The Dancing Shiva statue in the National Gallery of Australia earlier this month. The Dancing Shiva statue in the National Gallery of Australia earlier this month. Photo: Jay Cronan
The National Gallery of Australia will remove from public display a Dancing Shiva statue that is at the centre of an international antiquities smuggling scandal.
The decision to remove the Indian statue that was purchased for $US5 million from disgraced antiquities dealer Subhash Kapoor, currently on trial in India for looting temples, is an embarrassing backdown for the Canberra-based gallery, which had issued a statement saying it would continue to display it.
"The Shiva, which is one of the great examples of Indian culture in Australia, has been consistently on display at the National Gallery of Australia since February 2008," the statement read. "The Shiva and other objects purchased from Art of the Past will continue to be on display for the benefit of all Australians and visitors until the matter is resolved."

Shiva as Nataraja, Lord of the Dance. Centre of scandal ... Dancing Shiva statue. Photo: Supplied
A statement issued on Wednesday from the Attorney-General's Department suggests political pressure might have been applied to the NGA.

"The National Gallery of Australia is continuing its cooperation with the department to fulfil Australia's international commitments and has voluntarily removed the statue from display."
The statement also confirmed that India's government has asked for the return of the Dancing Shiva idol on the basis it was illegally taken out of India: "The request states that the statue was exported from India in contravention of cultural property laws, namely India's Antiquity and Art Treasures Act 1972."