Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Yet another Fake at Christies NY September 2016 Indian art auction?

Ahead of Christie’s New York auction of what it claims is a KK Hebbar masterpiece, carrying a ‘Cadell Road’ scribble, aficionados are pointing to a strikingly similar painting hanging in a Hyderabad museum and asking: Why would an artist make two identical paintings? Is one of them a fake?

If there are two identical paintings, then is it possible that an artist could have made both? Or is one a fake for sure?
These are the questions surrounding an artwork by the late artist Kattingeri Krishna Hebbar (better known as KK Hebbar) that international auction house Christie’s will put under the hammer in New York on September 14. Titled ‘Sunshine’ and signed by the artist, the oil on canvas work is part of this auction as Lot No 686 and estimated to fetch somewhere between Rs 6 lakh and Rs 10 lakh. As it turns out, however, the Salar Jung Museum in Hyderabad owns a piece that is almost identical. The painting hangs in the national museum’s contemporary and modern art gallery and is called by a different name — ‘Peacock’.
The one above, being auctioned by Christie’s, is signed ‘Hebbar 83’ and inscribed with the words “Sunshine/ 81 Cadell Road, Bombay - 16” on the reverse. The one below is at Hyderabad’s Salar Jung museum.

The matter came to light on Thursday, with a social media post from a member of Mumbai’s art fraternity. It compared the Christie’s artwork to its twin from Salar Jung and raised important questions on authentication of artworks.

The painting shows a peacock with its neck outstretched, is signed ‘Hebbar 83’ and inscribed with the words “Sunshine/81 Cadell Road, Bombay - 16” on the reverse. The work, supposed to have been painted in 1983, was exhibited last week at a New Delhi preview exhibition of ten works from India that would feature at the New York sale.
Interestingly, the social media post also pointed out that the Salar Jung piece is bigger than the Christie’s piece. Sunshine is 33 cm x 76.2 cm in dimension; the one housed in the Salar Jung — the only Hebbar work that the museum owns — is 210cm x 88.5cm, almost six feet long.
Director of Salar Jung Museum, Dr A Nagendra Reddy, said that Peacock had been bought directly by them in 1966. “It was acquired by the purchase committee and we have had no contact with the artist since,” he said. Records of Peacock on the government’s museum portal states that the painting dates back to 1963 and is a “contemporary painting depicting a peacock in blue, black, purple, green and yellow colours in a wooden frame”.
That sounds a lot like Christie’s Sunshine. Could Hebbar then have painted two such works in different sizes? Perhaps Sunshine was meant as a smaller sketch or study for the larger artwork, Peacock?
Hebbar’s daughter, artist Rekha Hebbar Rao, thinks that is very unlikely. On taking a close look at images of both works along with members of her family, Rekha said, “While I have seen my father make similar works, I have never seen an identical work by him.”
The KK Hebbar Art Foundation, Rekha continued, has drawings and sketches by her father, none of which look like the one with Christie’s. “It is doubtful if the Christie’s work is an original one. The signature on Sunshine doesn’t quite match my father’s despite how it changed over the years. Moreover, the colours on it seem too bright and the brushstrokes unlike his style,” she added.
Peacock was probably made by her father after he returned to Mumbai from his stint at the MS Baroda University, said Rekha. He was enamoured by the local fauna in and around the campus and made a series of such works, one of which also features a white peacock.
“The address on the reverse [81 Cadell Road, Bombay — 16] was something only my father would have known, since it was our old address. However, I cannot confirm if the piece with Christie’s is authentic or not unless I see it in person,” she said.
(Source: Mid-Day, 27th August 2016)

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Bid & Hammer strikes back

A resurgent Bid & Hammer emerges as the true crusader against fakes in the Indian art market. Team Viva does a review

An original M F Husain painting
from Namrata Shirodkar's collection
It has been two years since Bid & Hammer’s Significant Indian Art auction in New Delhi that created quite a stir in the art fraternity with business rivals and art critics associated with them rancorously crying out “fakes” regarding some of the paintings in the catalogue. For all their noise about starting a “regulatory body for art”, “writing to the PMO” and in case of the Husain & Raza Foundations, avariciously proclaiming themselves to be “sole authenticating bodies”, the campaign was full of rhetoric and eventually withered away as most of the trade smelled foul play and didn’t want to be part of a propaganda by a few individuals whose sales were being effected by Bid & Hammer’s steady prowess. Curiously, none of them had physically inspected the works nor seen the provenance documents, coming as they were from notable estates and collections of Udaychand Mahtab (the Maharaja of Burdwan), artist Hemendranath Mazumder, artist Nandalal Bose, sculpturist Chandan Malakar (an assistant of D P Roy Chowdhury), freedom fighter Radha Devi Goenka and former Miss India and actress Namrata Shirodkar among others.
Commenting on the resulting media  frenzy at the time, Maher Dadha, CMD of Bid & Hammer, said, “The articles were alarmingly false and evidently fabricated, written to create sensational news and scuttle the success of our auction. We stood by our research and the media at the behest of competitors should not have speculated on the unquestionable authenticity of the artworks without any verification. The real cartels and tainted individuals that pass off fakes as genuine are the ones that need to be exposed and we will leave no stone unturned in doing so for the higher interest of Indian art”. 

