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Illegal Antiquities: Vishes Kothari

Guest post by VISHES KOTHARI

As a collector of Indian antiquities wanting to set up an antiquities dealership in the future, I had heard of the wholesale illegal export of Indian art treasures and antiquities out of India- sometimes through newspaper reports, but mostly through word of mouth. This summer I decided to explore this market further. Nothing could really have prepared me for what I was to see over the course of the next month spent between Delhi and Rajasthan.

Contrary to my imagination of the Delhi businesses operating in a very shady and dubious manner out of musty, hidden godowns in obscure corners of Old Delhi, and run by people with barely any idea of what they were handling, what I found instead was that almost all these businesses were located in localities which epitomize mainstream “cosmopolitan Delhi” and run by extremely wealthy upper middle class families. Connaught Place, Greater Kailash, Green Park, Sunder Nagar- these were just some of the places where I was able to locate an open sale of antiquities- happening not through dodgy godowns or via clandestine networks- but instead conducted out of posh showrooms and sold openly to anyone who cared to buy.

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