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Artists slam ?ignorant? buyers

The auction Mehta was speaking of was Christie?s Modern and Contemporary Indian Art auction held in New York on March 30.

india Updated: Apr 02, 2006 01:16 IST

Yahmini Mehta, specialist, Indian Art, Christie’s, had on a recent trip to Mumbai mentioned with a fair bit of well merited pomp Modern and Contemporary Indian Art would, for the first time, be auctioned on its own merit and not as a mere ‘tail ender’ under the very broad tag of South Asian art, on March 30.

The auction Mehta was speaking of was Christie’s Modern and Contemporary Indian Art auction held in New York on March 30. The auction however ran into some unforeseen bad weather when dubious provenance of six paintings led to their immediate and rightful withdrawal from the auction.

The artworks central to the controversy are two watercolours by MF Husain, three paintings by FN Souza and a work by Ganesh Pyne. HT Style spoke to city artists for their response.

Artist Jitish Kallat says, “It will always be difficult to trace the provenance of pre-Independence and post-Independence Indian art. I think the lesson to learn from all of this is that Christie’s withdrew the works from the auction as soon as some doubt was cast over their provenance.

“Today the situation is vastly different. For instance, the moment I complete a work four reproductions are made. I think some years from now these problems would be defunct.”

Artist and doctor Sudhir Patwardhan believes a lack of documentation of the artworks in their native land could create mental blocks in the future and reflect badly on Indian art as a whole.

Patwardhan says, “The lack of documentation in India has always been a problem but to what extent documentation can prevent a similar situation from arising in the future is also debatable. I think it is up to the people who deal in these works to make sure there isn’t any foul play. And should the situation arise I think it would be best to withdraw the works as Christie’s has done.”

Artist Atul Dodiya pins down the blame not just on a lack of documentation but also a lack of scholarship. “Lack of documentation is certainly responsible for the present situation but I think a dearth of scholarly understanding of specific painters and periods of Indian art could also be held responsible. The general tendency of the Indian buyer is to acquire a work of art without any substantial knowledge.”

Artists today are maintaining assiduous records of not only their works but also their trajectory.

Concludes Dodiya, “I have over the past 15 years maintained photographic records of my works and take interest in their whereabouts.”

First Published: Apr 02, 2006 01:16 IST