Fake Encounter

It is an issue that Indian art has been battling for a while now. While the price of the artwork is soaring,the number of fakes reported also seems to be on the rise,with the most recent incident being the discovery of fake paintings of SH Raza’s work.

Written by Vandana Kalra | Published:January 20, 2009 12:51 am

With the number of fake artwork on the rise,Ashok Vajpeyi proposes a national register to document the work of artists

It is an issue that Indian art has been battling for a while now. While the price of the artwork is soaring,the number of fakes reported also seems to be on the rise,with the most recent incident being the discovery of fake paintings of SH Raza’s work. When the 85-year-old artist stepped into Dhoomimal Gallery on Saturday evening for the opening of what was promoted as a solo repertoire of his art,including work executed in the 30s and 40s,it took less than a few minutes for him to realise that the paintings were fake.

While the gallery called off the exhibition immediately,the larger challenge is finding a solution to counter fake art in India. As private galleries work towards strengthening their mechanism and develop a more fool-proof method for authentication,Ashok Vajpeyi,chairman of Lalit Kala Akademi,hopes to limit the number of such cases through the establishment of a national register. “This will allow artists to register their work against a nominal fee. They could provide details of their work along with images. People can access this information that will be available with the Akademi,” notes Vajpeyi,who intends to initiate the process by the end of the year,after the proposal is cleared by the council and members of the Akademi.

In the national register,Vajpeyi hopes to have a record of recent and old work of artists. “Living artists can approach us with all the information. We will probably have to figure out the rules for the work of artists who are no longer alive,” he adds.

Vajpeyi was also part of a body established by private galleries in 2006,to look at matters related to art. “We worked under the banner of Center for Visual Arts and dealing with fake art was one of the objectives. The members included Bodhi Art,Saffronart,Vadehra Art Gallery,Sakshi Gallery and Chemould among others. The body isn’t active now,” states Vajpeyi.

However,as he prepares to list the finer nuances of the national register,a word of advice comes from artist Arpana Caur,who found two fakes of her canvases in 2007. “The Akademi should establish a legal redressal cell that the artists can approach in case a fake work surfaces. For older artists like me it is often difficult to engage in a legal battle and frequent the court. The lack of punishment given is also encouraging the perpetrators,” notes Caur.

Raza,meanwhile,is considering legal action. “He might be filing a case against his nephew,Zafari,and Dhoomimal Gallery,” says Sunaina Anand,director,Art Alive Gallery,who is publishing a book on Raza,titled Mandalas. The book will be released on January 23.

Uma Nair,art critic
This was bound to happen. The fakes were being made in Jaipur and Bhopal since 2004 by a group of Raza’s chelas. It is a perfect example of what happens in a nascent market where a group of galleries and auction houses get together,escalate the prices and create a bubble. It eventually had to crash. No one’s going to pay a crore for a work which will not standthe test of time. Only what’s rare and real can survive. Sadly,in our country,there’s no one authority to authenticate (works). Galleries have a long way to go in terms of integrity and transparency.

Anjolie Ela Menon,artist
My works have been faked and sold in Mumbai’s Gallery Seven by a guy called Suraj Sharma. He was eventually caught by the Economic Offences Wing and went to jail for three months. But a few months later he was out and later his brother was accused for copying a painting. It’s quite a lucrative trade; the whole Bengal school of art is plagued by this problem. Jamini Roy’s works have been faked for so long but sadly nobody has done anything about it.

Ina Puri,curator
It comes as no surprise because there have been one too many. The present fake controversy will hit investor’s confidence especially in times of a meltdown. Galleries have to be more responsible and accountable,and try and take utmost care in verifying the sources. After all,these are the works that are sent outside the country. What one must do is get together with serious people who are authorities on these works and form an authentication committee. It’s a surprise,when Mr Raza was there in town he should have been shown the works earlier or Mr Vajpeyi should have been consulted.

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