To prove the point, the auction house, promoted by the Dadha family with a rich business history of over 100 years, trail blazed through the auction and subsequently initiated legal action against all those suspected to have orchestrated and stoked the unfounded controversy.
Those brought in the dock so far with non-bailable arrest warrants are Dadiba Pundole of Pundoles Auction, Vikram Bacchawat of defunct auction portal Emami Chisel, art restorer Ganesh Pratap Singh, Samindranath Mazumder and famous artist Bikash Bhattacarya’s children Bivas and Balaka. Others against whom legal suits have been filed include Ashish Anand of Delhi Art Gallery, Vadehra Gallery, Husain Foundation, Raza Foundation and a few incongruous proponents of the Bengal School. Also, K S Radhakrishnan, an authority on the works of Ramkinkar Baij, has denied making observations on the catalogued watercolour as was fictitiously reported by the media. So has NGMA director Rajeev Lochan with regard to the Nandalal Bose’s painting titled Woman Sitting Under A Tree. Even artist KK Hebbar’s daughters Rekha Rao and Rajani Prasanna are wholeheartedly supporting the cause of Bid & Hammer.
Kaali Sudheer of Muse Art Gallery said, “No company would put their reputation at stake by offering fakes in an open public auction and certainly not Bid & Hammer with their background and formidable knowledge. It’s high time that these self-anointed authenticators of art realise that it is them that are being subject to a public undressing as has been demonstrated in the court proceedings”. Bid & Hammer’s landmark victory in the Ravi Varma Jatayu Vadha (Ravana carrying Sita) painting authenticity case against Kiran Nadar, wife of HCL Technologies founder Shiv Nadar, further proved that the country’s pioneer multi-category auction house has the most robust vetting and authentication process and it is the true crusader against the menace of fakes in the Indian market.
It is precisely why the cloud shrouding the authenticity of Francis Newton Souza’s iconic Mary Magdalene painting (from the November 2010 auction catalogue) also seems to have disappeared as it emerges that works combining three or even four different composite pictures were indeed a unique part of the artist’s oeuvre. An example being a work titled Birth, with a ditto theme, incidentally bought by Kiran Nadar a few months ago at a record-breaking price.
When requested to elaborate on the authentication process that is followed by the auction house, Maher Dadha said, “There are certain basic principles and procedures that need to be adhered to before determining whether a work is genuine or counterfeit. The level of the expert’s knowledge and competence and his ability to justify his opinion is important. The problem arises when two equally qualified experts have diametrically opposing views on the same subject or artist, in which case a committee approach and provenance becomes all-important.”
As the fight against fakes continues, it is business as usual at the auction house with the team working on the upcoming auction, private treaty sales and the recently launched B&H SHOP ( — an online store for affordable art, antiques, jewellery, prints, furniture, home d├ęcor, exciting gifts and collectibles. Ankush Dadha, director of Bid & Hammer, said, “In between auctions, we are continuing to engage our patrons and catering to a new collector  base through this venture that does not involve the formalities of an auction. No bids, no registration, the works are available at a flat price and you don’t lose the advantage of buying through us”.

The stakes at Bid & Hammer’s upcoming auction are huge, having sourced rare oils by Manjit Bawa, NS Bendre, MF Husain, SH Raza, Jehangir Sabavala, Bhupen Khakhar, VS Gaitonde, GR Santosh, Amrita Shergil and also Ravi Varma from major collectors, both in India and abroad, who continue to support the auction house. Charu Sharma, board member of Bid & Hammer and one of India’s most popular auctioneers, stated, “With this lineup of artists and superlative quality of the masterpieces our next auction is undoubtedly going to be a path-breaking one.”
(Source: The Pioneer, 8th July 2016)

Friday, 1 July 2016

Vikram Bachhawat, Dadiba Pundole and Samindranath Majumdar in the dock in Fake Art case

Antiquated in august light

The Monsoon Edition of the Art + Antiques Show is back at the Whitefield venue of Bid & Hammer. As soon as one enters the expansive premises, you are enamoured by the sheer number of artworks and collectibles on display.

