India may be using a proxy bidder at the Sotheby’s Bond Street Gallery for Tuesday’s India Art Auction. The purpose: bringing home 12 paintings by Rabindranath Tagore.
The matter has assumed political significance in West Bengal, as 2011 is the 150th birth anniversary of Tagore. The Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress and the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee-led Left Front are both vying with each other to be seen as making the loudest noises about the paintings.
Sources told HT, senior officials in the Culture Ministry had been in touch with a prominent UK-based Indian entity to ensure the Tagore paintings are bid for, purchased, and returned to India. Whether the ‘deal’ materialised, will be clear only when the auction ends on Tuesday.
Interestingly, Secretary, Culture, Jawahar Sircar, returned to Delhi on Monday after an eight-day trip to London, officials said. Sircar did not respond to attempts to seek comments. “The GoI cannot afford to officially participate in this or any auction. No government can. No government can lose face by bidding in an auction and then losing. The minute it is clear there is a bidder in the fray who cannot afford to lose, it changes the economics of the auction,” a government functionary said.
The paintings, with a reserve price of £250,000, gifted by Tagore in the 1930s to his friend Leonard Elmhirst, are now owned by the Dartington Trust.