Sale of Gandhi items: Sotheby's to consider range of factors

In the wake of controversy over sale of Mahatma Gandhi memorabilia, auction house Sotheby's today said it would consider a range of factors while taking a decision to put such items under the hammer in future.

Asked whether it would take a particular stand on future auction of Gandhi items and hold consultations with the government, Sotheby's worldwide head of sales publicity

Matthew Weigman said, "While Sotheby's wouldn't respond to speculative questions, we can tell you we would consider a range of factors when taking a decision."

The sale of memorabilia related to the Father of the Nation had generated a lot of controversy in the past few years with opposition from several quarters to the auction.

Last year, Gandhi's prized documents on his controversial relationship with architect Hermann Kallenbach were bought by India for a whopping $ 1.28 million after signing a contract with Sotheby's.

In 2009, industrialist Vijay Mallya bought several Gandhi memorabilia, including his iconic metal-rimmed glasses, from Antiquorum Auctioneers.

Meanwhile, the London-based auction house is optimistic about its prospects in India.

"We are very positive about the art market in India. We see it as a great area of investment," Yamini Mehta, senior director, Sotheby's international head of modern and contemporary south Asian Art, said.

Several top officials of the auction house, including Mehta and Robin Woodhead, chairman of Sotheby's International, were in the national capital for a preview of its 'Amaya Collection', coinciding with the launch of the book 'India Fantastique'.

Mehta, whose areas of interest are Indian, south Asian and Tibetan art, said there is lot of scope for younger artists as there is "international attention of what is

happening in India".

She also said that the onus is upon auction houses to stop proliferation of fake art.

"As art works have a significant value attached to them, there is bound to be some elements proliferating fake works. It is our job to do proper research while selecting the items. The onus is upon us," said Mehta, who took over the past last October.

On March 13, Sotheby's will present the 'Amaya Collection' in New York, the first international evening sale of Indian art and the first single-owner sale in this category

to be held at the auction house in more than a decade.

Consigned by noted collector-author Amrita Jhaveri, the collection comprises important modern and contemporary Indian art produced during the second half of the 20th century through to the early 21st.

The sale will offer some of the finest examples from the oeuvres of key artists, including highly sought-after and important works by 20th century modernist masters M F Husain, Tyeb Mehta, F N Souza, S H Raza, and Vasudeo Gaitonde, many of which have been extensively published and exhibited internationally.

The auction of 43 lots is estimated at approximately $ 5-7 million. The works were exhibited here.

Proceeds from the sale will underwrite a project space and lecture room at Khoj International Artists' Association here.

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