Novartis chief to gift Indian sculpture collection to Mumbai museum


A treasure trove of ancient Indian sculptures is headed back to the country thanks to an unlikely donor. Swiss pharmaceutical group Novartis's chairman Daniel Vasella will be gifting his entire personal collection of Indian sculptures and other art work to Mumbai's Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sanghralaya, sources told The Indian Express.

Novartis, incidentally, is fighting India's patent laws in the Supreme Court over a cancer drug. Vasella is credited with turning around the pharmaceutical company.

Over 800 bronze sculptures collected over time by Vasella may be transferred to India. Novartis officials were not willing to comment on the issue till the transfer process gets the go-ahead of the Indian government.

"These are ethnographic pieces. Most date back to the 1930s, so while these are not ancient works, they are quite interesting and well maintained. The Novartis chairman expressed his desire to bring back the collection to India and our trust accepted the proposal. We have sought that Customs duty be waived and the Ministry of Culture is at work to facilitate the transfer," an official at the museum said.

Vasella is said to be quite keen that the transfer goes through as early as possible and the sculpture collection is reportedly already at a shipping warehouse for transportation to Mumbai. All that's needed is a duty exemption certificate from India. However, the Customs can give that only after the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) completes a valuation and issues a certificate. The certification process is on, sources at the Culture Ministry and ASI said.

The wait also means that the consignment is attracting demurrage charges. Novartis's India office is said to be coordinating with the Ministry of Culture.

Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sanghralaya, which will house the sculptures, was earlier called Prince of Wales Museum of Western India and was founded in 1905.

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