Even as it is now clear that Corbusier-era furniture is of immense monetary value, it still continues to go out of the city to Paris and the administration seems helpless in stopping it.
Though there are standing orders to all departments not to write off old furniture, privately held pieces are easy pickings and Frenchman Carl Wormser, with the help of his local connections, is ruling the market.
Talwinder Happy Singh of Delhi-based Lehar International, Patpargunj Industrial Estate; another Delhi-based exporter ABP Enterprises, D-646 (II Floor), Chitranjan Park; Chandigarh-based HS Karan, SCF 1, Sector 10, and a close friend of Karan, are the main associates of the French dealers.
Carl, with the help of Karan, is still into the business, and even owns a godown, Plot number 1025, Sector 82 Industrial Area, SAS Nagar. The bought furniture is kept in the godown for packaging and repair is carried out on the premises. They have two full-time carpenters to look after the repair work. Later, the furniture is sent to Delhi for export to Paris (The items are exported under HS code: 94031010).
“Sending the furniture to Paris requires a lot of paperwork. Once we get the furniture, it’s our headache to transport it to Delhi. We have our network in Panjab University also. If anybody is willing to sell furniture, we get it of the varsity. There is less work nowadays compared to two-three years ago,” said a close associate of Karan. On Carl’s role, he said: “He is the big boss and regularly visits the city. He was here in May-June also. Earlier, he used to stay in Hotel Mount View and now he puts up in JW Marriot.”
However, Karan denies any connection with Carl. “I have no idea who Carl is,” Karan told HT some two weeks ago.
When questioned, that French dealer Touchaleaume Eric had mentioned him as his local representative in many of his communications to authorities concerned while procuring old furniture in the city, he said, “I used to provide logistics to Eric. But I had no idea what he was up to. I fell off with him somewhere in 2005-06 over some payments. Since then I have had no links with him.”
FRENCHMAN’S INDIAN FACES
When French dealer Eric arrived in India for procuring furniture, he needed an exporter and a local assistant. In Chandigarh, Eric came in contact with Karan, who used to take care of the logistics required in procuring the furniture. In Eric’s absence, he also used to represent him and execute the deals.
After a few deals, Eric made Happy Singh as the Indian representative of his Paris-based Gallerie54.
Singh, popular with local scrap dealers, made proxy bids for Eric on many occasions.
“On his initial visits, Eric used to stay in Hotel Mount View and used to hire cabs from Cosmos travel agency owned by Karan’s father which is located just opposite the hotel. Eric requested Karan’s father if he could provide him a local assistance. It was then that Karan came in contact with Eric,” said another close associate of Karan.
Similarly, French dealers Patrick Sequin, Philippe Jousse, Francois Laffanour and Carl Wormser had made Delhi-based exporter ABP Enterprises as their representative. The export company also made a proxy bid on their behalf during an open auction at Punjab and Haryana high court in 2001.
In 2012, officials of the UT administration raided the godown of a local scrap dealer Jai Bhagwan on complaints that he was selling heritage furniture and took over the possession of around 110 chairs and 12 tables of Corbusier’s era. Bhagwan, who had procured all these furniture in different government auctions, moved court, challenged the move and after fighting the case for around 18 months, got the furniture released in January this year.