It is a Saturday evening that S H Raza will never forget; nor will the art world in a hurry. When the veteran Paris-based artist visited Dhoomimal Gallery,he was excited at the prospect of looking at his paintings from 1930s and 40s. It took Raza less than a few minutes to declare that the works on display were fake.
Few days later,as he recalls the incident,he says some of the fakes might actually resemble like the work he has done in the past.
Two or three paintings from the collection might resemble the work that I did in my student days but that is not certain. It is also important to note that the paintings made by me during that period are not very significant. As a student one does a lot of work. It took me several years to reach where I am now.
While Raza meets the members of Ekatra (society for art,music,dance and poetry established by him) and the Raza Foundation to discuss the action that needs to be taken against those responsible for the exhibition,miles away in Bhopal,the artists nephew,Zakir Hussain Jafri,who has been quoted by the gallery as the man responsible for the show,is collecting evidence to prove his innocence. Not contactable by the media so far,he spoke to Newsline on Wednesday over the phone.
I was extremely taken aback when Razasaab said that the works were fake. I travelled back home to Bhopal on Monday and have been trying to gather documents that will ascertain that my conscious is clear, he said.
Nagpur-based Ajay Sontakke and Praveen Manvatkar had approached me with the 30-32 paintings in October-November. I first met them last year when they came to meet Razasaab in Mumbai. I just acted as mediator to arrange a gallery for the exhibition. I thought that looking at his earlier works would make Razasaab happy. It was meant to be the perfect gift for him, he notes.
Jafri goes on to read from an affidavit that have the undersigned Ajay Sontakke and Praveen Manvatkar taking responsibility for the works exhibited at Dhoomimal Gallery. A copy of the same affidavit,dated January 20,has been faxed to Newsline. It has Sontakke and Manvatkar listing names of people from whom the works were sourced and claiming responsibility for any controversy or action,legal or otherwise,that could follow. The duo claims that the work was made by Raza when he was in Nagpur,Gondia,Balaghat and Amravati.
I dont know Ajay or Praveen. Ajay called me on Wednesday morning but the phone line wasnt clear and we could not talk, said Raza. The artist adds,I may have known the people mentioned in the letter but the paintings on display are not mine. The signature on them is like the one that I have started using only recently. It is not similar to my signature during my student years.
Even as Uday Jain,director of Dhoomimal Gallery,is considering legal action against Jafri,Raza has left the task of deciding the future course of action to Ekatra.
I will be going back to France in March and Ekatra and Ashok Vajpeyi will take the action required in this case. The gallery and Jafri are at fault only to the extent that they exhibited the works. The real perpetrators are those who made the fakes and they should be punished. In future,if there is a need for authentification of my artwork I can be contacted or one could refer the painting to an expert like Vajpeyi, said the artist.