Days after a video of fugitive diamantaire Nirav Modi strolling in London was released by a UK-based daily, the income tax department in India is auctioning artwork from his seized collection. Modi is the prime accused in the Rs 14,000-crore Punjab National Bank (PNB) fraud.
Belonging to Camelot Enterprises Pvt. Ltd, one of Modi’s companies, the 68 works of art will be sold by the auction house Saffronart, on “behalf of the Government of India through the Income Tax Department,” on March 26 in a live auction. The approximate estimate value for this auction is Rs 30 to 50 crore, stated Dinesh Vazirani, Saffronart CEO and Co-Founder. “This is the first time in India that the Income Tax Department of the Government of India, has approached a professional auction house to carry out an art auction on their behalf. Saffronart is extremely privileged to be able to provide our expertise in conducting live auctions to the Tax Recovery Officer, Central-3, Mumbai, Income Tax Department,” he adds.
The collection includes works of contemporary artists such as Jitish Kallat, Atul Dodiya and Reena Saini. Kallat as well as five Chinese artists, including Ge Guanzhong and Miao Xiaochun. Leading the sale is a 1973 untitled VS Gaitonde oil on canvas, the estimate for which has not been published. While Akbar Padamsee’s 1960 Grey Nude is estimated between Rs 1.5- Rs 2 crore, FN Souza’s 1974 Cityscape is estimated to fetch Rs 80 lakh to Rs 1 crore.
Considered a pioneer of modern Indian art, Raja Ravi Varma’s untitled 1881 oil on canvas is estimated between Rs 12 -18 crore. The canvas depicts the Maharaja of Travancore and his younger brother welcoming Richard Temple-Grenville, third Duke of Buckingham and Chandos, Governor-General of Madras (1875-80), on his official visit to Trivandram in 1880. “The work is a rare oil on canvas painted by the artist,” says Vazirani. On the authenticity of the works that are coming under the hammer, he adds, “The company has an in-house team that has strong expertise in assessing works and is specially trained to evaluate the authenticity of a work. While an authenticity certificate is one input in this evaluation process, there are several others that are also included in the research and review process that Saffronart has implemented over the last two decades. After conducting our due diligence for the works consigned to this auction, we believe the works to be authentic and are confident of the provenance.”