Dhaka cancels art show in Paris following theft of artefacts


Dhaka : Bangladesh has cancelled an exhibition of rare artefacts at Guimet Museum in Paris following disappearance of two Vishnu statues from Zia International Airport last week.

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Sculpted around 1,500 years ago, ‘Vishnu’ and ‘Bust of Vishnu’ were stolen from the cargo area of the airport sometime between Friday evening and Saturday noon, while in the custody of Air France.

As a massive countrywide search for the stolen pieces continued, a controversy has already kicked off with art lovers and sections of the Bangladeshi intelligentsia demanding expulsion of the French charge D’affaires Jean Romnicianu.

Investigators are trying to find out if local or international smuggling groups were involved in the theft, The Daily Star reported Wednesday.

Police have detained 15 persons so far.

The French diplomat said in a statement that the theft of the artefacts had occurred due to propaganda against sending of museum pieces to Paris and delay in shipment, New Age newspaper reported.

Art lovers in Chittagong formed a human chain Tuesday to express their anger, The Daily Star reported.

Politics has also been injected into the controversy. Awami League presidium member Matia Chowdhury said the French embassy’s statement appeared to be a violation of diplomatic norms. She demanded withdrawal of the statement.

The decision to call off the exhibition was taken late Tuesday by the Advisors’ Council chaired by Chief Advisor Fakhruddin Ahmed.

A formal announcement said it had taken note of the public sentiments following the theft.

The decision came even as some of the artefacts reached Paris for the exhibition originally scheduled to start next week.

Dhaka has decided to recall the artefacts from Paris. Another 140 pieces at the airport awaiting transportation to France will be brought back to Dhaka Museum.

Bangladeshi art lovers have said they feared damage and destruction of the intended exhibits.