City's heritage goes under hammer again

  • Jyotsna Jalali, Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
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  • Updated: Oct 19, 2013 10:53 IST

Even as the Chandigarh administration celebrated the 125th birth anniversary of Le Corbusier on October 6, furniture designed by the famed architect's cousin Pierre Jeanneret was organised was auctioned by Chicago-based Wright auction house on Friday. The auction fetched about $1,76,000 (Rs 1.07 crore).

It was a dining table from the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) cafeteria, which fetched the maximum bid and was sold for $50,000 (Rs 30.64 lakh). A pair of lounge chair designed by Jeanneret was sold for $40,000 (Rs 24.5 lakh). In all, eight items were put under auction, of which seven were sold.

The sold items included dining table from PGIMER's canteen, a pair of lounge chairs, a double-sized bookcase from state library of Chandigarh, a bookcase from Chandigarh College of Architecture, eight chairs divided in two sets of four chairs each, an armchair from MLA flats building and another pair of lounge chairs.

This is not for the first time that such an auction of the city's heritage has been held. In 2010, one of the biggest auctions was held by the same auction house when 50 heritage items from the city went under hammer.

Following spate of such auctions, a city lawyer, Ajay Jagga, moved a public interest litigation (PIL) against auctions in the Punjab and Haryana high court. Speaking to Hindustan Times, Jagga said, "This is very sad that heritage from the city is being sold in foreign land. It is the lack of will on part of officials in the Chandigarh administration that has allowed these auctions to continue.

The officials can very well use their diplomatic channels and can stop these auctions."
Meanwhile in 2011, the UT administration had written to the auction house concerned to stop such auctions, but the latter had written back saying that it is very much legal and they had all the documentary evidences to hold the auction.

Later, the administration had formed an inventory of heritage items in the city and is preserving these.

As per administration's inventory, there are about 12,000 heritage items in the city.

Rajnish Wattas, former principal of architecture college, said, "There is a dire need to have heritage laws in place without which heritage of the city cannot be preserved. Such auctions are sad and whatever steps that the administration can take to stop such auctions should be taken. We just can't be mute spectators to auction of the city's heritage. To conserve the existing heritage, a committee has been formed and we are working on ways and means to stop heritage of the city from getting perished."

As per SD Sharma, an architect from the city, "This is very sad and clearly shows the ill-will of the administration. What to talk about the auctions, the administration is not taking care of the heritage, which is left in the city. It is high time the officials took stringent measures to protect the heritage. It is very disappointing to see that even the existing heritage is not being preserved."

Commenting on the issue, UT finance secretary VK Singh said there is nothing that the administration can do to stop such auctions. "We cannot do anything about such auctions as the items have been stolen from the city and the auction house is holding the auction on the basis of all documents. The people had earlier sold off these heritage items as junk and now all that we can do is to preserve those left in the city."

Sold in auction

Dining table from PGIMER canteen (Estimated cost $20,000 to 30,000)
Sold for $50,000 (Rs 30.50 lakh)

Pair of lounge chair (Estimated cost: $10,000 to 15,000)
Sold for $40,000 (Rs 24.40 lakh)

Set of four chairs ($10,000 to 15,000)
Sold for $33,750 (RS 20.59 lakh)

Set of four chairs (Estimated cost: $10,000 to 15,000)
Sold for $25,000 (Rs 15.25 lakh)

Double-sided bookcase from central state library (Estimated cost $10,000 to 15,000)
Sold for $10,000 (Rs 6.10 lakh)

Armchair from MLA flats building (Estimated cost: $5,000 to 7,000)
Sold for $5,080 (Rs 3.10 lakh)

Bookcase from architecture college (Estimated cost: $3,000 to 5,000)
Sold for $3,302 (Rs 2.01 lakh)

Pair of lounge chair (Estimated cost: $10,000 to 15,000)
Remained unsold

 (Source: Wright's official website; figures approximate)


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