ACM says it abides by international law in acquisition of artefacts

SINGAPORE: The Asian Civilisations Museum (ACM) says it will take all necessary steps according to international laws and practice to return any stolen or looted objects from among the 30 artefacts it purchased from New York gallery, Art of the Past.

In a statement on Wednesday, ACM said over 14 years from 1997 to 2010, it bought 30 objects from Art of the Past, an established gallery which had sold artefacts to reputable museums around the world.

ACM said, through legal actions taken in US courts against Art of the Past, it was alerted that two of artefacts that it had purchased could have been sold illicitly by the gallery.

One is an Uma bronze sculpture acquired from the dealer in 2007 which might have been stolen from India.

The second is a Virgin Mary and Christ altar acquired in 2009, with documents on its source allegedly forged by the dealer.

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ACM said it bought the Uma bronze for US$650,000 and the altar for US$135,000.

It said it believed at the point of purchase, the two objects were legally and ethically acquired.

ACM said it follows acquisition procedures strictly, and all possible checks were made on the two artefacts at the time of purchase.

ACM said to date, it has received no information that the other 28 artefacts that it bought from the gallery could be of questionable source.

The statement said the National Heritage Board is considering legal action, and is consulting its lawyers on the possibility of recovering funds obtained through the gallery's fraudulent sale of objects.

It said ACM and other state museums of Singapore are bound by international law and ethical standards to acquire objects and works of art legally and ethically.

As members of the International Council of Museums, Singapore's museums follow its code of ethics on the acquisition and display of objects.

- CNA/de

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