A team of experts from Russia has expressed dissatisfaction with the upkeep of celebrated Russian painter Nicholas Roerich’s works at Naggar village, 25 km from Kullu town.
Museum specialists from Moscow-based International Centre of the Roerichs (ICR) are currently at work on the Roerich estate.
The team has been in Kullu since mid-June on the invitation of the International Roerich Memorial Trust (IRMT), managed jointly by the Indian and Russian governments. The trust was founded by Roerich’s daughter-in-law, late film actress Devika Rani.
Registered in April 1993, the 13-member trust has Russian ambassador to India Alexander M Kadakin as a trustee, while Himachal Pradesh chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal is the ex officio president. Another foreign trustee is the ICR director-general.
After lifetime trustee and former bureaucrat Shakti Singh Chandel alleged that there was no inventory of Roerich’s works at Naggar, the Himachal government asked the union ministry of external affairs to requisition a team of experts for cataloguing the art works and books.
The team is involved in inventory verification and accounting as well as evaluating the condition of Roerich’s works and their preservation and systematisation.
The experts have detected poor upkeep of Roerich’s works. Many of the memorabilia have deteriorated, a team member said on the condition of anonymity. The experts have also blamed former museum curator Elina Adamkova, who is also the executive director of the trust, for not maintaining a proper record of the objects on display.
The team has also noted that many archival documents and research collections of the Urusvati Institute of Himalayan Studies have been damaged due to improper storage.
The Himachal government had terminated Adamkova’s contract after a spat between the Russian and Indian authorities. According to the experts, Adamkova has adopted a “hostile and uncooperative” attitude towards the team.
“The ICR, with its more than 20 years’ experience in the creation and maintenance of the Roerich Public Museum in Moscow, declares with full responsibility that the Museum of the Roerichs has unfortunately not yet been established at Naggar,” a team member said, adding that the display of Roerich’s paintings in rooms of the house was not enough to call the place a museum.
The team complained that there was no general museum ledger with a systematic numbered inventory of the objects, which is normally the foundation for all subsequent museum work. “The absence of a main inventory ledger suggests Adamkova’s unwillingness to maintain records that can be verified anytime,” a team member said.
Nicholas Roerich (1874-1947) came to Naggar in 1927 from St Petersburg and made the tiny village his home for about 20 years. His wife Helena, sons Yuri (an Oriental scholar) and Svetoslav (a noted painter), and Svetoslav’s wife Devika Rani stayed with him at Naggar.