The very English sounding theme adds to the charm and you are transported into the weekend county markets of England, where you can buy from a selection of quality period furniture, curios, lamp shades, vintage photos, lithographs and ephemera from the days of yore.

What’s more, one can also pick up artworks of contemporary Indian artists and printmakers such as SG Vasudev, Yusuf Arakkal, Jyoti Bhatt, R Raja and Vijay Bagodi among others besides admiring works of the modern Indian masters that are to be featured in the upcoming auction — these include rare oils by Manjit Bawa, MF Husain, SH Raza, Bhupen Khakhar, GR Santosh and also the Bengal School stalwarts such as Rabindranath Tagore, Gaganendranath Tagore and Nandalal Bose to name a few. It is pertinent to revisit the last auction that created quite a stir and eventually proved that the country’s pioneer multi-category auctioneer has the most robust vetting and authentication process.

The moment you enter this silent yet artistic setup in Whitefield, you get a sense of royalty. Exotic lamps, antiques dating back to centuries and exquisite artworks showcase the elaborate and phenomenal collection that has been amassed over several years of mastery.

Speaking of their previous auctions and the passion to exhibit authentic art, they have a team of art scholars, backed by the Dadha family, who legally established that business rivals who hoarsely cried “fakes” about unquestionably genuine art works cannot take away the veracity through a media campaign alone.

Those brought in the dock include Dadiba Pundole, Vikram Bacchawat and Samindranath Majumdar against whom warrants have been issued. As the auctioneers pursue cases against the other perpetrators, with the aim of preventing cartels from manipulating the art market in the future, one will have to wait awhile for their next auction.

Until then, not to be weighed down by these tussles, amidst a frantic schedule of shortlisting consignments and negotiating private sales, Ankush Dadha, director of the auction house, also launched, an online store for curated home decor and jewellery that will compliment the physical show at Whitefield.

Speaking about the same he said, “In between auctions, we wish to continue engaging our patrons and catering to a new collector base through these endeavours that do not involve the formalities of an auction. No bids, no registration, the works are available at a flat price and you don't lose the advantage of buying through us.”

The expansive art collectible space with a marvelous collection is sure to enthrall antiques lovers. Drop into the space to experience the aesthetics of antiques and limited edition art.

Every Weekend until July 17, at 11 Whitefield Main Road.

The writer is an art curator and art expert.

(Source: Harish Kumar Sejekan, Deccan Chronicle, 18th June 2016) 

Thursday, 30 June 2016

HC to hear plea on irregularities in National Gallery of Modern Art

NEW DELHI: A plea was moved in Delhi High Court on Wednesday seeking direction to the Centre to investigate the irregularities allegedly caused by the officers of the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA) here.

The plea, filed by a social worker, came up for hearing before a vacation bench of justices V. Kameswar Rao and I.S. Mehta, who fixed the matter for hearing on July 13. Petitioner Sharad Tiwari, in his plea filed through advocate Sugriva Dubey, stated that the NGMA, a sprawling complex at the India Gate roundabout, is not being managed properly and there was a threat that the costly items preserved there could be stolen.

Mr. Tiwari claimed that even after the findings of an audit, the Ministry of Culture and the NGMA have not taken any action in respect of the irregularities pointed out by the Auditor General, whose report has been kept in abeyance allegedly at the instance of some persons, who are close to top bureaucrats of the ministry under which the art gallery is maintained.
“The details of the audit report for the year 2012-13, 2013-14 have not been given and the same have been concealed,” the plea said.

The NGMA is the premier art gallery under the Centre. The main museum at Jaipur House was established on March 29, 1954, with subsequent branches at Mumbai and Bangalore.
Its collection of more than 14,000 items includes works by renowned artists including Rabindranath Tagore. Some of the oldest works preserved here date back to 1857. The Delhi branch is one of the world’s largest modern art museums. — PTI

(Source: The Hindu, 30th June 2016)

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Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Fake art alert at Astaguru auction

Manjit Bawa fake at Astaguru, Lot 45

After a Dubai-based art gallery owner challenged the   authenticity of a Manjit Bawa painting, which was to have been on sale as part of auction house AstaGuru’s online Modern Art Auction, the work in question was withdrawn from the sale by the auctioneer. The online auction, which began Monday, is scheduled to go on till 8 pm. 

