The sale, conducted by a Mumbai-based auction house on behalf of India’s Income Tax Department, included a large collection of modern and contemporary Indian paintings, and a clutch of contemporary Chinese works.
Mumbai, India, Wednesday, March 27, 2019 —
No records were set, no great surprises emerged as 68 artworks from the collection of Nirav Modi, the billionaire jeweller accused of fraud and currently under arrest in London went under the hammer at Saffronart’s Spring Live Auction on Tuesday evening.
The sale, conducted by the Mumbai-based auction house on behalf of the Tax Recovery Officer of India’s Income Tax Department, included a large collection of modern and contemporary Indian paintings, photographs, and even a clutch of contemporary Chinese works. The bidding was conducted live, online, and via phone, with some bidders as far away as London.
Two Trucks full Of Valuables Were Seized By The ED
Modi’s bungalow was attached by the ED following his involvement in the Punjab National Bank fraud case. It was handed over to the collector’s office on January 24, after the ED seized two trucks full of valuables from the building.
The department had seized over 170 artworks belonging to Modi, in February.
Last week, a special court for offences registered under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), allowed the department to auction works to recover I-T arrears of over Rs 95 crore from Camelot Enterprises, a purported shell company formed by Nirav and controlled by another Punjab National Bank fraud accused, Hemant Bhatt.
55 Art Works Belonging To Nirav Modi Auctioned at around Rs 54.84 Cr
Of the 68 works that were put up for auction, 55 works sold for a total of about Rs 54.84 crore, just about crossing the auction house’s upper estimate for the sale.
Among the paintings that fetched a large sum was an untitled oil on canvas from 1973 by VS Gaitonde, which went for Rs 25.24 crore (inclusive of buyer’s premium). An 1881 oil painting by Ravi Varma, titled The Maharaja of Travancore and his younger brother welcoming Richard Temple-Grenville, 3rd Duke of Buckingham and Chandos, Governor-General of Madras (1875-80), on his official visit to Trivandrum in 1880, fetched Rs 16.10 crore. Both works sold within their respective estimated prices.
Art Collectors Had Noticed Nirav At Previous Auctions Bidding Huge
Art collector Aakaash Belsare, who was present at the auction, says he had attended previous auctions at which Modi acquired several of the works. “The first Christie’s auction was where everyone noticed him,” he says. “Nobody bid like him even for small works, so he did contribute to the pricing of the artworks. He seemed well advised, knew what to buy. It’s interesting to see it change hands now.”
Ten works by FN Souza were among the lots in the sale, one (an untitled ink-on-paper sketch from 1955) exceeding expectations by selling for Rs 32 lakh, much higher than the Rs 12 lakh estimate.
Chinese Works Were Part Of Nirav Modi Artwork Collection
The small selection of Chinese works fared better overall, two works selling for three times higher than their estimations. Wu Yi’s undated work, Peach Garden, sold for Rs 11 lakh; and Xu Lei’s massive 2009 piece, The End of the World sold, for Rs 65 lakh.
India Law Alliance, a law firm representing Modi’s company, contested the auction. The matter will be heard in the Bombay High Court on Wednesday.
Bidders Said To Have Observed Extraordinary Works Of Art In Modi’s Collection
A bidder, on condition of anonymity, was anxious to find out what would happen at the hearing. “The estimates are a little high,” she said. “But there are some exceptional works in the collection, like the Souzas and Akbar Padamsee’s Grey Nude.”
Modi, who is currently being held at a London prison, was arrested In London on March 19 and is expected to be extradited to India soon.
Earlier,Nirav Modi approached the Indian Revenue Department via his Law Firm Camelot Enterprises to stop the auction of his art assets.
(Inputs From HT)