Home India News Auction houses picking on Indian heritage

Auction houses picking on Indian heritage


New Delhi : Growing awareness about India’s rich heritage is encouraging collectors to buy its historical art, documents and artefacts to add value to their collections. To cash in on the trend, auction houses are dedicating special sales of the Indian heritage art, with Christie’s starting an auction of Indian colonial articles Thursday.

“Old rare books, prints and maps are areas of collecting that are fast developing in India and abroad, as was evident from our previous auction in this category in August 2010, wherein a number of works sold way above the estimates,” said Maher Dadha, chairman and managing director of Bangalore-based auction house Bid & Hammer.

Bid & Hammer will Oct 22 auction books, maps, prints, photographs, rare film posters, maps and print art books of colonial India estimated at Rs.1,08,03,000.

“Newer and younger collectors want to connect to the country’s heritage,” he said.

The heritage collectibles on sale span 200 years of Indian history between 18th and 20th century.

One of the highlights of the Bid & Hammer sale is James Forbes’ “Oriental Memoirs”, an 18th century illustrated document of India. Selected from a series of letters written by Forbes during the 17 years he spent in India, the volume was published in London in 1813.

“The document is in four volumes of texts with 29 hand-coloured plates and 79 steel engravings,” a spokesperson for Bid & Hammer said.

In the maps section, A.J. Johnson’s (1827-1884) “Map of Asia” has been described as “one of the most attractive American atlas maps of the region in the mid-19th century.

The provenance says the map has been “entered according to Act of Congress in 1860 by S. A. Mitchell Jr. in the clerk’s office of the district court of US for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania”. It is estimated at Rs.28,000.

A coloured lithograph of the Imperial Delhi Durbar depicts the former British royals King George & Queen Mary with the ruling princes and rajas of India. The print priced Rs.1,20,000 dates back to 1911.

“Indians are selling old art,” art promoter Manu Dosaj, the owner of Gallerie Alternatives, said.

“The intense phase of buying that the markets saw during the boom before 2008 is now marked by sale of old collections after the meltdown,” Dosaj told IANS.

“Old families in India and abroad could not afford to maintain their filial collections passed down the generations. Many such collections are being purchased from the private owners by auction houses for sale,” an art collector told IANS.

Christie’s Travel, Science and Natural History auction that started in London has put under the hammer 33 works on paper that include 18th-19th century aquatints, mezzotints, lithographs and water colours, as well as four paintings and two albums comprising nearly 70 photographs each of colonial India.

A print edition of “A Picturesque Voyage to India by the Way of China” by Thomas Daniell and William Daniell, is the chief attraction of the auction, a Christie’s spokesperson said.

Thomas and William were two British travelling artists and engravers who came to India in the 18th century.

Sotheby’s will Nov 15 offer on sale more than 220 newly-discovered photographs by the legendary lensman Linnaeus Tripe, depicting India and Myanmar in the mid-1850s in “Travel, Atlases, Maps and Natural History” auction, a official of the auction house said. The auction will happen in London.

“Rising demand for sub-continental and Asian heritage reflected an increased desire among collectors to be a part of old traditions,” noted Priyanka Mathew, sales specialist of southeast Asian contemporary and modern art of Sotheby’s in New York.