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Tagore works to go under hammer today

india Updated: Jun 15, 2010 11:06 IST

Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore's rare works will go under the hammer on Tuesday in London even as suspense mounted whether India will intervene and bid for the paintings.

Twelve paintings will be presented for sale at Sotheby's South Asian Art auction by Dartington Hall Trust, a
charitable organisation based on Dartington Hall estate, near Totnes in South Devon in the UK.

Funds raised will be used to support the Trust's ambitious new plans to expand its charitable programmes in
arts, social justice and sustainability.

"The upcoming South Asian Art sale presents a selection of miniature paintings and modern and contemporary
art from the subcontinent, including property from important private collections," Sotheby's said.

"Highlights from the modern section include a rare group of works by Rabindranath Tagore from the Dartington Hall
Trust in the south of England. These exceptional works were gifted by the artist to Leonard and Dorothy Elmhirst of
Dartington Hall in 1939 and have remained in the Trust's collection ever since. This is a unique opportunity to acquire
works by this heritage artist with impeccable provenance," it said.

Responding to calls from various art organisations in India, the Indian government had tried to stop the auction of
the rare works, but it is understood that the efforts have produced no results.

Sources said a senior Culture Ministry official was in London last week and met Sotheby's officials and discussed
about the sale of the paintings.

They said the country, however, does not have any legal rights over the paintings. The government had faced
the same situation when Mahatma Gandhi's personal belongings were auctioned in New York.

They said there was only two options before the government -- either to bid directly or ask some private
organisations to buy the articles and get them back to the country.

There was no official word on the Indian government's stand on the issue. Culture Ministry officials in New Delhi
were tightlipped and refused to comment on the issue.

After the announcement of the auction last month, the London-based Tagore Centre expressed anger over the sale.

The Centre urged the High Commission to intervene to ensure that "these national treasures are returned to India".

Art lovers and Tagore's followers asked the Indian government to intervene in the matter. Prime Minister Manmohan
Singh had said the government will examine the issue, but did not give any categorical assurance.

Vaughan Lindsay, CEO of Dartington Hall Trust, said proceeds from the sales will fund "an ambitious new programme
of investment in our estate."

Other highlights of the auction include an extremely rare large scale bronze by Somnath Hore, two early figurative
oils by F N Souza and two large paintings by S H Raza.

The contemporary section features a large canvas by Subodh Gupta and works by Riyas Komu, Jitish Kallat and Anita
Dube. Among the miniature section is a folio from the Polier album and a signed and dated album of illustrations from the
Punjab depicting trades and occupations.