Christie’s drops ‘fake’ Indian art

As many as six paintings at Christie’s auction of Indian art in NY have been withdrawn over doubts of authenticity, reports Namita Bhandare.

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As many as six paintings at Christie’s auction of contemporary Indian art in New York on Thursday were withdrawn over questions of their authenticity.

These included two watercolors by MF Husain, three works by FN Souza, and a tempera by Ganesh Pyne. The paintings were withdrawn on the day of the auction itself. 

“We had our doubts about these paintings. We didn’t have absolute proof about their authenticity,” Sonia Ballaney of Vadhera Art Gallery told the Hindustan Times from New York. Vadhera has been a consultant to the international auction house since 1995 and helps it procure Indian art. 

On why the paintings were withdrawn just hours before the auction – and well after the catalog was printed – Ballaney said that doubts about the paintings’ provenance, or line of ownership, were first raised a week ago. “Obviously there are pre-checks, but as soon as the doubts were raised we decided to withdraw the paintings on the day of the auction,” she said.

At Christie’s, a spokesperson confirmed that six paintings had been withdrawn but added that the ‘concerned person’ who could elaborate was out of office. Meanwhile, Arun Vadhera, the owner of Vadhera Art Gallery, said he was just about to go into a meeting with Christie’s and would have a clearer picture after the meeting.

The auction, however, did sell other paintings by the same artists. In all, there were 14 Husain lots (including five to six watercolors that fetched between $30,000-$40,000 each), 12 Souza’s, and 4 Ganesh Pyne drawings.

The withdrawal of the six paintings at Christie’s comes just weeks after the controversial withdrawal of a Bikash Bhattacharjee painting at the Osian’s art auction in New Delhi.

In recent times, as at the Christie’s auction, the Indian art market has scaled new peaks. At the same time, questions about fakes and forged paintings have also gained ground.