In a statement sent over email, Vickram Sethi, chairman of said, “The painting has been withdrawn from the auction as a matter of abundant caution and that does not mean that the painting is a fake…It is normal practice with auction houses across the world to withdraw works on which a doubt has been raised.” The painting under question is an untitled oil on canvas work from 2001 and belongs to Harsh Singh, owner of Delhi-based Progressive Art Gallery.

(Source: Manju Pillai, The Indian Express, 22nd March 2016)

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Saturday, 12 March 2016

Feds Recover Stolen Indian Antiquities from auction house Christies

11 March 2016: Two valuable Indian sandstone sculptures dating back to the eighth century were seized by federal agents just days before they were scheduled to be sold at Christie's, a New York auction house, on 15 March 2016 in an auction titled “The Lahiri Collection: Indian and Himalayan Art, Ancient and Modern"
NPR's Hansi Lo Wang reports that together, the statues are valued at almost a half-million dollars."One dates back to eighth-century India and is a rare depiction of a Hindu god and his entourage on horseback. "The other — believed to be made in the tenth century — shows a Hindu teacher flanked by two attendants."Together, they're valued at almost a half-million dollars."
A sandstone stele of Rishabhanata from the 10th century India, believed to have been stolen, was seized by the federal authorities in a raid of Christie’s today as part of an international investigation into a former gallery owner. CreditDepartment of Homeland Security
Agents of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations say the statues were recovered as part of an ongoing initiative called Operation Hidden Idol, which focuses on "activities surrounding the illicit cultural property trade in New York." Both stolen items came from a smuggler of looted antiquities. According to court documents, investigators found an unlabeled computer disc in a Manhattan storage facility in 2012, with a folder labeled "Shantoo" that contained images of stolen antiquities and names of dealers.

A person was charged in connection with the disc, and after pleading guilty to criminal possession of stolen property and related charges, that person became an informant for the investigation. An affidavit by a federal agent says the informant said "Shantoo" was a nickname for Ranjeet Kanwat, a "known smuggler" from India, and one of the main suppliers of stolen artifacts for Subhash Kapoor, who is currently awaiting extradition to New York in connection with more than $100 million in stolen antiquities.
Ambassador Riva Ganguly Das, consul general of India, praised the recovery of the ancient statues.
"My congratulations to all of the special agents of HSI New York, who have painstakingly and diligently undertaken these complex and time consuming investigations," he said.
Christie's auction house said it had no knowledge that the statues were stolen.
"Christie's devotes considerable resources to investigating the provenance of all objects we offer for sale. Under no circumstance would Christie's knowingly offer a work of art where there are valid concerns over provenance," the auction house said in a statement. "This is one of the difficulties the art market faces in vetting antiquities, which is why Christie's very much values building strong relationships with and between countries of origin, law enforcement, archaeologists, and the collecting community."
Christie's had been planning to auction the statues during Asia Week New York. Now it has removed them from the list of items for sale and is cooperating with investigators.
The stolen lots were to be auctioned at Rockefeller Plaza, New York on 15 March 2016
An ICE spokesperson said the antiquities "will be repatriated to the government of India" though no date has been set for their return.
(Source: Laura Wagner,, 11 March 2016)

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Fakes of Raza & Swaminathan at Christies auction?

Christies on the unsold Raza: 'Yes, it was a disappointment'

17 December 2015: Moments before the Christies team assembled to address the media post their third India auction on Tuesday, Syed Haider Raza's 'Bindu' was taken down. It was replaced by an untitled piece of Vasudev Gaitonde. In the spirit of the evening, Gaitonde had triumphed, Raza disappointed.

William Robinson, international head of world art, Christies said, "The large 'Bindu' did not sell and yes, it was a disappointment. I know there were some stories circulating in the press. But we stand by the painting. However, it may have affected bidding."

Robinson was perhaps alluding to claims made by a Dubai-based art house just days before the auction, that 'Bindu' and an untitled work by Jagdish Swaminathan were fakes. These allegations appear to have worked against 'Bindu'.

Raza's 1983 Bindu, Oil - touted to be fake
J Swaminathan's 1988, untitled - fake or authentic?

As for claims about the works being fake, Christies refuted them, Sonal Singh said, "If you look at Mr. Raza website, he has uploaded a picture. He, himself is authenticating it. We have got it from someone who has bought it directly from the artist."

William Robinson

(Source: Economic Times, 17 December 2015,

Related Posts:
1. Dubai art house claims paintings at Christies auction fake - Business Standard, 14 Dec, 2015
2. Gaitonde Record & An Unsold Raza at Christie’s Mumbai Sale - Blouinartinfo, 16 Dec 2015  
3. Christies's denies 'fake' claim by art house - FPJ, 16 Dec 2015