations may play a role, either intentionally or unintentionally, in the delivery of the works. stolen art from the protected archaeological sites.

“Behind every antiques trafficking network attacking cultural heritage for profit”, Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr. after Smith’s arrest in July, “there is someone who collects and restores these looted pieces to give the criminal enterprise a veneer of legitimacy.”

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