National Gallery of Australia
On 27 November 2017 the Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison formally announced that as a result of criminal law proceedings underway in India and the United States against New York art dealer Subhash Kapoor, Australia would be voluntarily returning three culturally significant sculptures to India. Five days later, on 2 December 2019 the Australian Government’s Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications – Office for the Arts announced that the three artworks would be formally given back to the Indian authorities during the Prime Minister’s visit to India, in January 2020.
Prime Minister Morrison was scheduled to travel to India on 13 January 2020 for bilateral meetings between Australia and India, at the invitation of Indian prime minister Narendra Modi. The pair planned to hand over the artworks and discuss the global economy before Morrison headed on to other meetings in Japan. Those plans, however, fell by the wayside as Australia battled for control over the country’s raging bush fires which continued unabated until mid-February, a result of the country’s prolonged drought.
The next hiccup to the scheduled meeting and handover was the world-encompassing epidemic, the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).