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Fake modern Indian art market fattens on budget buyers

After faking art works of contemporary Indian masters like SH Raza and FN Souza, the Indian ‘copy’ market seems to have turned focus on top contemporary sculptor and artist Satish Gujral.

business Updated: Aug 07, 2012 01:32 IST
Madhushree Chatterjee

After faking art works of contemporary Indian masters like SH Raza and FN Souza, the Indian ‘copy’ market seems to have turned focus on top contemporary sculptor and artist Satish Gujral.

A consignment of crude bronze sculptures of a “stylised figure of a two-headed ram with horns” and “abstract human figures”, ostensibly sculpted by Gujral, has reached galleries in Kolkata from the national Capital.

The sculptures are priced around Rs 200,000 (about $3,500) each.http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/Popup/2012/8/07-08-biz3.jpg

“A New Delhi-based dealer offered to sell at least 10 Satish Gujral sculptures to me this month,” a gallery-owner from Kolkata said. “I was suspicious because I had the original sculpture of the two-headed horned ram in my gallery. The sculptures sent from the national capital were crude replicas of the original. They were not even limited edition replicas.”

Satish Gujral was not available for comment.

Fake art proliferates because of legal loopholes, said Manish Pushkale, a leading contemporary multi-media artist.

“There are no legal guidelines in relation to faking and forging Indian contemporary and modern art because the genres are not recognised as national heritage,” he said. “Legal guidelines, however, are well-defined for someone who is faking Indian miniatures. The Archaeological Survey of India and the law enforcing agencies can act against forgers of miniatures and antiquities... (not) modern artists.”

Pushkale said saleable artists like Raza, FN Souza and MF Husain were faked at random, but second-rung artists were not in demand and “hence did not run the risk of being faked”.

Delhi-based Dhoomimal Gallery had to withdraw more than a dozen canvases from a solo exhibition of artist SH Raza’s art in 2009. The mystery of the fake paintings have not been solved yet, but the gallery has lost “much of its credibility after the fiasco” with the artist threatening to sue the “donor” who gave bulk of the exhibits to the gallery, said a source.

A parallel industry in repr-oduction art flourishes with the help of hundreds of copy artists — mostly young art school graduates — who eke out a living by copying masters for the lower end of the market. India, on an average, produces 5,000 art graduates annually.

“The phantom (unrealistic) prices of top artists have led to the fake art trade boom,” said art dealer, promoter and gallerist Narendra Jain. IANS