Raza’s foundation plans legal action against forgers

January 19th, 2009 - 7:08 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Jan 19 (IANS) S.H. Raza, one of the great masters of Indian modern art, is contemplating legal action after he discovered 30 fake paintings bearing his name and forged signature on show at the Delhi-based Dhoomimal Gallery, one of the country’s oldest. “We are in touch with a Supreme Court lawyer to discuss the legal modalities to proceed against the person who supplied fake works by the artists to the gallery,” said Ashok Vajpeyi, chairman of the Lalit Kala Akademi and president of Ekatra, a new multi-cultural platform with which the Raza Foundation has been merged.

“We don’t want Raza to personally get involved in legal battles at his age and overburden him. He will be 87 next month and he stays in Paris,” Vajpeyi told IANS Monday.

The foundation will handle legal proceedings on behalf of Raza, said Delhi-based art activist Sunaina Anand, a member of Ekatra.

Vajpeyi said while the Economic Offences Wing (EOW) of Delhi Police looks into complaints of forged art, the foundation and those acting on Raza’s behalf would prefer legal action.

In an interview with IANS, Raza had Sunday said he had initiated action against Z.H. Zafari, son of Raza’s sister, who had helped the gallery procure artworks.

According to informed sources, the show was valued at nearly Rs.200 million (Rs.20 crore/$4.1 million).

The 70-year-old Dhoomimal Gallery, which Saturday mounted the show “Beginnings” featuring Raza’s early landscapes, had sourced 30 works from Bhopal-based Zafari.

Zafari was introduced to gallery owners Uma Ravi Jain and Uday Jain last year by Bhopal-based artist Parvez Ahmed who exhibited his works at the same gallery, according to Uma Jain.

Besides, the gallery owners had also sourced six drawings and some artworks with poetry from the artist himself, which were framed and exhibited along with the canvases.

“When Zafari offered to exhibit the master’s early works, I insisted that I would not host the show without Raza’s consent and the artist had to be present at the show to authenticate his works. The artist agreed to come,” Jain told IANS.

But when Raza expressed his doubts over the genuineness of works, the owners called off the exhibition the same day.

In a press statement Monday, the gallery disowned the paintings. “The said paintings were on consignment from Zafari and did not belong to the Dhoomimal Gallery. We, therefore, immediately withdrew the works and the show,” it said.

Jain said the matter was now strictly between Raza, Zafari and the artist concerned, who liaised the show.

The sources said the forgers wanted to make easy money as Raza had been consistently setting records in global auctions.

One of his works, “La Terre”, was sold for 1,273,250 pounds (Rs.91,000,000) at an auction in Christie’s in June last year, while “Maha Bindu” (1988), one of the artist’s signature works, was sold for $652,000 by Mumbai-based Saffronart in 2007.

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