Art world rocked by fake Raza show in Delhi gallery

January 18th, 2009 - 7:47 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Jan 18 (IANS)The country’s art fraternity was rocked Sunday after the Dhoomimal Gallery, the oldest in the capital, pulled off at least a dozen canvases by the master of Indian modern art S.H. Raza after the artist declared they were fake. The exhibition was a solo repertoire of the artist’s early works executed between the late 30s and the mid-40s. The canvases were acquired from the master’s nephew.

The works were mostly landscapes and figures compositions that Raza painted in his early days, influenced by the European masters.

Owners of the gallery, Uday Jain and Uma Jain, apologised to the artist and cancelled the show soon after the inauguration late Saturday evening.

Raza had been associated with the Dhoomimal Gallery for several years. The gallery, established in 1936 by Ram Babu Jain, is credited with bringing works by legends like J. Swaminathan, F.N. Souza, Jamini Roy, M.F. Husain and Kishen Khanna, long before before the culture of gallery shows took off in the capital.

“I had not realised in all my years in France that an obvious demonstration of fakes could be presented to a gallery. The person from whom the works were acquired was one of my family members. I told him to get out and filed a case against him,” Raza told IANS.

“It was a sad evening. Those who faked my works are smart people and have abundance of talent. But the fact that they have audacity to sign the works in my name was sacrilege,” Raza added.

The move, said was not only good for his own self, but also for all senior artists like Gaitonde, F.N. Souza and Swaminathan, many of whose works are faked in the market,” Raza said. He said artists must have copyrights of their creation.

“Let us make people aware that such a thing should not be done. I have lived in France for 58 years and I know that certain things are vital in life for a writer, painter or a researcher. They either chase money or fame. I know economic reality is very important, but one must have integrity. I was offered a job in California, but I refused it,” he said.

Describing the way in which the artist identified the fake paintings, senior Delhi-based Gogi Gajwani, who was present at the show with Raza, said: “Raza was received by Uma Jain of the Dhoomimal Gallery and was guided along the walls lined with his early works. Initially, the artist did not react but after a while, he said they were not his works.

“Then he went through the canvases very carefully to check for his signature. And said even his initials had been forged. It was a major embarrassment,” Gajwani told IANS.

Asjok Vajpeyi, pro-tem chairperson of the Lalit Kala Akademi and an authority on Raza’s works, said the artist was given to understand over telephone that they were his early works by his nephew and the gallery.

“We had no idea when we went - the works were so atrocious, bad in terms of art. I went around and they were fake in the ultimate sense- original fakes,” Vajpeyi told IANS.

He said India, unlike other countries, did not have any fixed mechanism for authentication of art works. “We are trying to create a nodal agency to authenticate art works in galleries. At the moment, the Economic Offences Wing takes looks into complaints of fake art works,” Vajpeyi said.

Sunaina Anand of the Art Alive Gallery said it was the gallery owner’s responsibility to ensure authenticity of art works that are hung up on its walls at the end of the day.

The Dhoomimal Gallery was not available for comment.

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